This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
The Covid-19 crisis is exacerbating the shortage of new aviation maintenance technicians, according to Crystal McGuire, executive director of the Aviation Technician Education Council (ATEC). During a Helicopter Association International (HAI) webinar on May 14, McGuire warned that of the 181 FAA-certified Part 147 aviation maintenance technician schools, half expected graduations to decrease in 2020 by 25 percent and fully 60 percent said enrollment would drop by 28 percent.
Already, a quarter of Part 147 schools in the U.S. have suspended operations entirely. McGuire illustrated the gravity of the situation by pointing to the fact that 615 A&P candidates had taken the FAA written exam in the first two weeks of March; for the first two weeks of April that number had plunged to 84.
McGuire said online learning had increased dramatically in the schools remaining open. Before the Covid-19 emergency, there were little more than half a dozen online programs but now around 75 percent of schools have some sort of hybrid or online learning programs, with some including virtual reality.
Nevertheless, lab work remains the greatest challenge, with schools delaying graduations until students can complete in-person assignments. Some local aircraft owners are partnering with area schools to provide “real world” experience outside the classroom and satisfy the requirements of FAR 147.31, McGuire said.