Aviation industry stares at an engineering talent bottleneck amid big expansion move

India’s aviation industry faces a critical shortage of aircraft maintenance engineers (AMEs) as airlines expand their fleets, industry experts have warned, pointing to what they said has been an overlooked aspect of an industry that otherwise has a steadier pipeline of feeding pilots and cabin crew.

Indian carriers such as the Tata Group-owned Air India and sector leader IndiGo have lined up large aircraft orders with an estimated 1,200 jets expected to be delivered over the next 10 years.

These planes will not only require a huge workforce of pilots, cabin crews and flight dispatchers, but will also of maintenance and service engineers,” said a one of the experts, who has worked with one of India’s domestic carriers in the past.

At present, there are roughly 7,000 aircraft maintenance engineers (AMEs) deployed at maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities, according to industry experts. This doesn’t include AMEs in various training schools as instructors.

After Covid, air traffic is booming again and major airlines like IndiGo, Air India, Akasa have placed orders for around 2,000 aircraft which will need around 14,000 AMEs in another eight to ten years,” said GK Chaukiyal, professor at the Gujarat University, and an expert in aviation.

There are around 45 AME schools in India are authorised by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). Each engineer requires to be licensed by the regulator.

“Most airlines have come to grief because they did not have a strong engineering background or setup,” said a second industry expert, who asked not to be named.

This person explained that the engineering workforce too has two broad aspects — first are made of technicians and infrastructure and the second of people handling fares and logistics.

“So if you don’t have a strong engineering force and infrastructure experience, a strong wind experience infrastructure, then that airline will not be able to perform at its peak,” he added.

The first expert quoted above said it takes six years for an individual to complete an independent AME certification. “Even after completion of a four year engineering course, an individual has to be trained under an AME for him to be allowed to take the lead and conduct the task all by himself. This is because of the poor quality of education provided in the schools,” this person added.

Chaukryal concurred, saying, AME institutions must improve their quality of education and training and that “the quality of intake also needs to be controlled to produce good quality engineers. Without a strong engineering setup, no airline can survive.”

Rituparna Chakraborty, independent director at recruitment firm TeamLease, emphasised the need for accelerated training. “Traditional AME training, typically 2 to 4 years, must be accelerated through intensive courses, on-the-job training, and advanced simulations,” she said.

“A proactive approach is essential to meet future demands, ensuring efficient operation and safety of expanding airline fleets, and creating job opportunities in India’s aviation sector,” she added.

In response to the shortage, some companies are taking action. GMR Group, which owns India’s largest airframe MRO company, is launching an AME school in collaboration with Airbus.

GMR Aero Technic has ventured into the skill development sector by establishing the GMR School of Aviation to train a large number of engineers,” said Ashok Gopinath, president and accountable manager at GMR Aero Technic.

The four-year program in Hyderabad will include two years of academic study and two years of training at GMR’s MRO facility.

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Source: https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/aviation-industry-stares-at-an-engineering-talent-bottleneck-amid-big-expansion-move-101719774760943.html