How is Helicopter Foundation International’s Next-Gen Maintenance Initiative progressing? When did HFI launch it?
HFI launched the Next-Gen Maintenance Initiative about a year ago after discovering a gap in the aviation curriculum offerings at the high school and post-secondary levels. There are more than 200 U.S. high schools that offer varying types of aviation curriculum from after-school clubs to full-scale aviation high schools. However, most of these courses are based on fixed-wing aircraft. In addition, maintenance schools primarily teach to fixed-wing platforms, with only a few schools offering rotorcraft-specific training as an add-on or separate track. We realized if we want to attract the next generation of helicopter professionals, we needed to expose them to this thriving sector.
How is HFI working with high schools and post-secondary schools to implement helicopter-related education?
We are working with several school systems to launch rotorcraft-specific maintenance curricula and training to students. The goal is to create a maintenance program where students can begin coursework toward their A&P certification at the high school level and complete it at a post-secondary institution.
What feedback are you getting from educators?
We have received incredibly favorable responses to our program. School systems want to be able to provide students with STEM education geared toward in-demand jobs. As we all know, aviation is faced with a shortage of qualified workers that will only increase in the future. It is critically important that we publicize this message to educators (and their students) around the country.
We are currently targeting areas with a concentration of helicopter-related employers, A&P schools, and infrastructure. However, word of mouth has also caused several school systems to express interest in the program.
How acute is the helicopter maintenance technician shortage?
We have data from Boeing and Oliver Wyman predicting a serious shortage, but we didn’t have numbers that specifically addressed how these numbers impacted the rotorcraft sector. We have partnered with the University of North Dakota to provide a helicopter pilot and aircraft mechanic supply forecast to quantify the number of new commercial helicopter pilots and mechanics that will enter the work force in the future, the demand for helicopter pilots and mechanics in the future and further quantify any surplus or shortage of helicopter pilots and mechanics. This data is key to show helicopter owners and operators how the overall forecasted aviation shortage will specifically affect our sector.