The maintenance, repair, and overhaul—collectively known by the acronym MRO—of aircraft is a complex and nuanced industry that employs thousands of people across the world. Needless to say, aircraft safety is of paramount importance to anyone who has to set foot on board a plane. In 2019 the number of people taking to the skies numbered in the billions—not millions, billions—and it’s only expected to go up. Nowadays, aircraft are held to stringent international standards, and aviation MROs are critically important to a huge percentage of the worldwide population.
Here are five things we think everyone should know about aviation MROs:
It’s a Multi-Billion Dollar Industry
Since aviation maintenance is an industry that affects billions of lives, it should come as no surprise that it makes up a sizable chunk of the economy. Across the world, the maintenance and repair of commercial aircraft is an industry that’s worth about $81.9 billion. As more and more people take to the skies for work, to visit family, or for vacations, that number is only expected to increase. Indeed, experts predict that the aviation maintenance and repair business will be worth about $116 billion by the year 2029.
In the United States alone, the MRO industry employs upwards of 288,000 technicians, with California being the top employer. Needless to say, aviation is a major part of the economy in other states as well. For example, the state of Arizona has a total of 83 airports, and the state’s aviation industry as a whole employs 470,000 people and has an economic impact of about $38 billion. This, of course, doesn’t factor in the resulting economic impact: thousands of other businesses benefit as a result of being located in or near an airport.
It’s Governed by International Law
In the USA, civil aviation is regulated by the FAA, or Federal Aviation Administration. This government organization is responsible for all aspects of non-military aircraft both within the country and the international waters surrounding it. Their job is to regulate not just the construction and maintenance of the aircraft themselves, but also the air traffic control and the operations of all airports too.
Of course, there are thousands of international flights every day, so it stands to reason that there must be international agreements in place for aircraft that leave the United States for other countries. To that end, the United Nations has established the International Civil Aviation Organization, which partners with the FAA and other governmental bodies across the world. They are responsible for standardizing aviation MROs, as well as other important aspects of aviation, across the world. International aviation agreements are known as Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreements, or BASAs.
At times, these international agreements can prove controversial, as when the FAA seeks to change a law. This can often put other aviation organizations in a tough spot because they’re forced to adopt the new laws as well. Nevertheless, these laws must remain stringent for the safety of the billions of airline passengers across the world.
It Requires Extensive Education
The FAA holds anyone who works in aircraft maintenance to strict standards of skill and professionalism. Candidates who wish to become aircraft mechanics become certified by passing three different types of exams. These include an oral test, a written exam, and a practical examination.
They are also required to either have at least 18 months of practical experience working with airframes or to graduate from one of the many FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician schools. In the state of Arizona, there are three such approved schools, located in Mesa, Tucson, and Glendale. Candidates who graduate from the Chandler-Gilbert Community College in Mesa often seek employment in the Phoenix metro area, with one of the most popular choices being at the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.
The Laws Vary Depending Upon the Type of Aircraft
Maintenance, repair, and overhaul tasks are legally required for all aircraft, from the smallest Cessna to the largest commercial jetliner. However, the rules governing their maintenance can vary depending upon the type of aircraft, as well as the state where they’re located and a few other factors. Regardless of the specifics, the FAA requires every airplane and other aircraft to be regularly inspected to ensure that it’s functioning properly.
In general, most aircraft are required to be inspected thoroughly once every year. Aircraft used for flight instruction and other for-hire purposes are required to be inspected after every 100 hours of use. These inspections are performed by certified mechanics who thoroughly check every part of an airplane’s systems. If they’re satisfied that the craft is safe, they’ll sign off. If they don’t endorse the aircraft, it’s not permitted to fly until it has had the necessary maintenance.
Because maintenance can put a plane out of commission, costing the owners money, the FAA allows progressive inspection plans as well. For the owners of aircraft that see a great deal of use, this is often the better option. With a progressive inspection plan, the aircraft is inspected more regularly, but the inspections themselves are shorter. Provided the planes are kept in good working order, this helps to minimize the downtime caused by maintenance, repair, and overhaul.
MROs Save Money Over Time
While aircraft maintenance isn’t cheap, it ultimately leads to great financial benefits for aircraft owners, as well as for airports and customers. Keeping planes in good working order, besides the obvious safety benefits, prevents their systems from failing catastrophically. Regular inspections of aircraft also lead to improved knowledge about how each part is functioning. This ultimately leads to valuable information being communicated to the companies that design and build these aircraft, ultimately making planes even safer every single year.
MROs require large hangars to accommodate a wide range of aircraft and ample ramp space to be successful. Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, located in Arizona, has 1,000 prime acres available for development, including abundant premier aeronautical lots. With lower tax rates than California, foreign trade and Military Reuse Zone tax benefits, and a high quality of life, including 300 days of sunshine, Gateway Airport is a prime alternative for MRO companies to locate and thrive.