March 21, 2019

Industry Manpower Shortage Extends to Maintenance Facilities


While there is much focus on the shortage of aircraft pilots in the aviation industry, both nationally and globally, another branch of the industry is suffering an acute shortage of skilled personnel.

U.S.-based global aviation services leader AAR, which acquired Premier Aviation of Trois-Rivières, Que. and Windsor, Ont. in 2017, is criss-crossing the country in an effort to recruit aircraft maintenance personnel for its Windsor facility. “We’re trying to make our presence known throughout Canada,” said David Robertson is AAR’s vice-president in charge of the Windsor operation.

AAR would like to more than double their 140-strong staff in the next one to two years to 300. “If tomorrow I could have 60 people, I’d take them right at the drop of a hat,” added Robertson. AAR is the biggest MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) company in North America, and Robertson says the Windsor facility is now thriving. Last December, for example, their hangar was at capacity with seven narrow-body jets inside for maintenance.

Robertson also concedes that part of his challenge is attracting people to relocate to Windsor. “We’re working very hard to change people’s opinion on Windsor,” he said. “Not just professionally, but from an economical standpoint, getting out of the rat race of the big city. It’s a good place to raise a family and just get away from the Torontos and Montreals.”

The City of Windsor’s mayor, Drew Dilkens, is simultaneously proposing to his council a $1 million initiative to rebrand the southern Ontario city. “I cannot be alone in this feeling about our community. Having lived here my whole life, I know this is a great place,” said Dilkens. “As reticent as I am to get on the rooftop and start shouting these benefits for fear of getting an onslaught of people here, I need to do it, I want to share the story, I want more people to come here.”