MRO Memo: Predicting The Year Ahead

MRO predictions workforce
A technician hiring spree is one trend that could come to fruition this year.
Credit: ATS

Danish physicist Niels Bohr once wryly remarked that “prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future.” This adage, while said in jest, rings true for an aviation industry that has endured a volatile two years. 

In early 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic started to emerge, even the most astute of visionaries would have been hard pressed to measure the depth of the crisis’s impact over such a long period of time. Truly, it has been the industry’s most sustained period of turmoil in living memory.

Yet, like in other times of crisis, the industry remains resilient. While 2021 ultimately proved to be a frustrating year of stop-start movements in the industry, there are some signs of recovering greenshoots emerging. This sentiment is shared by many I have spoken to across the industry over the past few months, especially in the commercial aftermarket, where a sense of optimism pervades that didn’t exist this time 12 months ago. 

Refreshingly, what noticeably changed last year was the talk of returning to old norms and embracing a “new normal”—a term I gradually started to loathe. I am very much in the camp that there will be no “new normal.” Rather, we are already in a much-changed state of living and the aviation industry adjust accordingly to not only the challenges, but also the opportunities.

I have factored this thinking into my first ever attempt at annual top 10 MRO predictions for the year ahead, having picked up the baton for the first time from my colleague Lee Ann Shay, who detailed the backstory of previous predictions late last year.

Among the predictions I am most confident about is the MRO sector embarking on a hiring spree in 2022. The sheer demand for technical skills simply dictates this to be a necessity as, barring any more harmful variants, travel demand is certain to further pick up this year and so will demand for necessary aircraft maintenance.

What will be interesting is how the industry goes about this, having talked a good game over the past two years about embracing new ways of attracting talent back to the sector with technology often cited as a driver. 

Successfully attracting back members of the workforce lost to the industry because of coronavirus-induced financial cuts will also prove a formidable yet intriguing challenge for the industry. What’s exciting is there is a genuine opportunity for new and innovative ways to recruit the MRO workforce.

The competitor in me would like to think all 10 predictions will prove correct come the end of the year, but recent history has taught us not to be so sure of such outcomes. Nevertheless, be sure to dig this out in December 2022 and remind me of how right or wrong I was.

James Pozzi

As Aviation Week's MRO Editor EMEA, James Pozzi covers the latest industry news from the European region and beyond. He also writes in-depth features on the commercial aftermarket for Inside MRO.