Christopher M. Broyhill, Ph.D., CAM

For this week's installment of the compensation series, we’ll look at the position that is the backbone of support for every flight department in business aviation, the Maintenance Technician. Like the DOM position discussed in the last installment, it would seem the survey data supporting the Maintenance Technician position would use consistent titles under which to collect the data. Alas, this is not the case. NBAA uses A & P Maintenance Technician as its catch-all title, but Gallagher uses four separate ones - Senior Mechanic II, Senior Mechanic I, Mechanic, and Mechanic - ALL INCUMBENTS. While there are slightly different job descriptions for each, the delineation between the various positions can be both subtle and confusing. For this analysis, the Mechanic - ALL INCUMBENTS position was the source of the data from the Gallagher survey.

From 2015 to 2019, average Maintenance Technician base salary increased from $84,522 to $93,274, a gain of just over 10%. During the same period, 75th percentile technician base salary increased from $93,994 to $105,011. The gain over the five-year period was slightly higher than that of the average range at nearly 12%.

The trend was less pronounced for total cash compensation. Average Maintenance Technician total cash compensation increased from $91,671 to $100,166 from 2015 to 2019, a gain of just over 9%. 75th percentile total cash compensation increased from $103,136 to $114,304, a gain of nearly 11%.

  Average Level Wage Growth 2015 - 2019 75th Percentile Wage Growth - 2015 - 2019
Position Base Salary Growth Total Cash Compensation Growth Base Salary Growth Total Cash Compensation Growth
Aviation Manager (Flying) 19.04% 23.26% 17.64% 25.48%
Chief Pilot 23.37% 26.12% 17.27% 21.73%
Senior Captain 19.84% 21.96% 29.35% 31.88%
Captain 25.02% 26.39% 15.61% 22.60%
First Officer 18.84% 18.29% 23.34% 28.16%
Director of Maintenance 15.90% 18.88% 17.15% 21.66%
Maintenance Technician 10.36% 9.27% 11.72% 10.83%
Average 18.91% 20.60% 18.87% 23.19%

Of the positions we've examined so far in this series, Maintenance Technician has had the least wage growth over the 2015 - 2019 period. In fact, as the table above indicates, wage growth in the two maintenance positions has lagged the same growth in pilot positions in all four categories of compensation considered. Perhaps the greatest reason for this growth gap is the lack of upward pressure from the commercial airlines on maintenance compensation. In the 2018 retention study I performed for the NBAA, 42.5% of the pilots who changed jobs left to go to the airlines, but only 8.6% of technicians made the same transition. Greater demand creates greater wage growth, at least in the short term. As the effects of airline furloughs from the COVID-19 crisis become known and the airline demand for pilots evaporates over the next few years, it will be interesting to see the impact on this same comparison. 

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