2018 End of Year Thoughts & Reflections

Written by: Joe Braddock

Hard to believe that 2018 is almost a wrap and we are thinking about what 2019 will bring. We all get so involved in the busyness of our daily lives that we don’t get a chance to sit down and reflect on happenings, trends, or challenges that might be around us. The aviation industry continues to change and evolve. No doubt about that. Here at Southeast Aerospace, we’ve seen our share of happenings and whatnot so I thought I’d share a few with you.

On our side of things, ADS-B is dominating the avionics world. 2018 finally saw many aircraft owners committing to comply with the 2020 ADS-B Out mandate. Most avionics shops, big or small, are scheduling out ADS-B installations well into 2019. Most ADS-B equipment manufacturers appear to be keeping up with demand although a few are already experiencing some backorders. It’s safe to say that shops should start thinking of stocking some ADS-B equipment if they are not already. I cannot imagine that manufacturers and distributors will have ADS-B equipment ready on the shelf all throughout 2019. While there’s more options than ever for ADS-B equipage, some aircraft owner/operators are still waiting to comply with the mandate. It’s not all about procrastination either. Some aircraft owners (mostly bizjet and up) are weighing the investment of implementing ADS-B Out into their aircraft versus selling and investing in a new aircraft. It will be interesting to see how many owners in 2019 opt to comply or not. Regardless, 2019 should be hectic for shops to juggle existing, scheduled, and last minute installs as 2019 comes and goes. No doubt that 2019 will be an exciting year for ADS-B.

Obsolescence and support for legacy parts continues to be an interesting topic for the bench shop and part sales world. Support for many legacy parts is getting more challenging as manufacturers discontinue their own support, lifetime buys of piece parts run out, or other issues render some parts unrepairable in some way. This is obviously a natural progression in most industries, however, in years past, it didn’t happen as quickly in aviation. With the affordability of digital, glass systems and retrofit units, it is becoming a no-brainer to upgrade certain legacy systems and components. Conversely, it’s amazing to see some manufacturers continue to increase prices on the support of certain legacy items without having an affordable upgrade for the customer to consider. As manufacturers continue to reconsider their traditional dealer network and large companies are getting larger through mergers, the choices for customers to maintain their legacy systems in their aircraft will continue to be affected. That’s not to say that it’s all bad and legacy parts/systems will disappear overnight. However, as time goes on, this support aspect may not get easier and it’s probably time for a lot of aircraft owners to upgrade in some way. Most manufacturers are doing a great job of bringing realistic, affordable upgrade paths for many aircraft. I think 2019 will bring even more affordable upgrade options for aircraft owners. I can’t wait to see what is next as technology seems to be advancing exponentially.

Open up any aviation magazine or newsletter and you will see something about the hiring challenges in the industry. Whether it’s pilots, technicians or mechanics, the industry is facing a significant shortage. Talk to almost any aviation company and they will tell you that they are looking for people. That sounds like good news for the people already in the industry as far as wages and salaries. It will be interesting to see how much the industry can bear in relation to supply and demand. It will also be interesting to see the affect on labor rates, overhead and sustainability for most shops. Expenses, wages, and just the cost of doing business in aviation will probably increase again in 2019. The bottom line is that it’s not getting easier to run an aviation business for a lot of reasons. How much of all that is the end customer willing to absorb?  On a positive note, this issue facing the industry has brought together many organizations and associations to market and promote ways to bring more people into the industry. While smartphones and computers might be more interesting technology to the younger generations, airplanes and all aircraft in general are still cool, high-tech and incredible in a lot of ways. We need to continue to remind the public about that as we promote and market.

All in all, it has been a good year for the industry in many ways. There will always be challenges and issues that arise but that’s part of life whether we like it or not. Part of who we are as people, a community and society is defined on how we choose to react to something challenging: rise above and grow from it. For better or worse, the aviation industry gives us those opportunities fairly regularly :). The end of a year also gives you that opportunity to reflect on what you appreciate and value. I know one of the things I appreciate about my daily work is the relationships I have with my co-workers and friends in the industry. People are still what make the difference in this world. Maybe the world would be an easier place to live in if we all just said “Thank You” and showed genuine appreciation to the people you talk to every day. Perhaps this holiday season, we all can do that and start 2019 on a high note!