AMEs unite to create strong national voice

Forty-one years after becoming an aircraft maintenance engineer, Sam Longo is spearheading a national effort to elevate the AME profession at a time when it is facing a critical labour shortage.

Aircraft Maintenance Engineers of Canada (AMEC) is a new national association that aims to attract more young people to the profession while providing a strong voice for AMEs across the country. Mike Reyno Photo
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Longo was recently elected president of the Canadian Federation of Aircraft Maintenance Engineers Associations, or CFAMEA. The organization loosely amalgamates the country’s six regional AME associations: Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Central, Western and Pacific.

But Longo told Skies that CFAMEA is not really known outside aviation circles. Last September, at the group’s annual meeting in Ottawa, regional AME representatives discussed changing the association’s name and rebranding it to help improve the occupation’s perception and professionalism. He said that both industry and regulators have indicated they’d like to see a strong national body representing Canadian aircraft maintenance engineers.

“That is one of the driving forces, feedback from Transport Canada, our airlines, and our members,” explained Longo. “In that vein, we want it to be nationwide, and get everyone on board. As AMEs, we are as responsible as pilots for aircraft safety.”

In Ottawa, members agreed to adopt a new name: Aircraft Maintenance Engineers of Canada (AMEC) or Techniciens d’entretien d’aéronefs du Canada (TEAC).

“This has been talked about for 25 years,” said Longo. “The biggest problem is that one or two regions weren’t on board. This is the first time in a long time where the presidents of each regional association saw the value of the vision and agreed to try to make it happen.”

AMEC is looking to create a new logo and a national website with links to all regional groups. In addition, members have voted to standardize membership dues at $70 per year across the country. The goal is to streamline operations as much as possible.

Longo, who is the past president of the Ontario AME Association and an active member of that group for three decades, said there are about 17,000 licensed AMEs in Canada. In total, the regional AME associations have just 900 members – so there is definitely room to grow.

He said younger people in the industry seem to be more interested in joining, but “it’s a hard sell sometimes,” even though there are more than 27 benefits Ontario members get from their regional association alone.

“It speaks to the nature of AMEs – they are not typically joiners, they are loners. They’d much rather interface with machinery than with people. We’re not good at blowing our own horn.”

But Longo said now is the time for aircraft maintenance engineers to unite with one strong national voice.

The most pressing problem facing the industry is a severe labour shortage that is predicted to be even worse than that facing the pilot profession.

In March 2018, the Canadian Council for Aviation and Aerospace (CCAA) released a labour market report that predicts 5,300 new AMEs will be needed by 2025 to keep up with growth and retirements.

Global News reported that 46 per cent of AMEs were between the ages of 50 and 79 years old in December 2016.

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While Canadian college programs graduate about 600 aircraft maintenance technicians annually, only a reported 77 per cent go on to work in the field. Often, they are snapped up by other industries upon graduation for their transferable skills.

Longo – who is also a former Centennial College aircraft maintenance instructor – said a major focus for AMEC will be educating young people about the viability of the AME career path. He himself got involved because his uncle was an AME for Air Canada. But many young people are lacking such a connection.

“We’re going to trade shows, pitching our trade, and interfacing with all kinds of people in the communities to make ourselves known.”

The new national association will also focus on government relations to ensure the AME’s voice is heard when it comes to regulatory matters.

“We must liaise with groups like Transport Canada so we know what changes may affect the air regs.”

Longo said that while reaction to the creation of AMEC has been positive, the biggest challenge stems from the fact that everyone involved is a volunteer. Many are still working in the field, so have limited time to devote to the association.

Still, AMEC intends to keep pushing forward. Progress may be slow, but Longo believes the vision of a strong national voice for aircraft maintenance engineers is both achievable and necessary to ensure the future success of the profession.

7 thoughts on “AMEs unite to create strong national voice

  1. Wouldn’t it be great if this new organization recognized/accredited RCAF military aviation, avionics and machinist/structure techs too… We see the need for worldwide standards, flight safety, tool control and training but that $#!t won’t wash with bottomline big bucks and their greed…

  2. “In March 2018, the Canadian Council for Aviation and Aerospace (CCAA) released a labour market report that predicts 5,300 new AMEs will be needed by 2025 to keep up with growth and retirements.”

    I wish I would have kept all the magazine articles that have said something similar over the last 20 years. If it truly is an issue there would be ads posted by companies looking for AME’s at the back of these magazines. I don’t see any.

    1. Jeff; You may not see adds in the backs of the magazines but the shortage is a reality. At our last AME Assoc. of Ontario Symposium I have never seen so many Airlines actively recruiting for AME’s. In fact some of the smaller AMO’s were somewhat reluctant to release their AME’s to attend for fear they would be poached by the larger Airlines. To this point I would suggest that if they paid these professionals what they were worth, they would have no reason to jump ship! Make no mistake, the shortage is upon us and it will eventually drive the wages up. It is simply the reality of supply and demand!

  3. Absolutely overdue. As an AME, A&P, and LAME for over 40 years I think that it is high time we had a national organization similar to the AEA. As an avionics engineer I belonged to that organization for many years and it was indispensable to my career. I have pushed for a national AME association for years. Way to go!

  4. The history of the AME Associations goes back to the early 80s when TC only wanted to talk to organizations not individual AMEs. As a result, AME associations were formed along thesline of the Transport Canada regions.One of the key key items in the Western AME association was to never push for an increase in AME wages.
    The mantra was to showcase the professionalism but never mention the poor wages. The majority of time I was a member, (1986-2011) the president’s position was shared amongst 2 AMO owners and the head of the aviation program at SAIT none of whom were interested in promoting the salary issue. Initially, there were lots of members in their 30s+40s who started the association but over the years few new AMEs joined as they could not see any value in an organization that had morphed into a trade show instead of fighting to raise the salaries of the AME or assist those who wanted to learn the trades.
    At one point, the association had lots of money, but despite a successful motion at an AGM to provide scholarships at the 3 tech schools in Alberta, the executive ignored the motion and simply became a trade show host with no real value to their members.

    The Canadian Aviation Maintenance Council was created in the late 80s to deal with the looming shortage of aviation workers and over the next few years created some occupational standards for non AME trades and finally did the same for AMEs. No one ever discussed how the stagnant salaries were sending good experienced AMEs and apprentices to other high technology jobs that offered better working conditions and substantially higher wages. Now CAMC has changed their name and added pilots to their mandate taking their focus away from AMEs.

    Once upon a time,the aviation maintenance, avionics and and structures trades were the pinnacle of high technology jobs.Today there are far more high technology jobs paying much higher wages than aviation who compete for the AMEs and apprentices.
    Until the AME wages come in line with industries that pay 30-40% more, there will always be a shortage.

    In my opinion, any “new” or existing AME association has to fight to increase the salaries otherwise, nothing will change.

  5. If there is a real shortage in AME’s why do Transport Canada make it so difficult for people to become one? Let people sit the exam and don’t make it impossible for a working person to qualify under their current rules. Who can support a family and study full time to meet those standards, I can’t.

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