Industry Disruption in Aviation
Industry disruption will be common in the post COVID-19 world. I have been attending many online industry events over the last few weeks. The disruption is huge in many industries.
Many times that disruption is obvious. I will be discussing how various industries are being disrupted in the coming weeks. Some of these will be disrupted for a few years while others will be permanently disrupted.
For me, this is deja vu all over again. I will give you an example from the dot-com bust at the end of this post when highly skilled engineers were left to transition their skills.
Aviation Industry Disruption
The aviation industry is being disrupted and predictions are that any return to normal will take 3-5 years.
US airline ticket sales are down 90% but are now slowly increasing after months of decline. We have stopped flying. It is unclear how quickly we will be willing to get back on a plane. I can tell you I have no plans to get on a plane anytime soon.
International airline travel is predicted to be down 60-80% for the entire year of 2020. I have been talking with a lot of travel bloggers. Many are stuck in locations where international travel is banned. Many Asian countries have closed their borders and it unclear when they will open. It will take time before the regular air service is restored.
Given the fact that we are not flying, it should not surprise you that Boeing has received hundreds of cancel orders for the 737 Max jet. Similarly, Airbus has received similar treatment from their customers and are cutting production.
Rolls Royce and GE Aviation are both slashing jobs. Many more part suppliers will be slashing jobs in the coming months.
We start with airlines cutting back that eventually leads to cutting jobs. This trickles down to the aircraft manufacturers and then to their suppliers. Do not forget all of the companies that service and supply the flights.
Aviation Career Disruption – Pilots
There are many people who have spent their entire careers in the aviation industry and in a matter of months see it completely disrupted.
Let’s discuss airline pilots who are 55+ and have been laid off. Arpad Szakal, an aviation recruiter, wrote a post titled How to Think About Your Transferable Skills as a Commercial Pilot?
He says the top transferable skills for flight crews are:
- Effective Leadership
- Flexibility & Adaptability
- Emotional/Cultural Intelligence
- Complex Problem Solving
- Team-Working & Collaboration Skills
- Time Management
- Confidence, Attitude & Self-Discipline
Notice that these are soft skills and not technical skills.
There are now specialty coaching services for pilots to help them transition to another industry. One of them is The Pilot Realignment Program and I recommend you watch the video on the home page. One of the options given in the video if you want to keep flying is to move to Asia where there are likely be jobs; however, you will have to ask if you want to be away from family to make that happen.
I would tell any pilot to find people who look, taste, and smell like them. Find other pilots who have a similar level of experience who transitioned out of the aviation industry. Reach out to them and let them tell you how they did it and where they landed their career.
Aerospace Design, Manufacturing and Maintenance
Whether you are an aerospace mechanical engineer, software engineer, machinist, or maintenance worker, you may want to look at transitioning out of the industry or to the one part of the industry that has not been affected – defense.
The defense side of the aviation industry has continued to work through the pandemic.
Unlike pilots, most of the technical skills attained in the design or manufacturing/maintenance sides of the aviation industry are transferable to other industries.
The strategy is the same though – find people who look, taste, and smell like you to determine how they transitioned their skills and what industries and companies would hire them.
Industry Disruption Has Happened Before
One would think that the speed of this disruption has been lightning fast. It could have never happened before. Ah, you are wrong.
I left IBM in January of 2000 to go to work for a tech startup Agere, Inc that was being acquired by Lucent. We were developing a programmable network processor for the next generation of telecommunication devices.
At that time, fiber optics was hot. Companies like Nortel Networks and JDS Uniphase were developing leading-edge devices and were busy buying up their competitors. Fiber optics engineers were a hot commodity.
There was only one big problem. There was lot of fiber laid in the 1990s that was dark (90% was unused). The plan was eventually there would be a demand. However, the fiber optics engineers over the years had become so efficient that they had been able to greatly improve industry efficiency. As the dot-com bust unfolded, the fiber business collapsed along with career opportunities for fiber optic engineers.
In a little over a year, many fiber optic engineers ended up getting laid off and their careers ended. Their skills would not be in demand until 2014.
It has happened before and it will happen again.
Many US-employed pilots will be paid through the rest of 2020 due to the CARES act. They have time to make a transition.
What about downstream jobs at service providers to the airline, aircraft maintenance, and manufacturing, and finally downstream suppliers to the industry? Those jobs will disappear and transitions will have to be accelerated.
COVID-19 has set off a trend of not just layoffs but also a giant reset for the aviation industry.
What are you seeing in this space? Are there other industries you would like me to write about?Marc Miller
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