| WASHINGTON, March 13
WASHINGTON, March 13 U.S. aerospace and aviation
industry leaders warned lawmakers on Thursday that a coming wave
of retirements in an aging workforce could hurt both sectors and
create safety issues unless the government helps more young
people qualify for those jobs.
Boeing Co, for instance, expects a large percentage
of its U.S. workers to retire in a few years and does not see a
ready pool of replacements, said Dennis Muilenburg, president
and chief operating officer.
"If we look at the demographics of our workforce across
Boeing and much of the aerospace industry, about 50 percent of
our top engineers and mechanics will be eligible to retire over
roughly the next five years," Muilenburg told lawmakers at a
U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and
The Senate panel met to consider what the government can do
to maintain the lead positions of the U.S. aerospace and
aviation industries as global competitors advance.
Boeing's main competitor is Europe-based Airbus Group
Workforce development, regulatory issues and the need for
more modern infrastructure were among the topics discussed.
The Federal Aviation Administration, responsible for the
safety and regulation of U.S. civil aviation, also faces a
staffing crisis, a labor official told lawmakers.
"One third of the (FAA) workforce, including controllers,
inspectors (and) systems specialists are eligible to retire,"
said Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades
Department at AFL-CIO.
"This is unsustainable and must be addressed because we
believe it's going to not only impact operations for the airline
industry, but also the safety of the system as you see this
brain-drain of high quality people retiring and we're not hiring
and replacing them fast enough," Wytkind said.
Encouraging science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)
education for U.S. children at an early age could help create a
pipeline of qualified engineers, the officials said.
"We have about 4 million children entering kindergarten
this year. At current rates, that would produce about 60,000 to
70,000 engineers at the end of college," Muilenburg said.
"That's not even enough to satisfy the aerospace industry, let
alone all sectors that need engineers."
The aviation industry wants to position for growth as the
U.S. economy continues to recover and air travel picks up. The
U.S. Transportation Department on Thursday reported a 6.1
percent rise in airline travel in 2013.
Separately, the FAA projected on Thursday that the total
number of people flying on U.S. carriers will surge to 1.15
billion in 2034 from 745.5 million people in 2014.
Officials said the aviation and aerospace industries
urgently need better technology and new highly skilled workers
to meet this growing demand.
"We are seeing competitors move up behind us. You can hear
the feet, you can feel the hot breaths," said Marion Blakey,
chief executive of the Aerospace Industries Association.