AAR looking to fill 200 aircraft jobs in Indianapolis

November 18, 2010

AAR Corp. is looking to hire about 200 more workers for its aircraft repair center at Indianapolis International Airport.

The suburban Chicago-based company now employs about 1,000 people at the 1.7 million-square-foot base. It recently landed new work from Delta Air Lines, said Greg Dellinger, director of recruiting at AAR.

The company is on such a pace to fill the positions that it will conduct a job fair on Saturday, starting at 9 a.m., at the Wyndham Hotel, 2544 Executive Drive.

Also on hand will be representatives from the Aviation Technology Center operated by Vincennes University and Purdue University at the airport.

The center is seeing enrollment ramp up, a trend reflected in AAR’s new orders for work.

“You’re really starting to see a tremendous lift in the system as we reboot out of the recession,” said Dellinger.

United Airlines abandoned the mammoth facility that once employed more than 3,000 people before its 2003 bankruptcy.  

In 2004, the Indianapolis Airport Authority signed a lease with AAR entitling it to use up to 750,000 square feet of the base, including 10 of the 12 massive bays.

AAR is reaching full capacity at the facility, which United configured for Boeing 737s and 757s. AAR’s biggest customer at Indianapolis is Southwest Airlines, whose fleet consists entirely of 737s.

Many of United’s seasoned, unionized aircraft mechanics left town after the company pulled out.

Dellinger said AAR is seeking a broad range of new hires including airframe/powerplant mechanics, avionics technicians, sheetmetal workers, inspectors and aircraft cabin specialists.

The median hourly wage for aircraft mechanics and technicians is $25, according to government statistics.

AAR has about 6,000 employees worldwide and is also looking to fill positions at its various other maintenance repair and overhaul facilities—and in other divisions, including one that provides support services for the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

The Indianapolis facility also has an engineering arm that manufactures various parts, including aircraft interior components ordered by China’s Xiamen Airlines for its Boeing 757s.

Based in Wood Dale, Ill., AAR was founded by Ira Allen Eichner, who obtained surplus electrical parts after World War II and sold them to the newly emerging airline industry. In 1955, he started Allen Aircraft Radio Inc., now known as AAR.

Currently there are about 140,300 aircraft and avionics mechanics employed in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The agency forecasts a 7- percent increase in demand for the positions over the next decade.

In the last several years, a number of airlines began outsourcing their unionized, in-house maintenance to companies such as AAR. Some airlines that fly aircraft on international routes have outsourced maintenance to low-wage nations, where repairs aren’t as tightly regulated.

Dellinger said demand for positions in the U.S. will continue to grow, however, as it remains more practical to conduct repair work in markets where aircraft are flown. He spends part of his time not only trying to recruit from the existing labor pool but to reach a potential new crop of mechanics—occasionally making presentations at high schools such as Arsenal Tech in Indianapolis.  

“This work is not going to go away,” he said.


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