Civilian aviation is a key part of the transportation system of the United States and a major contributor to national economic prosperity. In 1993 the country's scheduled airlines transported 460 million people and carried 5.5 million tons of freight. In that same year, 6.9 million scheduled flights departed from U.S. airports carrying business people to meetings and pleasure travelers to vacation sites and visits with family and friends (Federal Aviation Administration, n.d.: Table 4-6). To make these flights possible, scheduled airlines employ over half a million people and work with aircraft manufacturers, airports, regulatory and safety agencies, and a host of other essential auxiliary industries that employ millions more. In the global marketplace of the late twentieth century, a healthy aviation industry is vital to a healthy economy.
As with other industries on which the nation's competitiveness hinges, the American public has a vested interest in the strength of the airlines. Aviation differs from most other industries, however, in that it has been extensively over-seen and regulated by public agencies since its earliest days. For much of the history of the aviation industry, the federal government made the key decisions that determined route structures, fares, capacity constraints and other physical characteristics of the air transport system, work rules and worker qualifications, and more. Even though the era of tight federal economic controls ended with implementation of the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, federal agencies continue to have important oversight responsibilities for aviation safety, and the public still tends to expect government to pay special attention to how the aviation industry is faring.
This study of education and training for civilian aviation careers might be
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--> 1 Introduction Civilian aviation is a key part of the transportation system of the United States and a major contributor to national economic prosperity. In 1993 the country's scheduled airlines transported 460 million people and carried 5.5 million tons of freight. In that same year, 6.9 million scheduled flights departed from U.S. airports carrying business people to meetings and pleasure travelers to vacation sites and visits with family and friends (Federal Aviation Administration, n.d.: Table 4-6). To make these flights possible, scheduled airlines employ over half a million people and work with aircraft manufacturers, airports, regulatory and safety agencies, and a host of other essential auxiliary industries that employ millions more. In the global marketplace of the late twentieth century, a healthy aviation industry is vital to a healthy economy. As with other industries on which the nation's competitiveness hinges, the American public has a vested interest in the strength of the airlines. Aviation differs from most other industries, however, in that it has been extensively over-seen and regulated by public agencies since its earliest days. For much of the history of the aviation industry, the federal government made the key decisions that determined route structures, fares, capacity constraints and other physical characteristics of the air transport system, work rules and worker qualifications, and more. Even though the era of tight federal economic controls ended with implementation of the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, federal agencies continue to have important oversight responsibilities for aviation safety, and the public still tends to expect government to pay special attention to how the aviation industry is faring. This study of education and training for civilian aviation careers might be
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--> viewed as one of several activities in recent years that carry on the legacy of government involvement. One such activity occurred in the late 1980s, when a period of robust commercial aviation activity coincided with the beginnings of downsizing in the military, which historically has served as a major supplier of trained pilots and maintenance technicians for private industry. Fears of a coming shortage of trained personnel led Congress to call for a study, which was carried out by a Pilot and Aviation Maintenance Technician Blue Ribbon Panel set up under the auspices of the Federal Aviation Administration (Blue Ribbon Panel, 1993). A subsequent airline ''bust" in the early 1990s, brought on in part by recession and the Persian Gulf War, caused tremendous upheaval in the industry and resulted in the airlines' losing more money within a few years than they had earned in profits during the preceding half-century. These events spurred Congress to create a commission to investigate and make recommendations about the financial health and future competitiveness of the U.S. airline and aerospace industries (National Commission, 1993). Another area of ongoing government concern has been the continuing struggle of minorities and women to overcome barriers and prejudices that historically have restricted their access to many American workplaces. Like other industries, for many years aviation provided only limited opportunities for nonwhites and women. But to the frustration of individuals from these groups who wanted to fly or otherwise participate in this exciting field, aviation appeared slow to open its doors even after formal barriers began to fall in the 1960s and 1970s. To individual frustration was added a more general concern about whether an industry like aviation, without making changes, could find the workers it needed in a country in which white men were becoming a smaller and smaller part of the employed workforce. In light of these various concerns about the aviation workforce, Congress directed the U.S. Department of Education to commission from the National Academy of Sciences a study on education and training for civilian aviation careers. As the legislative history demonstrates, Congress was particularly interested in the issue of access to good jobs within the airline industry sector of civilian aviation. Special mention was made of pilots, aviation maintenance technicians, and managers. The Department of Education set its charge to the committee in the context of military downsizing and of the traditional reliance of commercial airlines on specialized workers who have received their initial training outside the industry itself. The department asked the committee: (1) to consider the implications of military downsizing on both training capacity and workforce diversity, (2) to review the capacity of civilian training institutions to meet future needs for aviation personnel, and (3) to focus specific attention on barriers facing minorities and women in gaining access to aviation careers and to examine options for attracting individuals from underrepresented groups into the aviation career pipeline.
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--> Given its charge and the time and resources available to it, the committee could not address all the variables related to employment in the aviation industry. A thorough examination of the role of labor unions in setting hiring standards, for example, or a review of Federal Aviation Administration certification and medical requirements for pilots, or analysis of industry fringe benefit policies that affect the relative attractiveness of aviation careers would require separate studies of their own. The committee's charge emphasized several specific careers most typically found in airlines; therefore, its analysis did not extend to conditions affecting the employment of air traffic controllers, aerospace engineers, or other career categories more characteristic of public or manufacturing employment in aviation than of air transportation. On one level, the committee's review was straightforward. No one disputes that the military is going to be a less significant factor in producing civilian aviation personnel in the foreseeable future. Likewise, no one disputes that most of the highly skilled and senior jobs in aviation are still held by white men. On another level, the issues facing the committee were significantly more complex. For one thing, as will become apparent time and again in this report, quantifying what is happening in the aviation workforce and its training paths is surprisingly difficult. Especially at the level of individual job categories like pilots and maintenance technicians, the aviation workforce is small enough that most standard employment surveys have large margins of error; although they can give an overall idea of employment levels, they are not very accurate as a gauge of year-to-year changes. Few statistics exist at all on managers, and none that separates senior management from the more junior ranks. Data collected by government agencies or by private groups frequently do not break down totals by sex or ethnic status. And as a journalist writing a series of articles on diversity in the industry recently reported, the airlines themselves are generally unwilling to provide data on the sex or ethnicity of their workforces (Henderson, 1995:34). Data on enrollments in aviation education programs are incomplete and capture only part of the civilian preparation system in any event. Moreover, as a Smithsonian Institution history of women in aviation pointed out (in an observation equally applicable to minorities), "bare statistics are not very illuminating" in exploring the changing relationship between historically underrepresented groups and aviation (Douglas, 1991:107). Immense changes extending far beyond aviation—on issues such as desegregation and civil rights, equal employment opportunities, and the role of women in combat—have altered forever the society in which aviation operates and in which its younger and future workers have grown up. The first breakthroughs of women and black Americans into the most prestigious aviation jobs occurred comparatively recently. How much today's aviation workforce reflects continuing obstacles and discrimination and how much it reflects the time it takes individuals to work their way up through the system are questions with no precise, or at least scientific, answers. It
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--> is clear that underrepresented groups have made much progress. And it is clear that there is still more to be done. This report reflects the fragmentary nature of the evidence the committee found on the matters in our charge. Much of our report focuses on pilots and maintenance technicians because the statistical data as well as qualitative analyses we found focus on these groups. This is not surprising. These are the two groups whose military training has been of the greatest benefit to the airlines. These are also the two groups within aviation who must be certificated by government authorities and for whom the most extensive education and training programs have grown up in the civilian sector. They are the only two airline occupations specifically included in the federal government's Standard Occupational Classification system, which determines the categories used to track employment in the decennial census and other studies. Nevertheless, even for these two occupational groups, data limitations restricted our ability to analyze some issues as thoroughly as we might have liked. Examples will be noted throughout the chapters that follow. Data limitations included imprecise statistics on airline hiring levels and on aviation education enrollments, the costs and quality of training, and airline selection and hiring practices. When we turn our attention specifically to diversity and options to increase the representativeness of the aviation workforce, we view aviation careers more broadly. We directly address some barriers to the advancement of minorities and women in management, as well as examine what might be done to increase the number of female and minority pilots and maintenance technicians. We also point out reasons for encouraging everyone interested in promoting broader access to aviation to consider the full range of good jobs offered in the industry and not limit their vision to a handful of the most familiar occupations. When we can, we look at specific racial and ethnic groups, but much of our analysis focuses on blacks because much of the available information centers on them. Not as much is known about other groups (including religious groups as well as racial/ethnic minorities) or about the specific experiences of minority women, which may differ in important respects from the experiences of minority men. Here again, data limitations frequently interfere with our ability to paint as full a portrait as we would like of the circumstances of minorities and women in aviation. These limitations result chiefly from two things: the limitations inherent in public data collection efforts (which always involve difficult decisions about the tradeoff between the costs to both firms and public agencies of gathering additional data and the benefits resulting from the availability of more complete information) and the reluctance of firms (for competitive and other reasons) to make public information beyond what they are legally required to provide. The report is organized as follows. Chapter 2 provides the context for the committee's analysis by first sketching the evolution of the aviation industry, then describing the key characteristics of the current industry and its workforce. Among the issues discussed in this chapter are the shaping role of government
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--> regulation and deregulation on the workforce, the factors that affect worker supply, demand, earnings, and qualifications, and the current gender and ethnic composition of the aviation workforce. Chapter 3 examines the importance of the military as a source of trained professionals for civilian aviation. In this chapter the committee assesses the impact of military downsizing on the availability of minorities and women with aviation training and on training opportunities for these groups in the military. Options for training the civilian aviation workforce are the focus of Chapter 4. Here the committee explores and compares the strengths and limitations of five training pathways, including military training, foreign hires, on-the-job training, collegiate training, and "ab initio" (from the beginning) training. The committee considers the challenges facing an aviation training system that will increasingly rely on civilian rather than military institutions. Chapter 5 takes an in-depth look at the issue of diversity in the aviation workforce. The chapter analyzes past and present obstacles affecting the employment of women and minorities, examines ways to expand the pool of interested and qualified individuals, and recommends improvements in educational preparation, selection criteria, industry climate, and other areas that could help create a more diverse workforce.