by Julie Collins

The Duluth area is home to a growing aviation cluster.  In addition to Duluth’s existing aircraft manufacturing industry and its international airport, AAR Aircraft Services opened a new aircraft maintenance and repair facility this past fall.  A recent Duluth News Tribune story reported that AAR is eager to hire additional airplane mechanics.  If you’re interested in airplanes, aviation or assisting air travelers, you may wish to explore occupations in the local aviation cluster.


Airplane Manufacturing

Interested in building new airplanes?  One of the fastest-growing manufacturing subsectors in the Northeast region will be Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing, projected to increase employment by almost 40 percent and add 171 new jobs between 2010 and 2020.  Common occupations in this field include:


Education requirements for these positions range from short-term on-the-job-training for electrical equipment assemblers, to bachelor’s degrees for the engineering occupations.  Most of these occupations pay well above the average wage.


Airplane Maintenance and Repair

Aircraft mechanics inspect aircraft, perform scheduled maintenance, diagnose problems, and repair defects and damage.  The work requires manual dexterity and excellent attention to detail.  Mechanics must be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration.  The median hourly wage for Aircraft Mechanics in the Duluth metro area is $29.50, much higher than the average wage.


Postsecondary programs in areas related to airplane maintenance are offered at several Minnesota technical and community colleges.  You can find more information about education and certification requirements on ISEEK.


Airport Occupations

Many of the employees working in the Air Transportation industry in the Northeast are reservation and ticket agents.  Others are customer service representatives or other sales representatives.  These positions often require short-term or medium-term on-the-job training, and demand good interpersonal, communication, and computer skills.


Finally, those who wish to travel themselves may become commercial pilots.  The median annual salary for commercial pilots in the Duluth area is over $57,000; the median salary for pilots in Minnesota as a whole is over $76,000. Growth prospects for this occupation are limited in the Northeast in the near future, but 180 total openings are projected in the state between 2010 and 2020.


You can visit the Northern Aero Alliance for more information and news about the Duluth area aviation cluster.  Bon voyage!