Question for Maintenance Shops - why the short hours?

Stephen Shore

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I have wondered for years why most light GA - piston oriented - A&P businesses are not "open" for more than 6-8 hours per day / Mon - Friday? With all the work backing up, it seems like they could increase their work flow and their cash flow by adding 8 more hours per week (2 extra hours per day M-F or 8 hours on Saturday) which would create a significant increase in revenue over a year. Working on Saturdays would add approximately 50 extra revenue days per year to a business.

As a business owner myself, I am always looking to maximize cash flow from all of my businesses, and hours of operation is key to that.

Plus, it seems like the mechanics in these shops have very little chance of getting OT, which all of my hourly employees (most of whom are paid more than the average A&P) eagerly want.

Even most auto dealership service centers and many independent auto service centers have extended hours in order to improve customer satisfaction and improve work flow (revenue).

Is there something that I am missing in the GA piston A&P industry that makes it different (at least in the areas that I have lived)? Just curious.
 
I hangar at a small airport with 49 hangars. The on field shop is open from 7am to 8 pm 5 days and till middle afternoon on Saturday. Sometimes later on Saturday and I have seen them open on Sunday in the past.
I think that is a lot of hours for a small airport. I guess it is different there? Like said open your own shop and see. Maybe they don’t have the mechanics?
 
Walk over to the shop on your field and ask why not open longer hours.
 
Walk over to the shop on your field and ask why not open longer hours.
I have asked the owner and really did not get an answer. Kind of how it has always been done kind of thing.

Most of these piston A&Ps don't make a high hourly wage compared to an ASE auto mechanic. Maybe they freelance on the weekends?

I thought that there might be an A&P on here that could answer, but not a big deal - just curious.
 
Not every business owner wants an ever growing business. Some are making enough money to live comfortably and the stress and additional working hours don’t justify the additional potential increase in revenue. There probably is enough work to stay comfortably busy but not enough work to have to worry about a second shop setting up business at the same airport so there is also no competition to worry about. Not everyone is chasing every last dollar. Some are just comfortable with what they have and would rather enjoy life than earn another dollar.
 
I thought that there might be an A&P on here that could answer, but not a big deal - just curious.
In my experience from the maintenance side, most mechanics I know also enjoy having a normal life just like most business owners. So providing extended coverage is not a priority. However, the majority of shops I would assist with all had special hours available outside normal hours if needed but most owners wouldnt pay the difference. You'll find most aircraft owners don't think their aircraft maintenance costs should be equal or greater than their vehicle mx costs. So the ASE comparison is not valid. Regardless, not everything is money driven on the aircraft mx side.
 
I would think the first issue is finding qualified mechanics, other than that in theory you could hire more and increase rates given the shortages of mechanics. But that doesn’t always work how it’s put on paper, it’s stressful to run a business and then to manage staff.

If you love what you’re doing, maybe, but generally people don’t love working, so someone who has found a happy spot, kudos to them. Sometimes business owners get stuck in earning money that they never focused on themselves, then one day you’re 80 years old and wonder what you did the past 40 years.
 
I have asked the owner and really did not get an answer. Kind of how it has always been done kind of thing.

Most of these piston A&Ps don't make a high hourly wage compared to an ASE auto mechanic. Maybe they freelance on the weekends?

I thought that there might be an A&P on here that could answer, but not a big deal - just curious.
Trust me, the A&Ps at the shop I use definitely get high wages....hourly rate is $125 right now, and even if they only get 50%, that's still a 6 figure income!
 
in my neck of the woods the A&P Shops are mostly 1 man endeavours, and most of them are winding down in their careers. I assume they want more time at home and with family. I have a side job at the local class C airport and work ramp ops with a lot of young kids in the local A&P school. They have 0 desire to ever work on GA. The future is not looking great for GA mechanics. I have looked into A&P school so I can work on my own stuff, but I cant get away from my current job to go to school during the day. Im close to military retirement looking forward to flying for a living as a second career. I don't see myself having time to get A&P schooling done until after that career is done. it's a catch 22 because I really do want to work on my own plane, but I cant afford to do that as a career
 
but I cant get away from my current job to go to school during the day.
FYI: They made a big revision to the Part 147 rule the end of last year. Went in effect this year. One big change is they will allow distance learning for the A&P certificate now. May be able to start now and finish up the face-to-face portion on a better schedule.
 
FYI: They made a big revision to the Part 147 rule the end of last year. Went in effect this year. One big change is they will allow distance learning for the A&P certificate now. May be able to start now and finish up the face-to-face portion on a better schedule.
Do you.know of any schools that are planning to offer that. My company will pay for me to go get an A&P license but the only school around only offers classes Monday through Friday from 9-4. That doesn't exactly jive with people who work a normal 9-5 job.
 
Trust me, the A&Ps at the shop I use definitely get high wages....hourly rate is $125 right now, and even if they only get 50%, that's still a 6 figure income!

I doubt the end worker is being paid even 50% of that $125hr.

Labor charges have to cover wages, taxes, benefits, any other associated G&A expenses passed on to the customer and then there’s profit. Early this year I deep dove into employer cost of labor, the average employee cost across the US was a little over $43/hr. About $30 of that cost was direct comp, about $10 was benefits, the rest went to taxes.

Typically, a fully loaded labor rate is about 2.5x what an employee is paid. Where mechanics are concerned their challenge is most don’t have multiple revenue streams but have more than multiple expense lines.
 
What business are you in? Labor rates have little to do with wages. The big cost is overhead.
 
I doubt the end worker is being paid even 50% of that $125hr.

Labor charges have to cover wages, taxes, benefits, any other associated G&A expenses passed on to the customer and then there’s profit. Early this year I deep dove into employer cost of labor, the average employee cost across the US was a little over $43/hr. About $30 of that cost was direct comp, about $10 was benefits, the rest went to taxes.

Typically, a fully loaded labor rate is about 2.5x what an employee is paid. Where mechanics are concerned their challenge is most don’t have multiple revenue streams but have more than multiple expense lines.
I have no doubt these guys are paid well. I've known all the A&Ps for years, the shop has taken on 3 apprentices, they have that much business. Like I said, they aint cheap and I have no doubt that this shop does not follow your "average employee". I've written or on the proposal team (DOD, NASA, etc) for decades but that's white collar and Federal, which uses a different playbook and similar to what you describe. By the way, you forgot one item in the Overhead column, and that's the actual facility and utilities and insurance on the facility.
 
… By the way, you forgot one item in the Overhead column, and that's the actual facility and utilities and insurance on the facility.
Then there’s inventory, property taxes, real estate costs, expendables, etc. the list was not exhaustive.
 
My A&P works 10 to 3 with a 2 hour lunch break. Then tells me he is too busy to fit me in. :dunno: Although I bet if I had an emergency on a Saturday he'd come in. He's just winding down and doesn't want to work much anymore.
 
Do you.know of any schools that are planning to offer that.
I believe all schools are required to meet the new rules. But I have no clue on the distance learning side. The new A&P test criteria goes into effect this month so perhaps send out a few emails to schools you're interested in. Or perhaps PM @Tools as I think he follows this topic.

and most of them are winding down in their careers.
He's just winding down and doesn't want to work much anymore.
You'll find this will be a trend over the next 5 years. The largest group of mechanics will be hitting 65 and the "winding down" will accelerate. The affects will be regional but based on what I've heard within my circles it will have a larger affect. Getting to Medicare age has been our main topic of discussion for years in order to make the move.
 
We were open 9 hours/day when we ran a shop.

Our primary limiter for "outside access" was availability of front-office staff to screen people who want to just come in and watch/chat/annoy our A&Ps, and chaperone those customers with a legit issue we can help broker. You'd be amazed at how many time-wasters would poke their head into our hangar door. Our front office's job was keeping those knuckleheads away, or at least processed to generate a ticket/work order and get them properly "in the system"

On top of that, there is a difference in quality between hour 1 work from an A&P and hour 10 work from that same A&P. Running your people hard is false economy, the error rate starts to rise quickly and form a "hockey stick", which can kill people, your reputation, or your shop insurance rates.

I think the best thing is ample support to keep the expensive A&Ps on point and try not to have them do tasks that a shop-floor helper could do, like panel remove/reinstall, parts ordering, logistics, wash/detail, and test run/test fly. Similarly, AD research and logbook pre-review/"flagging", log entry creation, billing and administrata... all of it can be done by cheaper and less precious office staff with enough training.
 
1) Not all A&Ps are great business people.
2) Not all business people are great business people.
3) Most higher ups look at over time and see 1.5x hourly pay, not understanding that there is less overhead and other costs, so it may not actually cost them more per hour.

I would say an overall cost of 2.5x the amount paid to the employee is a reasonable number, and may be lower than many businesses can do.
 
I can only speak to my situation, but would likely not be working full time as an A&P if not for my retirement from the Navy and the disability I get from it. For where I live, my pay wouldn't cover all my expenses. GA can't match the big iron in $$, but QOL if likely better. I work Tues through Sat, so our shop has 6 days a week, 9 hours a day availability. And I can come in on a Sunday for an AOG, though there tends to be pushback on the AOG rate.............
 
I have wondered for years why most light GA - piston oriented - A&P businesses are not "open" for more than 6-8 hours per day / Mon - Friday? With all the work backing up, it seems like they could increase their work flow and their cash flow by adding 8 more hours per week (2 extra hours per day M-F or 8 hours on Saturday) which would create a significant increase in revenue over a year. Working on Saturdays would add approximately 50 extra revenue days per year to a business.

As a business owner myself, I am always looking to maximize cash flow from all of my businesses, and hours of operation is key to that.

Plus, it seems like the mechanics in these shops have very little chance of getting OT, which all of my hourly employees (most of whom are paid more than the average A&P) eagerly want.

Even most auto dealership service centers and many independent auto service centers have extended hours in order to improve customer satisfaction and improve work flow (revenue).

Is there something that I am missing in the GA piston A&P industry that makes it different (at least in the areas that I have lived)? Just curious.
I don’t know where you are based, but I see airplane mechanics working over time at a lot of airports. The shop just isn’t open for customers to enter and pick up and drop off planes.
 
Trust me, the A&Ps at the shop I use definitely get high wages....hourly rate is $125 right now, and even if they only get 50%, that's still a 6 figure income!

I’m quite skeptical of that.

I think the problem is complicated. Even $125 an hour is cheaper than your auto service or the idiot coming over to clear a clogged drain on your house.

The shop at my field is owned by a guy that is tired of it and having a hard time finding help at rates he thinks his customers will support. He would like to sell out, but thats not easy. He doesnt have the energy to work full hours, he doesnt have the help to work independently.

I would think his flight school customers would LOVE services offered after the end of the flight day.

I have wondered about the possibility of renting space to his AMTs and letting them run their own business through him similar to how some auto shops work. Let them work as hard as they want to.

My day job is big iron MX. The gulf between GA and that AMT compensation is huge and rapidly expanding.
 
I’m quite skeptical of that.

I think the problem is complicated. Even $125 an hour is cheaper than your auto service or the idiot coming over to clear a clogged drain on your house.

The shop at my field is owned by a guy that is tired of it and having a hard time finding help at rates he thinks his customers will support. He would like to sell out, but thats not easy. He doesnt have the energy to work full hours, he doesnt have the help to work independently.

I would think his flight school customers would LOVE services offered after the end of the flight day.

I have wondered about the possibility of renting space to his AMTs and letting them run their own business through him similar to how some auto shops work. Let them work as hard as they want to.

My day job is big iron MX. The gulf between GA and that AMT compensation is huge and rapidly expanding.
The shop I refer to....3 A&P/IA, 1 A&P, 3 apprentices. Rarely less than 2 aircraft in the hangar (max is 4). During Airventure when the cherokee was in OSH, they used my hangar to rotate aircraft. I have to book the annual 3-4 months out. Fortunately, they know I always schedule right after July 4 weekend, so it goes on their calendar 1Q.

The owner was a bit embarassed when he handed me the annual bill this year. I was expecting smaller than last year with the AD. Nope, even more! He had to increase prices to cover everything. I guess 3 apprentices need to be fed.
 
Heck, automotive shops charge as much as A&Ps and they’re not required to have any kind of certification or license to work on cars. By that measure, A&Ps are a bargain.
 
Trust me, the A&Ps at the shop I use definitely get high wages....hourly rate is $125 right now, and even if they only get 50%, that's still a 6 figure income!
Hah. I wish. When I retired, the shop rate was $125. The wages were nowhere near half.
Labor charges have to cover wages, taxes, benefits, any other associated G&A expenses passed on to the customer and then there’s profit. Early this year I deep dove into employer cost of labor, the average employee cost across the US was a little over $43/hr. About $30 of that cost was direct comp, about $10 was benefits, the rest went to taxes.
This. There are also the non-shop salaries: management, clerks, whatever, that have to be paid out of the shop rate. Light and heat, water and sewer, taxes. Insurance of several kinds. Building costs such as airport lease and hangar/shop maintenance. Purchase of new machinery and tooling. Stuff does wear out. There's not much left for the mechanic after all that.
 
Then there are the days the Feds drop by for “Routine Surveillance “ and

spend half the day reviewing the Repair Station Manual. This can leave the

non- Cert guys with no supervision and no productivity.
 
Something I don’t see in aviation much but have noticed in a lot of small businesses is instead of being open M-F they’ll be open Tues-Sat or some other combo that makes them available on the weekend but still allows the business owner time off.
 
Hah. I wish. When I retired, the shop rate was $125. The wages were nowhere near half.

This. There are also the non-shop salaries: management, clerks, whatever, that have to be paid out of the shop rate. Light and heat, water and sewer, taxes. Insurance of several kinds. Building costs such as airport lease and hangar/shop maintenance. Purchase of new machinery and tooling. Stuff does wear out. There's not much left for the mechanic after all that.


‘Zactly. The pay rate for shop mechanics and independents will need to nearly double what they are right now if pilots/FBOs/maintenance shops want to keep good mechanics around.
 
The pay rate for shop mechanics and independents will need to nearly double what they are right now if pilots/FBOs/maintenance shops want to keep good mechanics around.
But you have to put "nearly double" into context for Part 91 ops. Year-end of 2022, the average pay for a topped-out airline mechanic was $55.00/hr and varied +/- $5.00 depending on operator. When I retired 9+ years ago from a large Part 135 helicopter operator I had topped-out at $44.00/ hr which I believe has since gone up to $52.00/hr. So if a current shop mechanic that caters to Part 91 ops is topped at $30 or even $40 it will be a tough sell to owners to generate enough income to pay a wage that exceeds the current 121/135 wage.

I think the key observation will be as the mechanic retirements accelerate at the 135/121 levels over the next few years, how many of your local Part 91 guys will be willing to move or work an extended schedule away from home to take advantage of those higher paying openings. One recommendation I've given to some owners is to become more proactive in discussing the future with your maintenance provider. On average it only takes about 5-8 years for a 121 mechanic to top-out and a bit longer at the larger 135 side which to some of the younger mechanics I know is a tempting offer especially if they give you credit for their experience. Interesting times ahead, but in reality just a continuation of the slow decline on the Part 91 mx side I've watched for the past 30 years.
 
I agree.

I suspect that a lot of folks are going to soon hear a shop rate of $175 to $200 an hour, and an independent A&P/IA rate of $150 or more. And when they complain they will be told to take it or leave it, there are people lined up at the door. It’s not going to be pretty, but it’s coming. Too many mechanics are retiring and the new ones are going 135, 121, and mil contract, because that’s where the money’s at.
 
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I suspect that a lot of folks are going to soon hear a shop rate of $175 to $200 an hour, and an independent A&P/IA rate of $150 or more.
I think its more defining than that in certain locations. I believe what a lot people will hear is there is no mechanic available in the area. This has been going on for the past 15 years. For example, in my network of available A&P/IAs in a 200 mile radius has dropped by 75% in that same time frame with just a modest increase in rates for those remaining. There is no one who is replacing them. That is the problem regardless the rate they charge.
 
But you have to put "nearly double" into context for Part 91 ops. Year-end of 2022, the average pay for a topped-out airline mechanic was $55.00/hr and varied +/- $5.00 depending on operator. When I retired 9+ years ago from a large Part 135 helicopter operator I had topped-out at $44.00/ hr which I believe has since gone up to $52.00/hr. So if a current shop mechanic that caters to Part 91 ops is topped at $30 or even $40 it will be a tough sell to owners to generate enough income to pay a wage that exceeds the current 121/135 wage.

I think the key observation will be as the mechanic retirements accelerate at the 135/121 levels over the next few years, how many of your local Part 91 guys will be willing to move or work an extended schedule away from home to take advantage of those higher paying openings. One recommendation I've given to some owners is to become more proactive in discussing the future with your maintenance provider. On average it only takes about 5-8 years for a 121 mechanic to top-out and a bit longer at the larger 135 side which to some of the younger mechanics I know is a tempting offer especially if they give you credit for their experience. Interesting times ahead, but in reality just a continuation of the slow decline on the Part 91 mx side I've watched for the past 30 years.


The 121 guys I know are nearly $20 more an hour than that. Plus really good benefits…

Meanwhile my BIL gets $165 an hour to unclog your toilet.
 
Trust me, the A&Ps at the shop I use definitely get high wages....hourly rate is $125 right now, and even if they only get 50%, that's still a 6 figure income!
other than the uber specific mx, the highest paid anps are cargo mx and they top out at about $70. you can easily find mainline payscales online, they are not hidden.

most GA shops start under $25, and even carriers just started ating over $30 for new mx last year.

so many ga shops were offering $15/$18 and hour with no benefits. lol no.

if you want to get into GA then fo for it... dealing with customers is always fun and rewarding.
 
Our local burger joints are starting at 23/hr, for perspective. :) No 2,400 hours of training to grill meat required. Max liability is a roll of tums antacids.
 
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The 121 guys I know are nearly $20 more an hour than that. Plus really good benefits…
The figures I posted are basic top-out wages without any adjustments that I get every year from a guy who deals with union issues. The adjusted wages can be different by company, operation type, and even location. For example, I know of 2 helicopter maintenance jobs for the same company, same aircraft, same everything except location and there is a 25% difference in the wage package alone. I've learned one needs to make sure to compare apples to apples with money and benefits and the base wage is the closest I've been shown by others. Benefit packages are a separate issue but must be included in the final decision.
 
Dealing with cheap owners is never fun. They simply do not understand why stuff costs what it does and why it needs to be replaced. They're the ones that like the "if it's working, don't fix it" mantra. That's fine in a car that can coast to the side of the highway. It's not so fine in an airplane, and running stuff until it does quit is asking for an early funeral.

Another factor is the small percentage of guys (and gals) that have some hands-on experience in mechanical stuff, and enjoy it. Way too many kids spend way too much time on computers or gaming or Facebooking or whatever; they have no idea and no interest in building or fixing anything. Or flying. Some of them don't even want to own a car and drive. Me and many of my peers were fooling with go-karts or motorbikes or boats or anything else that went fast and made noise. We got a good education just by finding junk and making it work.

That's rare now. This has affected a certain other market: just try finding the stuff you need when building something more complicated than a sundeck, for instance. Radio Shack used to sell all sorts of components 40 and 50 years ago for us guys that built or fixed electronic doodads. Now? Toys and cellphones. It becomes clear that we old guys that can actually build or fix anything are getting scarce. Even homebuilt airplanes are mostly kit affairs. No welding or machining or other such skills required.
 
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