PlaneTechs' Director of Business Development, Mike Chally, shares his expert opinions and industry projections on Aviation Maintenance. He also reveals why he's called the "Old Fridge".
In the first part of our ongoing series, “Q & A with Aviation Maintenance Industry Experts”, we will be hearing from our very own, Mike Chally. Mike is an industry veteran starting his career with AirMate in 1996. Currently Mike leads an account management team responsible for strategic planning, sales leadership and customer relationship management. His team serves many of the largest and most respected aviation MRO’s and manufacturers in the country.
Mike’s knowledge is so vast, Our Senior Vice President, Tom Hodgins puts it this way…”Mike has forgotten more about aviation than I will ever know.”
Mike, Thanks so much for taking the time to share your expert opinions! Can you give me a little background on yourself?
I started in the business in 1996 working for AirMate as a recruiter and then promoted to sales. AirMate was then acquired by PlaneTechs in 2002. I’ve seen and done just about everything there is to see and do in the Aviation Staffing business. But I am still amazed at how people will travel all around the country to do these jobs. Our mechanics are the heart and soul of PlaneTechs and everything I do revolves around putting them to work.
Having spent your entire career with PlaneTechs, what would you consider to be this company’s greatest value?
We are honest with our mechanics that we are placing. There isn’t any sugar coating or any hype. We tell them what to expect and we explain the jobs well. When the candidate walks into an environment he or she already knows the experience to expect.
We also fight hard on their behalf for the highest pay rate possible. We win when our mechanics win.
What would you consider to be PlaneTechs’ biggest hurdle?
Finding mechanics. As many of us know, there is a shortage of aviation mechanics.
What is PlaneTechs doing to solve the shortage?
We have our Working Heroes program, our veterans’ apprenticeship program, and university affiliations. Besides home growing mechanics, we are certainly trying our best to educate those just coming out of school to the benefits of staying in the industry and expanding on their education.
What are the aviation maintenance company types that benefit from partnering with PlaneTechs?
Manufacturers, most of the US-based commercial MRO facilities (which is our strongest segment), mom and pop shops, business aviation MROs, military contractors…the list goes on and on. But, if you need a qualified aviation mechanic, then we are the right company to turn to.
Thinking of the aviation maintenance industry as a whole, what are some of the common challenges facing MROs and manufacturers today?
The main challenge is a talent shortage. As well as getting young people to invest their future into the industry. It is one of our primary goals to invest in the future mechanic, to foster promotion of aviation maintenance as a viable industry that will be a rewarding career. We have to work together to bring vocational schools back to the public eye as a great option for a young person’s education. Our customers are committed to the same thing we are...ensuring we have a work force for today and for the future.
Where do you see the MRO business in 5 years?
It’s growing! I mean everybody is outsourcing everything. Airlines and business aviation operators are outsourcing more maintenance and more production needs. And with that growth we must be committed to helping develop a work force that can fill those needs.
You started off as a recruiter in the aviation maintenance business. That must have been very rewarding when you fit a mechanic with the right job. What challenges do you see facing aviation contractors today?
The pay rates have not gone up as high as they should have. The cost for someone who travels and being on the road has risen. It used to be more rewarding for a mechanic to work a contract for 90 days and those rates have kind of flattened. Flattening wages have reduced the cost effectiveness of contracting. Here at PlaneTechs, we keep wages front and center when we are working out terms with our customers. We aim to get the most we can for our mechanics with a fair return.
Are all of PlaneTechs’ mechanics “contractors”? Or is there also an abundant candidate base that is looking for direct work?
The true contractor isn’t what it used to be 15 years ago. For example, some mechanics just need a filler to meet the gap in-between their most recent job and where they will end up at. Also, the amount of contractors who are looking to convert to direct is increasing.
We have many candidates who are looking for permanent work. Using PlaneTechs to find that job for them allows both parties to “try it before you buy it.”
But the idea of using contractors helps facilities. The contractor brings a diversity to help the overall operational success having experienced so much outside of just one facility or one airframe. There are four main options when using PlaneTechs to increase our customers’ labor force.
At PlaneTechs we not only have a large database of these individuals, but are always seeking new pools.
What is your proudest achievement?
We have become an industry leader. As a whole it has been great to see PlaneTechs go from being a contributor to an industry leader.
Personally, the Working Heroes program has been the best staffing solution created in my career.
And finally, Mike, can you explain to me why do they call you the “old fridge”?
Ha! Because I’ve been here forever!
Every time there is a spinoff or a new idea, we put a lot of effort into... but what it comes down to is we are still supplying mechanics.
Is there anything you would like to add?
It is has been very rewarding. I’ve made some very good, lifelong friends. It’s been fun to see our mechanics grow. It’s great to see an avionics technician become the director of maintenance, and it’s great to have our employee become our customer.