The aviation industry needs to hire thousands of more people like Thomas Maharis.
Maharis, recent high school graduate who lives with his family in the Howard Beach section of Queens, is earning $25 an hour as an entry-level aircraft technician. In four overnight shifts a week at nearby John F. Kennedy International Airport, Maharis, 19, repairs aircraft cabins after planes are done flying for the day for Delta Air Lines, where he started working in June.
One recent task: Cutting out a fabric eye mask that got stuck in a seat track. His assignments vary, depending on what breaks, or how rough passengers are with the aircraft. "There's plenty of stuff people do to the vents," he said.
Airlines, manufacturers of airplanes like Boeing and aircraft engine-makers such as General Electric, are racing to ensure a pipeline of technicians to fix and maintain their aircraft as a wave of current employees approach retirement.
In July, Boeing, the world's largest aircraft manufacturer, forecast that the aviation industry will need 754,000 new aircraft technicians over the next two decades, more than 80 percent of them for the growing commercial aviation sector.