Purpose: The outsourcing of maintenance and other technical services is a growing trend and phenomenon in both military and civil aviation. The purpose of this paper is to characterize and analyze this trend by summarizing the existing research concerning outsourcing and the related service provider selection processes in this industry. Design/methodology/approach: The concepts are identified and synthesized using a framework that articulates contexts, observed outcomes and generation mechanisms. Findings: The expected growth trend of outsourcing was confirmed by the literature, and cost was also observed as a driver for the decision to outsource. However, one conclusion is that outsourcing of technical services is not solely cost-driven in aviation as clarity and partnership-type relations (working together for a common goal) appear to be the key success factors in the eventual working relationship. Research limitations/implications: The focus of the published scientific material may be different compared to that of the actual industry. Empiric research is recommended to complement this literature survey. Social implications: Improving the understanding of outsourcing activities may enable better efficiencies and even improve safety in aviation. Originality/value: The concepts developed in this paper provide a suitable platform for further studies. In addition, the concepts serve as a concise introduction to the subject.