Being a pilot is cool; being an airline pilot is even “cooler”. Have you ever thought about being a career pilot? Well, now is the right time to get into aviation… It’s a very exciting time to be involved with the aviation industry and if you ever dreamed of being an airline pilot, this is the time!
With most of the pilots who extended their careers when the ‘Age 60 Rule’ became the ‘Age 65 Rule’ having retired or rapidly approaching retirement, there is a big need for pilots. The oft-discussed pilot shortage many of us have heard about for years is here and it’s only going to further develop!
Viewers of my former Aviation Adventures television show will remember the episode where I welcomed Brett Boothman, then a first officer for Compass Airlines. In case you missed the episode or want to hear first hand what it is like to be an airline pilot, check out the episode! When I decided to write about this topic I reached out to my good friend, the newly minted airline Captain (congratulations Brett, I know you’ll be reading this) for some feedback from inside the airline industry.
Brett had some interesting feedback that reinforced my belief that the airline industry is about to see a major vacuum-like pull from the top with rapid upward movement for pilots quickly developing! Brett confirmed this, “It’s an exciting time to be in the industry. With every company hiring, the time spent on reserve and more importantly the time to upgrade to captain has been drastically reduced.”
Two of the major drawbacks to the airline pilot career field were the waits to get “off reserve” and to upgrade to captain. As Brett said, with the need for more pilots, the time spent “sitting reserve” in the terminal waiting to get called for a flight will be greatly reduced. Similarly, with more pilots moving up to the majors, regional pilots will be doing more flying and thus upgrading more quickly. This is exciting news for those who dream of being an airline captain!
Brett explained further, “With the FAA extending the mandatory retirement age from 60 to 65 the legacy airlines (American, Delta, and United), who all have a much older pilot group, were able to cease hiring for the past few years. The time has come where thousands of pilots will be needed. Retirements are a big cause of the hiring boom but also a revived economy. Companies are expanding to more destinations and therefore needing more airplanes and more pilots.”
Brett hit another key point on this one; the growth of the airline industry will have ripple-effects throughout the aviation community. Not only is there a need for more pilots, but there is a need for more individuals to join the workforce to fill all of the supporting functions. Working for aircraft manufacturers as technicians and designers for example. Similarly, a greater need for mechanics, ground handlers, ticket agents, etc… will develop as more business means more opportunities in a vast array of organizations. Anyone interested in aviation would be well positioned to start to move towards the aviation industry.
Back to pilots for a second… Brett added, “First year pay at a regional airline has caused many potential pilots to change careers. It was typical to make less than $20,000 your first year. Those times are over now. Many companies are offering thousands of dollars in signing bonuses and higher pay rates. Combine that with not having to survive on a reserve schedule for very long makes for a much more enticing career move. It’s a great time to get into the industry.”
Earlier I mentioned that the time spent on reserve and the time waiting to upgrade were two of the major drawbacks, the other was the low pay. With an increase of demand for pilots, airlines (especially from regional carriers) are being forced to change their ways and make the airline pilot career more attractive. As a result, we’re seeing higher pay for new pilots! This is certainly a way to increase the number of applicants for any position, especially one as cool as being an airline pilot!
If you have ever thought about getting into aviation now is the time. Maybe it means attending a university aviation program or simply heading out to the local airport to begin training towards your private pilot license. Plus, it doesn’t have to be in the cockpit, maybe you enjoy aviation but flying the plane isn’t your thing. As you can see there is a real need for all of the support functions. For each pilot there are exponentially more supporting functions. From aircraft design/manufacturer, aircraft mechanic, flight attendant, baggage handler, flight instructor, airline management team member, plus many more… Maybe you enjoy aviation but you’re more interested in business. After college you could pursue a finance or marketing position at an airline or air charter business… We’re seeing growth across the industry, which means the demand is there for more of every role, including these non-flying roles!
If you think aviation might be the industry for you, now is the time!
-Fly Safe, @MTElia1B9