The Airlines are Calling, it’s for YOU!

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!


Compass Airlines E175. Photo credit – Aerosim Academy:


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!


Brett (with the hat) before his first flight as an airline captain!


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


8 thoughts on “The Airlines are Calling, it’s for YOU!

  1. This sounds quite rosy, but what about the likelihood that a pilot shortage will bring quick approval of MPL pilots in the U.S., which will permanently reduce the need for pilots and begin another period of stagnation and lower wages? The scale of the coming shortage will certainly result in many regulatory changes that allow airlines to fly with fewer pilots, to keep our national airline system and our economy working. After nearly 50 years in aviation and labor relations, I’m not as optimistic about a pilot career for young people.

    • Hi Sherman,

      Thank you for reading & commenting on the post! While changes may come to certification, I don’t think it will reduce the need for pilots… Of course no one really knows, but I feel like we will see a sustained period of better opportunities for new pilots over the near term.

      Fly Safe, Matt

      • Hi Matt, what do you consider “near term”? A 20-yr-old considering a 45-year career knows it will start out punishing, and constantly get better as he/she moves up in aircraft, in seat, and in companies. It will be 20 years to living well, and the best years will be at the end, 35-45 years from now. That is a long time to be betting the industry still needs pilots when you look at the direction and pace of technology in aviation today.

        I spend a lot of time in airline cockpits and simulators, there are a lot of older but junior pilots who have had some hiccup in their career, it is an unforgiving profession going into increasingly uncertain times.

      • Hi Sherman,

        As with any career there are various challenges throughout… I feel very confident in thinking that no form of technology that will ever be widely accepted by the public will allow for a lesser number of pilots per flight. The industry may go up and down (as with any) but I don’t believe there will be anything that will be a cause for a great reduction in the number of pilots needed. Thus, the sooner a young person gets into the industry the further up in seniority they go…

        Fly Safe, Matt

      • Thanks Matt, I agree the earlier a pilot begins the better. And there may not be a great reduction in pilots needed, but the job will change.

        In the last ten years I’ve watched the airline pilot job transform dramatically from being the brain-center and decision-maker of an airliner during an emergency, to strictly carrying out pre-written procedures. The job has been dumbed-down. Pilots used to be drilled on hydraulics, pneumatics, electrical, brake and fuel systems, avionics, aerodynamics, weather theory, and the rules and regulations of aviation. They were expected to understand them and how they interrelate, and how to compensate for problems in any system. Older pilots are no longer trained on or tested on systems knowledge, and younger pilots have never been. This makes the job a very different job, much less skilled, much less valuable. If you ever get a chance to sit in on a sim ride at a major airline, it is an eye-opener. They only train and test for emergencies in their books, and pilots must open the books and follow the steps exactly.

        Air France 447 should have been a wake-up call that we no longer have enough skill in cockpits. Two experienced airline pilots failed to notice an approach to stall, complete stall, and basic CRM procedures. I’ve stalled Boeings numerous times, it is subtle, and pilots have to recognize a stall by feel. Airlines have stopped teaching stall recognition, other than by computer generated artificial alerts of a stall, such as stick-shaker. Airline pilots are no longer trained or tested on the basics of flying, and they hand-fly very little, and some airline accidents are now caused by very basic errors, like Asiana 214. Human pilots are getting less reliable.

        Airlines started with five crew in the cockpit, they eliminated three with automation to save money. Airlines have eliminated a lot of pilot training to save money and make room for automation training, which dominates pilot training now at airlines. People don’t automate as well as machines, I know, because I also help manage an automation company. The things I am seeing actually running on production floors are right out of sci-fi. The ability of machines to recognize and compensate instantly for unexpected changes is far beyond what most of us realize. We have reached the point that automation is safer than human operators in airplanes, it is just a matter of deploying much better automation, and convincing the public it is safe.

        Young people today have grown up trusting technology. They ride on self-driving trains, they drive cars that are getting close to driving themselves, they buy robot vacuums. They read breathless articles about self-driving cars, flying drones, automated contact lenses. They accept quickly. In twenty years I may not be here, you will be considerably older, and the world will be unrecognizable from today. Airline pilots will still exist, but in a very different job from today.

      • Good analysis, however as tech-trusting as everyone may be (and is becoming), I firmly believe we will not see a pilot crew of fewer than two for many, many years. While the pilot profession may be changing so are many other careers… We just have to see what is happens and be ready for the ride!

        -Fly Safe, Matt

  2. Every so often the rumor about a pilot shortage creeps up. Flight schools have to live off something I suppose. I will admit there are Regionals hiring right now but at $18,000 to $20,000 a year for a SIC even though I’m dual rated I’ll stick to helicopters. I just spoke with a pilot who after 6 years as SIC just made Captain and he doesn’t see a major airline in his future any time soon. The Regionals are expanding to cover and the Regionals that were once owned by a major are getting sold or divested.

    They say there’s a shortage of helicopter pilots too but that’s also not true. There is however a shortage of companies with integrity willing to put safety before earnings.

    The other rumor is shortage of experienced pilots. I know many experienced pilots who just won’t settle, me included, for an unsafe company. You’ll see many companies touting the safety first above all mantra but it’s just lip service for the customer. I know there are companies out there who in fact put safety first and I hope to find one soon and go to work for them until it comes time to retire. Until then there’s no shortage and I’ll keep looking for that great company.

    • Sherman, I completely agree. Most of my airline pilot colleagues do not recommend this career to their children. Not only is technology dumbing down the profession and also displacing pilots, but ever increasing globalization is replacing vast numbers of workers in many career fields.

      On the other hand I also completely agree that this is a great time to get involved in a non-flying aviation and space career.

      For the love of flying, better to get your own plane. For a career, get into STEM, finance, business so you can afford it 🙂

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