Pilots are the driver's seat in today's market. But navigating the pilot career is still a daunting task. The following guide will help you plan out and navigate your career. This page is the hub of this guide, with more content branching out from it to help you become an expert for your career.
The commercial aviation industry will need 637,000 new pilots from 2017 to 2036. This is according to a report from Boeing and it averages 87 new pilots needed each day. The demand is being driven from commercial operator growth, pilot retirements, and issues in the new-pilot supply pipeline.
Americas region includes United States, Canada, and emerging aviation markets in Central and South America as well as the Caribbean.
The United States is the world’s largest air travel market. The last 9 years in the United States have been been profitable due to low fuel prices, high yields and load factors, and industry consolidation. The profits are helping to fuel United States aviation growth.
Pockets of healthy aviation growth in Latin America will have positive effect on pilot demand.
Europe is expecting slower aviation growth due to geopolitical uncertainties as well as lower economic growth in some countries.
The low cost carrier (LCC) business model is continuing to grow in Europe and pilot job locations are shifting to where the low cost carriers are based.
Most European countries hire new pilots directly from cadet training programs so don’t have pilot pipeline supply issues seen in other countries. However, the fast growth of the LCC airlines has caused them to pursue other recruiting options.
The Middle East includes the Gulf region. Countries here have seen aggressive growth among their aviation employers. Middle eastern carriers have often staffed through hiring expatriate pilots. Middle eastern carriers have begun establishing training academies in an effort to build a local pool of pilots.
Some countries in Africa have seen steady economic growth and have been attempting to recruit pilots for their operations. These carriers can be a good opportunity for low-hour pilots seeking direct-entry into a range of airplane types.
The Asia-Pacific region has the fastest growing commercial aviation sector in the world driven by a growing middle class. Demand for pilots in the Asia-Pacific region is not consistent crossed countries as some airlines are growing at a rapid pace while others are growing at a more sedate pace.
It is common for pilot employers in this region to hire experienced expat pilots as contractors. These pilots not only crew the operations but are also helping local pilots learn and develop. Aviation employers from this region are creating training programs in an attempt to build long-term programs to staff their operations from local pilots.
The aviation industry mirrors overall economic conditions though with higher peaks and lower valleys. There has been a few pronounced periods of increased pilot hiring with the first one taking place in the mid to late 1960s.
Every year from 1994 to 2000 was an all-time record year in pilot hiring. In recent history pilot hiring slowed due to economic recessions and the change in mandatory retirement age from 60 to 65.
In the United States regional and national airlines have been the most active in pilot hiring since 1997 though recent trends show this changing.
The commercial aviation industry amplifies the ups and downs of the overall economy. Hiring follows these patterns with pilots being hired at a furious pace during up-cycles and then pilots being furloughed during down-cycles.
We are now seeing a period where pilot hiring is being influenced by world economic conditions. That is, pilots are still in demand in other countries with growing aviation sectors even if there is a downturn in the United States.
Airline fleet planning occurs over long periods of time with new airplane orders being delivered many years after they are placed. Because of this, while pilot hiring booms and busts follow economic trends there is some smoothing from airplane fleet changes.
We are in a long-term period of increasing demand for commercial aviation. That is, more people across the globe now have the means to travel by air with. This global increase in demand is expected to continue and is so pronounced that the world wide fleet of airplanes in commercial service is expected to double in the next 20 years.
The Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Act of 2010 changed requirements for airlines so that all pilots flying for them must have an Airline Transport Pilot Rating (ATP). Regional airlines must now wait several years before they can hire new pilots that have entered the pilot supply pipeline.
The Airline Safety Act changed flight crew duty and rest requirements so that regional airlines had to increase staffing 5% to 8% to meet the new requirements.
There is a bubble of mandatory retirements nearing. The FAA adjusted for this in 2009 by increasing mandatory retirement age from 60 to 65 years old. This only delayed the issue. It is anticipated that U.S. airlines will have to replace 30,000 retiring pilots by 2026.
There are fewer people entering the professional pilot pipeline. This has occurred for a few reasons:
It takes just minutes to set up your profile and begin matching with available opportunities.
A career as a pilot can be a long and challenging path but the rewards are worth it and stepping up the career ladder is manageable with planning and discipline.
Your pilot job search plan should include:
|Up to Date|
|Centralized Job Search|
Most pilot employers will have at least one page on their website advising of job openings and how to apply to open positions.
Pro: most up to date for each employer
Cons: a great deal of work necessary to track open positions. Does not provide a complete picture of the job market.
There are traditional style online jobs boards for pilots.
Pro: gives a wider picture of available openings.
Cons: online jobs boards charge pilots for access. Some jobs boards put up fake listings to make themselves look better.
A new method for pilot hiring involves matching employers to pilots based on the pilot’s qualifications and work preferences.
Pro: one profile to have many employers contact you. Ability to compare offers side-by-side. Less work than traditional methods for pilot’s job search. Offers better suit pilot’s needs and goals.
Cons: not able to select from available employers by name, though offers are not binding.
Traditional employment recruiting agencies seek out pilots for their clients.
Pro: less work for pilots on their job search. You have a personal advocate helping with your job search.
Cons: agencies are less concerned about finding pilots the best fit or best compensation and are more concerned about helping their clients (employers).
Provide temporary staffing solutions for pilot employers. They pay the pilots and then contract the pilot labor to the operator.
Pro: less work for pilots on their job search. Work can be high paying.
Cons: pilot positions are temporary. Most of these positions are overseas in developing countries.
All employers have minimum hiring criteria for pilots. These minimums provide the employer with a way to pre-screen applicants. You will need to meet these minimums to be considered. To avoid showing discrimination, companies are careful to stick to requiring these minimums. These minimums are reevaluated and can change.
When choosing from applicants, employers will determine the average qualifications of pilots that have applied to them and will then evaluate applicants based on these averages. This is known as competitive minimums. When evaluating based on competitive criterion, employers won’t usually rule out a pilot for not meeting any single item but will evaluate that pilot as a whole.
Some factors considered for competitive qualifications include:
Do not disqualify yourself from a job if you believe you are below the competitive qualifications for that position. Focus on meeting the minimum requirements and strive to be the best professional pilot you can be. If your qualifications are within range then you should apply. It is better to lead the job market.
The most common entry level pilot job is to work as a flight instructor. There are a few options such as carrying skydivers, aerial survey jobs, pipeline patrol, or ferrying airplanes. This step usually doesn't have minimums other than the licenses and ratings needed to work the job.
Mid-tier pilot positions include flying for a regional airline or part 135 cargo operator. Pilots can pursue part 135 jobs when reaching 1,200 hours though will need to have an Airline Transport Pilot Rating for any airline position. Some Corporate pilot jobs are within reach at the mid-tier level.
The final career goal for many pilots is to fly at a major airline, as a corporate pilot, or to work for large cargo carrier. Competitive minimums to advance to this stage vary with the job market but usually range between 2,500 hours total time to 5,000 hours.
80% of pilots hired at major airlines are recommended. Networking is an evolving strategy and should be part of your job search plans.
How to create a professional network:
There may come a point where you get to decide between competing job offers. A few factors to consider when deciding between job offers:
Pilot furloughs can be a common reality during a pilot’s career. This is a result of temporary or permanent company downsizing or an employer going out of business. Pilot’s can sometimes go on strike as part of a union action, but this hasn’t been as common in recent years.
The key to facing career displacement is to get motivated and stay motivated. A furlough or job loss can produce feelings of anger or depression. But the most important thing when losing a job in this manner is to stay motivated on finding a new job. You should start your job search as soon as you have been notified that you are being furloughed.
Tending to your emotional state will be important during a job loss. Recognize and come to terms with the negative emotions you are feeling. Work on building a strong support system that can include your spouse, family, friends, and other furloughed pilots and their families. Meet with your support system regularly and share your feelings and experiences. Remember that your family is going through the emotional turmoil with you. Talk openly with your family about your feelings and encourage them to do so as well.
Take the stress out of your job search and let employers compete for you.
A professional and well written resume is the key to getting your foot in the door at most employers. It should be no more than one page long and should highlight your skills and qualifications. Keep in mind that the person receiving your resume will spend less than 20 seconds on their initial scan before making a decision.
Your pilot resume should include:
A well crafted cover letter accompanying a resume is an important piece when applying to a pilot job. View your cover letter as an opportunity to present information not covered in your resume. Your cover letter should include who you are and why you want to work for that employer. Your cover letter is a good place to address any gaps in your pilot employment.
A few recommendations for writing a good cover letter:
The pilot job application is the first test in the employment screening process. Employers use this to screen out applicants for either not meeting requirements or for not being able to follow instructions. Complete the application thoroughly, mark blank sections as ‘not applicable’ or ’N/A’ unless otherwise instructed. Make sure to proofread the application several times and consider having people close to you take a look before you submit the application.
Tips for completing a pilot job application:
Most pilot employers weigh recommendations heavily with many believing that having former coworkers willing to write good things about you is a testimony to the type of person you are. Your investment in time to obtain quality letters of recommendation is one of the more important things you can do to enhance your competitive standings for a position.
Pilot employers will make several requests about your history and records. Most of these checks are required and will be done. You should be aware of any negative marks on these records and be prepared to speak with an employer on them.
The Pilot Records Improvement Act (PRIA) requires all pilot employers operating under part 121, part 125, or part 135 to “request, receive, and evaluate certain information concerning pilot/applicant’s training, experience, qualification, and safety background, before allowing that individual to being service as a pilot with the company. The specific information they must check includes:
The National Driver Register (NDR) is a computerized database containing information about drivers who have had revoked or suspended driver’s licenses. The NDR includes records of serious traffic violations.
If you are in the NDR you need to bring it an employer’s attention before their check is complete. Explain to them what you have learned from your experience and what you have done to rehabilitate your driving habits.
Before submitting your application and paperwork, run through a few checks:
It takes just minutes to set up your profile and begin matching with available opportunities.
You’ve earned your certificates and have spent countless hours in the air building experience. You’ve submitted your applications and now an employer wants to interview you. You have your foot in the door, but it is the pilot interview where you earn the job.
Pilot interviews are daunting. They include multiple phases with some of those phases involving panels of interviewers.
Interview phases vary between employers. Pilot interviews include some combination of:
Pilot telephone interviews usually come unannounced and are used for pre-screening candidates. Telephone interviews are conducted by a recruiter and last around 15 minutes. The recruiter will run through the job description and requirements and verify information on your resume and application. There may be additional questions during this phase concerning your goals, background, why you are interested in that employer, and your employment availability.
This phase has two objectives:
To be successful during the human resources phase of the interview an applicant will need to be prepared, enthusiastic, polite, and concise.
The flight department interview is conducted by the chief pilot’s office, often times with the chief pilot present. This phase will focus on your flying qualifications. Be prepared to answer detailed questions about the airplane you currently fly.
This phase will focus on your ability to work as part of a team and other areas that relate to crew resource management (CRM). There will be at least one pilot present and they will be evaluating if they’d be willing to be with you for a multi-day trip.
The technical evaluation is used to determine applicants technical skills in relation to their experience level. This phase can include a combination of various written exams as well as a verbal exam.
The verbal technical evaluation might be part of the flight department interview or conducted separately. This oral evaluation phase will test for technical knowledge and commonly cover subjects found in Airline Transport Pilot certification standards.
Some employers use an aptitude/intelligence test which includes testing for vocabulary, math, physics, regulations, aerodynamics, and weather. These tests have more questions than time to answer and are designed to not be completed.
Written personality exams can be part of the technical evaluation and are used to look for undesirable or desirable behavior patterns. The most commonly used test is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. The test has questions repeated in disguise throughout to test for consistency. Personality exams are long and don’t allow applicants to go back to change answers.
Simulator evaluations are used to assess an applicant’s basic instrument flying skills. Flight profiles used at an employer are consistent and don’t allow the use of autopilots or auto throttles. The level of flying skill of the applicant is expected to match their experience level.
The simulator evaluation often takes place on a different day from the other interview phases. However, this is part of the interview and applicants need to dress and act accordingly.
The final selection is typically done by a board without the applicant present. The board has representatives from the flight department and human resources with all areas of applicant’s evaluation reviewed.
Any job interview will judge a candidate on how they present themselves but this is especially so with pilot employers. Pilot employers look for candidates that will represent the company in a positive light and will put passengers as ease or relay instructions or updates to coworkers with authority.
The goal of a candidates appearance is to help recruiters and interviewers visualize them as a crew member with their company. Pilot job applicants need to be well dressed according to the common standards for pilot interviews and should be carefully groomed.
Applicants should use the interview to show interviewers that they can speak calmly and decisively and with strong English skills. Applicants should not use slang, idiomatic language, or bad language.
Applicants need to be able to tailor answers to each employer. For example, if an employer is known for having a big personality an applicant would do well to emphasize outgoing aspects of their personality. If an employer is known for customer service then pilot applicants would want to make their answers customer-centric.
Pilot employers are often wide spanning companies and are constantly influenced by external factors. Applicants should know about current affairs. Employers want someone with a passion for aviation, but they are also seeking a person who is well rounded and has an awareness of the world around them.
Common interview questions can be found online. Applicants need to find the questions ahead of time and practice their answers. Most interview questions are open-ended and designed to have applicants answer in a narrative format. Yes or no answers are not appropriate.
Applicants need to be prepared to answer questions in an organized and controlled format with each answer being thought of as having an opening, middle, and close. Practice keeping answers concise and rarely longer than a minute or two.
Applicants behavior is likely being monitored at all times while they are in contact with a potential employer. They should be on their best behavior when speaking with any person connected with the company. Applicants need to always speak honestly but should be guarded as to how much they share. Applicants must never assume they are safe from being observed or over heard.
Body language sends a strong signal to interviewers. Good body language is important as it tells a lot about how an applicant feels about themselves. Body language needs to be consistent with words. Saying they are enthusiastic will not be communicated if an applicant says it meekly or while looking at their feet. Applicants should be aware of their posture and fidgeting and concentrate on making good eye contact, but without staring.
Take the stress out of your job search and let employers compete for you.