The Career Advisor
I am an active-duty Army officer and anticipate returning to the civilian world between 2012 and 2015. How best should I utilize the next few years to become competitive [upon exiting the service] for a position with UPS? The way I see it, I can focus on attaining my ratings through commercial and CFII. Or, I could simply remain on my current track to attain private through instrument (and a multiengine rating) and place a greater emphasis on logging cross-country hours.
--Rob from Kentucky
A: Rob, by setting a goal, you have taken a big first step to successful career planning. So many would-be professional pilots simply say, "Golly! I'll fly for anybody." Not good enough. Without a destination, how will you know how to get there?
In the company's latest posting of qualifications, UPS requires an ATP certificate or a current ATP knowledge test; flight engineer rating or a current FE knowledge test; 1,500 hours total time; 1,000 pilot in command (PIC) jet or multiengine turbine; and a bachelor's degree. The company employs about 3,000 pilots who operate approximately 265 aircraft. Bear in mind that the qualifications are minimums.
You ask how to become competitive, which is an entirely different matter. The average number of hours logged by successful UPS applicants is more than 6,000--a pretty daunting number.
The traditional path to building time for a civilian pilot is earning all certificates and ratings, including the certificated flight instructor credential, then instructing for pay while building additional time. After earning somewhere between 500 to 1,000 hours of time, including at least 100 hours of multiengine experience, it's time to look around for jobs on the next rung of the career ladder.
Candidly, the fastest way to get to that 5,000- to 6,000-hour mark and a bunch of turbine time quickly is by flying every day. Like it or not, the regional airlines seem the best and quickest route for relatively low-time pilots to build those credentials and attract the interest of UPS. At that, it may take an additional four to six years flying a regional jet before UPS will give you a nod. Even then timing is everything.
Another suggestion: Surf the pilot forums. Keep your finger on the pulse of what's happening at UPS. Better yet, do some online or in-person networking with UPS pilots. There's nothing better than having the company intelligence that an insider can provide.
Finally, you might consider broadening your goal. Would you consider FedEx as an employer? There are some other outfits out there such as Kalitta, World, Atlas, and Polar that transport cargo all over the world that might give you a shot with lower minimums. Build time with another cargo hauler and then apply to UPS. Having more than one target might increase your odds of success.
Send us your career question and we'll answer the best ones here. Sorry, but we are not able to provide individual responses. Wayne Phillips is an airline transport pilot with Boeing 737 and Falcon 20 type ratings. He is a B-737 instructor and operates the Airline Training Orientation Program at the Continental Airlines Pilot Training Center. He is also a speaker for the AOPA Air Safety Foundation and flies around Michigan in his Cessna 182RG.