Career Choices: Making the right moves
Should I attend this school or that one, accept a corporate job or the regional one, upgrade to get pilot in command (PIC) time or fly the bigger equipment that's Part 121? How you make your choices and why you decide on a specific alternative is something you'll likely have to describe in detail to a future airline interviewer who will want to know about your ability to make decisions and solve problems.
Most schools offer the same FAA certificate, and it's unlikely that an airline, interviewing you 2,000 to 3,000 flight hours later, will have any significant interest in where you obtained your primary training or whether it was via a Part 61 or Part 141 curriculum. Employers will be more concerned with your total flight time and the details of your most recent flying job.
When it comes to flying jobs, you'll want to look at pay scales, equipment sizes, domiciles, flight frequencies, and upgrade possibilities at your new company. What will be the long-range impact of your choice, and is it a rational one for someone with your current experience, needs, and career goals?
Sometimes a slower program or less glamorous job may be the better choice if it provides you with some networking or stability options that will benefit you later. One pilot chose to leave a failing commuter line to fly corporate in his hometown. Soon afterward, his application and successful interview at a major airline had to be shelved because he did not meet the turbine flight time requirements. Unfortunately, his new job involved less actual flying, and he accumulated flight hours to meet that major airline's minimum at a much slower rate. Had he waited until the commuter's demise, his total hours might have been just what he needed to clinch that jet job he wanted so badly.
Another major career decision concerns the advisability of upgrading to the left seat to gain PIC time versus flying as second in command (SIC) on a regional jet. If you have minimal PIC time, upgrading to a jet-where you will be spending your days as SIC, waiting for scheduling to call you, and flying relatively few hours per month-will be time wasted when you could have been building valuable left-seat command time in a turboprop.
Plan now for the inevitable line of questioning aimed at learning about your ability to make choices. Think about how you make decisions, what factors you consider, and who you consult-as well as how and where you gather data in order to arrive at your final decision. Be sure to consider all the options, weigh each alternative carefully, and, after gathering the necessary data, make an informed decision using good crew resource management techniques.
Capt. Karen Kahn is the author of Flight Guide for Success: Tips and Tactics for the Aspiring Airline Pilot and a career counselor. A Master CFI and 30-year airline pilot, she flies the Boeing 757/767 for a major U.S. carrier.