Career development is critical to ensuring your success in landing a flying career. There’s a lot to learn, both about the industry and about potential employers. How can you be as prepared as possible for the opportunities that are out there?
The job market can be more fickle than in many other industries; knowledge is your key to making the best decisions in this regard. Where is the industry growing? Who’s hiring? What are the current employment trends? Articles in this section will help to assure that you have a fundamental understanding of subjects and issues that, while they may not be as exciting as flying itself, are equally important to your career as a professional pilot.
Q&A: The Career Advisor
Wayne Phillips, AOPA Flight Training's careers columnist and a Boeing 737 instructor, offers career advice. E-mail your question. We can't reply personally but you could see it answered here.
- I had a DUI conviction on my record when I was in college, and I hear that it is a real deal breaker for the airlines. Am I dead in the water?
- I am thinking about an airline flying career. What's the real hiring picture today?
- I have done as much research as possible on flight academies. I have read all the brochures and spoken to counselors. I will begin making my rounds visiting each one. Which one is the all-around best? I have also tried looking at some blogs online trying to get some feedback from students, but it was not much help at all.
- I really enjoyed your keynote speech on the state of pilot hiring at the annual aviation banquet held at Jacksonville University in April. I really do agree with you that those of us in training really focus so much on ratings and classes that we lose sight of what's going on in the industry. My question deals with the current state of the industry. What happens now? What do you recommend for us?
- I'm currently attending a major flight school in Florida. I'm scheduled to finish in January. It's no surprise the job market is starting to look bad with the gas prices the way they are. Not good news for a pilot like me who is going to have a $100,000 student loan to pay back after finishing school. My school is pushing me to get my CFI and stay to instruct. Is there a better way to further my career as a pilot without doing so? I know my time is low, but I really can't see myself as an instructor. I'm a single male in my 30s with no dependents, and I wouldn't even mind moving and flying out of the country. Any suggestions would be great. Thanks!
- Your article about the so-called pilot shortage is a disservice. You need to set the record straight. There is no shortage. If the age 65 rule goes into effect, those guys flying for the regional airlines will be stuck in a dead-end job.
- I am thinking about a career change. Is 42 years too old to realistically think about flying as a professional pilot?
- I have a dilemma. I am 24 years old and a high school graduate. For the past three years, I have been flight instructing at a local FBO and flying charter in a King Air. Now I am applying to the regional airlines. Although I know that there are ways for me to earn a college degree at a local community college or online, I honestly don't have the time or motivation to devote to studies. Do I really need a degree to make it as an airline pilot?
- Wayne, I have a simple question. Why should I consider becoming an airline pilot? Please tell me some real facts.
- I am very interested in attending a flight school that has me sold on the training. The training will cost a lot of money. My goal is to become an airline pilot. I know I have to start off in the regionals and work my way up, but my concern is being able to take care of my debt while making $20,000 for two to three years while I try to climb the regional ladder. Do you have any advice on how I should plan to pay off the debt until I start to earn a decent living in the regional airlines?
- I finally received the call! I have an invitation to interview with my top-choice regional airline. Do you have any suggestions?
- I am going into my sophomore year of high school and training for my private pilot certificate. I am looking into a career flying cargo for FedEx or UPS some day. How would I get there?
- I am sure that many of your readers are thinking about professional flying careers as either airline or corporate pilots. I am just wondering why you have not addressed CFI careers? It seems to me that teaching folks to fly can be one of the most rewarding careers that a flying enthusiast can pursue.
- I've been reading the Career Pilot section faithfully since it first appeared last year, but there seems to be a lot of emphasis on airline careers. After reading an article about air taxi flying that featured Sarah O'Brien giving her take on that career track ("Careers: Flying For Hire," March 2007 AOPA Flight Training), I must say that Part 135 flying seems to be more up my alley. Is the charter segment of the industry experiencing the pilot shortage, too?
- Our son recently finished his CFI for helicopter and then took the Robinson Safety Course this past December. Since that time, he has put his resume online, handed it out to schools, and mailed it to all places suggested to him. He’s called other pilots and, as of today, has not been able to get one interview. He just passed the CFII knowledge test. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!
- All this talk about the pilot shortage is now obsolete. With the Age 60 rule gone, airline hiring will come to a halt. In other words, all those airline wannabes out there just had their career path destroyed. A retraction is in order.
- About a month ago, I was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI). I'm a junior in college, and it was one of those goofy weekends with friends celebrating a sports victory. I had some beers but thought I was OK. The police officer pulled me over for speeding but suspected that I had been drinking. Well, you know the rest of the story. The obvious question: Am I toasted as far as an airline career is concerned?
- I am a 33-year-old Navy veteran. I earned my private certificate about a year and a half ago and now I am enrolled in an aeronautical science/professional pilot program. At my age am I going to be a marketable pilot that airlines would want to hire? Is it going to take me five years to make a $50,000 salary or am I just spinning my wheels with this pipe dream? Would it be a wise idea to stay at a regional making the $60,000 to $75,000 a year cap that they have to ensure some stability?
- I was wondering if you have any suggestions or advice for my 17-year-old son who wants to become a commercial pilot. He is a high school senior and he will be graduating in 2009. He doesn't really want to fly passengers but sees himself flying packages for the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, UPS, or another package delivery company. He has found some nearby training schools in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and St. Louis, Missouri, but he has no idea of how much work and effort it would take to pursue this type of career. Can you give him some suggestions and advice that would help him prepare for what is ahead? -Jacqui from Milwaukee
- I am currently in my junior year in high school, and am looking to become a pilot. What is the best road to take? Should I go to a local flight school or a well-known school? How do I get to a flying career and what are the best options?
- I have a question about failing an FAA practical test. How long do failures remain in your FAA records? Do airline employers consider whether or not you have failed your private,instrument,commercial, multiengine, or CFI? I've heard that after two years the FAA shreds all documentation that reflects an unsuccessful performance. I've also heard that some examiners won't file your pink slip.
-Glen from Omaha, Nebraska
- I'm working on my instrument rating and my goal is to become a professional pilot after graduation from college. I have about 150 hours and am training in a Part 61 flight school. I know that the total time requirement to obtain the commercial pilot is 250 hours. Would it be better for me to spend more money and have 50 hours of multiengine training included in the 250 hours? Would it help me to get an interview with the regional airlines? I know the 250 hours is very low to get hired and people usually become flight instructors to earn hours, but I have no interest in an instruction career. I'm also planning to train in a Cirrus SR20-G3. Will the high performance time look better in my logbook? -Renee from Madison, Wisconsin
- 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.
- I am in high school and I am looking into aviation colleges and flight schools, but I do not have 20/20 vision and wear glasses. Am I wasting my time trying to become a pilot?
- I have been reading your features and advice since I started flying in 2004 at Palwaukee Airport outside of Chicago. I am curious. What do you consider the best flying job out there?
- I have a question about FAR Part 141 flight schools versus FAR Part 61 flight schools. What are the differences, and do the airlines really care? I’ve heard the term “FAA approved” used by some schools while others do not. What’s the scoop?—Dave from Dubuque, Iowa
Karen Kahn, a captain for a major U.S. airline and an aviation career counselor, offers tips to help you on your way to an aviation career. Visit her Web site.
- The networking factor
- Early job opportunities: Make your own
- Good instrument skills--a must
- Getting back into flying
- Do I need a degree?
- From amateur to pro
- Job opportunities for older pilots
- Flying a big jet
- Résumé smarts for a challenging world
- Big school or small school?
- Must you decide flying goals now?
- Becoming a CFI
- Moving up the job ladder
- Planning your aviation career
- Can anybody fly the plane?
- Checking out your local flight school
- Is accelerated training for you?
- Learn from the mistakes of others
- Which rating, when?
- Simulators: help or hindrance?
- Am I too old?
- Career Choices: Making the right moves
- Building quality flight time
- Recession-proofing your pilot skills
- Local or long-distance training?
- Marketing yourself
- Spending flying dollars wisely
AOPA has compiled a list of articles to help get you started: