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Career Tips

Getting back into flying

Thinking about getting back into flying but wondering what it's going to take in terms of time, money, and effort? Maybe you have 350 to 500 hours, fly for pleasure, possess a non-current instrument rating, and you secretly envy your friends who fly for a living and enjoy their work?

If you're hoping to change your status from amateur to pro, it will take a lot of work, determination, and money. However, with a true love of flying, you should be able to overcome some other obstacles if you possess that most important ingredient--passion--which will be examined closely by corporate or airline interviewers.

Returning to flying may not be quite so easy for pilots who left the field after turning professional. These reentry pilots will have to face questions about their dedication to aviation. What has changed, and how are you going to deal with those changes?

To successfully reenter the profession, you'll have to analyze why you left and think long and hard about why you want to return. Are you willing to enter at a professional and financial level that may be lower than the one you left?

You may well have to go back to that seemingly dead-end CFI job, just to convince a local charter operator that you're serious and worthy of consideration to fly its light twin. Many pilots forget the importance of having a flying job when they begin their search for a new one. In aviation, this is almost as crucial to success as having the required flight experience. Your ability to endure the worst of times and the lowest pay is an important indicator to your next employer that you won't drop out whenever the going gets tough.

Going back to a more prestigious aviation job that does not include actual flying--like sim instruction or a management desk job--will likely raise some eyebrows at interview time.

Your job choice should reflect your passion for flying and demonstrate a willingness to do some drudgery just to be back in the cockpit. If you're a CFI, give primary instruction while you're looking for other flying jobs that include more multiengine time.

If you're a person for whom the prospect of not flying overrides all the projected sacrifices and downsides, then be prepared for some pointed questions. Demonstrate by your actions that you are very serious about your flying and have learned that living without flying is like experiencing the proverbial day without sunshine.

Captain 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.

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