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Prospective pilots advised to stay the course during pandemicProspective pilots advised to stay the course during pandemic

‘There are still jobs out there’‘There are still jobs out there’

Stay the course, start a plan, and take action now to advance your aviation career, airline and general aviation pilot, career counselor, and Sun ‘n Fun radio co-chair Carl Valeri advised.

Career pilot and podcaster Carl Valeri advises prospective professional pilots to keep flying as airlines weather the coronavirus pandemic. Photo courtesy of Carl Valeri.

Valeri said airlines have already begun to swing from a “hiring frenzy to a hiring freeze” during the coronavirus pandemic, so he suggested that prospective career pilots buckle down on their education and gain additional certificates and ratings to better position themselves when commercial air travel returns to normal.

“First of all, don’t freak out. Start planning and take action,” said Valeri. “The worst thing you can do is stew it in your mind. Start planning what you’ll do, save money, and keep your situation the way it is. When things aren’t going well for the rest of the industry and you’re in the mode of learning, you need to stick with it,” he advised.

He said now is a good time to bone up on extra skill sets. “Seek multiengine instructor credentials or get that CFII credential” to “make yourself more marketable.”

Valeri said pilots on a career track should continue looking to the future while exercising personal financial caution. “Remember this—if you’re going to school and there’s a recession—once you get out of school that recession will probably be over" and into a rebound because “it takes three to five years to get to that airline job. We’ve seen [it] happen over and over.”

Mixed effects expected for schools, GA, and charter ops

He signaled that the larger flight academies might experience an enrollment drop that could affect their bottom line as people tighten their belts, but the overall flight school picture remains good. Boeing has predicted a need for hundreds of thousands of pilots worldwide to fill vacancies left by retiring pilots.

The Lakeland, Florida-based Piper Cherokee pilot said social distancing could be a boon for general aviation as the traveling public adheres to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. “What other way is better at social distancing than getting in your own airplane—by yourself—and flying somewhere? As far as GA is concerned, you’re going to see a lot more of it” as people shy away from a packed airliner to fulfill their travel needs. Valeri cautioned, however, that there could be a “negative impact” on discretionary spending for certain GA operations. He predicted there could be “a little downturn” because people “won’t have as much money” to spend on flying. “It’s a global economy,” he reminded, and “even GA can be affected by what’s happening to the rest of the world.”

He pointed out that corporate charter aircraft operations might see an increase from business travelers who are warming to the idea of limited social interaction and more personal service. “This has been a big boost to some of the corporate and Part 135 carriers. … I see a positive impact there.”

David Tulis

David Tulis

Associate Editor Web/ePilot
AOPA Associate Editor Web/ePilot David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a seaplane-rated private pilot who enjoys vintage aircraft, aerobatic flying, and photography.
Topics: Career, People, Aviation Education Programs

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