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Aviation career specialists note hiring trends

First quarter jobs update

Career specialists at and Future and Active Pilot Advisors weigh in on the current aviation job market climate and offer answers about what’s hot and what’s not.

Photo by Mike Fizer. Executive Director Abbey Hutter, whose company focuses on a variety of aviation jobs, and Future and Active Pilot Advisors (FAPA) President Louis Smith, whose specialty is airline pilot positions, continually monitor the aviation jobs market. As part of a quarterly pulse on aviation hiring trends, AOPA asked the experts about the overall jobs outlook, challenges, and resources that are available to help career aviators get off to a solid start. Here’s where things stand for the first quarter of 2021.

What is the overall aviation jobs outlook right now?

Hutter: Surprisingly positive. Job posting activity remains active and growing, compared to the third and fourth quarter of last year. Sectors like helicopter, general aviation, cargo, flight training, and corporate aviation remain strong. Some regional airlines have renewed their yearly job advertisement packages with us because they are anticipating hiring this year. Airline relief packages have put more furloughs at bay, thus limiting an “airline personnel dump” scenario.

Smith: Hiring at the major airlines in 2020 was the lowest since 2013, [and] overall pilot hiring is in a downturn. The passenger airlines continue to struggle with demand-shock, and pilot hiring is very slow in that sector. However, pilot hiring is very strong at the freight carriers and business for the Part 135 charter operators is growing, which is creating cockpit jobs.

What job application trends or hiring trends have you identified lately?

Hutter: The world of interviewing has been thrust online due to COVID-19. These trends will continue, and technology is answering the call. Our advice to any person seeking a new job opportunity is to be prepared for online interviewing. Read about it, learn the proper way to conduct yourself, and always suggest that you are available for an online interview at any time. Even face-to-face interviewing at this time may require a mask, and that defeats the entire purpose of a face-to-face interaction.

Smith: As the passenger demand returns, we will see increased hiring at the regional airlines followed by some of the major airlines. None of the big four airlines have announced any new pilot hiring for this year.

What are the biggest challenges facing us this quarter?

Hutter: As an industry there was—and is—no doubt about the shrinking talent pool and talent shortage. It’s going to affect us moving forward as an industry. We must work hard in the first quarter at reassuring anyone interested in aviation to continue to move forward and “up!” Otherwise, we could be faced with even worse shortages in the very near future. Another challenge is going to be building passenger confidence through COVID-19-safe flying environments and marketing.

Smith: Convincing passengers flying is safe and removing the hassles and barriers to travel. Not running out of cash will be the goal for many passenger airlines.

Any additional career advice or services that you offer?

Hutter: For résumé creation and updates, my advice is “just get it done.” Run your résumé advertisement, stay in front of it, follow up, network, and use our company search feature to search companies that are “not hiring” [right now]. This is how you find the positions that will be available in the future.

Smith: The primary driver for pilot jobs at the passenger airlines will be attrition of senior pilots. The recent early retirements used to mitigate layoffs will slow that somewhat during the next three years. The pilot demand will recover, but those with the highest qualifications will move to the top of the stack. A four-year degree and ATP [airline transport pilot] certificate will become the gold standard. Many will give up on the profession and will likely regret it later.

What are your upcoming webinars, learning opportunities, and other events through March 31?

Hutter: We are continuing to work directly with schools and hosting free webinars to their classes. Contact us at [email protected] or 724-547-6203.

February 10 - Tarrant County College

February 18 - Vaughn College

February 22 - San Jose State University

Smith: We don't plan any monthly in-person events until after June, and that is still tentative. Online Future Pilot Forums held on Saturdays are no charge and are designed for young people and their parents, or for professionals switching careers. Online Pilot Job Fairs for those in the industry seeking an airline position are held on Wednesdays. Professional pilots who are AOPA members can receive a special $40 discount applied to their $89 FAPA Basic membership fee.

February 24 – Pilot Job Fair

February 27 – Future Pilot Forum

March 27 – Pilot Job Fair

March 31 – Future Pilot Forum

David Tulis

David Tulis

Senior Photographer
Senior Photographer David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a private pilot with single-engine land and sea ratings and a tailwheel endorsement. He is also a certificated remote pilot and co-host of the award-wining AOPA Hangar Talk podcast. David enjoys vintage aircraft ad photography.
Topics: Career, Aviation Industry, Aviation Education Programs

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