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Aviation career specialists: Hiring trends looking up

A look at aviation jobs in the second quarter

Aviation career specialists at and weigh in on the current job market that is heating up as summer approaches.

Photo by Chris Rose. Executive Director Abbey Hutter, whose company focuses on a variety of aviation jobs, and Future and Active Pilot Advisors (FAPA) President Louis Smith, whose company specializes in airline pilot positions, monitor aviation industry jobs and hiring trends. AOPA asked these experts about the overall jobs outlook, hiring trends, challenges, and any resources that are available to help career aviators dive into the market. A second-quarter 2021 hiring snapshot follows.

What is the overall aviation jobs outlook during the second quarter?

Hutter: As more of the country begins to reopen and travel restrictions are lifted, the hiring needs are responding in kind. We hear the same mantra from many of the companies that use our site: "We need employees!" From pilots, to mechanics, to managers, aviation employees are once again finding companies competing for them. It's a great time to be a skilled aviation professional looking for a job.

Smith: It has continued to be a very dynamic time, indeed, with more companies making exciting announcements. There’s more confidence now than was previously forecast. Hiring numbers at the major airlines are increasing and more than half of the regional airlines announced hiring opportunities. FedEx, UPS, and Atlas Air added more than 100 pilots to their flight decks by the end of the first quarter. Spirit Airlines joined the trio by bringing 24 new pilots on board in April and in May, with 48 more expected by the end of June.

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

Hutter: We've identified that the maintenance, pilot, and avionics sectors have seen the most growth since we began our "return to normal." People want to travel for pleasure and business again. This demand hits all levels of aviation companies—everyone is hiring.

Smith: The airline industry is notable for its up-and-down cycle, but it looks like the worst of the coronavirus travel industry slowdown is behind us. There’s a lot of activity in the industry right now and the airlines are resuming the hiring and training programs that were previously in place but put on hold during 2020.

United Airlines made several noteworthy announcements. The air carrier announced it would hire 90 pilots in May, and monthly classes of 100 or more pilots through December 31. The company is also recalling approximately 300 pilots whose classes were deferred because of the pandemic. The Phoenix area’s United Aviate Academy is ramping up with an inaugural goal of training 100 new students this year—and a total of 5,000 over the next decade. Over 3,500 future pilots have already submitted their applications!

American Airlines announced plans to hire 300 pilots in 2021 and will resume flow-through programs with their wholly owned regional partners.

With an eye on the return of summer leisure travel, Southwest Airlines recalled all pilots who had been placed on extended leave in 2020.

Delta Air Lines is planning on upgrading more than 1,000 first officers to the left seat and is expected to hire 25 pilots per month from June through August, and then 75 per month beginning in September.

Frontier Airlines is actively recruiting and plans to add 210 pilots in 2021.

Cargo operator Kalitta Air opened its application window for first officers with an airline transport pilot certificate.

What are the biggest challenges facing us this quarter?

Hutter: The biggest challenge facing aviation businesses right now, remains the talent shortage. The aviation industry was experiencing an unprecedented shortage of aviation professionals prior to the pandemic—and now that travel is resuming, companies are feeling the pain of that shortage more than ever. On the other side, job seekers who just one year ago were getting laid off in droves are now finding that they are in-demand!

Smith: Confidence in the traveling public is a key to a healthy commercial aviation industry. Leisure passengers coming back and flying like they did before the coronavirus pandemic is an example of that. However, the big question will be business travel. It’s difficult to replace certain face-to-face meetings, so insiders don’t yet know if business travel will come back as it was, or stay muted.

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

Hutter: Make plans now to attend the week-long career fair taking place during AirVenture at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in July! It’ll be the first in-person career fair (of its size) since the coronavirus pandemic began.

In May, we attended The Great Alaska Aviation Gathering and will participate in an MRO Association and Global Licensed Aircraft Dealers Association webinar at the end of the month. We’re also working with the Aviation Institute of Maintenance’s Texas and Florida campuses, and with the Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology in Oklahoma. We continue to host free webinars with schools, and educators can email [email protected] to learn more.

Smith: Our big news is that FAPA now offers interview preparation services. Five coaches who were former recruiters can help pilots be more productive when applying for a job. FAPA is also returning to in-person events beginning with the July 17 Future Pilot Forum and Pilot Job Fair in Chicago. Additional locations will be announced soon. Don’t forget that professional pilots who are AOPA members can receive a special $40 discount applied to their $89 FAPA Basic membership fee.

May 22 – Virtual Future Pilot Forum

May 26 – Virtual Pilot Job Fair

July 17 – Chicago: Future Pilot Forum

July 17 – Chicago: Pilot Job Fair

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, COVID19, Aviation Industry

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