Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Aviation Careers: We’ve Only Just Begun

With UAV careers leading the charge, aviation is booming

As a kid in love with flying and all things related to it, I couldn't fathom the idea of getting paid for it. The notion of having an actual career in aviation seemed like a far-off dream that wasn't possible. As I got older, I discovered that I wasn't the only one thinking it would be cool to make money in some corner of aviation. Today, I know hundreds of people who make their living in aviation. Many are pilots, but I also have several friends who run fixed base operators (FBOs); a few are flight attendants; a number are excellent aircraft mechanics; a cousin who is an air traffic controller; an aviation attorney or two and even an aviation medical examiner. I can't think of one who doesn't love his or her job. Aviation is a special place.

Today, amid "sequestration" and an administration that seems to have targeted general aviation for sweeping cuts, aviation career choices are changing, but they're also growing in number and variety. While some jobs—like military fighter pilots—are decreasing in availability, others—like UAV pilots and flight attendants—are booming. In terms of sheer numbers, it would be hard to pick a better time to consider a career in aviation.

The growth of aviation as a long-term career is international in scope. In February of this year, the International Labour Organization (ILO) convened in Geneva to focus on general aviation. The meeting—which included some 150 delegates from government, the aviation industry, and labor unions—concluded with a call for a "sustainable civil aviation industry" as a "common goal for governments, employers and workers."

"The aviation industry has gone through a series of crises and changes which have seriously impacted its ability to attract and retain a highly skilled workforce, something which is crucial to the safety of passengers and workers alike," said Manfred Merz, executive vice president of the Airline Personnel Directors' Council (APDC). He and the ILO delegates determined that the shortage of people seeking careers in aviation is a crisis that will get worse as aviation continues to grow. "Evolving market demand will require continuous active policies and a level playing field that will motivate workers and especially young people, to join the various sectors that compose the industry," he concluded.

The different types of aviation careers are surprising in number. Though the first word that comes to mind when thinking of aviation is "pilot," the fact is that non-flying careers are flourishing, and many of them pay impressive salaries. Some careers—like flight attendants— incorporate both flying and non-flying duties, and have become lucrative, long-term job choices for many, and their popularity is soaring.

Flight Attendants
Just this year, Delta Airlines was flooded with 50,000 job applications for 300 flight attendant openings it advertised. Delta CEO Richard Anderson said that job applications arrived at a rate of two per minute! The same thing happened in February at US Airways, which received 16,500 job applications for 450 flight attendant openings. The lure of free travel, exotic destinations, a dynamic work environment, and meeting new people every day, all while earning a median salary in the $37,000 range, is enticing to many.


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