Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Aviation Careers: We’ve Only Just Begun

With UAV careers leading the charge, aviation is booming

UAVs for civilian use are anticipated to be relatively small, such as this DROID UAV used by NASA to test anti-collision systems.
But not everyone is cut out for the job, and specialized skills can help a candidate stand out. According to Delta, roughly one-third of the flight attendants they're hiring will work in cities overseas. The airline is looking for language expertise in Portuguese, Japanese, Mandarin and Hindi. Most domestic airlines require their flight attendants to relocate to their hub city. Attendants work a rotating schedule with variable hours that include holidays and weekends, and they must have the stamina required to work up to 14 hours per day with frequent changes in weather conditions.

Airline Pilots
The most obvious aviation career is that of airline pilot. Boeing's well-respected Long-Term Market Outlook projects a need for more than 460,000 airline pilots between now and 2031. In the U.S. alone, there will be a need for 8,000 pilots per year. The rift between the number of pilots currently "in the system" (both certificated and in training), and those that will be needed has experts more than worried. According to Boeing, a shortage has already appeared in many regions of the world. Asia, in particular, is experiencing delays and operational interruptions due to pilot scheduling constraints.

Future and Active Pilot Advisors ( is a company dedicated to flight crew employment. They keep a close watch on pilot staffing trends around the world. Their data shows that many regional airlines—after not hiring pilots in many years—have stepped up their interviewing process and are attending aviation job fairs for the first time in recent memory. ExpressJet says they plan to hire 600 pilots in 2013, while Piedmont and Republic Airlines will together hire nearly 1,000 pilots this year.

American Eagle Airlines has partnered with US Aviation Academy to develop a Pipeline Instructor Program, a career path from Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) to Regional Airline Pilot. The new program gives pilots a secured position at American Eagle Airlines while building time towards the Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate minimum flight-time requirements. The pilots will be hired by American Eagle and work as instructors at the flight school until reaching ATP minimums. "Our pipeline instructor program is the first coordinated initiative of its kind to address the worldwide pilot shortage, and we are excited to be on the front lines with American Eagle," said Mike Sykes, CEO of US Aviation Academy.

Although yearly starting salaries for regional first officers hover in the $20,000 range, senior captains for major carriers can easily earn $200,000 and more.

Though only used by the military today, by 2015, controls rooms such as this will monitor thousands of UAVs at once.
UAV Pilots
For the first time in our history, manned flight could start to take a back seat to unmanned flight. The explosion of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or, "drones,") has been well publicized and has caused both controversy and a huge boom in educational programs designed to train land-locked pilots. The FAA is launching six UAV test sites in preparation for widespread use of the vehicles that are collectively known as "unmanned aerial systems." Fifty applicants from 37 states have applied to host a test site, mostly colleges. "Drones" have become aviation's hottest thing.

Why does the FAA want to promote use of UAVs? They know that private industry is going to take to them in droves. The characteristics of these aircraft, like 20-hour endurance and—for some—miniscule size, can't be matched with manned aircraft. These and many other features will represent huge cost savings for law enforcement agencies, agricultural companies, municipalities and security firms. According to a February 2013 Government Accountability Office report (GAO-13-346T), the UAS market in the United States alone could be potentially worth $89 billion over the next decade.


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