Plane & Pilot
Thursday, May 1, 2008

Pilot Careers 2008

Get inside the cockpit

careersOpportunities for professional pilots are at record levels for civilian aviators. No matter what your goal, if you work hard, fly well, present yourself professionally and are flexible with schedules and work locations, chances are extremely good that you’ll find a professional pilot seat waiting for you.
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careersMilitary Aviation
Faced with the fantastic opportunities for professional pilots, it’s easy to forget that America is a nation at war, and we need many of our finest to fly combat and support roles in the armed services.

Military flying is extremely demanding, and the mission often dictates great sacrifice by pilots and their families. There’s perhaps no undertaking as exciting and challenging as military aviation. The stupefying expense of training a military pilot, however, means the armed forces generally require at least 10 years’ service after completing pilot training (itself an 18-month or longer process) to recoup their investment. With civilian-aviation opportunities at their peak, it doesn’t make sense to join the military if your sole goal is to train to become a commercial pilot. But if your motivation is to serve your country and you meet U.S. military requirements, then contact your local recruiting office.

Time To Fly

The year 2008 and the immediate years beyond provide a wide-open field for new and advancing pilots. Barring major changes in international relations, fuel price and availability, and the overall economic situation, pilots with aeronautical skills who are willing to relocate and make the personal and financial sacrifices necessary to pursue a flying career have perhaps the best job market in the history of commercial aviation. Whether you’re just starting a career or are in position to make a career change, now is the time to fly.

The Instructional Challenge
careers“Pilot placement has never been better,” says Eric Radtke, President of Sporty’s Academy in Batavia, Ohio. An affiliate of Sporty’s Pilot Shop, the Academy provides professional pilot training for the University of Cincinnati degree program. Pilots have “always been able to find jobs, if they’re flexible and willing to move,” Radtke says. The difference now is that job offers are coming to pilots with 400 to 500 hours of experience, not 1,500 hours or more as has historically been the case. Further, these relatively low-time pilots are often getting multiple job offers from competing companies, so that pilots are “picking and choosing” from available employers. The trend in pilot training at Sporty’s Academy has been up in the last three years, recovering from a plateau that followed the 9/11 attacks, and Radtke expects 7% to 8% growth annually for the foreseeable future. “The biggest challenge” says Radtke, making an observation echoed by many training program managers in the industry, “is keeping enough seasoned instructors on staff to meet the demand.” Instructor pay has gone up, and benefits, almost unheard of in instructional circles until recently, are improving. Radtke notes that “nontraditional instructor pilots” are beginning to become more common—retired airline pilots and instructors retiring from nonflying disciplines who have always wanted to teach flying and now have the time to do so. This has led to a growing diversity of instructor pilots who are even better suited to training the great number of pilots needed by the industry.

For pilots aiming for the airline or corporate cockpit, this instructional challenge means greatly accelerated advancement. A year or less time working as a CFI is more than enough experience for airline interviews. That’s good news, at least once you get your instructor’s certificate. High CFI turnover may make it more challenging to earn your ratings up to that point. But this means that if you want a career as a teacher of flight—a long-term flight instructor who will be home nights and in high demand as a professional educator—you’ll be welcomed by any number of flight-training academies.


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