Cher

Cher
Smiling? I must have been thinking about the actual flying part!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

aviation careers

So you are thinking about aviation as a career? Well, now that I am back on task, let's talk about what your options are and what the journey is going to look like. I am feeling the enormity of this subject, and trying to figure out how to say it without droning on and on! I also want to give you both the positives and the negatives, and achieve some balance here. First off the line, as I said in an earlier blog, don't be thinking this is where you are gonna hit the cash cow. Aviation has many attractive perks, but big paychecks is not one. Aviation doesn't provide decent wages until you have been doing it quite a while. First year, regionals offer in the neighborhood of, $20,000.00. OUCH! Hard to make a living off that! This of course comes as a shock to many "would be" pilots, (not to mention the general public) and is enough to send them off to a technical school to learn about computer programming, that is if they find out the truth before they are 20 grand into their training investment. There are other better money makers than starting with a regional, and make no mistake, you will not get hired on at a major airline until you have paid your dues in the small time! No ifs and or buts about that. (to be fair- generally your second and third year at a regional will see pretty decent raises, and upgrades to Captain will boost you up to around 50 grand the first year as PIC) Also don't get yourself thinking you are going to work for Fedex right off either, they take the cream of the crop, high time pilots only. Yes - they pay extremely well. Cargo and corporate flying are better paying right off the line than a regional, if you get on with the right company you could start out at around $30,000.00 first year, or possibly more if you happen to be in the right place at the right time. But keep in mind that the more you are making, the more difficult your schedule could be. If you are on call charter, this is a difficult way to live, you will never know when to sleep or eat because you never know when you will get that call. These charters tend to be 20 days on and 10 off at worst, so for those 20 days on- forget about having a beer, unless you have flown your maximum legally and can't fly for at least 12 hrs. Many charters require you to be wheels up in 30 minutes from the call time. Cargo routes tend to be night flying, which is great for your resume, bad for your personal life!
Back to Commercial Airlines, this is an all time high for hiring, seems there just isn't enough pilots to fill the seats, gee, could it be that the cost of training and the payoff are not attractive enough? (check out the all Atp's website for a listing of who's hiring) Hmmmm, I hope this sends the pilot wage back up to a decent living again. Sad but true- that in the 70's and 80's Pilots made considerably more money than they do now-- and the cost of living was less,, just makes me wanna thank Jimmy Carter (gift basket of poo?) for deregulating the airlines and creating this mess. Side note: Truth time-- passengers WILL pay more for their flights if airlines offer more service! Southwest has the corner of the market on bare bones flying and always has since they started. But not everyone wants what SW offers, -- there are people who miss the meal service, friendly flight crews, and littel creature comforts.
This is also a business of "who you know." Make a point to know people, meet the right people and it's much easier to get in. Nothing makes for a faster interview than the captain who walks your resume in. In the end the "make or break" of your goal will be all about ME (multi engine), turbine, Jet, and ultimately, PIC (pilot in command aka Captain) time. You are probably wondering about a college degree as well, and I will address that in another blog. But for now- no you don't have to have a college degree, but it tends to help sometimes. Your flying skills and experience are more important than a 4 year degree in "whatever." trust me, the training and cost of flight training are their own degree! Yes, it does look good on your resume to be able to say you attended Embry Riddle or NDU, Westwind, All ATP's and Flight Safety etc. But like everything else it has it's moments when it ISN'T helpful and if you are so proud of it you are arrogant about it, well, nobody wants to work with that personality. Yes, your training will be excellent, you will be well educated, and you will be paying your loans off for a loooong time! On the other hand you can be properly educated and experienced for less money as well, but you have to learn what the pitfalls and the shortcuts are. Unfortunately, there is a major shortage of smaller schools with ownership that cares about the quality of your flight training enough to treat their customers and CFI's with the respect they deserve. So I intend to help you recognize the traits of a good school and how to avoid the common lack of concern for your investment, and finally,, CYA! (cover your - - -!) Middle of the road school-- yes there are a couple -no I'm not naming any names-- disclaimer disclaimer! -- buyer beware- high prices don't neccesarily mean better training here,, check out all the options- I will go over them in the next posting. But just a taste-- look at their aircraft, consider age and engine time- consider who owns these aircraft, are they leasebacks? are they fully owned? Who is in charge? Who is making the big decisions that affect you? Are they financially stable? Are you required to pay up front for the entire course? Are there alot of foreign students? Are the CFI's treated well and are they genuinely happy? These things all effect your flying experience, don't underestimate these details! I'll explain why- next time!
next blog will be on what to look for and what to avoid in smaller schools.
I hope this is all going to really be helpful for alot of people, and I plan to keep exposing the truth! Last comment for today- one of my past CFI's (employee) told me that she has students considering leaving the school she teaches at due to too much stress, they are thinking of going to another school with not such a great reputation, (just a different bad reputation-) she is going with them to teach them there if this happens-- she said- and I quote, "at least it can't be worse, and having no one paying attention at all, is better than having a jerk cheif pilot and bad management paying attention with a bad attitude!" Ouch, good flight instructor, bad schools. (sigh.) I am going to say it again- owners, management, cheif pilots, SET THE TONE! And,, make or break the school and customers dreams. Thats it for today- fly safe!

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

What Cher failed to mention in addressing salary is that one also needs to take into consideration exactly what that salary covers. 75 hours/month paid is a typical guarantee. However, remember that a "full-time" job consists of 160 hours/month give or take. You're basically working "part-time". Another thing to factor into your income is where you're based. If you don't commute to/from your base, but live there, cost of living can be a huge issue (such as being based at JFK in New York City or O'Hare in Chicago).

Cher said...

Ahh yes- very important point- but also don't be thinking that those low hours chalk up to less time working- those hours are counted only from forward entrance door closed to FE door open, ie aircraft under crew control. You don't get paid for the hours between flights, before flights or time away from base,, except for your per diem which does add up, but is generally paid at $2.00 an hour average starting at beginning of trip to end of trip. I did not include per diem as a part of the salary expectations. As it is not taxed, which is a bonus as well. It's considered expenses. All in all the hours you put in are really full time, but many take the 2-4 days off (which can vary based on your crew scheduling departments skill and if they suck, could often be one day in between ) between trips to work another job for extra cash, such as real estate or the like. ALSO,, don't forget that most pilots are on reserve for a few months upon starting, which makes commuting impossible. Regardless pretty much everyone has a crash pad at their base, so yes-- base is an important factor, how much you will pay for that extra crash pad can be a real factor, crash pads, agh, another subject entirely! I'll address that one- promise!

Anonymous said...

My soapbox is the requirements to be a CFI. In my opinion, they are totally unrealistic and ridiculous and an insult to any aviator's common sense. There is no way a 200 hour pilot can be a qualified instructor.....period. I got my CFI and CFII to learn more. I waited until I had 1200 -1500 hours and felt that I was very limited in what I had to offer students. I only took one at a time on a freelance basis and worked extra extra hard to make sure they were getting good instruction. True teachers are a breed apart and to be sought out.

Anonymous said...
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Cher said...

thank you for your comment on CFI's . Yes, this is a huge issue- and most are really learning while they are teaching. It's a rare thing to find a CFI that is experienced enough to really teach well. Then add caring about the student, and it gets even more rare. I love seeing a CFI that loves to teach and does so for the pure joy of helping someone reach that dream. I have known a few- and they are precious to me. They are unfortunately not treated with the respect they deserve by the flight schools that employ them. I wish I could just snap my fingers and fix it all. Pass this blog onto everyone who cares, I'll let them vent- and maybe someday it will make a dent. I know that most prefer to comment anonymous on this type of forum- thats fine- everyone in this business understands that- but lets get the real picture out there for future pilots and give a place for all to discuss the truth, right here!

Jill said...

I agree with the previous posts about CFIs. I didn't realize how much I DIDN't know until I started instructing (which is part of the point of instructing). I thought long and hard about actually instructing once I got my CFI. Being tasked with teaching someone a skill that may also include spouses, children, significant others, etc. in the mix is pretty intimidating. However, the post about high-time hour CFIs does raise a question with me: If someone is a low time pilot or brand new CFI, how do they acquire the EXPERIENCE to be a good CFI, let alone the hours, without going bankrupt?