By: Steven Daun, National Chief Pilot
You have been flying recreationally for years. During one of many vacations with friends or family, you find yourself on an airliner jetting to some unique destination. Inevitably, during one of these trips, one of your friends or family members indicates that “since you are a pilot, if something happens, you can fly the plane, right?”
Regardless of whether you are a recreational pilot who had fantasized once or twice about being an airline pilot or a new pilot who is focused on a career in aviation, now is your time.
Never in the history of aviation has our industry found itself so short of qualified flight crew members. Never in the history of aviation has there been so many opportunities. Let’s call this the “trickle up” effect. The major airlines are taking pilots from the regionals, the regionals are taking pilots from the corporate flight departments, the corporate flight departments are taking pilots from charter companies and from flight schools, the flight schools are taking the newly-minted CFI graduates from anywhere they can find them. There is no end in sight. How do you take advantage of these opportunities?
While the answer may sound simple, it requires some additional explanations. The answer is time, enough flight time to qualify for an ATP. However, not all flight time is the same. There is a difference between the quantity and quality of the hours you have. This becomes quite clear on your first day of class at the airline. If you don’t have a solid foundation of the fundamentals and strong instrument flying skills, you will quickly find yourself behind the power curve and eventually washing out of class.
There are ways to protect yourself and your flight training investment from having this happen.
- When studying for your Knowledge Exams, take the time to learn the information. If you memorize the answers, you are shortchanging yourself, and it will lead to a weak foundation.
- When flying, conduct yourself as a professional pilot. Don’t take shortcuts. Use your checklist, file your flight plan, calculate your weight and balance, evaluate and understand your weather.
- Many pilots will become flight instructors. If you choose this route, make sure you are prepared for each lesson, and you have an in-depth understanding of the topic to be discussed. You will find that you learn more by preparing for and explaining lessons to students than anything else you have experienced in aviation. This ensures a solid foundation.
- Don’t rush. These opportunities are not going anywhere in the near future. The more time you take to hone your skills and increase your knowledge the better off you will be once you start class.
So why did I start this article out referring to recreational pilots? The answer is simple. You love flying and may not be in love with your full-time job. You may find that by getting a little proficiency training or by upgrading your current certificates, a new world of full-time and part-time opportunities may open for you.
You will never know unless you ask. Think about it. Wouldn’t it be cool to fly that light twin for your local charter company on a full-time or part-time basis? Wouldn’t it be cool to work as a flight instructor either full-time or part-time? Wouldn’t it be cool to begin your second career as an airline pilot? If you can dream it, we can help you get there. It all starts with a simple phone call or email. What are you waiting for?