Aviators' Thoughts

My job search and business aviation as seen on AviationWeek

The Pilot Job Depression

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Ok, Ill be the first to say it. WE ARE IN A PILOT JOB DEPRESSION!!! Not so much for the airlines (though they have their own problems), but in corporate aviation. Some of this carnage has been self-inflicted, but the biggest reason has certainly been the economy.

A brief history lesson is needed here: Basically the party truly ended on September 16th, 2008. This date will go down in infamy just as much as October 29, 1929. On this date, Lehman Brothers, which had it business in nearly every part of the world failed. The credit markets IMMEDIATELY seized up. For aviation as for all of us it was devestating….especially to me. It was light a light switch had been turned off.

The effects are long from over. First it went through the airlines. You had the perfect storm of a slowing economy, poor business practices and record high oil prices creating hundreds if not thousands of pilot furloughs. The airlines reacted by adding fees and taxes on pretty much….EVERYTHING, cutting capacity and routes. When oil prices dropped they were in a better position, though they are still struggling now with lower traffic, but many furloughs have stopped and some airlines are actually doing recalls.

Meanwhile the virus this “crash” has caused spread to the rest of the aviation industry. Next up was the Fractionals, those that could afford to fly, now couldn’t. Business immediately dropped 20-30 percent and for the first time pilots were furloughed from the fractionals (Flexjet, CS and especially FlightOptions). Netjets has not furloughed, but they have a somewhat better position…for now. More hundreds of pilots out on the street. It then spread to the charter business and now its even effecting flight schools which NEED THE CREDIT….Thousands out of the street, 100 applications or more for each job than MIGHT open up. I have friends call me nearly every day out of job and some are even sounding desperate…and dont even try to contract out..that has slowed by 30-40 percent as well.

So, ladies and gentlemen things got bad and got worse when the automakers came down to D.C. with their corporate jets looking for money. Suddenly corporate aviation wound up in the government crosshairs, it ALMOST made it into the TARP legislation that anyone who took money could even use a jet. Nevermind that corporate aviation is a $150 BILLION dollar business that provides those good “High Paying” jobs that politicians love to talk about. Only now have the aircraft manufactures (who have also laid off thousands) and NBAA FINALLY….YES!!! come to the aid of the industry. I just hope its not too little to late.

Its a pretty awful picture..RIGHT? Well…yeah it is, but it can’t last forever. Lets take a brighter look at the future. These are some of my predictions, hopefully many will come true and I will look like a genius :).

1.) Things will continue to be bad until the banks LEND. No credit no aircarft…corporate flight departments will still close and I predict only the strongest flight schools will survive. Many many pilots will simply give up on the business and go do other things (mainly to feed their families)

2.) Oil will stay low…for now..giving the airlines some breathing room on that end, but they will still cut capacity. Any hiring will be slow and may start to happen by mid 2009 (assuming things stabilize)

3.) in the next year or two things will (if historical trends foretell) pick up. However, by this time the general aviation side will be so decimated that there simply wont be the people that the airlines (and others) need to hire. In addition, many of the older pilots will reach 65 years old and will be forced into retirement leaving a shortage in the upper end as well. This will lead to….dare I say it “a pilot shortage“. I know its a bold thing to say, but look at the facts…on the top end the older pilots are looking to get out ….soon..the glamour is gone. On the low end, even flight instructors cant find work and those with 500 hours or so are also not getting hired. Do you think that some of these young people are going to wait 2 years to make money. Some diehards….like myself..will always fly, but many will leave. Many in the middle will go on to other more lucrative or stable careers and the new students are just not there, with a majority being from other countries. So as usual the industry will find it on the other end of the curve, behind the eight ball hoping to catch up.

The best thing we pilots can do for now is support each other and survive. If you are in a flying job, HOLD ON TO IT FOR DEAR LIFE! Be happy that you are flying and getting paid for it. If you are out of a job…NETWORK NETWORK…you have to realize that the most likely way you will find a job….any job is the ones that havent been advertised. There are some quality websites out there that are not  just a job web sites, but good support from fellow pilots taking care of each other. The way it should be!

In the meantime, keep working or looking for work. Dont give up. Im not giving up, Im just hoping to pay my mortgage and keep food on the table!






Written by tdwnds1

October 9, 2009 at 1:06 am

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