Aviators' Thoughts

My job search and business aviation as seen on AviationWeek

Current and Qualified? (Unemployment 1yr 4mos)

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I am asked a question lately that leaves me with a mix of pride and some frustration. Pride in that people admire the efforts I have made networking and here on the web and frustration over the fact that I have been unable to fully reach my ultimate goal. I have been asked at least twice in the last few weeks, “with everything you are doing, with the fact you are fairly articulate and can convey ideas intelligently, WHY ARE YOU STILL UNEMPLOYED?.” My response of course is “You havent hired me yet”, but I think the main reason has been the single biggest obstacle that faces me and many pilots every time we send a resume. It is 3 big words, “CURRENT AND QUALIFIED.”

Just 2 years ago, most if not all employers had a small pool of pilots to hire from. They were more than willing to hire someone off the street who did not have a type rating, send them to school, get them current and qualified and send them to work. In those heady days these companies were flush with customers and cash and at the time it was a “sellers market” for pilots. Now that situation has completely turned on its head.

The last year had created a wave of fear throughout the aviation industry. In some cases, business is down more than 50 percent and for a time it seemed like the sky was really falling. While things have stabilized, the fear and the lack of money has remained. Businesses at best are reluctant to hire, budgets are tight, and since September of last year thousands of pilots are out on the street. This created a very different business and hiring situation.

Now each open position has 300 resumes, many unemployed pilots are already typed in the aircraft these businesses own. Many are still current and in this market companies do not have or do not want to spend the money to type a new pilot when so many others are available. It is the simply the law of supply and demand and the supply is HUGE. Sometimes I think if Orville Wright himself walked into some of these places, he would be turned away because he wasnt “current and qualified”

How is it possible as pilots to overcome this enormous obstacle. I think some very logical arguments can be made that MIGHT help counter the “current and qualified” argument and in the right circumstances still land you that flying job.

1.) Training MUST be accomplished eventually, The first thing, is that even though there is a large supply of current pilots, they will eventually need training anyway. Wether it be for recurrent every 6-12 months or in-house training, these costs will still have to be borne by these companies either now or in the near future. At first glance, the initial numbers for training can be large, in the tens of thousands of dollars, but as an overall part of the budget it is quite small. If you take the example of a 2 airplane flight department with a 2 million dollar budget. The recurrent training of 2 pilots would be perhaps no more than 1 to 2 percent of the overall costs. A tiny fraction.

2.) The training schools are ready to deal– with so many pilots out of work, the large training schools are looking to make deals to get people in the door. Since September of last year, some of the bigger schools have seen large decreases in business. Though the situation is starting to turn around slowly, the amount of pilots going through initial and recurrent training is NOWHERE near what it was 2 years ago. A pilot with good relations with some or all the schools or one able to get training done as a group, has a great chance of getting a fairly good discount on his/her schooling. There is an old saying the “everything in life is negotiable” and you can negotiate with the training schools, just ask. If you can get a large enough group together, it might be possible to get as big a discount on training as some of the larger companies. This can be a selling point for a “non current” pilot as your contacts might be able to save your prospective employer  THOUSANDS of dollars in costs. These days, that kind of savings WILL get attention and shows great thinking “outside the box”

Training is ALWAYS less expensive than an accident or incident: Everyone wants to save money these days, but at what point does saving money begin to compromise safety? This is the fine line that every aviation business must face even in good times. A well-trained pilot is a safe pilot. A well-trained pilot is a knowledgeable pilot. The FAA has begun advocating and soon mandating SMS (Safety Management Systems) to prevent accidents and incidents. The insurance companies like Argus and Wyvern demand such training even before they will grant coverage. The training environment is the PERFECT place to prevent and break the accident “chain.” Scenario based training allows mistakes to be made in the safety of the simulator environment. The tens of thousands of dollars spent on this training is far less than the cost of a damaged aircraft or worse yet, the litigation that will ensue if death or serious injury should occur. While a “current and qualified” pilot saves money now, are they a good fit for your companies safety culture?  How do you know, if you havent trained them in the way you wish?  A flight department that works well as a team and places priority one on safety is worth every penny spent. As a passenger I would think I would want my pilots trained to the highest possible standards. After all, what is the price of safety for me and my family?

These difficult times have forced many in the aviation industry to completely rethink their business plans and for pilots to be far more creative in finding work. The “current and qualified” obstacle can be overcome, but it takes great patience and planning by perspective employees to show that  “current and qualified”  accounts for much more than just the ratings on their resume.

Todays’ the Day!


Written by tdwnds1

November 10, 2009 at 4:54 am

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