Cadet Programs

Many airlines have a cadet scheme aimed at training up their own nationalities. South African Airways predominantly aim their program at previously disadvantaged groups while Singapore, Qantas, and Lufthansa need to invest in their industry because their traditional supply of pilots from the military has all but dried up. Airforces are also tending towards signing their pilots to lengthy training bonds to safeguard their massive investments. Consequently, most airlines rely heavily on recruiting civilian-trained aircrew to fill their vacancies. Expansion coupled with attrition from retirements and resignations far outpace what the military and cadet schemes can supply. The retirement age for most international airlines is 63 while some domestic carriers and freight operators extend it to 65 – much the same as other professions. Recently though there has been talk in some national airlines of extending the retirement age to stave off an impending pilot shortage.  This is inevitable and although delaying promotion in some airlines, it will have the benefit of increasing the experience levels of the junior pilots before the seniors retire.

It’s worth doing some research to see if you are eligible to join a cadet scheme in your country’s national airline. This will save you and your parents a lot of money. Not all airlines have a training bond for this program but undoubtedly those that don’t will reconsider that policy shortly. In any case, signing a bond in this case is definitely worthwhile. Bear in mind that all cadet schemes have their own selection criteria, along with academic and medical requirements. 

Unless you particularly wish to become a career military pilot it generally isn’t worth signing such a lengthy contract (on average ten years!) in exchange for what essentially amounts to limited hours on commercially unmarketable military aircraft. On average, civilian pilots tend to fly far more hours than their military counterparts. Also, civilian salaries are usually higher than the military’s. More importantly though, the lengthy contract will delay your entry into an airline and consequently negatively affect your seniority number. You can buy yourself out of these contracts, but this is usually at an enormous price.

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