Outside the Airline

Not all pilots choose an airline career. I speak of it simply because that is the specialty I am currently involved in. There are many other specialties just as rewarding. 

Other areas available are crop spraying, although I don’t recommend it if you intend going the airline route. Same goes for Geophysical Survey flying. This is because although the flying is incredibly precise and challenging – it is a single crew operation in an informal environment.

Airlines prefer hiring pilots with multi-crew, multi-engine experience from structured environments. Nevertheless – it is well paid but obviously seasonal. Some crop sprayers alternate their work between northern and southern hemispheres to work all year long.

Charter allows you the freedom to operate a variety of different aircraft to a multitude of destinations the clients require. It’s extremely challenging as the routes and requirements are never the same. Although enjoyable the demands make it more of a young mans job and hence a stepping-stone towards an airline career.

Corporate Aviation involves operating a company jet at their behest. Depending on the company it could involve international routes and often involves dealing with VIPs and the company’s directors on a personal level. Many large companies internationally have their own flight department. The only drawback is if the company shares take a dip it’s usually the jet that’s sold off first, leaving you without a job. But still – good work if you can get it.

Contract flying. Extremely challenging as the company you fly for will place you wherever the need arises. This could involve anything from delivering food aid to an impoverished African country to ferrying UN personnel in the Middle East. 

Helicopter flying. A specialty of note. This could involve anything from flying off the oil rigs in the North Sea to fire fighting and rescue work. This is predominantly the domain of the ex-military pilot as although you can qualify privately, the extreme costs involved in getting experience ensure that ex-military helicopter pilots are more likely to get the good civilian helicopter jobs. Unfortunately it’s not as well paid as fixed wing jobs, as in this area supply does indeed exceed demand. (For the foreseeable future anyway!)

Flight Instruction – my old favourite. For those predisposed to it, instruction is the most rewarding of all the disciplines. Also the most challenging. There will always be a demand for trainers within any company. Whether at abinitio level in flight schools or at an advanced level in the airlines, the challenges and rewards are ever present. Flight instruction at primary level in the flying schools is very demanding as your students are in the developmental phase and require much more time, effort and input. 

Airlines have their own training staff and the job involves converting experienced crew onto a specific aircraft fleet. Extensive use of simulators is required for this task. The new pilots are transitioned by training captains and pilot instructors in the simulator, then paired off with a training captain for tutoring en-route. At this level, each aircraft type is a specialty, and the process takes upwards of three months to complete. The training department in an airline is usually a separate career path from the ‘line pilots’ – the staff all being active airline pilots selected into these training positions by the department. To be eligible for selection the candidate must hold a valid instructors rating – hence the reason I encourage my prospective airline pilots (who have the aptitude), to study for their instructors rating. Having this rating could benefit your career prospects within ANY company. 

Your own business. Lots of potential here. Many guys I started flying with are their own bosses today. Without exception, they’ve all done extremely well. Two were used-car salesmen who ended up owning their own airlines in South Africa. You may have heard of them – Nationwide and MillionAire. Another was an old charter colleague – Gavin started 1 TIME airlines. An old scouting friend started Air Aquarius. Another started a charter company that today services the top businesses in SA. Yet another tendered for UN contracts in Africa and today is a multi millionaire. Several have their own flying schools. Some specialise in inter-continental ferry flights for aircraft manufactures. Several went into aircraft sales and insurance. Another started his own freight airline. The possibilities are endless if you have the flare for business.  Contrary to popular belief, not everyone has the ability to become a professional pilot, so WHAT DOES IT TAKE …

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