There is still a mystique that surrounds the gas turbine engine. Asking for a job flying anything that drinks kerosine is normally met with a representative of ‘the system’ sucking his teeth as he says, “Oooh, not if you don’t have some ‘turbine time’ son, get some in and get back to me.”
I never really understood this refrain, perhaps you do?
Lufthansa Passenger Airlines, LH Cargo and German wings need about 420 additional pilots next year to meet growing demand, including 315 pilots for the passenger segment alone, and the company is formulating a new training concept to help fill the ranks.
Approximately 4,500 pilots currently fly for the three carriers. “Our subsidiary LFT trained around 220 new pilots in the last two years at its pilot school in Bremen. For additional expansion we are looking for an additional 200 pilots on the free market,” said VP-Training Standards and Crew training Werner Maas.
Recognise this picture? China is constraining the growth of it’s carriers, particularly new start-ups to take the load of f her infrastructure. A move that India must be planning if not implementing if internal pressures and dynamics allow. Both nations are desperately short of pilots. Good eh?
Tuesday October 9, 2007
Chinese carriers are beginning to follow the internationally common practice of recruiting privately trained pilots in an effort to make up for a pilot shortfall that CAAC Vice Minister Gao Hongfeng said last month will reach 2,000 over the next two years.
The country’s commercial aviation fleet numbered 1,067 aircraft at the end of July and is expected to rise to 1,250 by 2010. Chinese carriers traditionally cover training expenses for their pilots, which normally runs several million yuan for each individual. As a result, pilots rarely are able to transfer to competing carriers as the current employer often asks for heavy compensation from a potential new employer.
In addition, the rising number of new entrants is exacerbating the problem. Gao said 39 privately run airlines have submitted applications to CAAC since 2004 and 17 have been approved so far.
China Southern Airlines started the trend in May, announcing its plans to recruit 100 privately trained pilots. Sichuan Airlines followed three months later, hiring 50 private pilots. This month Spring Airlines, East Star Airlines and Eagle Airlines disclosed their interest in recruiting such pilots in the near future.
Shenzhen Airlines has taken it one step further, establishing Kunpeng International Flight School with a CNY30 million investment. KIFS will award privately trained pilots an ICAO-recognized license on their graduation and currently has 120 students. That number is expected to leap to 480 next year.
Industry analysts have pointed out that privately trained pilots’ ability to seek new jobs when their working contracts expire or are terminated will help the market mature and constitute a significant step toward solving the shortage.
I seem to be corresponding almost constantly with those guys (and gals) who seem determined to join us up there in the air, the latest was Alessandro from Italy looking to find the right direction to make his first big step. He may yet be on his way to the sunshine…
The common question seems to be, “How do I get started and where do I go.” Before we launch into a road map of ascension, let me tell you about a book I just read. It may answer many of the questions you never knew you needed to ask, and tell you of things you had no idea you needed to know.
Professional Pilots Career Guide written by Robert P. Mark is a probably the only book you will need to buy to navigate your way through the maze that leads towards your seat in the sky, the one someone else places on the ramp and pays you to occupy.
It is tempting for me to precis the content here and wax lyrical about how well Rob has done with what is essentially a manual on how to succeed in getting trained and later, hired – but I won’t. What I will do is hand you a link to point you in the right direction; perhaps then you will confirm my deeply held conviction. That is the belief that if anyone really wants to fly for a living, they will do whatever is required to achieve that goal. Most of those who fail just give up and self select themselves from the running. It takes resourcefulness and determination to carve your own place in the sky, we don’t want anyone sat next to us who is going to give up…. at anything.
Rob’s book isn’t a ‘spoon it in your ear guide’, it is just the kind of concentrated advice I would love to have had available when I started out before the Intenet. In the 70′s we prospective birdmen like those who went before us, had to rely on the jungle telegraph and the smoky bar-room to glean the gems that Rob has produced here. This body of wisdom and research is worth it’s weight in gold… but at first sight seem to be written for Americans. The truth is that wherever in the World you are starting from, if you blur the picture slightly and read across the content of this book to your situation, you can apply the nuggets within to your advantage as the body of the advice tends to universal. And if you are in the USA and looking to fly for food, you need this book; read it in full focus.
One Amazon comment received from the hiring manager at United Airlines. “A gold-mine of practical tips on career opportunities, training, building flight time, and hiring practices, this book was called “right on target.”
Don’t be fooled into thinking that our hiring manager for UA above is unique in his requirements. Reading Rob’s book I was struck by the parallels and how applicable his advice is to those looking to fly for the airlines on this side of the Atlantic and beyond. The World’s carriers sing from a very similar hymn sheet when it comes to recruiting pilots.
The pathway to the clouds will seem a good deal clearer after the first couple of chapters; this is a book for Alessandro to grab with both hands.
United Airlines yesterday said it will accept applications for approximately 100 new pilot positions expected to be filled this year–the first such additions since 2001. “We’re investing in our business, and our expansion in international markets enables us to add to our team,” VP-Flight Operations Hank Krakowski said. New hires will begin training at UA’s Denver training center as early as October and are scheduled to be flying by year end, the airline said.
Were I a manager in an airline’s Flight Operations department surveying the world from my Ivory tower I might be stroking my chin as I survey the pilot supply chain landscape. It is changing.
The laws of supply and demand are cruel and unbreakable, my brief is to keep a heel on costs and deliver bums to highly technical and fast moving seats – and talented, competent bums at that. How on earth am I going to do that without losing control of cost by using money, or cranking up the numbers that I need by providing a luxurious work schedule? Whichever way you cut it, I have a problem on my hands and the size of that problem depends where I am in the ‘glamor’ stakes in the pilots desirability league. This league is defines by money, jets, route networks and general working conditions, we each chose the order of priority that we assign, they are merely the major categories. Into that pot must be sprinkled career aspirations, advancement to command time and other opportunities.
A fair days work for a fair days pay has always been a reasonable mans guiding principle in his analysis of what he takes home to the wife and kids. That same man is being assailed by stories from the City where a spotty youth with a quick brain, good contacts and a sharp suit can make what I get paid in a year as a bonus to his salary.
Green eyed monster? Not really, I wouldn’t want his job nor he mine necessarily, but that is a reality and it forces us all to mull over what we think is a reasonable days pay for what we do. I am reasonably happy with my lot but I want to stay happy – and the equation is not just about money, it never has been. It is about about lifestyle, the battle to retain of terms and conditions of service that I enjoy, and the retrieval of those that have been lost over the last few years. That battle is the cloud that spoils the morning for our manager in his Ivory tower.
I am hoping (as if you never guessed) that the pilot shortage is going to bring about a shift in thinking where it comes to the treatment of aviators around the world.
We have talked about demand, now let’s look at supply. Given the magnitude of the shortages and available lead time to make them good – in the East particularly; something clearly needs to done. It takes a quite a time to produce a pilot, around eighteen months to two years. At the end of that process he pops out of the system, now available to be trained by the airline into his specific (normally short haul) aircraft type. That’s another two to three months effort – add holiday and administration delays, and two and a half years isn’t unrealistic. With the rates of expansion of the airline system in these pressed areas, is there that much time available to create a pool of sufficient size?
Enter a new initiative, the Multi crew Pilot License (MPL). Much has been written about the MPL and you will be relieved to know that I am not going top describe it at length here. Stripped to its core it is the first attempt for many years to redefine the structure of approved pilot training. The Australians have created a course on behalf of the Chinese and are trialling it as we speak. It involves the drastic reduction of the number of hours students spend actually aloft and replaces that with a considerable amount of targeted simulator and other training.
The central theory of the course is that flying hours in light aircraft do not really mean very much and are not a measure of a pilots quality and value. Relevance is everything and training wholly focused on the business of operating a jet transport is far more valuable.
Asia needs it.
Australia is developing it.
Europe and the US are interested but the FAA is sceptical.
All Aviaition Authorities are awaiting the results of the monitored performance of the initial batch of candidates in airline service.
What do I think of the MPL? (well, it is my Blog) Not a bad idea – anything that reduces training down to the essentials will obviously shorten training time and there are many other examples around of accelerated training. What is most important though, is a completely trained and confident pilot who clearly understands his, the aircrafts and the systems limitations. The development of workload capacity and a solid understanding of the system within which the pilot works is absolutely essential. These are the building blocks of situational awareness.
The ‘monkey in the fridge’ might be confidence. Without it we are all lost and I am at present unable to see on what that confidence will be based. That essential tool is gradually constructed across the passage of a pilots training as mountains are climbed and minor defeats turned into victories. Where will this come from in a bare bones training scheme?
The Military train in a broadly similar way and have created pilots who have on completion of their operational training, have had to face offensive operations as ‘first tourists.’ They are prepared, in part, by a form of military indoctrination that delivers an aggressive, confident, and skilled aviator to the front line.
After all, if he has very little experience, what else can you give him?
Are we going to do the same? will we tell these candidates that they have been ‘specially selected’ and are ‘the best in the world – trained to a razors edge?’ Because they aint’; they will have been built to cost and speed! That is what the FAA and others are worried about, and why they are so keen to see the results before they contemplate authorizing something similar in their own juristriction.
In the text below and all texts on this site, he must also be read as her in the interest of reading ease.
What are employers doing? That there is a shortage right now is a given, it still isn’t acute enough at the top end of the food chain to be really frightening the majors, they feel insulated from it. Insulated perhaps, immune? – definitely not.
A great place to go for a type rating is a major carrier and lots are doing it… then realizing after eighteen months that demography in the list above them is going to suppress their career ambitions.
That’s when the world outside starts to look good and their 777/744 type rating and 1300 or so hours on type has value when you add it to previous experience.
This is happening in Europe and the majors are not happy about it. It is not a widespread practice yet but the pattern is being repeated in the hotspots. The very people carrying gray hair and command experience being attracted from the military and elsewhere may soon focus minds towards a form of bonding not previously seen at this level. Previously we did not see this happening at this level in the industry; why leave having just landed the dream job?
Working us harder. Over the last five years we have seen a progressive increase in the number of hours that we are flying. I look back to 1999 and see that whilst I was on the 747-400 I average around 550 hours per annum across a seven year period. After three years flying short haul on the 737 I returned to long haul flying during 2003. Across the last four years my annual average has ramped up to around 750 with rolling totals occasionally reaching the regulatory 900 hour limit. Only leave (holiday) or compulsory breaks reduces this figure and drops the average. I (we) see this as a major increase in productivity across quite a short period of time, I guess you might too.
I understand applications are being made across the industry to increase the flying hour limit northwards in the name of competition and cost reductions – the pilot shortage will be another pressure that may sway the regulators both in the UK and elsewhere. Figures of a new limit of 1200 hours a year have been mentioned. ‘Do more with those you have, they are expensive and increasingly rare.’
Changing the way we work.
Work allocation has always been a hot potato, any element of control that an employee has over his working life enables him to introduce inefficiencies. Take away that control and the employer can create efficient work patterns and trips integrations into a pilots working life that reduces these ‘inefficiencies.’
For us the problem is really one of semantics, where the airline means ‘inefficiencies,’ pilots mean ‘breaks to aid recovery from fatigue and retain some semblance of family life.’ For those who have not done it, let me assure you that the process of flying 900 hours in a rolling twelve month period is pretty exhausting. In long haul flying continual time zone transit, extended periods of exposure to dry air environments and physical inactivity can wreak havoc with both health and general wellbeing. The effects of working at that rate for years on end are unknown. And that is about the best I can say about it really, I have heard a lot worse.
Does this all sound a bit like a moan? Well, yes I suppose it is, no-one likes to work to the point where the pleasure is eroded from an honest days work and pilots are no exception. Across the world we have seen an expensive asset being driven harder and harder to reduce costs and improve business efficiencies. We have yet to see a point worldwide where realistic limits are being uniformly adhered to by all operators. This is an excellent way to earn a living, we want to keep it that way and reach the point where we can enjoy the fruits of our working life without dropping dead when we retire. Remember, these pressures are set to increase as the shortages really bite – everywhere. Airlines will do all they can to fill aircraft with customers and achieve schedule….
It will be interesting to see what the airlines response will be to these pressures. We have already seen from links that the Indian governments response to pilot movement within the industry has been to regulate, effectively cementing people in place after they have qualified. Government bonding? Yes, they are stating to see this as a real option. China will do something similar though she has always been a rule unto herself.
Anyone looking to start a flying career at the moment has an unprecedented opportunity to take their place on the flight deck, should that be their chosen vocation. That pilot hiring (and furloughing) is a cyclic business is a given – merely a phenomena until you get caught between its teeth on the downswing. We are lucky in the UK, for us furlough is rare – the US is a different story.
Wherever you are around the globe at the moment, its turning rapidly into a happy time. You may still be scrabbling at the bottom rung of the ladder spending out for type ratings or cutting crappy deals with intermediaries where ‘salary sacrifice’ is endured in exchange for training and a defined pathway to the front end of some relatively heavy metal. Wherever you are, good luck to you and here are a few reflections that might give you encouragement or solace when the going gets tough.
The Big Picture. Alteon, formerly known as FlightSafety Boeing Training International, has been a wholly owned Boeing subsidiary since October 2002. Its 20 locations worldwide provide pilot training courses for carriers operating airplanes larger than 100 seats.
According to Alteon, the Worlds airlines are going to need to hire 376,000 pilots between 2005 – 2024 – that is 17,000 per year. Here is the rider, this figure is just to accommodate new hull deliveries. Now their figures might be a little inaccurate but by how much – 10% either way? There is reason for optimism everywhere but the need is greatest in India,China and the Far East where 82,000 pilots will be required over the forecast period. Perhaps this is just a little hot air from a company with a vested interest? No, the figures are supported by a number of different sources.
That is the good news and there is reason to believe that there is more to come though not of those gargantuan proportions. The big picture contains good news for pilots but real headaches for the operators; Boeing being a farsighted manufacturer has its eye to this supply problem and is involved in researching and in some cases supplying the solutions. But form ‘our’ perspective, what does all this mean for us?
Yes, pilot supply and demand is cyclic, spend five minutes talking to any professional pilot to discover this. If you have been flying for the last fifteen years you have lived with it.
What’s happening at the moment though is different, some say that what we are seeing will evolve into a change of frequency, not the eradication of the phenomena. Put simply, the airlines in the past have seldom managed to anticipate their pilot requirements and lay provision for their needs by training their own people. They simply trained the odd batch where they had the funds available and it was blindingly obvious that they would need an intake of aviators.
Open recruiting has been the standard for many years, when a requirement emerged, applicants were taken from a reliable ‘pool’ that stood in hope at the chief pilots door. Don’t blame the airlines, this game has rapid swings in demand that are just not predictable unless you have a demography amongst your pilot force that has written a warning all over a wall – like a ‘retirement bulge’ for instance.
That is over, at least in the medium term until the population has grown to match the demand. Unless regulation steps in to flatten demand for air transport, demand for our services is not going to weaken any time soon – we are sailing rapidly into very happy times for those who want to earn their living in the air. This is being felt at the moment by well qualified people who are looking for a job or considering a move. It is a bit of a candy store out there if you like the sunshine and a foreign beach. There are downsides, but more of those later.
Looking at the first rung on the UK ladder.
What is the employers perspective, how does this affect the user of our services?
It rather depends on you position in the industry, let’s start at the bottom in the UK and see what the evidence states.
I dropped by a well respected flying training organisation on the way home from a trip a couple of months back. I was considering renewing my Instructors qualification and this would be a good place to get an idea on costs etc. I rolled up at the Ops desk and chatted to the manager running the desk about this and that before I started popping questions about the QFI thing. Apparently business was brisk, loads of people wanting to learn to fly or advance to further training. We moved on and the MOMENT I started talking about an Instructor renewal, he immediately bounced back without catching breath and offered me a job.
No questions, no in depth questioning, an interview or, “Weeell, we might need someone, perhaps you might do your renewal and then hey – perhaps we might be able to use you…” No, a straight forward immediate job offer and, “We can talk about the pay” admitting the state of their desperation. I got the distinct impression that almost anyone with the rating and a pulse would get the job.
I laughed and told him I was already fixed thanks – holding firm eye contact I managed to loosen his grip from my jacket and departed before he clamped my car and started threatening my family. Only joking, but you get the drift? Before I carried on home I learnt that their story was becoming increasingly familiar across the country. Those schools that have lost instructors as they departed ‘upward’ to the airlines and elsewhere are finding it difficult to replace them. Suction?
… A bit further up to the regionals. In the UK flight magazine is where you look for work as a pilot – the back pages. The alternate source being their website, Flight Global – Jobs for flight crew. A couple of years ago his publications was devoid of flying jobs, now their pages are filling steadily with openings, and good ones at that. Airlines, Regional carriers, network jet operators and private companies are advertising. They all tell the same story, expansion or replacement of losses to the next level up – the major carriers.
And further still. Being at the top end of the food chain can be a comfortable feeling when it comes to pilot supply, you call, they come a running. I know I have been saying this for a while but it is continuing commentary; some airlines are now getting at tad hoarse. They have had to progressively raise their voices as the pitter patter of eager (qualified and experienced) feet have been slowing to a trickle.
As reported by our friends at IAG, Northwest have tried to recall their furloughed pilots and …. the sound of silence followed an empty echo. There have gone elsewhere. Why? well, I shall leave that to Addison to explain but it supports theories that you have read here and probably elsewhere.
There is no magic box of pilots awaiting a call that managers can reach out for to man their aircraft, they are beginning to realise that now.
So here is a message for them, look after those that you have or they may do what everyone does when they are undervalued and abused – walk.
Not easy when your life resembles a game of snakes and ladders, the seniority list biasing the go/stay decision, but you might look to those with just a little seniority, a spot of command experience and some grey hair; they may have their future mapped out by someone else’s training department – if you are not careful.
If you are out there trying to get qualified, don’t hang around. Your job flying job awaits and some companies might soon even start offering incentives to join.