BALPA have pitched in with a measured warning to those hoping to fly for a living. It has always been an act of faith to commit, fronting up with the cash to pay for your own training is risky and at graduation your experience bank is as empty as the one where you keep your cash. Furthermore you will be prey to carriers willing to exploit your inexperience of the industry.
It has never been the case that newly trained low hours pilots could expect a relatively trouble-free transition into a flying job unless they were walking the sponsored walk. The process has always been a tough one often relying on the willingness of the individual to do what others won’t.
The Telegraph, 14 April 2014
Jim McAuslan, Balpa general secretary, said: “The message I will be giving to aspiring pilots is: don’t let dreams become your master. You will need resilience, dedication and a willingness to move between continents to find work.
Jim is providing a useful and well informed clue here, Asia is the region with significant growth and the pilot undersupply problem, particularly 'going forward'. It may well be that if you want a job, it is to the Middle and Far east you will need to apply. As low or faltering growth recedes and air transport continues to expand, all carriers, particularly those at the bottom of the food chain will need pilots. The message adjustment should be, 'there is a pilot shortage looming but airlines have become very savvy at making their new-hires pay. Cadet programs are not dead, they are just tough to get into - so what's new?
I think Jim’s message is just a little pessimistic, that may give you hope if you are in his very real ‘hold pool’ of the qualified, but unemployed. May your hope not be in vain say I and many thousands of us who understand how hard it is to get a start in this profession.
Over the decades it has become clear to me that in relation to pilot supply, the difference between feast and famine is actually quite small. Reconciling supply and demand effectively has eluded the airlines before and part of what we are seeing here looks like sophisticated collusion between those who train and those who employ. Guaranteeing a job after graduation where the pilot funds their own employment for a few months before being turfed out of the door is cruel.
I don’t know Mark Burkett (comments) but his cautionary story may illustrate either the seamier side of airline sharp practice or simply bitterness. Either way, read all fine print carefully and chase down the sentences that have a whiff about them. Talk to others who have passed through the route you hope to take, what was their experience. pPrune might be a useful resource but weigh the posts and posters credentials carefully.
But of the 500 Jim mentions a proportion will, for one reason or another, be unattractive to an employer at interview. Some may have their age/experience balance working against them, others disperse as their licences lapse. This last consequence of disillusionment or financial pressure is heartbreaking representing as it does the fate of those falling into a gap between intervals of opportunity too wide to bridge. The resultant is a comparatively small real hold-pool that can be swallowed quickly as the popular low cost operators need to place bums on their flight deck seats.
Jumping the experience deficit is tough, with initial flying training courses being pared to the bone (the rise of MPL schemes) the emergent aviator is unlikely to have had time to develop a strong workload capacity and its accompanying pool of confidence. This makes advanced training challenging and ramps up the pressure on the individual during initial assessment simulator checks and later during training within the system. Don’t let this put you off, ‘those who go before have managed it, so will you’ … is what you need to tell yourself. Spooning out $$$£££ for a type rating in the hope of making oneself more employable is a strategy fraught with risk, be sure to take experienced and non-biased advice before reaching for your credit card.
Some of the best advice within the Telegraph piece refers to the anticipated compensation package. Anyone coming into flying believing they are about to join a gravy train needs their head examining. We have seen downward pressure on terms and conditions in both the US and Europe over the last two decades as aggressive and well financially motivated airline managers seek to drive down costs. Guess who’s a ‘cost’ and in their sights?
Joining BALPA or your national association and keep your eyes and ears open. Don’t listen to the moaners, there are plenty of them believe me. Listen carefully to those who represent you and others within the industry that command respect, most of them have seen enormous change across the last three decades and have a developed feeling for the way our communal best interests lie.
Take heart, the pathway onto the air has never been an easy one, today you must do exhaustive research to identify the best route forward, which incidentally is seldom the cheapest nor the quickest. BALPA and other representative bodies have enormous experience, resources and industry contacts and work every day with the people you hope to emulate. Is it all worth it? You tell me after you break through the lower cloud deck just after dawn into the sunshine above. Whether that’s in a Boeing, an Airbus, F16 or a Typhoon the feeling is pretty much the same. In a sense, if you have to ask the question, you probably wouldn’t understand the answer.
This is just another opinion, one of many I hope you would weigh should you be thinking of taking the plunge.
British Airline Pilots Association. ↩
markbirkett: From The Telegraph article: comments.
I’m a fully qualified Airbus pilot who made the incredibly stupid mistake of believing the hype about pilot jobs eight years ago. I paid some £100k to get all the ratings; £32k of which went to Thomas Cook Airlines and Alteon Training ( a defunct Boeing subsidiary).to qualify on the Airbus. Sure, I got to fly it as a ‘cadet first officer’ for three months or so, but the reality was that even after paying all that money out, there was no permanent job at the end. I haven’t flown anything since February 2009 when I was utterly stitched up to ‘fail’ a final flight test.
I worked out recently that if I pay out £800 a month until I’m 63 (I’m now 49) to pay it all off, I’ll be as well of as I was eight years ago. And no-one at Thomas Cook gave a flying CRAP about what they had done to me financially. Thanks for our £32k, Byee!The industry if RIFE with ageism - even if there wasn’t an economic crisis to contend with. So unless your under 30 and with VERY deep pockets, don’t bother. ALL airlines are utter scoundrels in this regard. Ryanair and EasyJet included.
You’ve been warned!!! ↩
Please note I don’t accuse Mark of bitterness, I’m merely pointing out that it’s a possibility. ↩
For BALPA read IFALPA, US and European pilot representative organisations. You will not see much by way of recognised pilot representation within the Middle East nor I suspect few places East of the Mediterranean. ↩