Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Landing the Job, Part II

Ugh, this "getting ready to apply" stuff is a lot of work, considering I'm not really expecting any calls from the airlines I'm planning on applying to. Between that, flying, union stuff, and another development I'll tell you about after this series is over, there just isn't much time left over for blogging. Well, maybe less motivation than time. I somehow always find the time for skiing!

My last few posts told how to scrounge around for open flying positions. At the same time you're looking around, you should be preparing yourself to apply by sprucing up your qualifications and then putting together a good resume and cover letter. This post will cover the process of getting your qualifications in order for application.

Most jobs will have their minimum qualifications publicly posted. Like I mentioned before, you don't have to consider minimum qualifications absolutely limiting - many companies do waive them to hire people they like - but I'll assume that you're fairly close to minimums for the jobs you're looking at. Your task, before and after you apply, is to do everything you can to increase your desirability and give you a leg up on the next pilot. Here are a few ways you can do that.

Certificates & Ratings

If you're applying for a commercial aviation position, you already have your Commercial certificate. Many jobs require additional certificates and ratings. Any CFI position will require at least a Flight Instructor certificate; flying freight in a Navajo necessitates a multi-engine rating. Any job involving PIC time in a turbine aircraft is going to require an ATP certificate. You should consider these bare minimums, and ensure you have the appropriate certificate before applying.

You should also be looking at certificates and ratings that aren't necessarily required, but would help you get the job. Even if a CFI is all that's required for a flight instructing position, CFII and MEI ratings will be very attractive to any school that has a lot of instrument and multi-engine students. If you want to fly for an Alaskan operator, a single-engine sea rating is almost a must. An ATP certificate will help getting hired at any job.

The key is to look for ratings that would be fairly easy to get in a short time span. Most airplane class ratings (multi-engine land, single-engine sea) can be done in a week or less. The ATP, if you already have the experience required by FAR 61.159, is a very simple affair - it's essentially an instrument checkride with tighter tolerances.

Of course, by applying for a flying job you're looking to make money, not spend it. Prepare a cost/benefits analysis. Will it really help you get hired for the jobs you're looking it? If so, are the jobs worth spending the money for? If in doubt, you could try applying now and getting the additional training if you aren't having luck getting an interview.

Flight Time & Recency

There's not much you can do in the short term about your flight time other than padding your logbook (just kidding - that's a really bad idea that has cost pilots their careers). However, if you're lacking in any particular area of required flight time, make an extra effort to close the gap. Your first job flying multi-engine airplanes can be tough to get because most require 50 or 100 hours of multi-engine time, and many pilots have only around 20 hours upon finishing their multi-engine rating. A solution might be to get your MEI rating and move to a flight school that has multi-engine students, even if you get less total time.

If you've been out of flying for a while, getting a job can be quite hard. Most employers consider recency of experience even if they don't post a recency requirement, and many will take a less experienced candidate that's been flying a lot lately to a high time pilot who hasn't flown in six months. If it's been a while, get back in the game. You may spend some time at a lower-level job than you'd like, or you might have to rent an airplane. If that's the case, don't just bore holes in the sky; grab an instructor and work on an additional rating or certificate.

Medical Certificates

Any aviation job will require at least a second class medical, but there's no reason to not get a first class medical. If you're under age 40, it's no more complicated than a 2nd class and usually costs the same. If you have a first class medical but it's more than six months old (2nd class privileges), I'd suggest renewing it before beginning the job search.

Milski recently posted a question regarding medical standards for flying jobs. You'll find that in most cases, holding a medical certificate is the standard. Glasses used to be a bigger deal, but these days it's sufficient to have eyes correctable to 20/20. Other limitations or waivers may warrant scrutiny, but most are not a deal-breaker. If I recall correctly, Mesaba once even had a paraplegic Saab 340 captain. A more commonplace example is the color-blind captain I've flown with a few times.

Some major airlines do have their own, tougher medical standards, due to their higher investment in training. It's common practice to have a company doctor administer a physical exam during interviews at these airlines.

Written Exams

Here's a really easy, inexpensive way to improve your qualifications: take your ATP written exam. You don't need to have 1500 hours and you only need to be 21 years old. Already have your ATP? Take the Turbojet Flight Engineer written exam. Although flight engineers are almost a thing of the past, the written is still required at several airlines and can only help at the rest.

If you're already a CFI, I'm not sure that Ground Instructor certificates are worth the paper they're printed on. They can't hurt, though. On the other hand, a Gold Seal Instructor certificate is nice to have on a resume, and that requires an advanced or instrument ground instructor certificate. What the heck, it's a few hours of study time and $65 for a written test.

Miscellaneous Paperwork

To get hired, you'll need proof of eligibility for employment. A US Passport will suffice. If you don't have one, get it now because you can no longer go to Mexico or Canada without one, many companies require it, and if you wait until the interview is scheduled you'll pay extra for fast service. Besides, $100 is a small price to pay for 10 years of international travel.

If you're a US Permanent Resident, you'll need to have your paperwork in order, including green card. Most companies will hire foreign pilots who have a right to work in the US, but precious few will sponsor you for permanent resident status.

If your targeted company flies internationally, you may also need a Restricted Radiotelephone Operator's Certificate. Like the passport, this can take a while to get, so start now. Here's a link to the FCC's webpage on the subject.

Contacts, References, and Recommendations

You need to be working on these as soon as you start the job search, but it's an important enough topic to warrant its own post.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Job-Hunting Resources

The "Finding Open Positions" section of my last post was long on generalities and short on specifics. Here are a few more resources to use in hunting down job opportunities.

Airline Pilot Central
is very useful for looking up payrates for regionals, majors, freight carriers, and fractional operators. Each company's profile also lists when the most junior captain was hired, whether the carrier is currently hiring, and in many cases provides a link to the company's career website.

The International Air Transport Association, or IATA, is a worldwide organization of major passenger and freight airlines. You may find their member directory useful as a browsing list of major airline websites - although if you are looking for a specific airline, google will obviously be quicker.

The Regional Airline Association (RAA) is an organization comprised of mostly U.S. regional airlines as well as a good many charter and freight carriers. Their memberlist is extensive and comes in quite useful while jobsearching.

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) is a good place to look if you're interested in corporate, charter, or fractional work. Their "Director of Member Companies, Aircraft, and Personnel" is invaluable for anybody pounding the pavement in search of corporate gigs, but unfortunately is only available to member companies. You may be able to find a dog-eared copy at your local FBO. Otherwise, NBAA does have a Products and Services directory online. Corporate flight departments aren't listed, but there are quite a few charter and air ambulance ops, crew leasing / contract pilot businesses, aircraft ferry outfits, and training companies. A lot of these are niche players that you might otherwise never find.

Besides ClimbTo350, you can find job listings at FindAPilot, AvCrew,, and others. There's a pretty good comprehensive list at

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Landing the Job, Part I

Beginning the Hunt

There are many reasons that pilots start looking for a job. Some may have freshly minted commercial and CFI certificates in their pocket and are ready to start getting paid to fly rather than forking over their own money. Some may be concerned with lack of stability or lack of advancement at their current employer. For others, a new job might just fit into their career progression. Whichever situation you're in, the process of finding and getting a flying job is basically the same. Very few people have aviation jobs just fall into their laps - you usually have to go out and work for it.

What's Important to You?

The first step is to find all the available positions that meet your criteria. Every pilot's criteria will be somewhat different, and their emphasis on particular aspects will change over the course of their career. Here are some criteria many pilots might use:
  • Pay and benefits (including travel benefits)
  • Flexibility of scheduling
  • Potential for advancement
  • Stability of employment
  • Quality of flight time (IE multi-engine, turbine PIC, etc)
  • Feasibility of moving to base cities, or ease of commute.
A brand new CFI would probably value the ability to get multi-engine flight time above all other criteria, wheras an airline pilot looking to get on with a major these days would likely have stability at the forefront of his mind. Keep in mind that finding a job that meets all your criteria is pretty small, so it's important to decide which is the most important to you. Your best chance of landing a job lies in staying flexible on your criteria and applying to all acceptible potential employers rather than clinging to one "dream job."

Of course, there are two parties playing this game. You have your criteria, and so does your prospective employer. Most have minimum qualifications for pilot applicants. While these are important to know, don't consider them absolutely limiting. It's okay to apply for a job that you're short on qualifications for. If nothing else, they'll know your name by the time you meet their criteria. Be realistic, though. As a brand new CFI, there's no use in applying to Delta unless you're the chief pilot's daughter who did an internship and has a Ph.D.

Finding Open Positions

The method you use to find which employers are hiring depends on where you are in your career and which sector of aviation you're looking at. For a new CFI, it might be as easy as going down to your local airport and poking around the FBOs. Most regional, fractional, freight, and major airlines maintain public websites that publish minimum qualifications and procedures for applying. So do the major FAR 135 carriers. Outside the "mainstream" career path, finding potential employers can be a little trickier. Rather few corporate flying positions are ever publicly posted; you're most likely to hear about the job from a friend already at the company. The same goes for some of the smaller FAR 135 operations. Sometimes you'll find good job leads for obscure companies on message boards like A particularly good source of leads for contract and ex-pat pilots is In some cases, Google and the Yellow Pages might be a good source for finding aviation companies that are otherwise staying mum about open positions.

One potentially excellent source of leads is a job fair such as those hosted by Air, Inc. or Women in Aviation. Do keep in mind that you may come face-to-face with the chief pilot at these functions, so it's important to dress and act professionally and have a professional-grade resume at the ready (more about this in a later post).

Of course, you'll be filtering these potential employers through the criteria you established at the beginning on your search. This is where having friends at the company is useful; it can be otherwise difficult to establish whether a particular job meets your criteria. Again, message boards like flightinfo can be useful, although it's important to take the disgruntled posters with a grain of salt. At this point, I recommend the "scattergun approach": the more leads you pursue, the more interviews you'll get, which gives you a better chance at a job offer.

First Contact

Many times, you'll find that you need more information to apply than is publicly available. At a minimum, you should have the name, title, and mailing address of the person in charge of hiring pilots at each company. You'll also want to know minimum and competitive qualifications, when the company is planning to hire, and how many new pilots they're planning on hiring. You may need to contact somebody at the company to get this information before applying.

You might not know who to talk to, but you can usually find it out by calling the company's publicly listed number and asking to speak to the person in charge of pilot recruitment. You might speak with a functionary or you may find yourself on the line with the owner. Either way, your demeanor should be the same: utterly professional. Introduce yourself and stress that you'd like to fly for this company, but know your questions beforehand and keep it to the point. In most cases, you'll get everything you need and more. Again, even if you're not quite ready to apply to the company, just getting name recognition going is a good thing. A friend of mine first met our company's chief pilot as a newly rated instrument pilot working the ramp at Ameriflight. The chief pilot told my friend to call him when he hit 1000 hours total time, which he did - and the chief pilot recognized him and invited him to an interview.

Next post: Preparing to Apply

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Landing the Job

Some of the most popular posts on my blog were from the Flying Careers series I wrote in late 2005 and early 2006. I still get the occasional comment or email about it from people who thought it was a good source of information on the piloting profession. Still, the posts largely about making the decision to pursue aviation as a career, rather than providing practical information to those already working their way up the ladder. I'd like this series to pick up where "Flying Careers" left off, by talking about the process of getting hired for a flying job, whether it be your first CFI gig or dream airline job.

In this series I will discuss how to scout out available jobs, how to get an interview, preparing for and performing well in the interview, and surviving training. Many of my readers seem to be in the beginning stages of their career; I hope they find this information useful. Those who've been around the block a time or two, please feel free to chime in with your own advice, as my job-hunting experience is somewhat limited (I've interviewed for two CFI jobs, two freight dog positions, and three regional airlines).

I have my own reasons for posting this series. I've been at my airline for three years now, which is the longest I've gone without playing the hiring game; I can use a refresher. There's another reason. In the three years I've been here, I've moved a little over 1/3 of the way up the first officer seniority list. The company just revealed they're planning on upgrading only 28 FOs this year, out of 370. I'm starting to get a little concerned; if this pace continues for much longer, I need to look at other options. I'd rather not make a lateral move to another regional; I'm starting to dust off the resume and hunt for other positions that I'm qualified for. Posting about the process will discipline me to do it.

Incidently, I'm looking to get my ATP sometime soon. I would have done it a long time ago, but wasn't old enough to take the checkride when I was hired at my current airline. Does anybody have any recommendations on where to do it? Cost is a big factor; if the aircraft was a Seneca, it'd probably be much easier to do thanks to significant time in type. Thanks!

In the next post: Scouting Open Positions.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

Well,'s 2007 already! Blogging over the last few weeks has been light-to-nonexistant thanks to the work-friends-family juggling act that the holiday season entails for airline pilots everywhere. But now that presents are opened, champaign toasted, and non-rev gauntlet ran, it's back to the grindstone.

I normally don't do New Years resolutions, but I did this year. I'll tell you about it in another post sometime. In the meantime, I'd like to kick off the new year with a follow-up to last year's popular series on Flying Careers. That was about aviation career progression in a rather general sense; this series will specifically explore the process of scouting, applying, and interviewing for aviation jobs. I think I'll call it "Landing the Job." Look for it in the next few weeks.