If the thought of making over $200,000.00 dollars a year, working the equivalent of only half of the year, and seeing the world in the process intrigues you. Then you would definitely be happy as an airline pilot.
The brief description that you just read does apply when flying for a major airline. But the word “major” is now relative and which airline is almost as important. In decades gone by “major airline” was the term for almost any airline that flew. Currently it would be referred to as a legacy carrier. The reason for this is that the demand for air travel was relatively low, competition for ticket prices was relatively low, major aviation accidents and terrorist attacks were almost incomprehensible and that allowed the pilots who were after the jobs, to be paid well and maintain the standard of living and salary throughout their careers. With the events like 9/11, Pan-Am flight 103, Air Colgan operating as continental connection 3407, and the de-regulation of airlines it has forced the world of air travel to change. Combine all of this with an aging population that is now entering the so called “golden years” which is putting an increased demand on social security, old age security, the Canadian pension plan and even healthcare. It has forced the government to take a step back and allow a business that operates at extremely thin margins at the best of times, to run as efficiently, effectively but most of all safely at the lowest possible cost.
What does this mean to you as an aspiring airline pilot?
It means that you will absolutely become one if you want it. However, you have to define for yourself which level of airline pilot you want to be. Regional airlines of today are arguably larger and carry more passengers per year than the major airlines of the past. You need to understand that flying at the regional level while very rewarding from a professional sense, can be tough to stomach from a financial point of view. In order to run a regional efficiently and at a profit there have been considerable cutbacks from hourly wages, health benefits, vacation allotments, pass travel and of course the long-term vision of pensions. A lot of the pensions at the regionals have been replaced with employee profit share plans, stock options, and a matching contribution to an RRSP or 401K. On the other hand, if you are in a position of building your flight time and experience, the regional airlines are an excellent place for you to be. It will also put you in the qualification and experience category to be hired by a legacy carrier.
How do I get hired by a legacy airline?
In order for you to position yourself to be hired by a legacy carrier, you need to be very certain about what their requirements are, and that you meet them. There have been circumstances where pilots have been hired with less than the minimum requirements, however this is few and far between and would be wise to go in expecting to not be the exception. It would also be a good idea to start an application early with the airline. Update it with every new license, rating and 500 hour total flight time increase.
If you are able to position yourself with the requirements that the major airlines are looking for that is excellent. Once you get those qualifications and get called for the interview you will have approximately 60 minutes to prove what separates you from all the other applications. Prepare yourself for the interview; it is estimated that for every 1 pilot position there is anywhere from 4 – 10 candidates for the job. If you properly prepare the chance of you getting hired is very good. Remember no one becomes successful accidentally, or just falls into a legacy airline with great benefits and salary by chance. There is enormous preparation and planning that goes into it. And if you do the work there is no reason why you won’t get hired.