Airline pilot career pathways

Are you serious about an airline pilot career?

AIRLINE CADETSHIPS VS GENERAL AVIATION

There are two ways you can enter the aviation workforce and have a fulfilling Airline pilot career. These are as a cadet or a direct entry pilot. Cadets will need to pass several rounds of exams, including a group interview and aptitude test. Direct entry pilots will require some prior flying experience, often accumulated through work as a flight instructor or charter pilot. Both methods of entry are standard, and each has its advantages and challenges.

THE DIRECT ENTRY / GENERAL AVIATION PATH

Students need to graduate from a flying school to gain their Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL). This is the minimum qualification to work as a pilot. It’s often obtained in conjunction with a degree or diploma. As a trainee pilot, the next step is to gain flying hours through instructing, scenic flights, parachute drops or single-engine charter. After accumulating the required hours, the pilot can then advance to multi-engine aircraft, utilising similar opportunities such as instructing. From here, the next step is commercial turbine aircraft with multi-crew operations.

Commercial pilots currently in high demand. A direct entry pilot can expect to find full employment in the commercial sector within three to five years. This is a much shorter time frame than in previous decades.

CADETSHIP

An airline cadetship usually involves an intense full-time course in which the cadet must also gain the minimum flying hours. Through this airline pilot career pathways, you could be offered a MPL (Multi-Pilot Crew) course by some airlines. It’s a relatively new pilot training program in which most of the lessons take place in a flight simulator as opposed to an actual aircraft.

ENTRY POINTS

1. CADET PILOT PROGRAM

The cadet training program is favoured by airlines who can teach pilots according to their protocols. This means they can iron out unaligned habits formed at flying schools. Most cadet pilot programs guarantee an airline pilot position. As there is such high demand for pilots, some airlines will even provide free training. The cadetship path can be especially beneficial to students with limited finances.

The downside to this is that competition for cadetships is fierce, with only a limited number of spaces available. For example, an airline may receive a thousand applications each year but only select fifty cadets. This means applicants must demonstrate fervent attention to detail, impeccable attidue and dedication that sees them stand out from the rest. The interview process is rigorous and requires a great deal of preparation. This airline pilot career pathway has the immense pressure of some airlines only giving hopefuls two chances to apply in a lifetime.

2. THE DIRECT ENTRY / GENERAL AVIATION PATH

Regarded as the most direct of the two methods, for those who can afford the training, the direct entry/GA pathway can start as young as fifteen. Learing aircraft flight and navigation is expensive. CPL will set you back at least AUD$60K and up to $200K for a course with a bachelor degree.

JOB PROSPECTS

1. CADET PILOT PROGRAM

Between 85 – 90% of cadets go on to graduate, providing they don’t do anything to expel themselves or be terminated by the airline. According to data, there is a 95% chance of a cadet pilot flying for the airline that trained them. Markets can fluctuate, however, and there are often outside factors that can affect employment. New pilots can sometimes find themselves with an ‘attitude problem.’ (Remember Tom Cruise in Top Gun?) Regardless of their talent, airlines can be known to favour of newer ‘eager to please’ recruits.

It seems there has never been a better time to become a pilot. Some airlines will even arrange extra training so a cadet can meet the requirements. Despite this, the level of success will always sit with the pilot’s dedication, aptitude, safety and attitude.

2. THE DIRECT ENTRY / GENERAL AVIATION PATH

The aviation industry is currently booming, with a high demand for pilots around the world. It’s now common for pilots in Australia to be poached by overseas airlines with salary packages they can’t refuse.

Major airlines such as CommutAir, SkyWest Airlines, Qantas, Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and Scoot are now hiring. Some flying schools are even hiring junior instructors as full-time pilots, which is a sign of such boom times.

It is ultimately about skill, endeavour, performance and above all, attitude. After all, being a pilot isn’t just about flying machines; it is also about carrying people.

student pilots on the runway