Flying - - Taking Wing -

When the clock chimed 12 in the early morn­ing hours of Au­gust 1, 2013, job-search strate­gies for pilots in the United States took a hard right turn. That’s the in­fa­mous date when the FAA’S Na­tional Or­der 8900.225 took ef­fect, re­quir­ing all Part 121 pilots to pos­sess an ATP cer­tifi­cate, in­clud­ing first of­fi­cers. That meant ev­ery pi­lot needed a min­i­mum of 1,500 hours in their log­book. Ob­tain­ing an ATP also be­came harder, with new and costly train­ing re­quire­ments. Prior to the sum­mer of 2013, new pilots with as lit­tle as 300 to 400 hours were re­ceiv­ing class dates at re­gional air­lines and the min­i­mum time re­quired was just 250 hours.

With ex­cep­tions to the 1,500-hour limit only be­ing handed out to ac­cred­ited univer­sity grad­u­ates and for­mer mil­i­tary mem­bers — who can ob­tain what is called a re­stricted ATP li­cense — many ca­reer seek­ers are won­der­ing how they’ll ever qual­ify for an ATP, short of buy­ing a Cessna 120 and fly­ing in cir­cles for a few years. No ques­tion, an air­line ca­reer in the 21st cen­tury de­mands a dose of re­al­ity and quite a few doses of pa­tience, be­cause air­line hir­ing is just now be­gin­ning to ac­cel­er­ate, more than it has for many years.

Rack­ing up hours in a log­book isn’t a new prob­lem. While air­line pilots weren’t re­quired to hold an ATP un­til re­cently, it wasn’t all that much eas­ier to get hired in the 1990s or early 2000s. ATP or not, com­pa­nies wanted pilots with ex­pe­ri­ence. And there were thou­sands who had it, mean­ing some low-timers got hired prior to 2013, but not all that many. The best ad­vice is to get busy and fly wher­ever and when­ever you can. And be ready to move

for the right job.

The most com­mon time-build­ing method for pilots has al­ways been to earn a flight-in­struc­tor cer­tifi­cate since the only re­quire­ments are a com­mer­cial pi­lot cer­tifi­cate, an in­stru­ment rat­ing and suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion of the knowl­edge and prac­ti­cal tests. The in­dus­try in the United States to­day is hun­gry for in­struc­tors, just about ev­ery­where.

But be fore­warned, teach­ing peo­ple to fly means more than sim­ply show­ing up to start log­ging hours. In­struc­tors have a fidu­ciary re­spon­si­bil­ity to their cus­tomers — their stu­dents — to give them 100 per­cent of their tal­ent ev­ery hour, even when a stu­dent makes nine aw­ful land­ings in a row, or when they can’t re­mem­ber half of what you taught them about fly­ing on in­stru­ments, or can’t seem to choose a suit­able emer­gency-land­ing field.

Flight train­ing is ex­pen­sive to­day, and we’re still see­ing three­quar­ters of stu­dent pilots drop out of the pipe­line be­fore earn­ing their pri­vate cer­tifi­cate — and poor in­struct­ing skills are a part of that prob­lem. If you can’t pour your heart and soul into teach­ing for a few years while you build flight time, do ev­ery­one a fa­vor and go fly freighters.

Want a lit­tle ad­ven­ture while you build those hours? Try tow­ing ban­ners or pi­lot­ing a sky­diver jump plane. Ban­ner-tow­ing op­er­a­tions tend to hover around big cities, New York, Chicago, Los An­ge­les, Mi­ami, Or­lando and seashores. Sky­div­ing schools are ev­ery­where.

Tow­ing ban­ners is riskier than most all other kinds of fly­ing, ex­cept per­haps agri­cul­tural work and aerial fire­fight­ing. Ban­ner air­craft tow huge drag-pro­duc­ing signs from the back of a Piper Cub or Aeronca Champ or Ag-cat. That’s a learned skill, so in­ves­ti­gate who can teach you the busi­ness — es­pe­cially the safety side — and be sure to check out the fi­nan­cials of the com­pany you might work for with the Bet­ter Busi­ness Bureau and through per­sonal rec­om­men­da­tions from pilots who’ve worked there.

The search for sky­div­ing schools can be­gin by vis­it­ing the U.S. Para­chute As­so­ci­a­tion’s ( drop-zone lo­ca­tor. If they’re drop­ping sky­divers, they’re prob­a­bly us­ing an air­plane for the job.

Part 135 char­ter fly­ing, mean­while, will usu­ally teach you the crew con­cept of fly­ing, not to men­tion get you paid to learn the ins and outs of the non­sched­uled world of pas­sen­ger fly­ing. While fly­ing heavy iron un­der Part 135 de­mands con­sid­er­able amounts of ex­pe­ri­ence and an ATP cer­tifi­cate, smaller char­ter com­pa­nies fly­ing sin­gle­and twin-en­gine pis­ton air­craft and tur­bo­props will of­ten look at can­di­dates with much less flight time. That might mean mov­ing to far-flung lo­ca­tions like Spring­field, Illi­nois, or Ba­ton Rouge, Louisiana, of course. The Air Char­ter Guide is a good place to start your job search.

Here is an­other idea for time build­ing, al­beit a bit un­usual. Years ago, I cre­ated a flyer I’d stick on the door of air­planes that I knew hadn’t been flown from our air­port re­cently. I of­fered to ex­er­cise the owner’s air­plane once a month. I told them an hour or two a month would help keep their air­plane en­gine in top shape. Some­times they’d pay me, some­times not. But they cov­ered the ex­penses and I logged the time. Sur­pris­ingly, I al­most never got turned down.

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