Frequently Asked Pilot Career Development and Aviation Questions

Should I leave my position as a first officer flying turboprops to fly corporate jets?

Maybe. Evaluate the training and opportunities for building time with the corporate flight department as well as with your current employer. Most corporate pilots only fly 20 -30 hours a month. Also, will you have the opportunity to upgrade to captain and if so, how soon? With a smaller flight department, this opportunity may be out of your reach.

On the other side, how close is your captain upgrade with your current employer? Consider
the stability of the flight department, especially if it is new. New flight departments are
similar to new upstart carriers—they can be very unstable. Furthermore, flight departments
are usually considered a luxury. During hard times, the Rolls Royce and King Air are the first
to go. Be very careful before giving up a stable flying job for another job that may never materialize, that could go away in a few months, or if captain is years away.

Should I leave my position as a captain flying turboprops for a first officer position flying jets?

Once again, evaluate your current competitive standing. As an established employee with seniority, you have more opportunities and flexibility to advance your qualifications. If everything is in order, then adding jet time could enhance your qualifications (but only if you have the 1,000 to 2,000 PIC Turbine hours and experience you need for the top airlines on your list). Remember pilots are hired closer to twice the published minimums – not the minimum.

Should I leave my position with a regional for a position with another regional?

Probably not, unless there are some extenuating circumstances in which you feel you have to resign. As a new employee you will have to start at the bottom of the seniority list. Being on the bottom increases your risk of furlough if there is a downsizing.

Furthermore, the company would have to be in a growth mode and remain there to provide you with the opportunity to upgrade to captain or transition to more advanced aircraft quickly. Depending on your current situation, the chance to upgrade may come sooner with your current employer than with a new carrier. Some companies have hired experienced copilots as captains, but these opportunities are rare – called (“Street Captains”). You need to determine if the new job will allow you to build more time, fly more advanced equipment, make more money, provide opportunities for specialized training such as CRM, EFIS, and/or generally improve the quality of your life.

Should I leave a flying job that I hate?

No—at least not until you have another pilot job lined up. Determine what it is you dislike most about your job and ask yourself if these elements can be controlled or limited. If not, then you need to carefully plan your new flying job first. Once a new position has been secured, then give a proper two-weeks notice and leave on good terms (if possible). During this period of transition it is critical that you keep your attitude in check at all times. Keep in mind that your actions today can affect the outcome of an interview or background check tomorrow. If you leave without a new flying job lined up, then you automatically change your competitive standing. Airlines like to hire full-time professional pilots! Also, you may not find a flying job right away. Enduring a prolonged period of unemployment will put a lot of stress on you and your family. This stress most likely will affect your attitude and can cause you to fall into a slump. This in turn may cause you to increase your feelings of resentment not only toward your former employer but toward all regional carriers or towards flying as a whole. This negative attitude will further impede your job search activities. Quitting a job on impulse will be hard to explain during subsequent interviews. It may send the wrong message to the recruiter concerning your dedication and commitment to the profession. Keep in mind that there may be some situations in which staying is not an option. If you have a serious family emergency which would require full-time attention, then you may not have a choice.

But once again, try to make appropriate arrangements with your employer first. Some companies have emergency leaves available or perhaps you could take a personal leave of absence. Try to protect any job you plan to come back to or list in your work history. If there is no way to work it out, then you may have to resign. Do not risk your life or your license just to keep a job. Such a serious circumstance, however, will be much more easily explained and accepted during the interview.

Should I leave a corporate flying job flying 20-30 hours a month for a lower paying regional job?

Probably. Working for a regional will help you reach your ultimate career goal faster because you will fly approximately 80 hours/month. Also, getting the job sooner means a higher seniority number, which in turn can make a significant difference in the quality of your life throughout your career. Taking a pay cut is hard to do. You may not have time to plan for a budget to get through the tough times. However, if you are in the job market, you need to make a plan for yourself to cover these contingencies.

If possible, having a plan in place will make enduring hard financial times easier for you and your family. Also, is it possible to get more hours if you remain in the corporate job? Could you instruct on the side, fly for another company, or find additional use for the aircraft you are flying to build more time?

Should I take a regional job or stay in the Guard/Reserves?

Actually do both. As a regional airline pilot, you will be able to build time in multi-engine turbine aircraft quickly. Also, you will be flying under Part 135 or 121, in crew-served multi-engine aircraft transporting passengers into and out of high density airports.

Putting yourself in the same environment as the majors will be an asset. In the Guard or Reserves, your flying may be limited, but it may enable you to keep flying jets or large aircraft. Furthermore, a job with the Guard and Reserves can help you survive the low pay associated with flying for a regional and first year pay at the Majors. Both National Guard and Reserve environments will provide you with an excellent network of other professional pilots.

Not only are these pilots doing the same thing as you, many of them are already established or know pilots who work for the major carriers. This can provide a valuable source of information and recommendations in the future.

How important is it for me to maintain my currency?

Critical. You must go beyond the FAA definition of currency. Most airline recruiters define currency as being employed full-time in a professional flying job. The FAA defines currency as three takeoffs and landings in day/night conditions within 90 days and six instrument approaches within six months. These would be the bare minimum requirements for currency if you are in the job market. Ultimately, you will need to find a full-time flying job to meet the currency requirements of the airlines. Consider a wide range of companies to which to apply. Perhaps you never considered working for a regional or air taxi operator. You may have to take a step backward before going forward. This will be even more important if you have been unemployed for more than three months.

How can I finish college while working?

There are many nonresident programs available through accredited colleges that will allow you to finish college through home study over the internet. Many of these programs will give you credit for previous college, licenses, ratings, flight training and employment history. It may take less to complete a degree program than you realize—get evaluated now! Some airlines prefer that you complete college in a more traditional form, namely, entering college right out of high school, or physically attending classes and graduation. However, about half of the airlines require a four-year degree and the other half prefer a four-year degree, you must complete your college degree ASAP. To not have a four-year degree and to not be working on it sends the wrong message to the airlines. Overall 95% of the Major airlines pilots hired today have a four-year degree.

Would I enhance my career by accepting a flight simulator instructor position with an established carrier or my own airline?

Maybe. You must be very careful. Simulator time is not flight time! Be sure that all other competitive requirements have been met before taking a teaching or management position and protect your flying opportunities. If you are joining a new company ask if the instructor position will get you a seniority number. If not, then perhaps you should not take the position. Usually the pilot with the most flight time wins, so any work that reduces your flight time is not in your best interest until you have the job from which you plan to retire.

When should I apply to the majors? Before separation?

Yes. Typically, 12 months is the recommended time prior to separation from the military that a pilot should start planning his/her job search program. Realize, however, that it will be hard to plan your separation around an airline’s recruitment schedule. For example, a Major airline may prefer that military personnel on active duty not apply unless they are available for training within six months. Also, the airlines’ schedules may not call for an application window to open at the same time you begin your formal job search. Therefore, it is wise for you to be prepared to take advantage of open application windows when they occur, even though you may be a year from separation. It is much better to have information to the airlines early than it is to have it there late, or to miss this opportunity altogether and have to wait for the next window to open while you are unemployed .

Many believe that interview opportunities will come quickly once the application has been completed. Although there are stories to attest to this fact, in most cases, it can take quite a while, perhaps up to one year, before you get a call for an interview.

Consequently, timing your separation to coincide with an interview invitation may be impossible. The best plan is to decide to separate and set a date. Once you have made the decision to get out, start applying immediately. Online applications make this easier. Most major airlines have an online application system today.

Keep in mind that it will take a while to get into the system, so starting your job search as soon as you can is best. Once you have launched your job search plan, work consistently on your plan to ensure success sooner than later.

How do I handle poor credit?

The first thing I can say is, you cannot ignore it. Research the agencies that do credit reporting. Get a copy of your credit report and review it for accuracy. You can challenge any misinformation on the report and have it removed. Once you know what the airlines can find out about you, you can then deal with it.

If you have obligations that you are having trouble meeting, communicate with the creditor. Work out payment plans. Firmly implant in the creditors mind that you want to satisfy the obligation and are willing to work with them to do so. Normally, a creditor will establish an alternate repayment plan for a debtor that demonstrates a positive attitude and sincere attempt to satisfy the debt.

If you are doing okay now, but have had problems with credit in the past, a clean record since that time speaks for itself. These things get better with age and handling them in a responsible manner communicates positively to a potential employer about the strength of the personal character of those who take this approach.

If the subject comes up in the interview, take responsibility for your actions and pass on what you learned from the experience to the panel or person interviewing you. Repeated bouts with bad credit situations generally reflect a person’s inability to learn from their mistakes and failure to take responsibility for their actions.

An airline may not put a person with these characteristics in the cockpit of their aircraft.

Below is a list, with phone numbers and Web sites, of three companies that conduct credit checks. You can contact them directly to obtain a copy of your personal credit report.

Equifax: (800) 685-1111, www.equifax.com

Trans Union: (800) 888-4213, www.transunion.com

Experian: (888) 397-3742, www.experian.com

I made a mistake on the flight time I entered on an application. How do I update the information?

Most airlines do not limit the number of times or how often they will accept updates to your application. In the past, some airlines accepted updates but only when they open an application window. KitDarby.com suggests that you update at a minimum of every six months after completing your original application. Changes of address, phone numbers, or emails should be updated as soon as they occur.

There are a couple of ways to address errors on an application that has already been completed online. First of all, be aware that we are now closing the barn door after the horse has gotten out. This is not a good situation. Attention to detail is a cornerstone to good organizational skills and airlines like people who are well organized and detail oriented.

Once you discover the error, your attempt to correct it should be measured by the seriousness of the error in relation to your competitive standing with the company. For example, if your corrected flight time brings you below the minimums either on total time or in any required category, every effort should be made to correct the error as soon as possible. If updating is not possible and you get called in for an interview, you should call the company and explain the error before your interview. Even though revealing a significant flight time error may cost you the interview, the airline recruiter will appreciate your honesty, and there is a good chance you will be interviewed later when you do meet the listed minimums.

If your mistake is on an application from a company with an application window, and you haven’t been called in for an interview by the next window, update or reapply when the window reopens. With any other carrier, update immediately online.

If your error is small, then you may want to make a correction when you can, or at the interview, since you will be given the opportunity to fix any problems at that time.

Be prepared to explain changes in later applications as they could be compared although there is not evidence that this is being done.

Discuss your mistakes openly and don’t become defensive. You must be comfortable with the changes before you go into the interview if you expect the airline to be comfortable with your answers to their questions in this area.

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