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Home > Becoming a Pilot > What is the future for an aspiring pilot today?
What is the future for an aspiring pilot today?
Pilot Career - Becoming a Pilot
Friday, 17 February 2006 04:58

Dear Capt Lim,

I have not had the chance to extend my deepest gratitude to you for answering my previous question on
why a captain sits on the left hand side of the aircraft. I am currently in a fix and I hope to get your personal and professional advice.

I am in the midst of preparing (at the age of 31) to take up the CPL complete with ATPL course. Unfortunately, I do not have the basic requirements - Maths and Physics. However, I am giving it a go with some help of a former pilot. Worst come to worst, I will take up my PPL first and then get into the CPL course.

This former pilot friend had advised me not to even start thinking about taking up the flying course and make it as a career. He told me that it was nothing great, and that you don*t have a chance to fly the aircraft manually as the computer does everything. That is why the job is boring. You virtually don*t do anything in the cockpit besides checking the instruments. How do you keep yourself busy and motivated while flying in the cockpit with the autopilot on?

I was also told that the future of an aspiring pilot is very dim. With the constant rise of fuel, the airline industry will stop absorbing pilots and there are possible factors like pay cuts, retrenchments, etc. It is a scary feeling to hear such thing from a former pilot, especially when I am planning to self-sponsor my flying lessons that, by the way, is not cheap.

What is your opinion on the above? Please enlighten me on your thoughts so as to boost my confidence in entering the aviation world with flying for a living as a permanent career.

Happy CNY.

Kind regards,

Kaelvin

Hi Kaelvin,


There are many people in this world that have different opinion of what life is. Yes, there are pilots who do not like their jobs (this happens in every profession), but they are the pilots in the minority.

For me, I see flying for a living as an honorable profession as getting involved in this job was seen many years ago to involve serious risk to one*s life and to those of the passengers. But today, the reliability of aircraft has increased to a level where people are no longer considered completely crazy to fly. Yet, somehow, pilots have continued to be look upon as somewhat quite heroic - watch people*s face turn impressively to the man or woman who have been introduced in a social gathering as someone who flies 300 passengers through the sky in a flying machine!

In my many years of flying in a major airline, this career has mainly given me a lot of satisfaction, adventure, and not forgetting the very generous financial rewards.

Sure, many are sold by what I have just said! Wait! When a job is much coveted, it tends to be very competitive. Well, a warning here - the demands for pilots are cyclical and getting a good offer is incredibly difficult. Hiring in a low cost carrier or a corporate jet is not the same as hiring in a major airline. A good major airline is often very selective as it wants the best and sharpest people to be working for them.

Yes, airlines can be very choosy when supply exceeds demand ? especially in the cadet pilot program. However, when you have equipped yourself with the necessary licenses (frozen ATPL/ME/IR), they will most likely take you in when demand exceed supply! So, I won*t totally rule you out if you do not meet the basic requirements now. What you need is resourcefulness and persistence to finally achieve your goal on your own.

No doubt, in airline flying (as contrast to domestic or flying in the low cost airlines), the computer does most of the work (recommended) so that the pilot is fresh when he gets to do, say an auto landing at the destination in bad weather. One must be extremely vigilant to monitor the computers. For instance, recently, I did a very safe and soft auto landing in very poor visibility (but legal to land for only those who are rated) when it was snowing at around minus 1 to 2 degrees Celsius (in Stockholm from New York). Even though it was the computers that performed the major part of the landing, I found it very satisfying. Such are the challenges of flying! How could I be bored when my adrenalin flows quicken during every take off and landing?

When a pilot is passionate and motivated, he will know how to keep himself occupied usefully in the cockpit at any time.

I would not say that the future of an aspiring pilot is very dim. Don*t expect to be earning big bucks immediately after graduation if you are not sponsored by a major airline. When times are bad, you may earn just enough to pay for your rent and food as an assistant flying instructor in a flying club (to gain some experience and flying hours). But when flying picks up, you are in! That is why I said - the demand for pilots is cyclical.

Right now, the prospect is good for the aspiring pilots in the Asia-Pacific region. Two days ago, it was reported in the papers that China needs 1,200 to 1,600 new pilots a year but major commercial airlines can only produce 600 instead. The Middle Eastern airlines are also fast expanding ? Emirates has bought 43 Airbus A380s and many Boeing 777s, so are airlines in India and elsewhere in Asia. Even the low cost carrier, AirAsia, has ordered 100 Airbus A320s. Of course, most are looking for experienced pilots.

With some patience after you have gained your experience, you may be marketable in these international airlines. Yes, many pilots, especially in the South East Asian airlines, have left for greener pastures (and big bucks) there. So, even if you cannot get into the major airlines today, there is still room in the low cost carriers tomorrow! The sky is the limit! Good luck!

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