Improving Your Pilot Employment Prospects
Making Yourself More Employable After Flight School
Stay In Touch
The aviation industry is a very small world. You never know who you are going to bump into again throughout your career and who might be able to help you out on the way. Regardless of your training background, stay in contract with the fellow aviators you meet and old class friends. Keep track of which airlines they are applying/interviewing/working for as they might be able to provide you with valuable information or even recommend you for a job a few years down the line. Speak to them on a regular basis – working together and sharing information increases everyone’s chances.
The need to keep track of your airline applications can not be overstated. Maintaining an up-to-date spreadsheet allows you to keep a record of when you applied to each airline, whether you have received a response, if you met the minimum requirements and if they were actively recruiting etc. Keep note of if you have received a reply – have they put your CV on file for six months? By keeping all of this information documented and organised, you can reapply at set intervals. If there is no changes to either your circumstances (such as additional flying qualifications) or the airline’s recruitment status, we would recommend sending an up-to-date CV and cover letter every six months. Send airlines an application too frequently, or not keeping track of your applications, may not be looked on favorably by an airline.
Personalise your Pilot Application
Each airline job is different – sending out a generic CV and Cover Letter for a piloting job is unlikely to impress an airline and can be easily spotted. Tailor both your CV and Cover Letter specifically for the individual airline, considering the company culture, routes, fleet, expansion plans, career prospects etc. For assistance in this, visit our Career Hub section.
Network and Build Pilot Contacts
Get out there and meet new people. Many general aviation flying jobs that are excellent for hour building such as aerial survey or parachute dropping won’t be advertised and pilot recruitment for these roles is often through word of mouth.
Consider signing up to your local flying club even if you can’t afford to fly on a regular basis. Just offering to help out when you can willl go a long way to getting recognised and building contacts. The flying club members and instructors are likely to be from a range of backgrounds, and might include current airline pilots who might have inside information regarding future pilot recruitment.
Pilot cecruitment can often be carried out by recommendations from the airline’s current pilots. If you’ve impressed a fellow flying club member with your attitude and flying skills it could lead to your first commercial pilot job. You might also be luckily enough to get some free maintenance flights or a “free seat” in an aircraft which is all time in the logbook!
Be proactive in your research. Look at the latest airline orders – which airlines are expanding, when are they expecting to take delivery of their new aircraft? If an airline is taking delivery of an air frame in the next few months, they may well need new pilots to fly it, therefore target your applications appropriately. Building up a picture of the industry can help you choose which airlines to send your CV and Cover Letters to.
If you’re applying for smaller outfits such as regional airlines or corporate companies, sometimes taking a direct approach can be effective. For example, turning up at a company’s office and directly handing your CV to the chief pilot will allow you to demonstrate that you have the personality for the job, show you are very keen and put a face to the CV. The chief pilot is much more likely to remember you after personal interaction rather than someone who has emailed them a CV which might put you higher up on the list of people they want to interview when they next recruit. You might even be lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time, just when they need to recruit additional crew!
Set yourself targets. If you are working in a job that isn’t aviation based after completing training, it is very easy to be become disheartened and loose motivation. To stop this happening, set yourself a target of applying to one or two companies a day or every other day (whilst keeping track of whom you’ve applied to!).
Low Hour Pilot Programs
Various programmes that assist low hour pilots into the airline industry
BA CityFlyer Flight Technical Services Placement – January 2017
In late 2015, BACF ran a program to recruit a fully qualified pilot into a Flight Technical Services position. The successful candidate spends two years in this position before going onto complete a fully bonded Embraer 170/190 type rating in order to operate as a First Officer. This scheme ran through Kura Aviation.
Ryanair Technical Services / Flight Operations Cadet Graduate Program – February 2016
In 2016 Ryanair opened recruitment for a Cadet Graduate Program where the successful applicant joins the Flight Operations / Technical Services department for 12 months, before being recommended to CAE for a self sponsored Boeing 737 type rating and joining the airline as a First Officer.
From the Ryanair recruitment website:
“This is a unique opportunity for two exceptional candidates to gain invaluable experience in understanding the operation of Ryanair’s Flight Operations and Technical Services departments and its development during a period of immense growth. Ryanair’s Flight Operations and Technical Services departments are responsible for all matters relating to flight crew Standards; Training; Performance Engineering; Reliability; Maintenance Programme; Avionics; Structures; Powerplant; Systems and Technical Records. The departments work closely with Boeing; Equipment Suppliers; Maintenance Organisations; Service Providers national aviation authorities and the EASA.
The successful candidate(s) will participate in Ryanair’s Technical Services/Flight Operations cadet graduate programme on a One Year Fixed Term Contract.”
In 2015, Thomson Airways recruited a number of low hour pilots for First Officer positions who had jobs within the company but outside of the flight deck.
Internal easyJet Pilot Recruitment – Ongoing
We have information regarding an internal scheme easyJet ran earlier this year and are expected to continue running over the coming years. If you are in possession of CPL/IR, upon completion of 18 months of service with easyJet in any role (eg, cabin crew, ground ops etc), you may be given the opportunity to be put through through the L3 Aviation Academy Airline Qualification Course (AQC) and A320 Type Rating. You are then offered a Flexi Crew Contract position as a First Officer with easyJet with the option to apply for a permanent contract subject to availability and after acquiring over 500 hours flight time as a First Officer. Successful candidates pay £5,000 toward training costs, the rest is covered by a 3 year company bond. Check out our “Aviation Jobs” tab in our “Airline Pilot Jobs” section for relevant ground & cabin crew roles now available with easyJet.
Jet2.com Pilot Apprentice – November 2016
Jet2 have recently recruited for a Pilot Apprentice position. Successfull applicants spend approximately two years working in various deparments within the airline before going on to complete a bonded type rating to operate as a First Officer for the airline. This program last ran in 2015 and is expected to run again during 2016.
L3 Aviation Academy ATP
This is basically an advanced MCC course that leads to placement with one of L3 Aviation Academy’s partner airlines. They have traditonally placed sucsessful ATP cadets with easyJet, Monarch, Thomson Airways and British Airways.
The program requires that you sit the standard L3 Aviation Academy Wings selection. If you’re successful in selection you’ll complete their Airline Qualifications Course (AQC). This is similar to a Jet Orientation Course and is completed on a fixed base 737 or A320 simulator.
On completion of this to an acceptable standard, you are placed in their ATP holding pool awaiting placement with one of their partner airlines. L3 Aviation Academy usually place their ATP cadets with partner airlines when they are unable to meet airline demand with their “Wings” holding pool (the cadets who complete the full integrated training with L3 Aviation Academy).
Historically, cadets from the ATP program have been placed with airlines such as easyJet, Monarch and Thomson Airways.
The L3 Aviation Academy program opens and closes for applications on a periodic basis.
A “pay to fly program”. We would not recommend any type of pay to fly program. Pay to fly lowers the terms and conditions across the industry and whilst there is a demand for it, increasing numbers of airlines are departing from the traditional recruitment methods of a bonded type rating, putting much more financial onus and risk on the student.
We provide the information about Eagle Jet for reference as to what this type of scheme involves. Again, we do not recommend you follow this route.
You purchase a type rating and/or line training on the 737 or A320 with 300 or 500 hours on type. The cost is in the region of £40,000. There is no guarantee of employment when the type experience has been completed. It is not common place for airlines to recruit pilots with only 500 hours of experience on type.
Revalidation and Renewal – What you need to do to maintain your pilots licences
When do you renew a CPL or IR licence, and when do you revalidate it? Where can you do it? We explain all.
How to Keep your Pilot’s Licence Current
In order to apply for a First Officer position for an airline, you are required to hold a commercial pilots licence with a current multi-engine instrument rating (IR). If you don’t find a job within a year of completing your initial instrument rating, you will need to revalidate it in order to maintain your licence currency and be eligible to apply for a flight deck job.
We’ve explained the difference between renewing and revalidating the IR, and suggested some places which can provide such a service.
We would recommend maintaining a current IR at all times. The offer of a job can come round quickly and unexpectedly and as you are required to have a current IR in order to commence a type rating, a job offer is unlikely to be made without it.
In order to apply for a first officer position for an airline, you are required to hold a commercial pilots licence with a current multi-engine instrument rating (IR). If you don’t find a job within a year of completing your initial instrument rating, you will need to revalidate it in order to maintain your licence currency and be eligible to apply for a flight deck job.
We’ve explained the difference between renewing and revalidating the IR, and suggested some places which can provide such a service.
We would recommend maintaining a current IR at all times. The offer of a job can come round quickly and unexpectedly and as you are required to have a current IR in order to commence a type rating, a job offer is unlikely to be made without it. You are not required to hold a multi-engine class rating to commence a type rating.
A multi-engine instrument rating (IR) is valid for 12 months after it’s issue or revalidation. An IR shall be revalidated within the three months immediately preceding the expiry date of the rating. The IR revalidation can be completed at the same time as a class rating – this basically means you can revalidate your multi-engine rating alongside your instrument rating. To revalidate the IR, you are required to complete a proficiency check.
An IR revalidation can be completed in an FNTP II simulator every other year, however you are unable to revalidate your class rating in the simulator. This can be a significantly cheaper option that completing it in the aircraft.
- If your IR has expired, you are required to renew it. This must be done in an aircraft, an FNTP II simulator can’t be used.
- If your IR has expired by less than 5 years, the applicant must complete a Skill Test with an authorised examiner.
- If your IR has expired by more than 5 years but less than 7 years the applicant must pass a type rating skill test with or observed by a UK CAA Flight Operations Training Inspector.
- To renew an IR that has expired by more than 7 years, the applicant will also be required to retake the IR theoretical knowledge examinations.
Where to go . . .
We have compiled a price comparison list for some of the companies that offer IR renewal and revalidation. The fees include aircraft hire and the examiners fee. All prices are approximations – you need to speak to the company for a direct quote.
UK Flying.com – June 2021
An organisation with EASA & UK Examiners available for hire at various locations across the UK. Free online refreshers are offered as part of the process.
- Simulator DA42 (No Practice, 1.5hr test) – £450 (includes online refresher training and test materials)
- Simulator DA42 (1 Hours Practice, 1.5hr test) – £645
- Aircraft DA42 (No Practice, 1.5hr test) – £720 (includes online refresher training and test materials)
- Aircraft DA42 (1 Hours Practice, 1.5hr test) – £1060
Simulator BE76 (No Practice) – £388
Simulator BE76 (1 Hours Practice) -£581
Aircraft BE76 (No Practice) – £560
Simulator DA42 (No Practice) – £433
Simulator DA42 (1 Hours Practice) – £602
Aircraft DA42 (No Practice) – £742
Aircraft DA42 (1 Hours Practice) – £1117
Aviation Jobs – Non Flying Opportunities
What other jobs you could do other than flying…
The harsh reality is that some people will have to wait a number of years to get their foot in the door, and some may never make it to the right hand seat of an airliner. For some it is both practical and benefical to consider employment in an aviation field that isn’t flying.
This can be a great way to develop valuable skills and experience which you can take with you throughout your aviation career. They can also be great editions to the CV, demonstrating your passion and perserverance to prospective employers. Most importantly, this can be an excellent way to network and make “inside” contacts within airlines, eventually leading to a flight deck job.
The difficulty can be pursading the employer that you are genuinely interested in the job and not just looking for a “backdoor” route into the cockpit. Many of the jobs listed below are careers in themselves, and thus companies will be looking for prospective employees who are keen to embark upon a long term career with them. This is obviously not typically the case if you have a commercial pilots licence on your CV. There is therefore a temptation to not include your flight training background in your application. We would advise against this – tell them the truth. Leaving a gap in the timeline on your CV can be an indication that you have something to hide and therefore work against you. Other employers will find the knowledge base you have as a commercial pilot to be particularly desirable for the role. Honesty is the best policy and if you are genuinley keen about the job, this will reflect well in your interview regardless of your long term career aspirations.
UPDATE!! See our low hour pilot jobs section for details about EasyJet’s internal First Officer Scheme , designed specifically for those working in a related role within the company.
We have listed some jobs which you may wish to consider:
Flight Operations Controller
Flight operations controllers are responsible for a wide range of tasks within an airline. Often referred to as the nerve center of the airline, the staff in operations control make critical decisions affecting the day to day operation of the airlines schedule. Their primary duty is to ensure the smooth running of the fleet and schedule on the short term basis. This might include flight watch, flight planning, slot planning and resolving crewing issues.
This role requires you to liaise with flight deck crew on a daily basis and consider factors which are familiar from the ATPL theory training such as meterology (METARs/TAFs) and Notams. Depending on the airline, it can also provide an excellent opportunity to experience the running of an airline from ground level, in terms of long and short term strategic planning, fleet management and liasing with air traffic control / Eurocontrol.
Crew control are responsible for ensuring that the companies fleet are crewed to meet the airlines requirements for the short term schedule. Liasing with flight crew on a daily basis, crew control deal with flight time limitations and provide solutions for crew being out of position or unfit for duty. On busy shifts the job has been likened to solving a big jigsaw puzzle – flight crew can be positioned all over Europe or the World, and it’s your job to ensure you can re-crew aircraft as quickly and effectively as possible.
Cabin Crew / Flight Attendant
No other work group will have access to the flight deck (other than the pilots) as much as cabin crew. Working on the aircraft, in terms of day to day lifestyle, it is the closest job you can get to being a pilot. As you liase directly with the flight crew on a daily basis, it can be a great way to build up contacts.
It is however a challenging job and you need to be committed to doing the task in hand to the best of your ability. Using every opportunity possible to let your collegeagues (both front and back) know that you are a qualified pilot can be counter productive and become an annoyance rather than benefical. If you conduct yourself in the right manner, demonstrating a hard working and positive attitude, the right people will eventually notice with the possibility of your dream job coming about as a result.
The dispatcher is responsible for co-ordinating the turn around of an aircraft whilst on the ground. Duties include producing a loadsheet for the flight crew and ensuring all services, such as fuelling, catering and ground equipment is available without delay. The role requires communication with the flight crew and the airlines operations department. Dispatchers are employed through a ground handling agent, such as Swissport or Servisair, who have specific airline contracts.
Keeping your flying licences and CPL/IR current
Why you should keep current, and how it improves your employment prospects
Keeping current is beneficial for both maintaining your flying skills, building hours and making yourself more desirable to employers. Maintaining flying currency can be expensive but will help you maintain a skill set that is perishable whilst demonstrating your commitment to finding a job. When recruiting low hour pilots, some airlines stipulate that you must have completed a certain amount of flying time within the previous year or six months so logging as much time as you can, can be of great benefit.
Choosing what type of flying you do is very important. Spending your time flying around sightseeing in VMC can be fun, but is not productive. Where possible, you should use hour building flight time to enhance your instrument rating skills on challeging routes and busy in airspace. Multi engine aircraft might cost twice as much per hour than single engine aircraft, but the flight time and experience gained is much more valuable on a multi than single engine aircraft.
You could also spend your time in a high spec flight simulator. This is a great way to ensure that you will get the most from your flying, as you’ll be operating a high performance jet aircraft to airline standard operating procedures. An airline will be much more impressed with this than spending your time flying VFR in a single engine aircraft. You’ll be coming into contact with current airline pilots who may become high useful contacts in your search for your first airline job.
If you can’t afford to fly on a regular basis, try to go to your local airfield or flying club as much as possible. Volunter to help out with any aspect of the operation. This will help you to network with people and you’ll probably find that in return that you are offered spare or back seat flights. Whilst you may not be operating the aircraft yourself, it’s still a very good way of maintaining the flying mindset and gaining experience. Many airline pilots fly or instruct on light aircraft alongside their regular airline job – you might just meet the right person who can open a few doors!
It might sound basic, but another alternative is using IFR trainers or even Microsoft Flight Simulator can help to keep your understanding of instrument procedures up to scratch. Why not practice flying a SID or approach using the autopilot. This could be the difference with being sharp enough to pass an airline simulator check should the opportunity arrive at short notice.