An Extremely Bright Outlook
The negative impact of 911 on the aviation industry is over. The airlines are flying more passengers than ever. Business aviation has increased many-fold. And internet shopping has created an unprecedented demand for overnight air-freight transportation around the world. The demand for pilots, mechanics, flight attendants and flight dispatchers has outsrtipped the supply, and the airlines are competing for people to hire into these professions.
There are many types of pilots. Those most in demand today are commercial airline and corporate aviation pilots. Just a few years ago, it was difficult to get an interview with an airline, even for a young pilot with over 1,000 hours of flight time. Now the airlines are waiting at the door of the good flight schools, and are interviewing student pilots with as little as 250 hours, and as young as 21 years old. Salaries are still somewhat depressed from the pre-911 era, but the high demand is driving salaries well into the six figure zone again. Anyone considering this profession should be aware that the training costs can be significant, and the training period can range from two to four years. Becoming a professional pilot is similar to becoming a medical doctor; the training cost is high, a significant amount of time is required for training, the pay structure for the first year or two (as with a medical intern) tends to be low, and the work schedules can be undesirable (weekends, nights, holidays, etc.). After that, the situation improves rapidly. The forecasted need for new pilots is extremely high. The Washington Times (Aug. 20, 2007, Airlines Brace for Shortage of Pilots) forecasts the airlines hiring 65,000 new pilots by 2012, approximately doubling the number of pilots flying today.
The same factors driving the demand for pilots are also driving up the numbers of aircraft and aircraft mechanics needed by the aviation industry. The Airline Owners & Pilots Association forecasts (AOPA Flight Training, July, 2007) that the number of aircraft operating in the world will double by 2025. That means more than just a doubling of the need for mechanics. The new aircraft will need all of the periodic inspections, maintenance and updates, but the older aircraft will need even more. The placement rates for new mechanics has been at 100% for the past several years, provided the mechanics don't mind moving around the country. Most large airlines prefer mechanics with no experience, so that they can be trained in the the specific procedures used by the individual airlines without having to unlearn old practices. Aircraft mechanic training programs should have the full spectrum of up-to-date technical courses covering everything from FAA regulations, to sophisticated electronics. There are three basic FAA certificates that every good training program should have: General Aircraft Maintenance; Airframe Maintenance; and Aircraft Powerplant Maintenance.
The demand for flight attendants is extremely high. The airlines interview many, but accept few. One way to increase your chances of getting hired is to attend a preparatory program for flight attendants. Such a program should include: Emergency medical response procedures, overviews of domestic air travel and airline operations, aircrew emergency management, hazardous material handling, crew resource management, air traffic control communications, aviation meteorology, crew survival and rescue techniques, security, first aid & safety, customer service, public speaking, and basic piloting skills. In addition, good preparatory programs will offer its graduates guaranteed interviews with commercial airlines. A flight attendant's lifestyle is demanding in terms of work schedules, especially during odd hours such as early mornings, holidays and weekends. This is an ideal career for a single person, or a married person who does not yet have family and child-rearing responsibilities.
Few people understand what a Flight Dispatcher is. A flight dispatcher is an FAA licensed person who plans each flight taken by an airliner, and tracks the progress of that flight from start to finish. The dispatcher is legally as responsible for the safe arrival of the flight as is the airplane captain, but the dispatcher does not fly on the plane. He/she is often referred to as "the captain on the ground." In planning a flight, the dispatcher determines the most efficient and safest route, taking into consideration the payload, weather, available diversion fields, and air traffic control procedures along the way. The dispatcher computes payload weight & balance information, and uses that and weather forecasts to determine required fuel loads, flight altitudes, and other flight procedures. When the flight crew reports in for departure, the dispatcher briefs them on all pertinent aircraft, weather and routing information. A dispatcher can plan and monitor more than one flight at a time, sometimes as many as three to five. If all goes well with the flight, the dispatcher's job of monitoring is very routine. However, if an in-flight problem occurs with passengers, cargo, weather, or with the aircraft itself, the dispatcher can become very busy assisting the flight crew to make decisions that bring the flight to a safe conclusion. Flight Dispatching is a new career field that is growing rapidly. The FAA requires the major airlines to have a dispatcher assigned to each flight. In addition, many flight insurance companies offer lower premiums for smaller airlines that may not be required by the FAA to have licensed dispatchers, but do so anyway. There is currently a very serious shortage of qualified dispatchers available across the entire industry. The shortage exists for two reasons. First, flight dispatching is a newly emerging career field that few people have heard of, especially young students who are in the process of choosing a career. Secondly, because of the shortage, dispatcher salaries have risen as airlines hire dispatchers away from one another, and often promote them into airline operations management. Lastly, there are very few Flight Dispatcher training schools in the nation today.