ATP Grads at Airlines

The "Nobody is Hiring" Myth

Published Dec 4, 2008 on Pilot Jobs

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If you've recently visited an airline career forum on the internet, you've probably been bombarded with the same bit of advice repeatedly: "Nobody is hiring pilots right now, so don't even try to get a job as an airline pilot." Information like this is frequently spread on the internet by anonymous individuals who have very little first-hand knowledge of airline hiring or career advancement.

A person who has recently been hired in the industry sees this claim, thinks it makes sense and then parrots it, spreading it to a new audience. Soon, everyone is jumping on the "Nobody is Hiring" bandwagon. Unfortunately, these forums are what you come across when you are thinking about a career in aviation and are looking for information. But let me ask what may seem like an obvious question. Should ANYONE make life-altering decisions based on this sort of shortsighted advice?

As someone who has been in the airline business for a long time, I can share some lessons learned from real experience. If you were to place Airline Pilot Hiring on a graph, it would look like a sound wave. It is always moving up or moving down but it is never moving on a flat line.

If you get hired by an airline at the peak of the hiring wave there won't be many people who hold seniority numbers lower than yours.

This means that you:

  • Will not get the most desirable schedules each month when they are bid on.
  • Will lose out to more senior pilots when bidding for the crew base you want.
  • Will lose out to senior pilots when bidding for vacation schedules you want.
  • Will probably sit on reserve for a long time.
  • Will face a furlough each time the cycle takes a downturn.

These are only a few of the problems associated with being junior, and they won't go away until more pilots are hired who will then be junior to you. This won’t happen quickly if you are hired at the peak of the hiring wave.

If you are hired at the bottom of the wave on the other hand, when all the guys are posting on your favorite forum that "nobody is hiring", then you:

  • Will greatly reduce your chances of ever being furloughed.
  • Will not live life on perpetual reserve.
  • Will shorten the time waiting for the crew base you want.
  • Will reduce the time waiting for good schedules.
  • Will soon have the vacation slots you want.

This was the case for me. A long time ago I had sold a fairly lucrative business and had to switch careers due to a very tightly worded non-compete agreement. My father, who was a pilot at the time, asked me why I didn't go into aviation since I had always dreamed about it. My response was that "no airlines are hiring". He then told me about the cyclical nature of the airline business and how to take advantage of it. He told me that then was the perfect time to begin training for an airline job and that if I got busy with it, I would be ready when the next upswing in hiring came along. It seemed counterintuitive at the time because I didn’t have enough experience to see that there were cycles to airline hiring, but I was getting this advice from someone who knew what he was talking about.

I took the proceeds from the sale of my company and started training. Within a year I had earned my Private, Instrument, Multi, Commercial Multi and had become a CFI. It proved to be a formula for success. I was only an instructor for 6 months before I got my first job flying tourists from Las Vegas up to see the Grand Canyon. I was then offered a job flying for a Continental Connection carrier who flew skiers from Denver to Ski Areas in Colorado. Shortly thereafter I was hired by a large Part 121 operation. After training, I was on reserve for a total of 3 weeks before being transferred to the crew base I desired in Florida. Once there, I was also awarded a "hard line" and was no longer on reserve. Life was good, and that was only the beginning.

During my entire career in aviation I have led a charmed life. I was never furloughed and had quickly gotten a great crew-base and a schedule with a lot of time off. I attribute all of this to getting hired at a time when "nobody was hiring".

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