Real Answers from Real Pilots

Pilot shortage after Covid

Hello, Thank you all for your time to share your experience with newcomers like myself. I am curious what your real odds are of getting on with an airline after your 1500 hours of instructing or similar job. I have heard ATP and others say that the pilot shortage from pre-covid is back and may come back worse than before. Both ATP and another podcast/study program group seems to be saying you will not have any trouble getting hired after finishing up with ATP. No offense to anyone, but they are also trying to sell me something so I don’t know how much trust to put in those sentiments.

I definitely want to be a pilot but am very hesitant of leaving my current job, selling my house, and taking on 60-80k in debt if jobs are hard to come by. 80k in debt to make 25k as an instructor won’t work for me if that’s the only job out there. However, if I really can get on at an airline in 2-3 years as claimed, then that is doable.

The only threads I have found on here about this are PRE- covid. I am curious to hear your opinion on how covid has affected the jobs available now and in the next five years. I hope this doesn’t come across badly, but I would like an unbiased opinion from someone not selling me a program. Just a regular guy or gal in the industry.

Thanks!
-Mason

Mason,

No one can ever make any guarantees, but in my opinion if you were to start now I don’t see you having any problem getting on with a regional.

All of the regionals and most, if not all, of the majors have resumed hiring. At my airline specifically, we are preparing to hire at a rate we never have before as we predict the shortage will be greater than it was pre-covid. I think it is safe to say that every regional airline will be doing the same.

That said, no one can make any guarantees. So it is important that you truly love flying. If for some reason you don’t get on with a regional in an appropriate amount of time, what then? Would it still be worth it to you? The answer should be yes, but if it isn’t then you may want to evaluate your motives for wanting to become an airline pilot.

Tory

Thank you Tory. I totally understand what you are saying. Just looking at it from a debt ratio standpoint, 25k income to 80k in debt is a little scary but I am confident I will eventually get on at a regional if the job market is reasonable as you say. When I was applying for the job I have now, there were a thousand applicants for 10 positions. I had to test at a dozen agencies before I got my job so if it did take longer than expected, I will definitely stick with it until I get there. I am mostly curious about the market because if I were coming into a scenario were there are just no jobs, it might affect how I decide to go about becoming a pilot but I do want to be a pilot.

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Mason,

If you’re looking for a job with guarantees, aviation definitely isn’t it. While flying isn’t brain surgery or rocket science, frankly not everyone can or should be a pilot. Pilot shortage or not, if you’re unsuccessful in training you’re not getting hired. Not trying to be discouraging or pessimistic but I always find it odd people seem to leapfrog over the training aspect of the job and start picking airlines to fly for. You don’t mention any flying experience so I’ll assume you don’t have any. Before you seriously consider any of this I strongly recommend you take a lesson or 3. Chances are you’ll love it but you might not. Something to consider.

That all said if you’re willing to put in the time and effort and are of average intelligence and coordination (and aren’t afraid of heights) you should be fine. All indications are the shortage will return and many (myself included) believe it will be worse. By accelerating retirements they simply exacerbated the situation. That said there could also be a Covid-23 that hits right when you’re approaching 1500hrs, another 9/11 or economic collapse. All of which could affect your hiring. When I was hired there was no shortage nor many jobs. I did have a solid training record and many letters of recommendation and I had no problem finding a job. Others did. Hanna had a position at SkyWest, the pandemic hit and now she’s got a great gig flying 135 corporate. Not everyone was so fortunate. Bottomline if you do well and are personable you SHOULD have a reasonable shot. But again in this industry guarantees are not part of the job.

Adam

Mason,
As others have said, there are no guarantees and all we can tell you is what we’ve seen so far. Almost ever indicator shows that hiring will only ramp up from here. So far all the regionals are hiring again and most the majors are about to do the same. At regionals I’ve talked to, the sheer volume of interviews they are doing is astounding, record class sizes and it seems to be only the beginning of a huge wave for the years to come. If I were you, I’d feel very good about the prospects of a job in two or so years, HOWEVER, no one saw the pandemic coming… so take that lesson for what it’s worth. The joke is “airlines hire until they fire”.
For now, focus on what you can control which is having a safe and strong training record. No checkride busts, no major program delays, no accidents or incidents and definitely no legal trouble. Put your best foot forward and hopefully that will be enough to get you a CFI job with atp, then join a cadet program to help pay off your loan.

-Hannah

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Hi, a related question as many of you have been involved in the pilot hiring process… What are some of the top reasons you believe someone is not successful at the regional airline pilot interview? Or even not successful at the CFI level? Thanks!

Mason,

Welcome to the forum. Everything that I have seen points to a huge resurgence in pilot hiring. United has already started to hire again, with other major airlines soon to follow. Hiring at the majors brings hiring at the regionals. Several regionals are already hiring and the forecast is for that to continue.

That being said, you will still need to keep your record clean, do well in training, be a decent person, etc, basically the same requirements for any professional job.

Chris

Ravi,

I have never conducted interviews, but from what I have seen as a casual observer, people often fail interviews because they are simply too arrogant. Some people walk in like they deserve the job and that never goes well for them. Also, failing to properly study can be a big deal.

As to failing as a CFI, that usually stems from not putting the students first. It is not just a race to 1,500 hours. Your goal as a CFI should be to provide the best instruction possible. If you do that, the flight time will follow.

Chris

Ravi,

I do not have any experience in hiring, but I do know that lying/withholding essential information is a deal breaker. Be up front or you’ll be pegged for trying to hide something.

Tory

Ravi,
I have been involved in pilot hiring at a major airline. At that level (and regionals I’d suspect) they don’t call anyone for an interview that on paper at least they aren’t willing to hire. As others have said, dishonesty, arrogance, inappropriateness (dress/language) etc will be the deal breakers when you do the interview. The airline is hiring a “brand ambassador” and as a pilot they want someone who will instill confidence and display professionalism when on the job. The further you stray from that ideal, the more likely the hiring team will take a pass.

Beyond that, best to keep your record clean (both professionally and personally) and take on as much “other interests” as possible when you have any free time. It’s always more interesting to hear stories about working with Boy/Girl Scouts as a leader, or helping to build a habitat for humanity house during the interview than just hearing stories about your undivided love for aviation.
Are you professional, prepared, and at least interesting enough to hold the attention of the interview board for a few minutes? If so, you’ll have no issues, but if they sense negativity, dishonesty, arrogance, ie someone they don’t want representing their brand or sharing a flight deck with, well they may take a pass.
On that note, never put all your eggs into one basket. Apply to all airlines you’d be willing to work for, because you never know who will call and when. I’ve known great pilots / friends who have been turned down by one airline only to land at their new dream company at the next interview. SWA notoriously used to have people reinterview (with them) 2/3/4 times before accepting them for a pilot position.

Ravi,

I’ve done hiring at both the Regional and Major level. There are obviously many factors and panel members each have their own priorities. I’ll give you mine and those expressed by people I know.

First and foremost, appearance and attitude are huge. As this is an interview we have to assume this is the best you’re going to look and behave. If you can’t manage to iron your shirt or shave for the interview, there’s no way you’re going to on the last day of a 4 day trip. If you’re cocky, arrogant and obnoxious at your interview, you’re going to be a monster after a few years.

Next ALL airlines want to know you want to work for them. You need to convey that and after some experience we can usually tell who’s sincere and who isn’t. Personally I’ve never been a fan of the “shotgun” approach in applying. Most of have that dream job and I firmly believe (at least in the beginning) putting all your eggs in one basket. You will be asked “where else have you applied?”. If you answer everywhere it will not be well received. If you say only here and you haven’t, you’re lying and a good experienced panel member can smell it. But if it’s true it will come across. If you don’t get the nod then sure start applying elsewhere but why not be optimistic and focused initially when it counts? Study the airline. Impress them with your knowledge of their history, fleet, recent announcements, etc. All will play well in your favor. I also don’t agree about the extra-curricular stuff. I for one never cared if someone was a boyscout or collected stamps. It comes back to the age old question “will it be cool to be locked in the cockpit with this pilot for 4 days?”.

Finally (and my personal favorite), read, pay attention and LISTEN. When I interviewed at my Regional they sent out an email stating they wanted the following forms and copies in the following order. Paperclipped and not stapled. When we all showed up the first thing they did was collect everyone’s paperwork while we watched an intro video. After the video they called out a bunch of names. Those called proudly stood up, until they were told “sorry, you’re done”. Anyone who’s papers were not paperclipped or not in the correct order were immediately sent home. If you can’t get this right why should they trust your with their jet. At my Major they passed around a hat and each person pulled out a question. We were instructed “read your question aloud and answer it, you have 1 minute”. I actually felt bad when the first person read their question and then pontificated about what the question meant and the importance of the question until they called time and the question was never answered. I didn’t feel bad for the next person who did the same thing. Or the next. When they got to me guess what I did? I ANSWERED the question. Wanna guess who got the job and who didn’t?

Adam

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Great insights from everyone… thank you Hannah, Chris, Tory, Adam, and Hobie!

Adam/Ravi,
I guess the point about the Boy Scouts or Habitat for humanity is that we always looked for signs of leadership from the civilian only sourced pilots. Military pilots were always assumed to have been forced into a leadership role and reading their military evaluations will let you know how that went. But civilian only pilots who take initiative and completing something of value outside of just working and saying “I just fly my line and go home to party with my friends” when asked about what other interests you have besides flying, stood out every time
Adam works for a different company than I do, and as you can see, there can be a wide variety on hiring practices. Each is trying to do the same thing, weed through thousands of applicants to hire the best future captains that will represent the airline well for the next few decades.

Mason,

I’m a student pilot at a flight school that is not ATP, so you can trust that I’m not trying to sell you a program. My previous instructor was hired by Endeavor in April, and 6 other CFIs have been hired at a variety of regionals in the past two months. There are only 2 CFIs left who want to go to the airlines and have the hours. One of them has had interviews and will likely be gone in the next couple weeks. The other is dealing with first class medical certification issues and will likely be moving on as soon as those are resolved.

Now here’s the flip side of the coin: my previous instructor had a conditional job offer from Endeavor and a class date scheduled for March 2020. That next big step up in her career was put on hold for more than a year. Continuing to instruct wasn’t her first choice, but she continued to be a dedicated and passionate instructor. She was happy and grateful just to be getting paid to fly.

In my opinion, if you think you’ll be happy in this career only if you’re making six figures and sitting left seat in the biggest jet, then you’re taking on a big risk. But if you think you’d be happy simply getting paid to fly regardless of the type of flying, then your risk is much more manageable.

Sean

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With all due respect none of us here are trying to sell anybody anything. The opinions and guidance we offer is based on our experiences. We all can be trusted.

Adam

Thank you all. I also did not intend to insinuate that any of you would ever mislead us in order to direct us towards ATP. I was simply noting that up until I asked this question, the few mentions I saw of a ‘worsening pilot shortage’ both happened to be from folks also selling a program. That is also not to say that THEY would mislead me, but it did want me to get some insight from individuals and their personal experience/opinion vs a company brochure.