Becoming an Airline Pilot – Part III: I have my Certificates, now what?

When you complete your flight training, you are going to have to gain some quality flight experience before an airline will hire you. Remember the research you did earlier to find the flight times required by the airline you want to work for? Your next move is to build the amount of flight time they require to be eligible to interview with them. There are a few ways to do that.

    Instructing: Instructing is an excellent way to build flight time. Learning how to teach your craft to another person will make you a much better pilot. In addition students will pay you to instruct them, as well as pay for the operation of the aircraft, while you get to log the time as Pilot in Command.

    Buying time: You may choose to build your flight time by owning or renting an airplane. Several people can go in together to purchase a single engine aircraft to build up flight time. This is expensive to say the least, and you won’t enjoy the benefits of being a CFI, but if you can afford this try to build as much Multi-engine time, Cross-Country time and Actual instrument time as possible.

Once you have achieved the desired minimum flight hours, you are ready for the next phase. All of the hard work you have done in flight training is getting ready to pay off. You are now becoming eligible to work in several different areas of aviation. Here are a few:

    Regional Airlines: This has been the fastest growing segment of the airline industry for several years and still is. Regional airlines fly aircraft that are on the cutting-edge of technology such as the Regional Jet, but also fly some very sophisticated Turbo-prop aircraft.

    Corporate: Several corporations and businesses own aircraft to fly their executives to and from business meetings. They fly various aircraft ranging from relatively small turboprops to trans-oceanic jets. But just as many own only one small airplane and may not fly it often. If your goal is to build up your time to get that job with the airlines, do some research and choose the flight department that you apply to carefully.

    Charter/Air Taxi: It seems that each airport has a charter operation that rent out various aircraft to individuals or companies and usually supply the pilots as well. You can gain valuable experience in several different types of aircraft with these operations. Charter departments vary greatly in the types of aircraft flown, compensation and working conditions for their pilots, so do your homework.

    Other jobs in aviation: There are several ways to build up your flight time. Some are more glamorous than others. Crop dusting, air ambulance, aircraft delivery for aircraft manufacturers, sightseeing operations, banner towing, skydiving operations, fire-fighting, traffic watch, border patrol and wildlife observation are a few of the ways you will be able to make a living flying airplanes along the way to where you want to go. Use your imagination and with research you can probably come up with more.

Often the road to the job we ultimately want is one with many twists and turns. Keep flying and taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves along the way. When you finally achieve your goals, you will look back and realize that getting there was more than half the fun.

How can I become an airline pilot? Part four will contain some tips that you will find useful in pursuing your career as a professional aviator.