An Airway Less Traveled

Commercial Pilots, as well as those that aspire to become one, crave information about our profession and are usually either reading or talking about the latest aviation news. Since we pilots are constantly on the move, the internet has become a valuable source of the kind of information that pilots seek to feed their curiosity and provide needed information about the Aviation World.

On a recent visit to one such website I noticed a lot of discussion about the Airline Industry as usual, but I also noticed increasing amount of interest in other related jobs that didn’t create a lot of buzz at one time. These jobs can provide good flying opportunities to those with a sense of adventure, and can provide a pilot with valuable experience that can be used to climb the career ladder to flying the bigger aircraft for the airlines.

In cargo operations for example, the two well known carriers are UPS and FedEx. However, in addition there are a lot of smaller freight companies that supply the equivalent of Regional Feed for the larger freight companies by flying smaller aircraft into relatively small airports to bring back valuable overnight airfreight to feed into their delivery systems on a regularly scheduled basis.

There are also companies that provide on-demand services to the large freight operations. These on-demand companies have are called ACMI companies: Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance, and Insurance companies. In short, they are charter outfits of the cargo world, and they fly everything from single engine Cessna Caravans to Boeing 747s. In simple terms, they usually operate on an on-call basis to provide feed for UPS, FedEx, DHL/Airborne Express, or for other types of companies around the world that need to lease an airplane and a crew.

But whether you find yourself flying 747s across the ocean in the middle of the night, dodging thunderstorms in a Caravan, or landing on dirt strips in Africa or Alaska, you can find yourself learning lessons that will serve you well as an airline pilot.

The route that leads you to the cockpit of a modern airliner can be a circuitous route to be sure. I speak with airline recruiters almost daily in the course of doing my job for ATP. I hear from them many times about the number of pilots who have impressed them not with a logbook full of jet time, but with the spirit of adventure and the pure love of aviation that it takes to fly in very challenging environments.

Pilots whose love of flying leads them down different roads to get where they want to go can find a lot of useful experience in their log books if they vigorously pursue their career goals to fly for the airlines no matter where it takes them.