Captain Kila's State of the (Aviation) Union Address


Director of Flight Operations, ATP, TRI/TRE
(Originally posted on LinkedIn as an aritcle, today)

I am utterly dismayed at the state of my chosen profession's inherent, yet unnecessary, flaws and issues concerning gainful employment of pilots by companies needing them. I have been unemployed now for a month, after 7 months of actively searching and applying to 68 posted available positions ranging from Director of Operations down to a Second in Command (SIC) position, all of which I was qualified for, and in most cases, over qualified. Those don't include the hundreds of jobs I should have been able to apply for but was unable to because of one thing: I lacked the required type rating, usually with required X number of hours as Pilot in Command (PIC).

These problems need to be addressed and every facet of the aviation profession needs to take note. From Human Resource (HR) professionals of large companies, to aviation insurance companies, to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other governing regulators, to aircraft owners and pilots themselves. Take heed! I will address the problems and how to fix them. It will be up to all of us in the industry to act upon them and change things for the better.

For those of you who don't know me, my name is Captain Wayne “Kila” Watts, ATP/CFII/MEI. I have over 24 years of professional leadership and flying experience, both in the US Navy and as a civilian, including Director of Operations, Chief Pilot and Training Captain in both part 91 and 135 regimes. I have a stellar resume including many letters of recommendation, outstanding performance reviews both military and civilian, encompassing an accident free career with no violations or waivers of any kind. My LinkedIn profile is here:

Insurance Companies and Minimum Job Requirements

In my opinion (and that of many others), this is the number one problem in our industry: Insurance and/or company mandated type rating and/or time requirements as minimum qualifications for the position, that far exceed those of the FAA, or governmental, requirements. This carries the biggest “catch 22” in any industry that I know of: How do you get the type rating and time in type if you're required to have it in the first place? I'm ignoring the other normal flying time requirements here as they are fairly standard and equivalent to “paying your dues” within our industry.

These sometimes outlandish requirements are almost always insurance driven. Companies must have insurance, and therefore are at the mercy of the insurance company and their hiring requirements, regardless of anything else. The only thing they care about is the type rating, currency and a certain number of hours in type. Yet, for the company, this should be the least of their worries when hiring a potential pilot and more akin to “icing on the cake” if the potential employee they want to hire happens to have the type rating already. Why? Because almost every other factor and consideration when evaluating potential new hires is far more important than that. Obvious things like overall experience, actual, proven flying skills, documented leadership and managerial experience with proven results, international flying experience, safety expertise, and even grades in schools should be more important and vital things to consider when considering applications of potential employees. Because they are more important! Ask any chief pilot worth his salt and he will tell you these things are far more important. Additionally, he would much rather hire a low time guy without the type rating, who he has test flown and sees that the he “gets it” as a pilot, has natural ability, and outstanding potential in other areas, who he can personally mold into not only a great, and safe pilot, but who could eventually become a great chief pilot as well. Investing in the right person, and paying for his type rating (requiring a minimum commitment for it) is a much better, and usually safer bet when trying to hire a new pilot. Hiring the wrong person, simply because they have the type rating, guarantees two things eventually: One, that you will be parting ways sooner than later and two, you will have to go through the hiring process all over again, and with the same damn restrictions imposed upon you. And worst case, you may be hiring someone with a greater chance of causing an accident one day. Both companies and employees want people who stay and are a good fit; who grow with the company. That's why investing in the right people, in every profession, is so important. But insurance companies are tying companies' hands when it comes to pilots, and it's not just their fault.

Sometimes the companies themselves are also to blame. Both in accepting an insurance company's hiring demands as well as, … do I say this......., being cheap and not wanting to pay for a new pilot's type rating. Insurance companies aren't pilots or aviation managers and have no idea as to what's really important in a pilot, as mentioned above. All they know and care about are the type rating and experience in that type. And the number one way we can change this poorly perceived attitude that is strangling our profession, is by having chief pilots and above sit down with the insurance company representatives and educate them. Every single other factor in hiring the right pilot is more important to safety than the type rating itself. That is a fact. (Going into all the details as to why this is true is beyond the scope of this paper, but if you are reading this and don't understand, feel free to get a hold me.......) And shouldn't the insurance companies, who have a vested interest in safety and the safe operation of who they are insuring, want to know and understand this? Of course they would. Yet still today, they just don't get it. Maybe pilot associations or groups like the NBAA need to step in as well. Lastly, companies themselves need to fully understand this, educate their HR department on it and not be cheapskates themselves. An old boss once told me, “Sometimes you save a dollar, only to spend ten dollars later trying to fix what you thought you were saving.” Nowhere is that more true than a company hiring the wrong guy with the type rating, instead of investing in the right guy without one.

If the insurance companies don't want to listen or just can't understand why other factors are more important in hiring a pilot, and to the overall safety of the organization, then perhaps it's time the government itself stepped in to mandate hiring policies for pilots. For both insurance companies and the companies hiring, themselves. Because it's not only insurance requirements that needs to get fixed here.

Human Resource Departments, Professionalism and the Law

Of the 68 jobs I have applied for in the last 7 months, I have received at least one response, from a real person, from 6 of them. The other 62, nothing. This is totally unprofessional. If a qualified candidate writes a cover letter, submits on online application and or resume per the company's requirements, the least they can do, should do, is acknowledge the fact. When I was the Director of Operations/Chief Pilot for a company and we needed to hire a new pilot, we didn't have an HR department so it was incumbent upon me to advertise the position, read through the 136 resumes I received, whittle them down during the process, interview the few who made it that far, flight test the last 3 and eventually hire one of them. I did this as a collateral duty and I replied to every single one of the applicants at every decision, including why they didn't make the cut as necessary. I did this because it's the right thing to do. Yet HR personnel, whose sole job it is to do these things when hiring a new employee, don't care at all. This needs to change and if I were the CEO of any of these companies whose HR employees are ignoring applicants completely, I would be firing most of them. Period.

Part of that problem may be associated with another one. And that is the fact that it is painfully obvious to me that many of these posted jobs are simply done to satisfy the requirement to do so. In other words, they already know who they want to hire but legally have to open it up to everyone. Which of course is illegal itself, yet being done all the time in our industry. Additionally, companies are blatantly ignoring the hiring laws (in the United States) and simply hiring who they want, instead of the best candidate. I can honestly tell you that based on the posted hiring requirements of half a dozen jobs I applied for, that there was no one, in the entire world, more qualified and who met every single requirement and then some. All but one, I never even heard back from. Never even got an interview. And the one that did reply, used the new catch all phrase, “Sorry, we decided to hire someone who we thought was a better fit.” A better fit? I'm not sure that's even possible considering my qualifications and performance reviews, and they never even afforded me an interview or a chance to personally meet me, so how do they even know the other guy was a better fit? And yet, there's not a damn thing I or anyone else can do about it. You want to know what a better fit was in this case? I did some research, and the company was in the heart of Mormon country in the USA. And the guy they hired? While I could not find out much about his qualifications, I did find out that he was, yes you guessed it, Mormon. So even though I was almost certainly more qualified for the job, I wasn't even considered due to my religious convictions, or lack thereof.

This is obviously against the law in the United States, but almost impossible to prove in a court of law. And this isn't the only time this has happened to me recently. I received an email from one lady, who was hiring a personal pilot, who blatantly stated to me in an email, sorry but I will only hire a woman pilot because my last pilot was a man and he caused problems. Another one told me sorry, they decided to hire a local guy, even though I offered to move there free of charge and had 10 times the experience and qualifications of the young man they hired. None of this is legal and yet obviously being done all the time, not just to me. And it needs to stop. I don't know how people have the gall to blatantly defy the law and tell me things in an email (which I still have) that are illegal, but there must be some way to enforce those laws requiring companies to not hire based on religion, skin color, sex or creed. Only qualifications should be used. Period.

The last problem here is the fact that, “It's not what you know, it's who you know” which again, in our profession, is more true than every other one out there. Especially in the corporate side of things where if you don't know someone, or a potential employer happens to read your online profile somewhere (like on LinkedIn for example), you must rely on dumb luck to get a job. And even then, as in my case, where I know a lot of guys who know and respect me, who work for other companies around the globe, and who have personally taken my resume package to their chief pilot and/or HR managers putting in a good word for me, still has not yielded even an interview anywhere. Why? In every case recently it was simply because I didn't have the type rating they wanted and none are willing to invest in me, or the right guy. Yet, I have two friends out here in Asia, both very junior but good guys who knew someone and who did get a job elsewhere for this very reason. They are both employed, with good companies making more than I have ever made my entire career, as SIC's!. I am happy for them, but it's a sad state of affairs in our industry when a person who is much more qualified can't find a job simply because he doesn't happen to know the “right people”, or has problem #1: the all, unimportant type rating.

These are serious and even legal problems that adversely affect our industry and aviation safety as a whole. I asked a lawyer in the USA about this and he told me that the legal aspect is difficult to prove so there is almost nothing we can do about it except CEO's enforcing the law within their own companies and everyone in our industry should always be doing the right thing. The right thing, you say?


Everyone who knows me personally, knows that I live my life by the following creed: “Do what's right, always, even when no one is looking or cares, regardless of the consequences” This is integrity and if you don't have it, you have nothing and your life is worthless. Sometimes it is very difficult and the consequences of maintaining it can often be brutal. Trust me, I know. It is also extremely difficult when others benefit from a lack of their own integrity, sometimes over you. But it is the most important thing each of us can have. And in an industry where safety is the ultimate concern, it is something all of us must have and maintain at every level. From CEO's, to HR personnel, to chief pilots to pilots themselves.

Above, I discussed the role of CEO's and HR departments and doing what's right, against insurance companies' hiring requirements, hiring the right person based on their qualifications and skills, and being professional. We also need to educate the insurance companies as to what really matters when it comes to hiring pilots and how the other things, not just having a type rating with time in type, are far more important and essential to aviation safety. But what about us pilots?

I have seen and heard of way too many pilots lying on their applications about everything from experience to flight hours, in order to try and, illegitimately get a job. While I like to think that most people are good, and normally, talented pilots would not lie about these things, the inherent problems in our industry that I have previously spoken about, are driving pilots to flat out lie on their own resumes to try and combat these problems and get a job, to take care of themselves and their families. This does nobody any good, especially the pilot who does this, who may be getting in over his head and be a detriment to safety. Everyone must stop doing this and if you know anyone who does, it is up to you to correct them.

Here is a personal example. I applied for a job a few years ago as the chief pilot for one of the States in the USA. I lived there, owned a home there, and was overseas on a flying contract. I really, really wanted this job and was very qualified for it. The job listing included some pretty serious time requirements. I met every job requirement except one: Last 6 months 150 flight hours. I had 146. I applied anyway, and brought this up in my cover letter, thinking it wouldn't (because it shouldn't) be an issue. Apparently, I was wrong. The state HR director called me, overseas, to discuss my application, and basically told me that I would be hired if my time in the last 6 months was 4 hours more, and strongly hinted at the fact that I maybe made a mistake and should correct it in order for me to be hired. I said considering every qualification you list, I doubt there's almost anyone, anywhere who meets the other ones and this is only 4 hours short? He said he must only consider the applicants who meet the listed requirements and he cannot even consider anyone otherwise. I was dumbfounded. I double checked my logbook, a legally binding document that we as pilots must sign on our honor that it is true and complete. My hours were correct. I sent an email stating my case, and that anyone else who says they met all the other requirements would be highly doubtful, and I am being honest, and I will not lie about my hours and just being short 4 hours in the last 6 months was nothing to worry about especially considering all the other requirements. I lost that job due to 4 flight hours in the last 6 months, and my integrity. I would still have that job and not be in the position I am at the moment, if I just made one little, tiny, white lie about 4 hours of flight time, less than 0.00049% of my total flight time. But I couldn't do it. And my integrity is still in tact, job or no job.

If all of us, CEO's, HR departments and pilots alike collectively all started doing what is right, giving all qualified pilots a chance, hiring the right people based on their honest qualifications, type rating or not, all of us, including the insurance companies who essentially cause all these problems, would be far better off. And it is up to all of us to make these changes for the better, and start doing what's right.

It starts by understanding what is important in a pilot's resume and history, and knowing and understanding why a type rating isn't and shouldn't be important, at all. HR departments need to be more professional and follow the laws accordingly. Insurance companies need to be educated. Pilots need to be honest on their resumes. All of this affects safety which is paramount in any aviation organization and the sooner we all understand that, and educate the powers that be, the sooner we will all be better off.

Captain Wayne “Kila” Watts, ATP/CFII/MEI
Another note. There are very few jobs in this industry in which one is "over qualified".

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Dang, son. I'm generally a rectal orifice in life. But I have never wanted for work. Perhaps its because I don't moan and complain about my station in life. Help others when I can and do my job. I don't worry about another person that was hired over me. Or try to track that person down and discover their religious affiliation. Its never too late to silently reflect on ones self and see where improvements can be made.

Relax. Let life flow. Go with that flow.
Perhaps my writing style isn't very good but the points are clearly made. Problem is not with me, obviously and most of you know what I'm talking about. I've actually been offered 5 jobs that I have had to turn down for various reasons. But not being considered for a job, simply because you are qualified but don't have the type rating, is wrong and ties an employers hands as to who they can even select. And yes, it is geared more toward corporate or part 135 gigs as it is what I have experience in and the type of job I am mostly applying for. But most part 121 jobs require a type rating as well.
Wow, maybe I am coming across wrong. I did the research because I wasn't considered for a job where I met every requirement they listed including having the type rating. Something is wrong with our industry when things like that happen and I wanted to know why? What is wrong with that? I wrote the article because these types of things need to get fixed. I have always, and I will, get employed as well. It's not about me! It's about our industry's hiring policies that need to get fixed for all of us!
Naw, Kila, it just comes across like a pointless rage against the machine.

As professional pilots we don't own the airplanes or run the businesses that fund them. Thus, if it is insurance requirements or HR practices that drive pilot hiring, that's pretty much the situation we have to deal with.

Unfair? A poor way of picking pilots? Illogical? Yep, to all of the above. I agree that many of the hiring practices are terrible from an aviator's perspective. Many of us are highly qualified to move machines around the skies safely, even if we don't fit into those hiring niches that you reference.

But, we don't make the rules, unfortunately. We want to be employed by those who make the rules, and thus we have to adapt to them rather than the other way around.
Problem is not with me, obviously and most of you know what I'm talking about. But not being considered for a job, simply because you are qualified but don't have the type rating, is wrong and ties an employers hands as to who they can even select.

What we've got here is a failure to communicate.
Job requirement: Type Rating

You: No type rating.

You: Not qualified.

I'm not saying I like it but it is what it is. Its their company. Their airplane. Their rules.

I don't like it any more than you men.
Wow, maybe I am coming across wrong. I did the research because I wasn't considered for a job where I met every requirement they listed including having the type rating. Something is wrong with our industry when things like that happen and I wanted to know why? What is wrong with that? I wrote the article because these types of things need to get fixed. I have always, and I will, get employed as well. It's not about me! It's about our industry's hiring policies that need to get fixed for all of us!

I agree with some of your points. Companies should respond to an applicant, at least with a tbnt email.

Insurance waivers aren't hard to get. A lot of the time in type requirements in 135 are driven by arg/us or wyvern. Not likely to change soon

91 requiring types are frequently because they need someone who can just step in and fill a void without waiting for someone to go to initial for 3 weeks. Obviously initials are also a significant investment in someone they might not know that well, which brings us to the part where it helps to know someone. Obviously knowing someone who likes you also reduces the risk of having to spend days to weeks at a time with someone disagreeable for the next several years.

Of course writing entitled toned missives are easier than networking.
Please name one part 121 airline that requires a type rating. AFAICR, SWA was the only one and even they dropped that requirement with their merger.

I've seen foreign carrier job listings requiring types, and sounds like he is in Asia.
But most part 121 jobs require a type rating as well

91 requiring types are frequently because they need someone who can just step in and fill a void without waiting for someone to go to initial for 3 weeks. Obviously initials are also a significant investment in someone they might not know that well, which of course brings us to the part where it helps to know someone
surely such an overly qualified candidate mitigates any distress caused by hiring, paying and typing a new pilot, and also paying for a contractor to fly for those three weeks while they're dropping 30k on training and salary/expenses...