Real Figures on potential Pilot employment


New Member
I, like so many others who are looking to make flying a career, am doing my research to find the true possibility of making flying a career. I have probably looked at most of the web sites out there on this issue and have come to a wall when it comes to finding actual #’s on the jobs available, not just with the majors. I am not one who bases his life on statistics but when making such a choice in life I would like to know the odds. In a couple of the forums on this site it was discussed that there will be a lot of openings in the majors between 2004-2006. Is this the truth or is it just rumors? Also what is the reality of getting a job via regional's or corporate? And the biggie, if and when I make the jump into the career and have the money to do so (albeit just above poverty) and the time now to finish my degree while building my hours, IS IT WORTH IT-IF THE FUN IN YOUR LIFE IS FLYING. My biggest fear is that in doing this for a living will the fun go away. In my business experience I would get bored with the tedious monotony of the day to day. In flight I have never been bored even on the longest of trips. I need a challenge to stimulate my excitement.

% Chance of making it a career?
# Of jobs available?
Truth or rumor of large retirement #’s in yrs. 2004-2006?
Is it worth it?
Is it still fun?
Well you've always got to consider the source of the information. The only people that are talking about lots of openings are either trying to sell you career services, or marketing flight training.

There are a crapload of furloughs that have "recall rights" at the majors, when the majors start needing pilots, they'll be filled by their own pilots until the pool of furloughs runs dry.

Aviation is a fun job, I love it. But there are also times that I purchase a lottery ticket hoping that I win $20 million so I can quit. After a while, it does become a love/hate relationship to be honest.

In the spirit of your question, I'll try and tackle some questions. I may be wrong, but I'll try and give you my perspective/opinion:

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% change of making it a career?

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I think there's a great chance, however it all depends on you. It doesn't depend on your college degree, or place where you trained, or the books you buy, it depends wholly upon the determination you bring to the field.

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# of jobs available

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Well, then you have to look at everything from global airlines all the way "down" to crop dusting. There are jobs available, however they're highly sought after and tremendously competitive in their selection. I think of the aviation field like an iceberg. You only see the part that's exposed which represents the top tier, but there is a lot of underlying ice beneath the surface.

So in essence, there are quite a few jobs, but many of those may not be something that you can rely on the long-term viability.

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truth of rumor of large retirement #'s in yrs 2004-2006?

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Large numbers? Nope, but a steady, consistent stream-yes. Most of the retirements are being backfilled with current surplus pilots. And when those surplus pilots run out, there will be furlough recalls.

For example, USAir has about 1400 pilots on furlough. They'll need at least 1,400 pilots to retire next year in order to bring those guys back to work. Any big airline, in a brisk year, will retire about 150 to 250 pilots.

The only guy to forecast large numbers of retirements, in my opinion, has been Kit Darby of Air Inc. Who invariably has a product to sell.

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Is it worth it?

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It depends on you. Seriously. After having tasted the majors, if I had to look forward to a spending my entire career flying at the regionals, I don't think I could do it until 2030 (age 60).

But that's my own personal opinion because I really have it in my blood to fly big monster airplanes over the ocean for a few years.

It really depends on you!

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Is it still fun?

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For me, usually! I will say that it was a lot more exciting when I was a new hire at both Delta and Skyway, but the new security procedures post 9/11 occasionally raise my blood pressure, seeing most of my friends walking around with a solemn look on their face during their last flight before getting furloughed is a bummer, and usually missing most major holidays, birthdays and social functions makes it a pain in the butt as well.

Last month was a blast, but this month's trip is rather boring but I usually get a good rush doing the visual approaches into LGA (La Guardia).

Is it still fun? For me, I guess you could say so. I have a very supportive wife and a good home life so I'm usually speeding on my way to the airport to go fly jets, and I'm speeding on the way home to see my wife.

My suggestion is to prepare yourself for the worst. You honestly have to approach aviation like a war. Go loaded for bear, but hope for a bunny.

There are no magic bullets, no short cuts and no substitute for fierce determination. Believe me, the road to a career in aviation is littered with carcasses of pilots that thought it would be simple, easy, or that they could throw mom &amp; dad's money around and buy their way to the top. There's an entire industry poised to take advantage of those that haven't realized that yet.

Best of luck with your decision! Come by often for questions and answers and I'm sure someone will be able to offer some insight!

Treat aviation as an adventure to savor and you'll have a wonderful time!

In regards;

"There are no magic bullets, no short cuts and no substitute for fierce determination. Believe me, the road to a career in aviation is littered with carcasses of pilots that thought it would be simple, easy, or that they could throw mom &amp; dad's money around and buy their way to the top. There's an entire industry poised to take advantage of those that haven't realized that yet."

What aspects of the industry does one look for to avoid these SHARKS?

I have reviewed so many different opinions on this subject that I am at a stand still in decisions yet have so much information.
I guess more or less what you're doing now. Try and take a bird's eye view of what you see on the internet, compare that to what you hear word of mouth and compare that to some of the literature from the flight schools.

Ask lots of questions, no matter how "dumb" or "complex" you think they are because someone around the boards will be more than happy to offer their insight (or lack thereof!)

I occasionally talk to some of the flight schools. Some of them give me positive "warm fuzzies" when I talk to them and I think they're reputable. Conversely, some of them start talking to me like a used care salesman and that usually raises the 'bullsh*t' flag.

One even wanted to argue with me about the importance of the 'degree thing'. It was interesting because I've experienced the good and the bad in aviation and keep in close contact with friends from all around the industry and they still persisted in lecturing me about the 'realities' of aviation and how you have to strike while the iron is HOT!

So I eventually got frustrated and asked, "What's your background?"

The answer? "Oh, I'm a student here"

So I guess my advice would be to take in any information you can get your hands on, but here's the important part:

Consider the SOURCE

I think that all Doug has listed here is great, but I just wanted to throw in my thoughts as I have just finished up College May 2001, then a career in LA until I realized I wanted to make my flying "hobby" a career, then flight school at ATP and now am working for ATP (I include all that as my "rules" disclaimer and so you know where I'm coming from)

No doubt about it, when changing careers and/or making other huge life decisions, we gather all the information that is possible. I was making a great living in LA and gave it all up because I wasn't happy and I knew that flying makes me happy. I can't imagine flying NOT making me happy (ask me again 10K hours from now, though).

To answer your questions the bottom line is this (at least for me): Doing something that makes you happy, like having your office at FL370, outweighs all the unknowns and negatives. Who knows what the industry is going to do next. God forbid that something like 9/11 will happen again, but the reality that we all have to face is that it might. yeah, you'll make crap for $$ for the next &lt;insert unknown number here&gt; years, but if flying is your passion, who wouldn't want a job they are passionate about? My whole goal since college is to find something that doesn't feel like work to me. When I go to work now (at which I make no $$) it doesn't feel like work to me and that improves my quality of life more than any amount of $$. Yeah, I know we all need $$ to get by, and I'm not saying that your situation doesn't warrant you needing $$, but if you can make it work, just GO FOR IT.

Not to sound like a geek, but my 2nd disclaimer is this: I don't have a clue about your situation and nothing I just typed may help you at all, especially if it's not an option, but I think too many people get scared away from something that may give them a lifetime of enjoyment, just because they can't get a guarantee that abc flight school is going to get them a job at xyz airline, and that's a damn shame.

As Doug alluded to, there are so many "other" flight jobs out there, and if you love flying, you'll be willing to do any of them to get to what most of us see as the ultimate goal of the airlines. Which, by the way, are loaded at the top end with old military vets that are going to be forced into retirement. No matter how you look at it, the ball will keep rolling as long as the manditory retirement stays in effect, and EVENTUALLY, those of us that want to be airline pilots will get our chance. The only detriment there would be if you're already in your late 40's or 50's.

I'm done rambling now. Hope you can make some sense of what I'm saying.

As Mr. T stated. There are many flying jobs other than the airlines out here. I am lucky enough to have one of them. I fly little airplanes [pipeline patrol] and am very happy to be doing it. No worries, no, major schedule to keep and not a lot of pressure. At 60 I don't need pressure.

The one thing you have to remember is. There [generally speaking] are no flying jobs available, except for some reason, instructor, without a minimum of at least 500 hrs of flight time. The requirement for Multi time can be thrown in there also depending on what you wish to do. The company I work for required 1000 hrs just to fly SEL. And has been stated, there will be no major departure of pilots all at once to allow all of the current crop of future airline pilots to be hired on. Just like any other job there will always be a need for a steady supply of pilots, but look at those already waiting. The list is long and getting longer.

Go for it, but be aware of the fact that it isn't easy or guaranteed.
Doug, your honesty about employment is alomst intimidating. I am also in the middle of a career change. I am a victum of corporate down sizing and at age 42, I am taking the plunge into full time aviation. After alot of research I have decide to use my VA benefits and go for a career with the regionals. At 42 I know I really do not have a shot at the majors, but I could give a stable regional 18 good years ( barring any medical setbacks ) If a goes well, I should be starting at Ari-Ben Aviator around the 1st of April. All said, in the back of my mind , I know I could spend quite a bit of money and still wind up dreaming about it, but I feel I have to aswer the question, I dont want to be 60 and still have the " What if ?" lingering around.
Well, with all this talk of career change, I figure I would put my $.02 in the mix.

I'll provide a bit of background first....

Graduated high school in '89. Wasted a bunch of time doing various odd jobs etc. Went back to school and finished my bachelor's degree in Kinesiology (study of human movement) in May '99. Didn't really know what I was going to do with that; however, on I went. Decided I enjoyed biomechanics and wanted to get into applied biomech. I met some people who were in the orthotic (Forrest Gump type braces) &amp; prosthetic (artificial limbs, etc.) field. Both of which require a great deal of app. biomech. As a result, I started working as a technician building braces and artificial limbs to gain some experience. Good money, very rewarding. Realizing that with my education, I should be the one helping the patients directly instead of fabricating devices, I decided to go on to further my education. With that, I went to a well known medical school and earned a graduate certificate in Prosthetics in Dec. '01. (side note....I was taking my gross anatomy final exam when the terrorists attacked...
) Anyhow, I went on to complete my RESIDENCY (code word for slavery) and was finally at the point where I would start to earn a decent living......And, you guessed it...........

I gave it all up and decided to follow my heart &amp; lifelong dream of becoming a professional pilot.

This is all much to the chagrin of my family, of course. But it's my life, not their's!

I would have gone to flight school immediatly after high school, but my family said "no way, it was too expensive and besides, only military pilots get jobs." What a bunch of crap! But, I was 17 and did what they told me to do. In the end, did they save me any money by snuffing my dreams?.....Not a chance, only put me deeper in debt. The one good thing about having gone through school first....if I need to find a positive that at least I have my education to fall back on if I ever need it.....for whatever reason.

So, at the moment, I have debt from undergrad., grad., and flight training. Definitely not a pretty picture.....

Now, I'm 32, and realize it's my life and it's way to short to be miserable!!! No amount of money is worth hating your job. I hated going to work in an office, hated dealing with insurance companies (complete scam artists...but that's another forum), and hated the O &amp; P company owners who cry poverty with there hefty 6-figure salary. F-them!

As a result, I recently packed as much of my things as I could fit into my car and moved to FL from PA. I am now a private SEL/ MEL pilot working on my instrument rating. I love looking out the window at the sunrise/ sunset...all this, despite having no money and a ton of debt.....

My only hope is that I'll eventually find a job before I'm in the poor-house...

Well, that's my experience with career change in a nutshell....for what it's worth, I am extremely pleased with my choice to follow my heart!
job/life satisfaction is way more important than salary

Glad you chose to follow your dream.
job/life satisfaction is way more important than salary

Glad you chose to follow your dream.

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Hey, JT... remember those words the next time you feel compelled to ask me "Do you really want to do this?"
Hey now, my beef is with the folks who think they are going to go into aviation and make it rich and work half the month.

If it's your DREAM to be a pilot, well that is something completely different. Just make sure the dream doesn't turn in to a nightmare.

If you will be happy after 5 years as a regional jet captain, working 16-20 days a month, spending 10 or so nights in hotels and making 60-70k then it's a great job.

The other jobs are out there but the competition is extremely, well, "competitive."

Well, at least as regional jet captain got paid more in 1st 5years than a school teacher does after 30 years of service. Please bear in mind the followings: We have to pay our own health insurance from our salary before tax and law suit from parents who thnik their child has been mistreated. Plus, if principle does not like a teacher, a teacher will be gone in a very short time or . I guess every professions has its own difficulty.

adreamer - I am stsill dreaming
That's true and sad. I'd love to see teachers make more.

And don't get me wrong... A CRJ captain can live quite comfortably on $60-70k.
Hey now, my beef is with the folks who think they are going to go into aviation and make it rich and work half the month.

If it's your DREAM to be a pilot, well that is something completely different. Just make sure the dream doesn't turn in to a nightmare.

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Oh how true that is! They just want to 'live the dream'.

Many have no idea what they are truly getting into, esp post 9/11. They were blinded by that 'glamorous airline pilot lifestyle' they see in the movies, flight school marketing or heard about from some guy who has already retired from one of the Big Four.

Kudos to Doug for this site. I consider it required reading for aspiring airline pilots 101! It's great to dream, just don't live in a fantasy world.
Yeah, but keep in mind that a Chief Cardiac surgeon could live well on $60,000 as well.
Allow me to reiterate my feelings, to help clarify the recent debate.

As I stated before, I left my job....where I could've easily made 6-figures + in the not too distant future. So, if it where about the money....clearly, I would have stayed where I was: In the medical field.

Life is too short to be unhappy for any amount of money!

I'll say that again.

Life is too short to be unhappy for any amount of money!

Now, if you still think I'm in it for the money/ glamor, you must not be reading what I'm saying.

Regional Captain in a couple years making $70 K.....sounds great! Ok, so I won't be long as my job can pay the bills (ouch!), then that's fine!
My only concern is to not live paycheck to paycheck for the rest of my life.

Now, I realize there will be quite a bit of that in the early years...Despite following my heart and living my dream....I'm still a realist.
So having a pathetic income in the beginning is ok, provided I can see a light at the end of the tunnel! Obviously I would love to earn $50 K to start and 6- figures in a couple of years doing what I love......but it's about enjoying what you do.....after all, you spend more time at work than you do with the people you love....regardless of the field you're dominates your time...end of story.

As such, you better enjoy your job or it will drive you crazy
Teachers at my high school that have been there more than about 15 years and have a master's degree make $85,000 a year. They went on strike the year after I graduated for not getting paid enough! That's in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Well, I don't believe any teacher make 85000 per year in this country. Are you sure this teacher make that much? is school a private or public school?

As far as I know, national average is about 45000 annually. BTW, remember some of your classmates in your class? Would you like to deal with them everyday?

It is a public school, and they make $85,000 per year. Principles make $100,000 and maybe more. What do you mean about my classmates? I can definitely think of some that I couldn't stand anymore! But that's to be expected.