Other Opportunities in the Aviation Market

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  1. Start-Up and "Upstart" Airlines. A start-up airline is any new airline. The term "upstart" came into vogue in the early years of deregulation when such start-up carriers as People Express and New York Air had an immediate competitive impact on the pricing of airline fares and on the contest for market share.

    At start-up airlines, the potential for rapid growth and mergers is excellent, and pay and benefits usually improve as an airline matures. The emerging airlines, however, are risky. People Express, New York Air, Air Atlanta and several other start-ups have perished or have been folded into larger airlines. Other start-ups, notably Midway and America West, have turned into thriving carriers. It is predicted by many that after the consolidation phase of deregulation, only 20 percent of the start-ups from the first 10 years of deregulation will survive.

  2. FBOs with Package Feed Operations. This field is a seldom-noticed result of deregulation. Fixed-base operations, which frequently have a very stable, experienced mechanic corps, have proved better able than regional/commuter airlines to meet the 100 percent reliability demands of large cargo/package operations like Federal Express, Flying Tigers, DHL and Airborne. Today, most of the feed carriers to major cargo companies are former FBOs that have evolved into large, workable, knowledgeable companies and have been working with the majors and nationals for a number of years.

    An example of a flourishing small package feeder is Mid-Atlantic Freight, a division of Atlantic Aero, an FBO based at Greensboro Triad International Airport in North Carolina. Another is Murray Aviation, based at Ypsilanti, Mich., which flies CAS A 212s, MU-2s and Learjets while serving not only such overnight package operations as DHL and UPS, but Ford, General Motors and Chrysler (carrying automotive parts) and several air freight forwarders. An operation like Mid-Atlantic Freight, which now flies coast to coast into various hubs, might not be attractive to a pilot planning to move on to a major airline because it operates only the Cessna Caravan, a single-engine turboprop (if you have major airline ambitions, you need multi-engine time). But several of the cargo feed operations fly aircraft that could help pave your way to a major airline. And even though its feeders use the Caravan, Federal Express has hired a number of pilots from its small package feed partners.

  3. Overseas Flying. There are a growing number of opportunities in the overseas market; however, several factors should be considered. In most cases, foreign air carriers will require that you have wide-body experience and/or type rating in the aircraft they operate (e.g., B-747, B-727, L-1011 and DC-10). If you are employed as a co-pilot, you may receive your type rating outside the United States. However, the opportunity to be upgraded or fly larger equipment may be limited. Captains and professional flight engineers (PFEs)* in transport jets, especially wide-bodies, are in great demand.

Opportunities are expected to improve due to the upcoming deregulation of the European airline industry in 1992. This will result in expansion throughout Europe, and the expansion which began in the late 1980s throughout the Pacific Rim will accelerate in the 1990s. Both regions lack an established supply of military and general aviation pilots. Since the United States has the largest pool of pilots, it is expected that Europe will draw from the U.S. pilot supply to meet its short-term needs and possibly its long-term needs as well.

Usually, flying for foreign carriers is considered to be contract work with few or no employee benefits and especially no retirement. Pay, however, was rising rapidly in the late 1980s. There used to be tax advantages in working outside the United States for a foreign employer, but new tax laws limit tax-free income to $70,000.

Job security is another aspect to be considered. You may be forced to return to the U.S. market during hard times when no alternate jobs are open. The most important factor: While away, you will lose touch with the U.S. airline market.

Flight/Simulator Training

General aviation-based training was very slow from 1985 to 1988, but is gradually improving. Simulator training companies like FlightSafety and Simuflite are expanding and profitable. Both of these firms vastly increased their training capabilities during a rapid expansion period of the late 1980s. So far the overall number of jobs is small, but it is growing.

Employee Benefits

Pay for helicopter pilots may range from $ 10,000 to $60,000 per year, depending on the equipment flown and the type of operations. Pay for flying turbine equipment generally starts in the $16,000 to 18,000-per-year range.

Seniority, furloughs, probationary periods, domiciles, unions, and benefits are dependent on the operation you are flying for and are as varied as the number of corporations and companies that hire helicopter pilots. If you are considering taking a job with a helicopter operator, you should discuss these things with the chief pilot or the other line pilots before signing a contract.

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