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Getting into the commercial aviation world

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Getting into the commercial aviation world

Old 29th Jul 2013, 08:27
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Getting into the commercial aviation world

Hi guys,

I have started to do some serious research into various ways student pilots are able to get into airline companies, and I thought I might pop my dilemma here and see if there are any particular views / opinions or ideas that might help me out.

I myself have a BA degree and have started a masters in aviation theory (airline/airport management, investigations, laws&regs etc) as well as having a BAK and sitting the PPL test when I have some free time.

I have found up to this point, going through the GA world, lessons are quite expensive. I have always done the theory 'self taught' and it has worked to this point, however I feel I'm not getting the most out of it. I have seen a couple cadet pilot programs going around (Jetstar and Virgin come to mind), where they offer an attractive option to becoming a commercial pilot, if selected. Cathay Pacific is another that comes to mind, however at the moment it's only up for Hong Kong residents. If I was to go down the GA private school path, I would have to continue paying the big bucks and relying on self taught studies just to get the CPL done, not to mention cough up more cash for an instructors rating and work as an instructor for income and hours.

I am debating whether to finish my CPL license through the private school which I am flying at, or start applying around to the various cadet pilot programs both in Australia and Europe where I am able to live and work, whilst waiting on airlines such as Cathay to open up programs to Australian residents. I am at a point where I strongly believe I have an attractive enough resume and background in aviation for someone my age to get in the door of company interviews, and happy to start from the basics at a cadet pilot program.

I was also wondering if any of you guys know of cadet pilot programs that begin with the pilot already having his/her CPL, hence giving students an incentive to complete CPL's outside cadet programs and join the 'advanced' so to speak, pilot programs. I would love any input from you guys if you have any experience in the topic (job prospects after completing cadet programs, costs and hidden fees, lifestyle etc), had or have friends going through this etc etc.

Apologies if this type of post has been posted a million times.

Many thanks.
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Old 29th Jul 2013, 14:21
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You do realise that cadet programs (jetstar eg.) cost upwards of $100k!!

There's no cheap easy road to an airline that I'm aware of!
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Old 29th Jul 2013, 17:05
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Hi and welcome,

It's late at night so I'll get in and give you some info before everyone wakes up and gets on your back about not searching prior posts.

For starters, no matter which which route you take in aviation there will be someone ready to relieve you of your hard earned dollars, cadetships are certainly no exception.

As the previous poster mentioned, the Jetstar cadetship is $100k+, their website has been "undergoing an upgrade" for some time now so that figure is from memory when I was a student. A few guys I know got into the Cathay cadetship so I was under the impression it was open to Australian citizens. Perhaps this has changed as their website states you must have the right to live in Hong Kong. There are some cadetships that offer a reduced training period for candidates who already hold a CPL and/or MECIR, Qantaslink is one that comes to mind.

If you simply cannot afford to pay for lessons there are a number of schools/universities around the country who offer flight training with the cost offset under the governments fee-help program. Edith Cowan University, Swinburne, Oxford and FTA come to mind however be prepared for a ~$90k debt to the Australian tax payer once you are finished.

Unless you absolutely must sit in a jet and if your finances can stretch, I'd pay for flight training as you go and take the GA route to wherever you want to end up. I contemplated applying for cadetships a few years ago and also thought about completing my training on fee-help but I'm certainly glad I didn't! It took me a few extra years to get my CPL but I can sleep at night wondering whether I will eat 2min noodles or toast tomorrow without a $90k debt hanging over me. You may, like me, find out that GA is a great place. Sure, girls aren't as impressed when they ask what type of plane I fly and find out it isn't an A380 but it seems nearly every airline pilot I've spoken too has told me that their time in GA was the most fun they've had in their careers. I love every minute of my flying and am looking forward to a hopefully long and rewarding career without ever working for an airline.


Last edited by aeromatt; 29th Jul 2013 at 17:05.
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Old 29th Jul 2013, 22:13
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actually, there are a few non uni flying school now that have fee Help accreditation..
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Old 29th Jul 2013, 22:15
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I tend to agree with a few of aeromatt's comments...
It's not going to be cheap, whichever route you take (save for military).

Uni degrees really don't help except for "giving you something to fall back on" in the case of losing a medical down the track etc - this seems to be a common motivator there. The risk with the schools associated with uni degrees are the markup on flight training and the fact that the school gets paid for your flying upfront (by the uni or you) which leaves you in a sticky situation if you become dissatisfied with the product you are receiving.
The benefit here of course, is the HECS/HELP coverage that is now available for these courses.

Generally speaking I am not in favour of the cadet path as you will miss out on the opportunity to experience and develop all the challenges of single pilot work which, will no doubt involve some time in a remote community flying around the sticks and hopefully, having a ball! As identified by aeromat, many experienced hands will tell you that the most fun they had was in their initial bush bashing days.

That said, I know of a few people who did the Sharp Airlines cadetship and from what I have seen, it seems to offer a good initial grounding in the industry. On completion of the CPL they go into the RHS of a Metro for a few months, get some initial exposure to multi crew in a multi engine turbine aircraft and importantly, learn the importance of SOP's etc, before being spudded out into the industry to fend for themselves. I know a few get the direct entry into RHS at other regionals from there, but many find themselves in GA. Those with the right attitude seem to make a good go of it, those without, funnily enough, wonder why noone will give them a job.

Either way it's going to be a hard slog and will continue to cost you a bucket load well into the future. If you want to be here for the right reasons, you will find a way to make it work. Be sure to keep your dignity and integrity in tact in the process though!!

Good luck.
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Old 30th Jul 2013, 03:28
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There is a lot of information out there on pprune about these cadetships with virgin, jetstar, Cathay and Rex. Besides the virgin cadetship, the other cadetships have a lot of very big negatives that you need to consider.

For a start, you have too much experience so you won't be able to join the virgin Australia cadetship.

The jetstar cadetship, is probably the most expensive and f****d way of becoming an airline pilot. (Just do a search and you will see why). But you are looking at a debt of $150k+ and earning a salary of less than $70k per year before you start paying off the debt, so expect to be earning less than $50k a year for quite a while, while you are paying off the debt.

Cathay cadetship, are you willing to live in Hong Kong for the rest of your flying career with Cathay? Because by the sounds of it, you can no longer get based in Australia (according to my mates who fly for Cathay). I have lived in Hong Kong in the past and there is no way on earth I could stand living there.

Rex you are going to be stuck as a first officer for quite a while because you need to build ICUS time to be able to gain a complete atpl before you can go for your command. By the sounds of it, there are cadets who joined Rex in there very first cadet intake over 5 years ago who still dont have the ICUS requirements to get a command. There is a 7 year pay back with Rex and if you decide to leave before the 7 years (which will most likely not happen because most airline jobs out there want a full atpl and some pic time which you will most likely not gain within 7 years of working at Rex) you will be hit up with the remaining training costs you owe which could be very expensive.

So in the long run, you are probably better off doing it the traditional way of going through general aviation up north building pic and multi engine hours with charter/cargo operators and still be earning a reasonable income (probably more than a rex and a jetstar cadet) with no debt over your shoulders. Once you have the hours start applying for regional and major airlines because there are airlines like cobham, Skywest, tiger, skippers, airnorth that don't have cadetships that take on ga pilots. Even virgin and jetstar most of the pilots they recruit are ga pilots. If qantas one day open its doors again for direct entry second officers you are going to be in a much better position with the wide range of flying experience you would have gained throughout ga then a Rex first officer who doesn't have a atpl and bugger all pic time.
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Old 30th Jul 2013, 06:21
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Thanks so far guys.

Yeah I realise that it will never be cheap, perhaps cheap was the wrong word to use in the first place.

For me, I am starting to think that it isn't feasible to continue in the GA world, not because of the increasing costs, but because I am not getting the theoretical study in needed to keep updating the memory bank. I have basically used common sense and memory dumped from a text book for the exams taken so far, but that is no way to become a pilot and it will eventually catch up and show. This is why I though perhaps a cadetship might have its pros. I am only saying that it might not be feasible because I work a couple of part time jobs as well as continue my studies full time, so its pretty hard to through PPL & CPL theory in there as well.

Completely understand that everything will have its pros and cons, and it's all about weighing them all up. Ideally I want to aim high, and become a future skip of a large commercial airliner. Yes I know some will come and say dream on, forget about it, wait in line or whatever, but that's the goal, and in my mind if you're not aiming for the top, don't bother. If the chance came for me to live in HK, to be locked into their company and fleet of wide bodied a/c I would probably take the chance. I would assume the time and $ spent/repaying back to get to that position might be more attractive then spending many years as a cadet/FO at jetstar then trying to swap to an international hauler.

On that note, is it that hard to swap from a domestic carrier into an international company? I would assume you would just start at the bottom (or thereabouts) of the pecking order every time one would move into another company.

Fee help isn't such a problem, mentally anyway. I have accumulated plenty so far through uni so having another few figures over my head won't bother me, when I know I will be paying it back. This would be OK I guess with someone like a Cathay, because I can see myself in that environment over a life time. It wouldn't be ideal for a jetstar gig, paying it all back on a limited salary, flying syd-melb-syd all my life. If it meant going from jetstar to a qantas/cathay/emirates etc in an ideal time after the cadetship, I would consider it being ideal and worth a thought.
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Old 30th Jul 2013, 08:30
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If the chance came for me to live in HK, to be locked into their company and fleet of wide bodied a/c I would probably take the chance. I would assume the time and $ spent/repaying back to get to that position might be more attractive then spending many years as a cadet/FO at jetstar then trying to swap to an international hauler.
Just do your research with these cadetships. The Cathay cadetship isn't too bad, but it isn't as good as what it was. But it's still better than a jetstar cadetship.

But have a read of these threads (especially the first link), it's a bit of an eye opener when it comes to being a second officer at Cathay and the lifestyle of living in Hong Kong.

http://www.pprune.org/south-asia-far...ck-cathay.html

http://www.pprune.org/south-asia-far...ransition.html

http://www.pprune.org/south-asia-far...need-know.html

Dont get me wrong, I have a several friends flying a330's (aus based) for Cathay and another flying the 748f (hong kong based), they all enjoy there job because they joined back in the days where Cathay had aus bases and paid housing allowances (if based in Hong Kong). These days that no longer happens.

On that note, is it that hard to swap from a domestic carrier into an international company? I would assume you would just start at the bottom (or thereabouts) of the pecking order every time one would move into another company..
That's correct, you will be back at the bottom of the seniority list, but you have to realise, it will be hard trying to jump from different airlines without a complete atpl or only having second officer hours gained at Cathay. If you join an airline as a cadet, you will be stuck at that airline until you have an atpl which could take a long time (because no on will want to employ you). But it's not too hard if you have an atpl which can be achieved through ga and regional flying. As in, it would be pretty hard for a jetstar cadet first officer or a Cathay cadet second officer without a complete atpl to get a job at emirates, where as if you were a first officer at jetstar who had gone through ga and hold a complete atpl you could potentially get a job at emirates.
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Old 30th Jul 2013, 12:20
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thanks for those Cathay links, I'll definitely have a look in the morning. Yes I get that about joining as a cadet. For me it's a smart way companies can lock in a future employee over long period of time. They do this over hundreds of different industries. I see it as commitment to a particular company, in return for a long and prosperous career. Hence why for me, choosing a particular cadet ship path is important. I don't want to be chopping and changing companies unless absolutely necessary.
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