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Commercial flying and job prospects

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Commercial flying and job prospects

Old 6th Aug 2015, 18:25
  #1 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: NE Scotland
Age: 40
Posts: 15
Commercial flying and job prospects

Hi all,

I completed my PPL almost a year ago now and really enjoying flying. Lately I have been considering a career change and thought maybe flying for a living could be the answer. I'm 36 at the moment so reckon I would be 38ish by the time I completed training. I'm just not too sure how employable I would be at that age, and also what the job market would be like/ is like right now? I realise there's alot of competing for places etc.

Any comments or advice would be great.

Blue skies.

P.s apologies if this has been asked to death already
davew1 is offline  
Old 6th Aug 2015, 18:34
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Join Date: Feb 2000
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only eleven pages of it!

Genghis the Engineer is offline  
Old 6th Aug 2015, 22:02
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Did pretty much what you're suggesting, at a similar age. Tbh I wouldn't recommend anybody go into commercial aviation anymore. While there are good jobs out there, it's true, for the most part it's pretty rubbish. Finding a job is a combination of a lot of luck, a lot of money, and timing. And that job, when you get it, often as not is nowhere near the utopia you'd think. You're permanently knackered, under pressure and missing your family. As I said at the start, there are occasional jobs where the pay, conditions, environment and work-life balance are okay, but these are as rare as rocking horse poop, and bloody hard to get into.
I recommend carrying on with PPL flying, expand your skills with ratings such as Night, Aerobatics, IR(R) etc. Then maybe consider instructing as a part time pursuit. You'll never be able to pay a mortgage as an instructor, but you can earn pocket money and it's very rewarding from a personal perspective.
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Old 7th Aug 2015, 08:18
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I'm 36 at the moment
And the majority of CTC graduates are around 23 years old - and there's a few hundred a year all looking for jobs as well.

fwjc has it
ETOPS is offline  
Old 7th Aug 2015, 10:51
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Join Date: Sep 2006
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Keep flying. Channel your skills and energy towards a business that can eventually afford you a nice aircraft to use for business/pleasure would be my recommendation. Much better prospects than trying to find a career as a working pilot.
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Old 7th Aug 2015, 11:03
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ditto to fwjc.


The Commander was started last week!
MrAverage is offline  
Old 8th Aug 2015, 21:43
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Thanks for the replies
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Old 9th Aug 2015, 04:58
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Going downhill rapidly

I could not recommend getting into aviation in any form at your age as the rewards are not appropriate to the effort and investment required to get the licences and qualifications.

The whole thing started going down hill when back in the early 90's the rich kids started to get mummy & daddy to pay for type ratings, the bean counters copped on to this and started charging for type ratings and now for line training.

The engineering side of the business is getting as bad but the rewards are very much lower with one well known defense contractor paying skilled but unlicensed aircraft mechanics IRO 21k per year ( I the south of the UK that income would have to be suplimented by Govenment income support for a family man !).

Judging from what my solicitor is charging me for the very slow and lackluster house move legal work I would advise moving into a so called professon that has a closed shop run by a professonal body to protect your income. This can more than pay for your pleasure flying.
A and C is offline  
Old 9th Aug 2015, 11:16
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Keep flying. Channel your skills and energy towards a business that can eventually afford you a nice aircraft to use for business/pleasure would be my recommendation. Much better prospects than trying to find a career as a working pilot.
Pretty much the perfect answer IMO.
The Old Fat One is offline  
Old 9th Aug 2015, 14:08
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I think that A&C is a bit overly negative about the state of the industry, but it does depend upon where you look.

I did a CPL in my 30s, and use it regularly, as a mixture of instructor, ferry pilot and test pilot: although far more often than as a pilot I use the knowledge in other things I do . On the other hand, so far (never say never!) I've not worked as a full time role as a professional pilot, nor see that happening any time soon.

I've no idea what your existing qualifications and skills are Dave, but I'd venture an inspired guess that they are potentially useable somewhere in the aircraft industry. What presumably you don't presently have is significant knowledge of the professional side of aviation: a PPL is a start there and depending upon where you might go, commercial and instructing qualifications can add to that usefully.

So, whilst aspiring to be a full time professional pilot isn't out of court - and if that's what you really want to do, frankly, go for it - there are all sorts of other jobs in aviation which can combine flying knowledge and other professional skills you might have. And if you are in the right place, and have a professional licence, you might be surprised what comes along on the side.

Of course, what other people have said is also true - just try and make lots of money doing something else, then spend it on flying! That clearly works for lots of other people.

Genghis the Engineer is offline  
Old 9th Aug 2015, 19:40
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Slightly different angle I was chatting to a friend about this subject and that is we are in the service industry.

You are as good as your last flight and have nothing to show for it if anything goes wrong.

There is always the medical hanging over your head? One day you walk in a pilot and come out an ex pilot.

People start businesses and watch them grow! They have something tangible an investment, something which they can sell or will carry on giving them an income into retirement years.

Flying? Your as good as your last flight. Nothing to show, nothing to sell or give an income into your retirement and if unlucky you could loose it all in the AMEs office.

I too fly professionally in private jets but I had to recently take on a legal consultant who charged 450 an hour and can carry on being that legal consultant into his 70s
He is a professional too but makes in an hour more than I do in a day and he does it five days a week

Don't get me wrong I have some great memories ferrying jets around the world and flying customers all over Europe but it means being very ungrounded, waking up in hotels and not even knowing which country your in. Sometimes I hanker to going back to single piston flying for fun on a sunny day

By the way it is a great skirt puller especially in some of these distant east European countries


Last edited by Pace; 10th Aug 2015 at 09:22.
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Old 9th Aug 2015, 21:05
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Are you creative? Flying a jet transport is demanding, but it isn't creative and I know a few who have gone that route and regretted not being able to stretch the creative side of their natures. Most demanding careers have a strongly creative element, especially in business.

The upside is that when you walk away from the aeroplane, the job's done. Until the next flight. Most demanding careers aren't like that - you live them (even if not actively engaged in them when not at work) 24/7. That can be stressful for some.
Shaggy Sheep Driver is offline  
Old 9th Aug 2015, 22:00
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Think of the money!

What do you do to earn a crust davew1? How much do you think you will be earning in 10 years time? Do a ten-year net income projection based on sensible numbers starting from today.

With me so far?

Now... how much will it cost you to earn your ATPL? Tot up all those costs.
How long will it take you to get your ticket? At least a year full time.
Best case, you get a job immediately upon graduation. But do you need to pay for a type-rating? Better add that in too.
You'll be starting at the bottom rung of the aviation ladder in perhaps 18-months from now, how much do you think your likely salary will be?
When do you think you'll get a command upgrade?

Now do another 10-year net income projection using these numbers. You can add in a little extra every year for pay-rises (ha!) and factor in that command upgrade and the additional pay that will bring. This is a best case scenario.

Compare to the number you first thought of. Terrified? Or happy?
Hyph is offline  
Old 10th Aug 2015, 07:19
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Join Date: May 2014
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It's not that bad!

Just a post to agree with Genghis and put a slightly more positive spin on this.

The OP did not mention ATPL or CAT flying, which everyone seems to assume he meant.

I would say that he should keep flying, do some more research and find out which part of the overall aviation industry he is interested in.
There are many alternatives to managing systems at the sharp end of an aluminium tube... from instruction to biz jets, with fish spotting in the Mexican gulf, cattle herding in Australia, medevac, calibration flying, aerial work, air taxis (and turboprop jollies in Indonesia...) in between and many more - many of which will be on PPRuNe somewhere.

The aviation industry is no better or worse a place to make your living than any other - if you are good at what you do and enjoy doing it, you should be able to enjoy a decent lifestyle. Compared to many other industries, it is a growth industry and there is a fair amount of money slushing around the system.

So, keep flying, grow your experience and qualifications and find out more about the various areas within the industry. Don't get hung up on a flying-only job (which, as mentioned above, can make you into a one-trick pony...), but look for something where flying is a part but not all. And, like Genghis says, you probably already have some skills which can be transferred to the industry. Age is not a hindrance but you should try to get something out of your existing experience.

Having said that, to repeat what the others have said, a CPL or ATPL by itself is unlikely to be a quick ticket to riches and fame...

Baikonour is offline  
Old 10th Aug 2015, 17:56
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Thread Starter
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Location: NE Scotland
Age: 40
Posts: 15
Thanks for all the comments and advice guys. Much appreciated. This thread has given me a few things to think about and a couple options to consider. My ultimate goal would be to gain an ATPL and fly for a Living. But I think, as some replies have said, I will do a bit more research before taking the plunge.

In the meantime I'll continue to enjoy my flying, visiting new places and meeting new people.

davew1 is offline  
Old 11th Aug 2015, 16:24
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I was in a very similar situation 15 years or so ago, went off and did my ATPLS and CPL just as 9/11 happened and the industry took a nose dive.

Went back to my old well paid profession allowing me to enjoy flying all sorts of weird and wonderful types and now find myself doing this for fun!

Wouldn't swap it for commercial flying that's for sure!!! Pity it doesn't pay though....maybe one day
Unusual Attitude is offline  
Old 12th Aug 2015, 02:02
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I should also clarify - I have been paid to fly, commercially (not CAT) pretty much since I got my tickets. So I'm not bitter about the struggle to find a job because I was fortunate or lucky enough to find one.

But lucky for me means I'm still building up debt because my incomes, along with current debts, means I'm actually down by a not inconsiderable amount per month on living costs, and that means I'm in a continuous downward spiral. And yes, I really am lucky to be in this position. I expect to be like this for a few more years before I reach break-even, and a few more years after that to have enough seniority to be able to have some kind of work-life balance.

Or I can back out of the industry and go back to earning more money, being with my family and friends, and have more freedom and time to go and do proper fun flying. Having put so much into this, it's a difficult decision to make.

Think about what decision you would make, and whether you'd feel the same if you'd already invested all of that time and effort into passing the tests.
fwjc is offline  
Old 12th Aug 2015, 13:17
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Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: UK,Twighlight Zone
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Its a crap job in a crap industry that takes money from the gullible and promises the earth to put it bluntly.

Save your money, use it to go flying to places that YOU want to go to on YOUR schedule. A nice aircraft etc.

Everyone has the same dream, "I love flying, I would love to be paid to fly as it would be living the dream". If you are lucky enough to actually get a job, which at your age is not exactly in the high percentage of chances, it will be as a result of getting your self hopelessly in debt and never being able to earn enough to pay it back. You will then be on other peoples budgets and timescales with a life thats not your own.

The airlines want the young and gullible who will pay to fly and follow the SOP's. The GA sector is constantly shrinking and the jobs are rare pickings. That leaves Instructing which is one of the worst paid jobs going for one of the highest skill sets in aviation. While its used as stepping stone to other things its always going to be devalued.

All turning a hobby into a profession does is ruin a good hobby!!

And before you think I am saying this because I am bitter at not having gotten a job, I am a Line pilot with a secondary job as Head of Training of an ATO with over 8,000hrs in the job with 15 years experience and I have never had to pay for a rating and not to mention being an Examiner and LAA coach and test pilot......

Beware a lot of the answers you get on here as they will come from those in the same position as you and so projecting the positive in order to convince themselves they have done the right thing. Or from those with well paid jobs doing stuff on the side as "commercial pilots" in order to have PPL club bragging rights.

I suggest you do your research carefully and in the real world rather than on a forum. Ring round the GA operators and ask them what the chances of a job are, contact the airlines and as them what they are looking for etc. You may just find it an eyeopener.....

S-Works is offline  
Old 12th Aug 2015, 15:31
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Admittedly I have less than 2000hrs over 26 year, and am only a part time instructor, test and ferry pilot - who also uses his CPL, engineering qualifications and various other industry experience regularly in other aviation related jobs - but I really do disagree with Bose here about the industry as a whole.

There are crap jobs and working environments everywhere, but personally I am having a great career thanks.

Easy - never.

Frustrating - often.

Worthwhile - almost always.

Adequately paid - usually, but never likely to be rich.

I have qualifications that could arguably make me more money for less hours outside of aviation, but frankly, I have no interest in trying to. I will doubtless move around within aviation, but can think of nowhere I'd rather be working.

But, I'm not an airline pilot - and it's not a job that I've ever seriously contemplated. There are too many other things to do in aviation that appeal to me more.

Genghis the Engineer is offline  
Old 12th Aug 2015, 15:52
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Join Date: Sep 2003
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Genghis, your career is not as a Commercial Pilot, you are an academic and I imagine well paid for it. Give up the day job and concentrate solely on earning a living as a Commercial Pilot and then come back and give us some perspective.

With all respect, you are just one of those playing at "commercial" aviation on the side.
S-Works is offline  

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