Dear Aviators,

Flying has always been a job with many ups and downs. But what the world and the aviation industry is facing now is unprecedented. We are not talking about a turbulence which will be over again, sadly it is a down we have not experienced since the terror attack in 2001 and the world finance crisis in 2008/2009. This down is more intense and even more unpredictable. Nevertheless the corona virus has not diminished dreams and ambitions to become a pilot. Since the pandemic started I received a lot of questions asking me if I would still recommend becoming a commercial pilot. In this blog post I will be 100% honest with you.

becoming a commercial pilot

Photography by Manu (Professional photographer & plane spotter)

It is time to remove your pink glasses

and leave the fairytale with unicorns and airlines searching desperately for pilots. Nobody, including me, wants to discourage ambitions and dreams but it is important to talk about how the industry is now and what it might be in the next few years. Even an outlook into the near future is difficult since times are so uncertain. 

When will there be a vaccine available? How will travel restrictions change in the long term? What preventive measures will airlines follow? Which airlines will exist in the future? When will tourist travel come back? Will we ever reach the before corona level?

The list of questions goes on but all answers decide on your question: “Will I get to be a pilot if I start flying training now?”

The current situation is a true nightmare. Approximately 10,000 commercial pilots are currently unemployed solely in Europe and the UK. Thousands of pilots are still fearing they may lose their job because of the pandemic and those who still have their jobs are on reduced pay or on part time hours.

becoming a commercial pilot

Photography by Florian (Professional photographer & Videographer)

becoming a commercial pilot

Photography by Manu (Professional photographer & plane spotter)

Stagnation of Pilot Recruitment for Years

According to the British Airline Pilots association (BALPA) there will be no meaningful recruitment for about two years. Finding a flying job will be extremely difficult. Especially with the high competition from experienced pilots looking for a cockpit job as well. Pilot training takes approximately two years, so you might be done after the pandemic is over and things have normalized again. However even if this means the demand rises again, an airline would prefer to choose the experienced and type rated pilot first. Nevertheless, I do not want to discourage you because my story proves that ambition and hard work pays off. When I completed flight training in 2010 the job market situation was not really the best. I applied with numerous airlines without any success. I visited an aviation fair, which led to me getting hired – with a little bit of luck, good timing and going the extra mile.

“Where there’s a will there’s a way”

I want you to avoid paying lots of money for your pilot training and then finding out that there is not a single job available. It definitely makes sense to wait at least until mid 2021 to see how the situation is then and if airlines have a more precise recruitment plan. The challenges and risks are currently too high.

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No air travel like before Corona 

At the moment it is very difficult to assess how the future in the aviation industry will look. But I am very sure that the general demand for flights will not reach the same level as before the pandemic started. Firstly lots of people are suffering from the crisis which means they will simply not have the means to go on a vacation. Secondly the mentality to go on business trips will change or has changed already.

Companies will think twice in the future and decide if the budget for the business trip makes sense, or if the meeting can be done online instead. In general, most companies will be weakened through the crisis which means they will have a reduced budget for travel in general. The business traveller who books expensive business class tickets will fly less, which will seriously impact the airline’s revenue.

becoming a commercial pilot

Photography by Florian (Professional photographer & Videographer)

My honest advice and recommendation about becoming a commercial pilot

Do not enter flight training right now!

If you are leaving high school and you want to become a pilot: I recommend those who are leaving high school at this time, to get experience in another profession or a degree. Once completed you can reconsider becoming a pilot. This way you postpone your start date to a time where there will be a  much clearer picture of the situation. Additionally, some pilots will be leaving because of retirement or a new profession. This will guarantee you a full back-up plan in case you do not manage to get employment as a pilot.

If you have started your flight training already: I think in this situation it makes sense to finish your course with the pilot school in order to receive your license and use every possible resource to find a job and be open to relocate.

becoming a commercial pilot

Photography by Manu (Professional photographer & plane spotter)

Every personal situation is different, so you need to access the risks and benefits. Be realistic, but still follow your ambitions and dreams. To have a Plan B is advisable for any one of us. I wish I had better news for you, but my intention was to be honest in answering the question if you should consider becoming a commercial pilot right now.

Leave me a comment below your thoughts about this topic and do not forget to like the blog post! Thanks to Florian for the photos of me and Manu for the amazing aircraft photos. Maker sure to check out their work. 

Safe and healthy travels and happy landings!

Your PilotPatrick

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