If you spend time perusing message boards on the web that cater to pilots, you will find there are all kinds of jobs you never would have thought existed at one time. For instance, in cargo operations, the two heavy hitters are UPS and FedEx. However, there are a lot of what are called ACMI companies, short for Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance, and Insurance. In other words, they are charter outfits of the cargo world, and they fly everything from single engine Cessna Caravans to Boeing 747s. In simple terms, they usually operate on an on-call status to provide lift for UPS, FedEx, DHL/Airborne Express, or for companies around the world that need an airplane and a crew.
To be sure, these are usually second-tier jobs, and the pay and benefits are nowhere near as good as you’ll find at the major cargo carriers. But, for pilots who are looking for adventure, or who are just looking for work or a unique experience, they might be an option.
Overseas jobs are also an option, especially for pilots looking to get some valuable PIC time. These jobs are not always easy to get, and they can be a challenge for families. Some are very stable and offer the potential for a career; others are contract operations through crew leasing companies for a defined period of time. Some require a move, and others don’t. A number pay very well, especially for captains, but don’t be fooled by the money alone. It takes a hearty soul to commit to flying in Africa or Asia for a set period of time. Further, unlike the U.S., it isn’t as simple as just walking to the airport and boarding a flight home if you decide you don’t like the job. You will have to be able to prove you were employed when you apply for a job stateside, so burning bridges isn’t wise.
But whether you are flying 747s around the globe in the middle of the night for 17 days in a row, or dodging thunderstorms in a Caravan, or landing on dirt strips in Africa or Alaska, some jobs are not only too good to pass up for the experience (if not the pay), but they may be the key to getting you where you want to go. Pilots that go overseas and get a lot of international flying not only come home with a passport to be envied, but they have tremendous experience the major airlines covet. This is especially true if you can finagle your way into a position flying internationally on a heavy. Granted, some of these jobs require a fair amount of turbine experience to be competitive, but not always.
I’ve talked to a number of pilots over the years who have impressed airline recruiters not with a logbook of jet time, but with the spirit of adventure it takes to fly in very challenging environments. A pilot with a demonstrable love of flying might be willing to go anywhere for a job, and that kind of ambition only helps. Often times, what lands the pilot his dream job is showing just what he will do in the pursuit of that dream.