How do new pilots get beyond the Catch 22 of the aviation industry? It goes something like this “You’ve shown some interest and aptitude in learning to fly. We have a position and we’d love to hire you but you don’t have enough experience – come back when you do.” To which the pilot hopeful replies, ” But I can’t get the kind of experience you want without getting hired.” Such is the world of aviation.
Got a note from a helicopter pilot, Barry, who has been trying desperately to break into commercial helicopter operations for several years. This would be a career change for him so he hasn’t had the benefit of military training and paid his own way. But to go beyond the basics he needs turbine chopper time, which on one’s own nickel is especially daunting, so he hit on a novel idea.
How about the companies offering an internship? Perhaps it turns out to be more of an apprenticeship. Whether lightly paid or completely volunteer, the idea is to allow the intern/apprentice to function as a non-required second pilot to gain experience. If it’s an EMS job, they would learn about that highly specialized environment, could add a set of eyes and hands to a high workload environment. NTSB has called for more flight crew – possible safety benefit?
There are cost, logistics, liability and weight considerations but perhaps some flight operations might experiment a bit. It’s a great way to get to know if this is a person you’d like to spend hours in the cockpit with and you’ve had the benefit of training them in your way of doing things. At the Air Safety Institute we’ve had interns for years who have assisted in all manner of activities including flight. Granted, it’s not quite the same thing but the concept has validity. AOPA had hired several and others have gone on to professional aviation jobs.
In a broader sense, shouldn’t the industry help people who would like to work in it provide at least an open window, if not a doorway, to enter?
Conversely, there are many people who are looking for flying jobs and have the credentials. Some regional airlines and companies have done a spectacular job balancing their business plans on the hard working backs of folks who just wanted to be the best pilots they could and make a living wage. The more candidates, the greater the competition and potentially the lower the wages. Flying for free or low wages certainly doesn’t help that.
Where’s the balance point?