does the most qualified pilot always get the job?

There’s no doubt that having good pilot credentials is important when job hunting. But from our earliest days as pilots, each of us has learned to revere flight hours. Somewhere back in ground school was buried the subliminal message, “the pilot with the most hours is the best… the pilot with the most hours is the best.” Strictly from an experience standpoint, maybe there’s some truth to this. But the question we’re considering is a little different. “Does the pilot with the most hours always get the job?”

Let’s face it; almost every pilot out there yearns for some additional “shoo-in” credential for the next job up the career ladder. Single-engine pilots crave multi-engine time. Multi pilots want turbine hours. Turboprop pilots want jet time. New flight instructors wish they had their Instrument Instructor ratings. Copilots yearn for pilot-in-command time. Let’s face it, few pilots ever feel they’ve got ideal credentials. Yet pilots do get jobs, and not always with the best qualifications. Why?

Let’s consider the credentials of the following two pilots. One has recently completed all of the basic ratings; the other is a bit more experienced. For purposes of job hunting, which of these two individuals would you rather be?

JHP Logbook-1 updatedSmw1200

I suspect if we polled everyone reading this, 99% would rather be Pilot B. (The remaining 1% would choose Pilot A because they think this is a trick question!) Pilot B is certainly more experienced and, of course, it’s always desirable to have the best qualifications possible. Besides, there are some flying positions that only Pilot B could hold, due to federal regulations and insurance requirements. Unfortunately, there aren’t many secrets as to how to transform yourself from Pilot A into Pilot B. It’s time-consuming, difficult, expensive, and often traumatic to pick up those extra few thousand hours, and it takes years. So, is Pilot A’s situation hopeless? Maybe not. Let’s look again at Pilots A and B, but with one new distinction added.

Logbook-2 updatedSmw1200

Now, who would you rather be? Almost every pilot will agree that Pilot A is in the better spot. We’ve all read “Position Wanted” ads, where a senior pilot with six jet type ratings and 10,000 hours is begging for somebody (anybody!) to recognize all that experience, and offer him or her a job. Pilot B could be in that position.

At the same time, each of us knows someone like Pilot A who got a jet charter position or was hired by a commuter on a “wet” commercial ticket, or who made it into the “majors” with relatively limited qualifications.

The difference is that one pilot “knew somebody,” and the other did not. One can either despise the person who got the break, or work hard to be next in line. That’s why you must put as much effort into making good contacts as earning your ratings. It’s far easier getting to know somebody than it is to pick up several thousand hours of flight time! Of course, it’s best to be well qualified as a pilot, and have contacts who can help you meet your career objectives. That’s what you should be shooting for.

Hopefully I’ve convinced you of the importance of developing good connections while you’re building flight experience. To learn more, see Job Hunting for Pilots©2009 Gregory N. Brown

Leave a Reply