Arguably, securing your first commercial pilot position is the most difficult challenge of your career, and no flying training organisation offers absolute guarantees. Unfortunately you are now one of the thousands of pilots graduating from flight school with minimum hours fighting for very few jobs in a very competitive market.

Bear in mind that the training path takes approximately two years, and as aviation is extremely volatile the job market can change drastically between commencing and completing your training. It is vital to research what opportunities are likely to be available when you graduate, and whether you are prepared to go anywhere in the world to secure employment. The more flexible you are the more likely you will be to succeed.

Before embarking on a costly and time-consuming training programme it is important to ask some key questions:

  • What is the likelihood of securing a commercial pilot position upon graduation from training?
  • Where are the growth areas going to be in the future – if these are outside the UK, am prepared to move and live abroad for significant periods of time?
  • Am I going to be able to secure a position that will service my debt sufficiently?
  • Will the financial commitment I need to make in my career be a worthwhile investment in the long term?
  • Does the profession offer me the rewards and lifestyle I am looking for?
  • Is the profession able to give me the security that I would need if I have a family to support?

There is still a good career to be forged in commercial aviation, but unfortunately it now can be somewhat risky, and sometimes career paths are not chosen but enforced by fate.

Traditionally UK airlines will start hiring in the autumn so that the correct numbers of pilots are in place for the following peak summer season. Ideally, to prevent a possible break in currency your training should be planned so that you will have completed by the end of the summer. This will give you time to write and send your CV and make the follow up calls and emails. Recruitment departments usually ring to schedule an interview, so it is imperative you are contactable during this time – if you miss a call they may go on to the next person and you could miss your opportunity.

Airlines can change their requirements at very short notice, so just because you didn’t meet their requirements initially doesn’t rule you out entirely, so you must keep in regular contact.

If you are unable to secure a position immediately upon graduation we recommend that you try to get temporary employment in an aviation-related environment. This will help you to keep abreast of changes in the industry and make important connections.

Airlines receive large numbers of CVs from pilots in the same position on a daily basis so you must ensure that you meet their expectations in terms of presentation and cultural fit. Time should be spent after graduation making thorough preparations for interviews and ensuring that you meet all the selection criteria – not just on technical flying skills. Image can play an important part, and often an airline recruitment officer will state that the ultimate deciding factor was whether they would like to spend 10 hours in a cockpit with that individual.

Perseverance is a key to getting a job. Individuals must be prepared proactively to market themselves, otherwise failure at the last hurdle may be the final outcome. Some pilots have taken up to five years to secure their first opportunity, but one to two years is a more normal time-frame.