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If I had to do it Again

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Taken from our Forum – Link to discussion

What I would like to offer in this column to new pilots is an advice thread on how to become a pilot, maybe I will title it “If I had to do it again” I hope you will offer your perspectives so as to be constructive and help the next pilot out.

It is my view that there is a lack of mentorship to the next generation of pilots today. I see new guys come through the doors and think “was I that green?”

The simple answer is yes I was, but when I was that green I was not climbing into a pressurized turbine aircraft. When I was starting out there was always another pilot to give me advice and take a minute to teach and be that mentor.

So bad grammar and punctuation be dammed, here we go!
“If I had to do it again”

So you want to be a pilot? You know all the lines from Top Gun and look up every time a plane flies over.  Simple right, you head down to your local flight training school and plunk down your hard earned cash or take out a loan eager to get started.  Flight colleges offer degrees along with all your professional  pilot credentials and they will tell you “that is what the airlines want, its only $100,000.”

That’s a lot of coin you think, but hey I read there is a pilot shortage. And besides you think to yourself I will be piloting my 777 across the oceans with a dozen flight attendants behind me to exotic destination for huge money very soon.


Flight schools and colleges exist to sell you this dream and it is all bullshit.  I have been flying professionally for 18 years and even before that I was hearing about this “shortage”. 

There is no shortage of pilots. Something always happens to stop the good times.

Let’s take a minute and plan your career focusing on landing that all important first gig. Whether you want to fly for the airlines or become a bush pilot up north you need to start somewhere. The typical route is either instructing to build hours or head north and work the dock or ramp and then get on flying. Instructing is a fine aspiration, passing your knowledge on to the next generation of pilots and watching them solo and off to their careers.

Hold on a minute, didn’t you just learn how to fly yourself? And now you’re going to teach someone how to be an aviator? Strange setup we have made for ourselves eh, the kid who was flipping your burgers last summer could now be the one teaching you everything he knows about aviation. I won’t go off on that tangent just yet but um ya………………..

In aviation hours are everything but do you have 1000 hours flying experience or 1000 of the same hour?  You see this is the state of instruction if this country, selling you a dream of flight on the backs of inexperienced instructors working for nothing.  If you choose to be an instructor do it for the right reasons not for a line in your logbook.

If I was that pimple faced kid and knowing all I know now this is how I would start my career as a pilot.

Save all the money you can, get a job flipping burgers while in school and start calling and emailing small air taxis that employee people catching planes or chucking bags. These will typically be in northern Ontario or up north in some small town whose name starts or ends with Lake, Fort and maybe Saint.

Yes get out of your parents basement ASAP, try to land a dock job for the summer, learn all you can. Get to know the pilots, don’t be an entitled little shit like half your friends.

This is lesson one, aviation is a very small community these pilots will be your best friend when it comes time to start flying.

Over the summer if you have found a dock job or not when you have a spare minute study the books and for god sake use online learning sites.  Be sure the courses offered by the provider will count towards your course requirements of Transport Canada.  Study, learn and hop on every flight you can, but don’t be pushy hopefully part of your job can be as a “swamper” which means you go along on the flight and push the drums of fuel out the back.

At the end of the summer when the lakes start icing up and you head south keep in touch with the pilots the owner. No excuses use Facebook and LinkedIn, don’t post crap on there to cause all your good work over the summer to be wasted. Get whatever job you can to sustain yourself, hopefully you can land something in the industry but if not flip them burgers boy.

Now the fun part, if you can swing the purchase of a Cessna 150 do it, Better yet find a partner or two to purchase it with you. Seriously look into this it will save you a ton, you can pick up a mid time 150 for around 20K. You will need a freelance instructor and start your flight training, or rent from a flight school if purchasing isn’t in the cards. (Rent the cheapest plane they have it doesn’t matter no one cares 172 vs 150 it is just an hour)

Fly as often as you can, don’t go too long between flights as shaking the cobwebs off costs money. If the weather cooperates you will no doubt have your PPL by next spring and most likely be closing in on your CPL hour requirements. Post your progress on FB be sure you let your boss know you are looking forward to coming back to work  for them next summer.

Try and see if you can get your Float rating as part of your compensation for your next summers work, if not offer to pay him for it just get a receipt for tax time. This rating can just be done on a plane with a qualified float pilot no instructor rating required.  Work your butt off and hop on the plane when asked, if your lucky you will get some stick time out of the deal.
Hopefully you have your Float rating in hand at the end of the next summer, and then its time to finish off your CPL. Find whatever job you can and fly as much as possible especially at night (that will help out later on.)

Once you have your CPL in hand convince your boss to let you take the entry level flying spot with your newly minted CPL. Or maybe ask about Dock/Flying deal. Baring that send out your resume see whats available you never know you might find a great gig, maybe some of the pilots you have met know of a job available.

Hopefully you will fly your bag off and log as much time as possible. You will be so far ahead of your peers with a job in hand and experience that means something to your next employer.

After this sell that 150 and get your Multi IFR and start sending resumes out or if you are smart and want to enjoy your career go back flying the 185 or the beaver.

I don’t hear to many stories from other pilots that start with this one time in cruise at FL250, its more like “there I was down in the shit with the fuel gauge frozen indicating empty, when my iPod quit”

There is no right way I suppose, but before you plunk down money give it some thought beyond “get my CPL.” 

Ideally this is how I would try and plan out the start of my career if I could do it all again.