Reader James Ball sent me his recently-published guide to Canadian aviation careers, So, You Want to be a Pilot, Eh? to see if I would review it for you guys. After reading it I'm happy not only to review it but to recommend it. Judging from my own experience and the e-mail I receive, there is certainly a need for such a book, and I can't think of a comparable career guide for prospective Canadian pilots. The closest might be Landing the Big Job, but back when I bought that one, So, You Want to be a Pilot, Eh? would have been a much better choice, had it existed.
James starts where the student pilot should start, with the question "do you really want to be a pilot?" He honestly explains the parts of the career that are tough, holding out no false hope to the waverer, while maintaining a sense of humour. "It's difficult to keep track of all the different licences and ratings that are available to pilots. It can be even more difficult to pay for them all." He gives an excellent jargon-free and Canada-wide overview of the industry, from dollar-a-jumper paradropping jobs up to major airline captains drawing six figure salaries. As he discusses different hiring policies and corporate histories he refers obliquely to companies as, for example, "one operator based in Norman Wells, NWT." Those made me laugh as James and everyone else who has been around the circuit a few times can recognize the operator just by the base.
I liked the good Canada-specific advice he gives regarding joining the military to learn to fly, working the ramp and working the dock. Those are areas in which Canada is quite different from the US, and their airline job-hunting or career guides don't apply. James also gives many useful website URLs. These will unfortunately change in less time than it take to read the book, but James is providing updates and errata on his blog. Perhaps he will group all the recommended URLs on one page there, to spare readers from having to type them in.
James gives good guidance, much of it straight from the Transport Canada website, without trying to take the place of more comprehensive guides on topics like passing written examinations and flight tests.
The resume guide is very worthwhile, as aviation resumes are different than those in other industries. It is vital that your hours be clearly visible and reference contact information be actually given. James says this, but I'm going to underline it here so that anyone hunting around the net for pilot resume advice finds it and buys the book.
There were a few things I didn't like, such as James' advice to student pilots out on a solo, "After you've completed the checklist, take some time to explore your local area." Flight instructors recommending this book should censor that part. Also one of the books he recommends is of such poor quality that my local aviation store has dropped it (but they do carry So, You Want to be a Pilot, Eh?).
There are items I wanted to add, such as the possibility of other more stable and lucrative careers in aviation, but that would make it a different book. There's nothing missing within the scope of the book and I was frequently surprised to see excellent but not widely-known tips. And there was even one that I had never heard of, "abstain from sexual activity for a few days" before an aviation medical. Is this folklore or based on some kind of fact? Unless it gets you pregnant, I don't know of any physical changes as the result of sex that persist long enough to drive to the doctor's office. Perhaps this is a male thing, and one of my readers will enlighten me.
I caught a few editing glitches, the military requirement for Basic Officer Training and Foreign Language Training mentioned twice in consecutive paragraphs in the same section, but there is no fluff here. James has a concise style and still fills over two hundred pages with useful information.
This would be a great purchase for the family of a prospective pilot. Amend the cover with a sticker to make the title read "So, Your Kid Wants to be a Pilot, Eh?" and give it to your mom. I would recommend this book not only for Canadians thinking about a flying career, but to student pilots, pilots looking for their first job, and instructors looking to move on. Also if you're a foreign commercial pilot interested in working in Canada, this book contains what you should know about the Canadian industry and process. It's also written simply enough for ESL students, and laid out so you can refer to one part or another, but it's readable and interesting enough to go right through, as I did.
The list price is $24.95 and there's a Buy It Now link on James' website but it seems that the publisher and distributor have changed their links, so go straight to Chapters to buy it online. It's even on sale at $16.46 which equates to about eight minutes of dual instruction time, converted to student pilot dollars.