Friday, March 27, 2009

Blog Your Way to the Cockpit

Air Asia is running a promotion beginning with the words, "So YOU wanna be a pilot? Simple. What do you have to do? Blog. What? Thats it? Yes, you're reading it right. Blog." Woo! I'm doing it right!

In many countries, including the UK, it is normal for candidates with no flight experience whatsoever to be hired by an airline, trained from square one at that airline's expense and dropped into the right seat of a jet at two hundred odd hours. Students who pay for their own training are considered "self-sponsored," underlining the fat that someone else usually sponsors the process. During my flight training, I had an e-mail correspondence with a fellow student pilot in England. It went pretty much the same, with us debating the differences in radio technique ("what? you're allowed to say 'takeoff' on the radio?") and airspace ("Purple? Our airspace has letters, not colours!") When we both finished, he started flying a B737 and I got a job flying traffic watch in a C172. I'm afraid we kind of lost touch after that.

Usually the selection process for the coveted training spots involves personal interviews, aptitude tests and so on. I'm not sure how they normally choose the people they call to interviews. I imagine a lot of it is the same as me competing with thousands of pilots who meet the minimum standards of Canadian airlines: timing, luck and who you know.

So why not allow ten people whose daddies don't have the right friends to compete with those whose do? As the competition states, "The 10 winners are entitled to be the first to attend the first round of selection for AirAsia's new pilot intake." These folks aren't skipping the interview phase at all. They're just getting an interview. They could winnow resumes based on school marks, but after a certain level you're getting nerdier, not more suited for aviation. Really if you're going to hire someone and train them to fly an airplane, why not select the part of the candidate pool on the basis of spelling, grammar, composition and the knowledge and maturity necessary to write a good blog entry.

The person who pointed me at this thought it was poor publicity for Air Asia, but I don't see that. In my opinion, a passenger delving deeply enough into the workings of his airline to be reading their blog is beyond believing the pilot fa├žade and might be interested to see a bit of the real people who strive to get interviews and make the decisions. Of course I'm biased, but I think you can read a wannabe airline pilot's blog without worrying about the quality of fully-trained pilots.

I'd enter the competition, but I don't have time to learn good Bahasa Malaysian before the competition closes.


drummer maggot richard said...

are you a piolot? if so ,cool i want to be one.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm well I'm tempted unfortunately I don't speak Malaysian and I won't have time to learn it so that kindof puts me out of the race :-/

I wonder if any European airlines would do this?

Anonymous said...

And to think that just yesterday, I turned 29. There goes my dream of airline Bling-Bling! :-(

Anonymous said...

God help the poor flight school that has to train the wannabe for that gig. Seriously.

Airline bling?

That's a PNS NG with the computer sleeve/slot, the Executive Duffel and a Scotty's flight case.

For every jackass 300 hour wonder I see with that shiny new rig festooned with catchy stickers (like a 737 smiley), an angel chokes to death.

Aviatrix said...

When I cleaned out my office at my pre-avition job there was a battered leather case that someone had left months before and never claimed. I kept it, its age a deceptive argument for my experience, but while there are hundreds of airplanes of the type I fly working in North America, I've never seen a bag sticker for it, so it just has a few safety stickers on it. And now I leave it behind in favour of a leather messenger bag.

Mark said...

Once upon a time what you say was true of the UK.. nobody is offering sponsored anymore, nor has done for some time, it's self sponsored all the way.

However, you're right, the main options are modular (bit at a time, pay for it yourself, very expensive), or integrated (all at once like a college course, VERY VERY expensive). You also have to do a multi crew course to get into that jet job (more money)

The main reason for this is that there's simply not the commercial GA there to feed the airlines.

I'm not even sure if you can get an ATPL on experience without doing the course.

Upside - shorter path. Downside - need heaps o' cash (possibly around $200,000USD total)...

As for purple airspace, yeah, that's more of a tempo restriction for royal flights. The rest of it is plain 'ol ICAO style A thro G :)

Aviatrix said...

Ah Mark, must be the low cost carriers. Thank you for updating my information there. It eases my jealousy some.

I know senior Canadian pilots whose airlines paid for their IFR training, and know of pilots who were forved to pay tens of thousands for jet type ratings just before a certain airline went bust.

Anonymous said...


Did you ever look at shelling out for an airliner type rating and going the expat pilot route?

Before air travel went cliff diving thanks to the depression, that might have been a way to advance your career a bit faster.

Aviatrix said...

I tried that once, Anonymous 01:31. Didn't work out very well for me.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm all about stickers on the flight case- especially the ones that pop up during contract time.

But an EMB170 kiddie with a "Guppy Killer" sticker? Where the hell does that dumbass think he's going after his days flying an 86 seater for cheap rates? By the by, spending 400 bones on a piece of art flight case and putting that stupid crap on it proves my point that these waterheads need all of that automation. They're clueless.

Me? I have Dropkick Murphys, "IDIOTS OF THE WORLD, IGNITE!", Yossarian is my copilot, Irish Ninja, and "Infidel"- complete with the Arabic word 'kaffir' underneath.

I used to have 'Nosy little shit, aren't ya?' in a teeny font. CP no likey. My buddy had, "I miss my ex. My aim's improving." Little did the pax know that tote carried a gun.

But what I do NOT have is a B747, or "ER FLIGHT TEAM," or any other allusions to grandeur.

Anonymous said...

OH! I forgot to list my favorite flight bag sticker:

St. Patrick Airlines: Your #1 choice for snake-free flying.


Erin said...

"3. Good command of English and Bahasa Malaysia both written and spoken."


Worldpilot said...

"timing, luck and who you know."
If it were only like that...

For major Airlines and Airline Groups in all of Europe even if you're the son of the CEO it will not make a difference if you fail the selection process.

Concerning the term "self sponsored" you also want to differ between basic (PPL, CPL, IR etc..) training costs and an airliner typerating.

Unfortunately there is a major group of people over here that not only self sponsor their training but also their typerating (many without even having a confirmed job). Only very few continue to work their way up through instructing or air taxi.

A legitimate company will pay your typerating for you and therefore bond you or similar after you have coped with their aptitude and company qualification tests.

Others will only accept your resume if you agree to finance your complete typerating (which can easily cost from 25000 Euro to 50000 Euro with ground school, aircraft training etc..).

I know a guy who spent about 70000 Euro (average price) on his integrated course, then did not pass any selections and subsequently "bought" an Airbus 320 typerating incl. 6 touch and go's. Unfortunately he still did not find a job. He later was "hired" by a company (that did not require aptitude tests) after agreeing to self fund a Boeing 737 typerating with them. Summing up it took about 130000 Euro for the guy to land in the right seat... pathetic.

Believe me Aviatrix in Europe you could know MOL or similar CEO's personally but still your experience and your hard work towards that "shiny job" would mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING next to a guy who just sent a check worth 25000 Euros for a Typerating. It is unfair and it gets worse every year.

In my eyes the problem is that the "shopping for qualification" (and also jobs) by a few lowers the market value of all pilots and inverts the traditional employee - employer relationship by making the pilot group one that companies draw financial benefit from.

Here is an IHT Article on the subject:

If you want a replacement for that lost UK contact feel free to email me. I don't fly a 737 though...

PS: Don't put stickers on your flightbag!

Aviatrix said...

I refer to "who you know" as the route to the first interview, not to getting the job. There are far far more qualified candidates than interview invitations. After you get the interview you need the interview skills and the flight skills to get the job and the flight and people skills to keep it.

In North America flight bag stickers are the norm, usually for your type, your company and some interesting types you have flown in the past.

Aluwings said...

The current economic situation could prove disastrous for those pilots who have borrowed a whack of $$ to pay for their own training, and now either can't find work or face layoffs.

Regarding this conclusion in that article linked (above): "...Whitehead can expect to spend the next 10 to 15 years paying off his flight school loans. ... Yet despite the financial risks, Whitehead's investment is likely to pay off in a long career..."

The author fails to note that only about 1/3 of airline pilots "make it" to full retirement age. The majority drop off along the way with medical issues, failure to maintain/upgrade competency "issues." And that's not counting the ones who drop out before retirement age due to companies going bankrupt, layoffs (sometimes passed off as "early retirement"...), and other reasons.

Just a word to the wise if any of Aviatrix's readers are thinking of paying their own way to a job by taking on huge debts. Be cautious.

Worldpilot said...

I see.

Regarding the stickers.. We do have stickers here too. Then again you're wearing a uniform to maintain a prof. appearance and that also goes for your flight case. Some airlines issue the flight cases and have a ban for putting stickers on them.

Don't get me wrong I like stickers...but I follow the advice a 40 year veteran capital C Captain gave me.


Aviatrix said...

The Canadian airline is more likely to have given you the stickers.

Sarah said...

Sticker shock: I can see FlyingEurope's point about tacky & insulting stickers. Even have yours, dashtrash!

But the Boeing stickers are pretty, if a little repetitious.

... going back to unprofessional aviating & lurking @work now..

X-av8r said...

As an old retired airline type, let me tell you why "Brain Bags" have stickers on them. You show up for a trip at your domicile base, after commuting in, and there is a huge storage rack containing from two to three hundred pilot's bags. Basically, they all look alike and it would take valuable time to find yours, if the only difference was a name-tag. So we personalize them as a matter of necessity. You probably fly one three-day trip a week and after four days off, you can't remember exactly where in that rack you left it. Ike.

Worldpilot said...


That is a pretty good reason... I will get a sticker for my case and if confronted will explain what you posted.


stickerstickler said...

I can imagine someone putting a "beeper" on a flight bag - like a car locking system - with a remote control to set it beeping to help find it... ;-)

Aviatrix said...

And then they'd take the beeper transmitter away at security.