The Gulf War, 9/11 and even the Global Recession in 2008 have never left the worldwide aviation industry in the position it finds itself right now, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This was highlighted by Airbus Chief Guillaume Faury, who stated, “We are now in the midst of the gravest crisis the aerospace industry has ever known”. Across Europe and the world, it has been heartbreaking to see pilots of various experience be made redundant and, like many of us, their passion for aviation taken away because of the current pandemic we find ourselves in. The outlook for the future is not too optimistic either - with The International Air Transport Association [IATA] stating that, “In 2021 we expect global passenger demand to be 24% below 2019 levels and 32% lower than IATA’s October 2019 Air Passenger forecast for 2021”. Furthermore, IATA states that “We don’t expect 2019 levels to be exceeded until 2023”.
For many aspiring pilots, the daunting outlook for the future of air travel may mean that some may consider alternate job positions, and possibly even giving up their dream of becoming a commercial pilot.
However, at PilotNetwork we believe that even with the current situation, it is still possible to train to be a commercial pilot. Through our website, we have all the necessary tools and information for our customers to decide on how they want to train - and what route will be best for their future career.
It is apparent that there will be a decrease in the number of jobs available for fresh commercial pilots within the next few years. Because of this, we believe that the Modular route may be the best option for pilots to train now, as students will be able to spread their training over the course of a few years and the financial cost that comes with it. It must be noted that along with this, students will be able gain valuable experience that will help in aiding their curriculum vitae.
What the Modular route allows compared to the Integrated route in comparison is the flexibility for students to decide when and how much they decide to spend on their flight training, without being tied down to a pre determined flight training schedule which may leave them with a full commercial licence still years away from any realistic employment. From PilotNetwork's viewpoint, it may be advisable for future students who follow the Modular route to work at the same time as starting their flight training.
For example, a student would be able to work full time, and use their days off to study and complete their Private Pilots Licence [PPL], hour building, Air Transport Pilots Licence [ATPL], Commercial Pilots Licence [CPL] and Instrument Rating [IR] . Modular students who follow this route and utilise all the tools available on the PilotNetwork website should be able to find themselves able to pay for their flight training as they go. This may mean that they will finish their training with minimum debt.
Personally, I decided to work for nine months in a credit management company to save up for my ATPL theory course. This allowed me to pay for all of my ATPL theory course and then have enough money for the UK CAA exams, accommodation and living expenses whilst studying. Another factor to consider is that during my nine months, I was able to gain valuable experience dealing with customers from various different financial backgrounds and finding them the best possible financial solution to manage their accounts with us. I had my first airline interview in May 2019 with a Northern airline in the United Kingdom, and was very surprised at how much experience I was able to use from my credit management job to answer some of the customer focused questions. Whilst I was not successful in the sim assessment, I came away very happy that I was able to give multiple examples of exemplary customer service during my interview. Young students coming out of finishing their A Levels should consider that working for a couple of years will give them valuable life experience and, like myself, customer experience knowledge that will be very beneficial for those sometimes tricky Human Resources questions in an airline interviews. There are many aviation related jobs out there for aspiring pilots - ground operations, cabin crew, handling agent and check in staff are just a few that come to mind that would give future students financial income, but also experience in working in the aviation industry which can only aid towards a future job interviews.
However, if students feel they are best suited for the Integrated route, our advice to anyone considering the Integrated path would be to possibly delay training for a few months, as the average course takes around 18-24 months, and so an early 2021 start would take you up to 2023 by the time you graduate, thus timing it nicely for the job market to have recovered again. In a perfect and fruitful airline industry with jobs available for new commercial pilots, students ideally want to be attending airline job interviews shortly after completing their MCC/JOC or APS with their flying skills still sharp and fresh from recently completing their commercial licence. If a student feels that the integrated route is best suited for their path to the flight deck, it must be noted that you may be experiencing a long wait on completion of flight training, which financially may be not be suitable considering that some of the flight training loan companies expect payments to be made within six months of finishing the integrated course. However it varies between loan companies and may change in the future too. PilotNetworks best advice for this situation is to read the terms and conditions of a loan agreement to see when the repayments start and how much this is and whether you can afford these repayments without having a confirmed commercial pilot job within the first six months of completing your flight training. Again, allowing yourself time to work and develop life experience before you enrol on an Integrated flight training course will only benefit you in the future with employment and will allow you to possibly save towards your flight training.
Considering that 2019 levels of flight travel may not return till 2023 according to one forecast, it is apparent that we may not see recruitment return to what it was back in 2018. Even when recruitment does start increasing, aspiring commercial pilots have to remember that there is a big pool of typed rated pilots all looking for employment. The collapse of Flybe for example released 600 type rated commercial pilots into the job market. Whilst some may have found employment soon after it is probable that many are currently waiting for the job market to pick up again. Likewise in BALPA's ‘On the radar’ email sent out in June 2020, it was stated that British Airways are looking at potentially making 1,130 pilots unemployed between June 2020 and the end of the year. Both of these UK based airlines are critical examples in Europe of how the job market in the future may be saturated with experienced type rated pilots in the coming years. Because of this, as stated before, it is imperative that future commercial pilots realise that opportunities in the coming years to join an airline as a commercial pilot may be very limited and so may want to consider their flight training options carefully for the future.
On a more positive note, all of us at PilotNetwork solidly believe that the airline industry will recover in the future. The COVID-19 pandemic is arguably the biggest unforeseen crisis to disrupt the airline industry since the beginning of air travel. However, air travel is key to the movement of passengers around the world for business or pleasure. Whilst there may be limitations on such movements in the future, as stated by IATA, the airline industry will recover.
With that, airlines will start employing again globally - and eventually, when many of the experienced type rated pilots have been re-employed, fresh commercial pilots should have their opportunity to take position in the right hand seat once more.