Category: Areas of Study

Dispelling Three Myths About Flying an Airplane

Toni Mensching

The military definitely isn’t the only group who will train you to fly airplanes. It may be one of the few groups who will pay you while you learn to fly, but it certainly isn’t the only place you can learn to fly an airplane. The fact that the military will pay you while they teach you about flying an airplane is one of the reasons they are able to be much more choosey: To be a military pilot candidate you must meet a litany of requirements.

Don’t fret though; you can still be a pilot if you don’t meet all those requirements. You don’t have to train in the military to fly several types of aircraft such as airliners, private airplanes and helicopters, stunt planes and crop dusters. To learn to fly civilian private aircraft here in the US, you need only meet the requirements set forth by the Federal Aviation Administration (the FAA). These requirements are vastly different than military requirements and almost always less restrictive.

Myth 1: Flying an Airplane is Not an Option if You’re Colorblind

If you’ve ever seen the Jennifer Aniston film We’re the Millers, you might recall the scene where young Kenny discovers he is colorblind. This results in him having a meltdown on the side of a desert road after his pretend sister tells him he can’t be a pilot since he’s colorblind. Even if you haven’t seen the film, it’s easy to sympathize with Kenny. In the real world, your dreams don’t have to be dashed by your fake sister’s assumptions. While a certain severity of color vision deficiency might disqualify you from flying an airplane in the military, most color vision deficiencies are allowable in civilian flying. This means you may still be able to fly airplanes like private jets, airliners or biplanes.

Boeing Airliner in Flight - Dispelling Three Myths about Flying an Airplane

Those who are colorblind are sometimes allowed to train after completing a simple test which demonstrates their abilities despite colorblindness. Pilots must be able to know and understand a variety of signals and light configurations when flying an airplane. Some of these lights are red, green, yellow, blue or white. You might be colorblind, but if you can differentiate between these light colors during a real world test, then you may still be able to fly airplanes. Many pilots have completed this process. If you would like to know more about it, check out this page on AOPA’s website for more information.

Myth 2: Flying an Airplane Requires Pilots to Have Perfect Vision

The same goes for those of us who don’t have perfect 20/20 vision. Pilots are not required to be perfect, nor are they required to have perfect vision. In most cases, pilots do, however, need to have vision that is at least corrected to 20/20. If you wear glasses or contacts, you will be required to wear those glasses or contacts any time you are flying airplanes. So if you lose your glasses one day, your feet are glued to the ground until you get a new pair.

Myth 3: You Can’t Fly if You’re Short

We all know Tom Cruise is rather short. Yet in Top Gun he flies fighter jets, saves the day, and gets the girl. Some people aren’t aware that during the filming of Top Gun great efforts were made to have Tom Cruise, while playing Maverick, appear taller than he really is. The purpose for this might have been rooted in military height limitations for certain pilots. Some cockpits can only fit a person between say 5 feet 4 inches and 6 feet 4 inches tall. Any shorter or taller and you simply can’t fit in the plane and fly it safely. Maybe your knees get in the way of the controls or your feet can’t reach the pedals. While some military aircraft are not accommodating to vertically challenged people, civilian aircraft seats are typically adjustable in a number of ways. In some aircraft, the pedals adjust as well as the seat. There is no law or agency that will stop you from learning to fly most types of aircraft just because you are excessively short or tall.

In Conclusion

There you have it. You can be short, colorblind, and nearsighted and still spend your life flying airplanes. Find your local flight school and get started.

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Careers in Aviation: Opportunities Outside of the Airlines

Bryce Bailey

Professional pilot. What was the first image you just thought of? If it was an airline pilot, you’re probably like most everyone else in the country. There are many opportunities to earn a living in a variety of careers in aviation outside of the traditional airline track, however! Below are a few options to get you started.

Agricultural Careers in Aviation

Also known as “crop dusters”, ag pilots perform a critical function for the farmers of America’s agricultural industry. According to the National Agricultural Aviation Association, there are approximately 2,700 ag pilots in the United States with an average age exceeding 50 years old (2015). These pilots will soon be retiring, leaving a unique window of opportunity for those interested in pursuing this exciting path.

Requirements to be an ag pilot include holding a commercial pilot certificate with the respective ratings for the aircraft you’ll be flying (airplane or rotorcraft), a second class medical, a pesticide license for each state you operate in, and being able to meet the insurability requirements for the aircraft you will be flying.

Careers in AviationWhile flying is a significant aspect of the job, there’s more to being an ag pilot than just hopping into the plane or helicopter each morning. It requires a thorough understanding of the chemicals you are applying and knowledge of the crops you are working with. You can expect your first two years on the job to consist of learning the ground operations as a chemical loader before gradually transitioning to the flight side.

Additionally, ag aviation is a seasonal industry. How many crops can you think of that grow in the middle of December? During the summer, ag pilots are up before sunrise and work until the temperature gets too hot for their chemicals to be applied or until the sun goes down, whichever occurs first. In the offseason, ag pilots may work other jobs or complete continuing education in the ag industry.

Most ag pilots are paid based upon the number of acres they treat, with incomes ranging from $20,000-40,000 for first year pilots and rising to $60,000-100,000 for more experienced pilots.

For more information about an ag aviation career, just read this article about Upper Limit Aviation alum Caleb Mason.

Corporate Careers in Aviation

Corporate aviation is another opportunity for an aspiring commercial pilot. According to the NBAA, there are approximately 15,000 business aircraft registered in the United States (2015). These vary from small, single-engine piston aircraft to large, multi-engine transport category aircraft to helicopters. All of these aircraft require someone to fly them! While the first thing that may come to mind when you think of corporate aviation is a Fortune 500 flight department, according to the NBAA only 3% of the U.S. business aircraft fleet is registered to a Fortune 500 company. The rest are operated by smaller companies such as your local supermarket chain or a local law firm.

One exciting aspect of corporate aviation is the variety of airports you will operate into compared to your airline colleagues. According to the NBAA, corporate aviation reaches 10 times the number of airports that U.S. airlines operate into. Rather than fly the New York to Boston milk run for the fourth time in two days, as a corporate pilot, you may fly into Grand Island, Nebraska one day and Jackson Hole, Wyoming the next.

The minimum requirements for obtaining a job as a corporate pilot are a commercial pilot certificate and a second class medical. If the company aircraft requires a type rating, you will, of course, need that as well. Many companies, however, will have established internal hiring minimums, whether as a matter of safety or to meet applicable insurance requirements for the aircraft. Generally, the larger the company and more advanced the aircraft, the higher you can expect the requirements to be.

The pay for a corporate pilot also varies widely from $37,000 as a first officer on a small business jet to upwards of $190,000 as a captain on a Gulfstream 650, according to a 2014 survey conducted by Professional Pilot magazine (Salary study, 2014). In return for these generous salaries, however, you can often expect to be on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, rather than have the predictable schedule of an airline pilot.

Charter Careers in Aviation

Careers in Aviation

Photo by Fly Jersey

Also referred to as “air taxi” or “on-demand” flying, charter aviation is very similar to corporate aviation. The main distinction is that on-demand flying operates under Part 135 of the Code of Federal Regulations while most corporate flying operates under Part 91.

While Part 91 does not have any explicit regulatory minimums, Part 135 flying does. In order to act as pilot-in-command under IFR during a Part 135 operation, you must hold a commercial pilot certificate and second class medical, have at least 1,200 hours total time, 500 hours cross country, 100 hours night flying experience, and 75 hours of instrument time. In some cases, you must hold an airline transport pilot certificate rather than just a commercial certificate. The requirements to act as pilot-in-command on a VFR flight are slightly less. In this case, you only need 500 hours total time, 100 hours cross country, and 25 hours of night flight (14 CFR Part 135, 2015).

Examples of this type of flying include Grand Canyon sightseeing flights, medical transport companies, or on-demand cargo companies flying small piston or turbo-prop airplanes between small outstations. Some charter companies do operate larger, turbine powered aircraft however.

According to the 2014 Pro Pilot study mentioned earlier, pay as a charter pilot on the low end is comparable to that of an entry-level corporate pilot, with high end salaries for a charter Gulfstream captain topping out around $149,000 per year. Pay will, of course, vary by company, aircraft type, and region.

Law Enforcement Careers in Aviation

Law enforcement aviation is another opportunity for those who are interested in being a professional pilot, but also want to serve their communities. As a law enforcement pilot, you may fly either fixed wing airplanes or helicopters. On any given day, your mission may be to provide airborne assistance to ground units in traffic enforcement, manhunt or search and rescue operations. Additionally, some state law enforcement agencies also provide executive air transport for senior state government officials (OHP, 2015).

In order to become a law enforcement pilot, many agencies require you to first spend some time as a ground based law enforcement officer to get an idea of what those officers are going through while you are in the air. Additionally, during times of budget reductions, you may be sent back to being a ground based officer if the need for aviation law enforcement manpower cannot be funded. If this does not appeal to you, you might give a second thought to this career path.

Careers in Aviation

Salaries and benefits for law enforcement pilots are often comparable to that for ground based law enforcement and varies widely by region, though the benefits and job security are often good, as with most government positions. Minimum requirements, as a rule of thumb, are a commercial pilot certificate and second class medical.


While being an airline pilot can be one of the great careers in aviation, don’t be a victim of tunnel-vision. There is an abundance of other opportunities available to those seeking a career as a professional pilot outside of the traditional airline track. All you have to do is find them!

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Career Pilot: It Takes a Pilot’s License, Desire and Attitude

Choosing a career as a pilot requires dedication and patience but provides immense self-satisfaction, pride in accomplishment and professional respect.

Vern Weiss

Before I finally became a career pilot by landing a job at an airline I had nearly worn my fingers into bloody nubs filling out job applications. With naiveté, I believed I was one of only a handful of people wanting to be an airline pilot. When I finally got The Call, the whole airline interview process took five days spread over a 2 month time period; written exams, physicals, psychological interviews, panel interviews, a simulator check-ride and some things that I have probably blotted-out. Somehow, some way I fooled ’em and actually got hired! Since the process spanned many days I had time to meet other pilots who worked there. While talking to one of them, I expressed my frustration about how long it took for the airline to call me in (I’d been sending applications out for nine years!). He smiled and said, “We need to take a walk up to the pilot recruitment office on the second floor” and off we went. Entering the office he said to the secretary, “Linda, will you show him the resume room?” She ushered me into a room in which resumes and pilot applications were stacked in a pile that probably measured 10 feet long by 4 feet wide by 4 feet high. Yowza!

Well that was then and this is now. We’re hearing a lot about a pilot “shortage” these days. For every job advertised a human resources department typically receives 100 to 500 applications. So let’s talk reality: There are still plenty of applicants for the really good flying jobs. The bottom- feeder jobs are the ones that they’re having a hard time filling.

Always bear in mind that the competition is there and something for which you’ll have to figure out strategic counter-measures. It’s all part of the “dance” of becoming a career pilot.

Recipe for a Becoming a Career Pilot

Career Pilot

There are no silver bullets assuring you of a career as a pilot but there are things that will enhance your chances of it.

Although it’s a given, you must have the credentials. A commercial license and instrument rating is pretty much the bare-bones minimum that you need to be taken seriously as an applicant. There are rare instances in which you can get a flying job with less. In fact, there are programs throughout the world called, “ab initio” programs whereby you’re accepted without any license nor experience and they mold you into the pilot they want. You are essentially going to school full-time, possibly receiving a small stipend and the company trains you. Obviously such companies want something in return for their investment requiring signing a training contract in which you agree to work for them for x-number of years until the contract is paid off.

Not all companies require captain’s credentials to be hired. Even if a private company owns an airplane requiring a type rating, you may still be hired to fly as a first officer/co-pilot. You will gain experience and when the time comes for you to upgrade and move over to the left seat as the captain, you’ll be well-seasoned and familiar with the aircraft which makes the transition easier.

When trying to become a career pilot, you may experience something a little frustrating along the way. When you get your commercial license and appear as a job applicant, they may tell you, “Gee, we need a pilot but you don’t have an instrument rating.” So you bonsai to a flight school, get your instrument rating, return and then are told, “Gee, we’d like to hire you but you need an ATP.” So you accumulate 1,500 hours and back to the flight school you go to get your ATP. Now their answer is, “Gee, we wish you had a little more time…we need 3,000 hours for our insurance requirements.” Or “Gee, we wish you were typed in our aircraft.” Or “Gee, we wish you were the owner’s son-in-law who he hired to be our new co-pilot.” Don’t let such flexing hiring minimums discourage you.

Get your commercial / instrument and keep knocking on doors. You will eventually find someone for which you are perfectly suited. Aerial photography / cartography companies often do not require an instrument rating but the commercial license is a regulatory “have to.”

It usually helps to acquire as many licenses and ratings as you can, even if they are superfluous to the kind of career as a pilot you seek. Even though you may want to find a corporate flying job, the hiring manager will be favorably impressed if you also hold a flight instructor’s certificate because it indicates a more serious commitment to your career as a pilot than meeting only minimum qualifications. (A CFI certificate also opens up many doors to be an instructor or check airman at an airline, simulator training center or work for the FAA as an inspector/examiner).

Another of the qualities that will help you become a career pilot is good judgment. WCareer Pilot - Career as a Pilothen you get your FAA medical certificate you’ll answer a question about traffic violations. The connection between traffic violations and pilot judgment is pretty easy to figure out. Though judgment is something that cannot be taught, it is something you formulate from learning and experience. As a job applicant continually take stock of the things you say and do that might indicate poor judgment, then eliminate them! Don’t bring a parent to a job interview. Don’t drop off a resume wearing something offensive. You get the idea. Think about how the total “you” is being perceived by the person who will make the decision to allow you responsibility for lives, aircraft (valued perhaps in the MILLIONS of dollars) and the reputation of a company that can dissolve in an instant when a pilot makes a boneheaded judgment.

Flying skills are important and this doesn’t mean only how many hours you have in your logbook. If you are given an opportunity to demonstrate your piloting abilities in an airplane or a simulator it is more important to demonstrate care, accepted procedures, unwillingness to take short-cuts, planning, and preparation. Give yourself plenty of time to get setup for whatever you’re going to do. For instance, don’t start an approach before you’ve had a chance to study the chart. Your ILS approach may be shaky but when you saw that it had become unstable, you declared a missed approach, followed the missed approach procedure then requested to do it again. THAT’S what they want to see. They’re not looking for you to demonstrate what a hot dog pilot you are. Applicants with thousands of flight hours are rejected all the time over those with far less time because of simple judgment calls that they blew.

Maturity and attitude go hand-in-hand and are very important ingredients in our recipe for becoming a career pilot. Controlling a large mass traveling at high speed, often in bad weather conditions, is not the time to act flippant. The National Transportation Safety Board investigates aircraft accidents and sadly their files contain instances of pilots acting immaturely and negligently. When you arrive for an interview you are being watched perhaps even by the secretary. You do not want a good interview performance to be sabotaged by the secretary’s report to the boss that you waited outside his office playing with a yo-yo.

The interviewer will be listening to your word choices although it might seem it’s just an innocuous dialogue. So don’t talk like you would with a buddy over a beer. This is serious business with high stakes and your conduct is an indicator of your maturity.

No matter how horrible your present job is, you do not want to leave the interviewer with the impression that you are an ungrateful crybaby who hates everything and everybody. Be positive, period. Remember too that if you’re hired you’ll be spending many hours sitting alongside the other pilot and if you’re cranky and obnoxious it will make for some very, very long flights. Hiring managers like to hire pilots who will get along with other pilots because they know about the intimate nature of long hours in the cramped space of a cockpit.

Career pilot - Career as a PilotMaking friends and staying in touch with colleagues is good networking. Most corporate flying jobs are never advertised and the only way to learn of them is word-of-mouth. Similarly, keep your ear to the ground. If you hear that XYZ Corporation will be buying a second airplane in the next year, make your presence known. Put on a nice suit, drop off a resume then do it again 2 or 3 months later ostensibly because you’ve “updated” your resume.

Career pilot jobs occur due to timing, opportunity, and need. Sometimes you have to make your own opportunities; maybe even sell yourself. Fatefully being in the “right place at the right time” never hurts but this is pure chance and hard to predict. I once had an opportunity to fly because a well-known rock group’s pilot became ill after arriving in my town. I was standing at a vending machine at an FBO and heard the other pilot ask the counter person if she knew of any pilots with a multi-engine rating that could fill in for a couple days? I approached him and even though it was a temporary job, I was able to earn some money and add experience in an aircraft I had never flown.

It’s not always easy to build a career as a pilot. But with tenacity, initiative, desire and attitude you will get there. The reason pilots and doctors are respected is because it’s not easy to become one. In both cases, the respect is earned and if you stick with it, you will be well-compensated and feel an enormous sense of pride in what you do.

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Aviation Careers: Looking at All the Available Options

If you love airplanes but are unsure if being a pilot is for you, like Heinz soup, there are 57 varieties of great aviation careers that are every bit as important and interesting.

Vern Weiss

Did I say 57 varieties? There are probably over 57 different kinds of aviation technicians alone! How d’ya choose one? And what if ‘ya find ‘ya hate it? Let’s start by illustrating the short-sighted public perception of aviation: To most people aviation consists of pilots and air traffic controllers. The End.

Boy are people that think that in W0X0F1 conditions!

Pilot Aviation Careers

OK. let’s get the pilot thing out of the way first so we can move on to the bajillion other aviation careers available. We all know there are pilots but what you may not realize is that there are very different kinds of pilots. There are business pilots, airline pilots, charter pilots, medical transport pilots, bush pilots, instructor pilots, military pilots, agricultural pilots, aerial photography/cartography pilots and the list would continue to the bottom of this page if we let it. But ask a flier who has been a pilot in two or more of these categories if being a pilot in one category is the same as flying in another, the answer would be a resounding “NO!” Flying for the airlines is vastly different than flying for a private corporation which is vastly different than flying as a charter pilot. It’s almost as different when jumping from being one kind of pilot to another as it is changing your job as a pilot to a job as a non-pilot. What makes each category different is way beyond the space available in this article but suffice it to say, there are airline pilots who hated it and quit and became corporate pilots and loved it (and vice versa).

Right now there are 58,100,000 employed in the aviation industry worldwide. With 7,391,000,000 people on planet Earth, we can infer that 1 out of every 127 people you see on the street work in aviation.2

Other Aviation Careers

You are well aware that some of the aviation job categories such as pilots and air traffic controllers require holding a medical certificate. But what if you love aviation and cannot pass the medical exam or are working in one of the areas requiring one then, unfortunately, lose it due to poor health? Fear not. There are bucket loads of other support jobs that would enable you to remain in aviation. Dispatchers, mechanics, avionics technicians, operations management, and instructors are all areas that someone who cannot pass the physical exam can enter and the bonus is that these jobs usually pay very well.

One of the features of working for an airline is the travel benefits. For this reason, many are quite willing to work in support areas such as clerical, publications, cleaning, ramp operations and customer service so they can enjoy worldwide airline travel. A word of caution here, however: Look at all the benefits offered by one company versus another and not just its travel benefits. Some airlines’ travel benefits are essentially in “name only” and are offered with lots of strings attached.

Maybe you just like being around airplanes and managing an airport would fit your lifestyle. These jobs are stable and decently compensated because they are tied to city or county bureaucracies. Not all airport manager jobs will blind you with benefits, however. There do exist some smaller airports where the airport manager is only a part-time gig. In some cases that manager is provided a trailer on the airport property to live in as part of the “compensation package.” Obviously is takes a very special set of circumstances for such an arrangement to be attractive to someone seeking a professional aviation career.

Federal Aviation Careers

Federal jobs abound in aviation. Working for the FAA as an inspector or the NTSB as an investigator is a most interesting job. The pay is good and the benefits are…well… why do you think taxes are so high? Every state has its own department of transportation and state civil service jobs are plum ways to earn a living. Ordinarily when state aviation jobs are advertised applicants are judged on a merit system and ranked by points awarded for their credentials and experience. The highest ranked person gets the job.

Air Medical Aviation Careers

One of the fastest growing aviation fields today is medical air transportation. In addition to bountiful fixed-wing and helicopter pilot opportunities, there are deep shortages for fliers as well as flight nurses, paramedics, and dispatch people. On the up-side there are bajillions of medical transportation companies sprouting up everywhere so if you’d like to live in a more remote or smaller community, the odds are great that a job will sprout up there. Do a search on the Internet and you will find little one-horse towns everywhere looking for people to run their medical flights. In addition to transporting people who are sick or injured to regional medical centers, there are many medical support companies that are in the business of providing transplant organs, blood and tissue to hospitals. When an organ becomes available and someone somewhere needs it, somebody has to fly that organ to wherever it is needed so the pressure is on and the stress high. It is no surprise that the turnover is high too but the pay is very, very good.

Military Aviation Careers

Who hasn’t dreamed of flying a super-cool military fighter jet? If you can qualify, you can. But the military also has many of the same airborne needs as any airline: dispatchers, aviation meteorologists, mechanics, and avionics to name a few. A military pilot may never set foot in a fighter jet. In fact, the military flies passenger transports aircraft such as the Boeing 737 (called a C-40A when in military use) as well as many specialty aircraft that remains hush-hush. One fighter pilot remarked to this writer that he loved getting out of the fighter squadron to fly transport in the Air Force’s C-9A (also known as a McDonnell Douglas DC-9). He said it was “shirt sleeve flying” and a nice change from flying in bulky pressure suits and helmets. Other than all the brass regalia worn by his passengers it sounded pretty much like a corporate flying job.

Which Aviation Career is Right for You?

So how do you decide which direction to go? First realize that it’s not always about the money you’ll make. Countless people are work at jobs paying obscenely high amounts of money, but they hate every morning they wake up. So figure out what you’d LOVE doing. Think about the jobs you’ve considered in the past and the ones advertised in the newspaper that you passed over because you couldn’t see yourself doing such-and-such day in and day out. It may take some time…weeks or months or even years to finally realize what you truly enjoy doing. As the saying goes, “do what you love, love what you do.”

Next, take an honest look at yourself and decide what you want and don’t want from a job. If you hate the idea of being away from your family on weekends, overnights and holidays corporate aviation might not be your thing. But if you like lots of time off and a very good paycheck, you might decide that you can “suck it up” and celebrate Christmas with your family on a different day than December 25th. Sometimes tradeoffs counter-balance the liabilities of an occupation.

If your interests or situation changes don’t be afraid to try something different. There are many aircraft mechanics who grew tired to turning a wrench and segued into the training department of an airline. Who better can explain the systems of an aircraft than a mechanic who used to work on them? Or perhaps you tire of the cubical-centric sedentary lifestyle of a dispatcher and decide you’d prefer to be out in the sunshine on the ramp, guiding in aircraft and seeing just how much abuse passenger luggage can take.

It is said that the average person changes careers at least 3 times during their lifetime. So consider what you think you may enjoy doing and try it. People who love their work often say they learned to like even the parts they once hated. They might not like something but they love their job and know that that “something” is part of what they love. If you find you really like it you will advance nicely. If you discover you hate everything about it, you eventually will probably notice everyone but you is being promoted. Disdain is hard to hide from your employer. Give yourself a break, admit you don’t like it and try something else. After all, guys like Howard Cosell, Tony LaRussa, and Jerry Springer decided after becoming lawyers that they liked other things better. And so can you.

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Footnotes and Sources:

1 This is an aviation weather term, translated it means an indefinite ceiling at ground level but they can’t be sure because the ceiling is obscured and the visibility is zero in fog.


Certified Flight Instructor: Want to Learn? Then Teach!

Getting your CFI certificate is not only a great way to build flying hours and “earn while you learn,” it’s a fun job!

Vern Weiss

There is an old Latin principle, docendo discimus, that means the best way to learn is to teach. And it is very true. When you think about it, don’t you understand things better when you describe them to someone else? So often completing a task is rote and done without giving thought to the individual components of a task. However when you describe how something is done it becomes set in your mind. The difference between flying and explaining how to fly is subtle but important. When you fly there are cues you respond to and actions you do intuitively and without much thought. But when you explain to someone how to fly it requires that you stay one step ahead of what that individual is doing and preparing for whatever is necessary to do next. When beginning your ground training you may have noticed that some of the material was purely memorized and recalling facts required dipping into your memory for some trick you may have devised to help you remember things (i.e. “east is least, west is best”) But when you are explaining something theoretical you will find that your are planning your presentation to a student in building-block fashion which makes your own flow of understanding much easier.

CFIs find after they begin instructing that they themselves begin to understand things better. This comes naturally from watching others’ techniques, mistakes and formulating answers to questions from the student. The certified flight instructor may have had some of those same questions but never chose to think the answers through. Of course, it is not expected that you will have the answer to everything and when faced with a question that a CFI cannot answer, the best response is always, “I don’t know but I know where to find the answer.” Then you look it up, explain it to the inquirer and you’re better prepared for when the question arises again; and it will!

The amount of self-satisfaction that a person gets when watching a student succeed, whether you’re talking about someone completing their first solo or a student you’ve signed off passing a checkride, it’s a gift that comes back to you, the instructor. When you are able to mold and guide a student through all the elements of achievement necessary for success your own expertise is validated which feels pretty good.

Achieving a CFI certificate requires some training that, up until now, you most likely have not experienced. As a pilot you are responsible for the safe conduct of your flight however CFIs are additionally responsible. Because of this, during your CFI checkride you will be required to demonstrate many of the maneuvers to the standards in the PTS. In addition, CFIs are required to have spin training, or more accurately, spin recovery. It sounds a lot more difficult than it is and when your own flight instructor is planning your lesson that will include spins, a thorough explanation of what will occur will precede the instructor’s demonstration. When the controls are handed over to you, your instructor will very closely monitor everything that is going on and will take over should things begin to look troublesome. But the up-shot is that when you’ve actually recovered from one of aviation’s most serious situations you will feel infinitely more confident as a pilot.

The experience you gain from teaching in an airplane is enormous but there are other reasons that make it a good career move. Most notably, as a CFI YOU are considered to be the pilot-in-command even though you may have barely touched the controls during a given training session! And what does this mean? Naturally it means that if anything happens you will be the principal respondent to an FAA or NTSB inquiry. However there are other rewards.

Additional Benefits of Becoming a Certified Flight Instructor

For one thing, you are legally authorized to log the flight time which will follow you the rest of your career! Yup…when it’s time to get your Airline Transport Pilot certificate that hour of dual you gave to someone way back when will still count toward the 1,500 hours you need now for your ATP.

Another benefit of holding a CFI certificate is what it says to a prospective employer and even what it can mean off in the future after you are a captain on a Boeing 777. To a prospective employer a CFI says…no, SHOUTS…that you are dedicated beyond just meeting the minimum requirements to be a pilot. It says that you are serious about your aviation career. Professionalism and attitude always mean a great deal to a prospective employer.

But let’s get back to that future day when you’re in the left-seat of a Boeing 777. Does a CFI certificate qualify you for such a position? Of course not. But what it does do is meet one of the requirements for becoming an instructor or check airman for that airline. In the corporate environment it is also very helpful to become an aviation manager, director of operations or chief pilot because one of your tasks will be to qualify your pilots and you’ll likely need a CFI certificate to do this.

The Certified Flight Instructor Certificate

Other than the FAA medical certificate, the CFI is the only certificate that is issued with an expiration date. The valid period for a CFI certificate is 2 years whereas you know that your pilot’s license is good for life. What happens when the 2 years are up? First you must complete a CFI renewal course no more than 3 months prior to the expiration of your CFI certificate in order to renew it. This may be accomplished in a number of different ways. Some prefer to attend one of the CFI renewal clinics sponsored by many organizations throughout the country. Others prefer to complete the entire course online or via correspondence. The important thing to remember is that the actual course completion and application for renewal cannot be more than 3 months before your CFI expires. You will hear a lot of grumbling from CFIs about this requirement but the fact is that aviation and regulatory policies are changing constantly and this is an important way of keeping up with the information you need to be a flight instructor. There are other ways to renew a CFI certificate that are less popular such as taking another check-ride but the CFI refresher course is most favored. Other “freebies” for renewing your CFI certificate include obtaining an additional instructor rating on an existing CFI certificate (i.e. you hold a CFI-Airplane and then get a CFII instrument instructor rating) or by signing off 10 people for check-rides during the previous 2 years with an 80% pass rate on first attempt. Often the FAA principal operations inspector for an air carrier will renew a CFI just on the basis of knowing someone who is an instructor for that airline.

Can anyone become a certified flight instructor? You bet! All you need is a commercial license and instrument rating. In fact some people have taken their commercial pilot check-ride from the right seat and were awarded not only their commercial license but also a CFI-Airplane following that single check-ride!

Another economic nicety is that you can legally give flight instruction holding only a 3rd class FAA medical certificate! In the event that a CFI is teaching an already-licensed pilot who holds a medical you do not need any medical certificate at all!

Whether you are motivated to plunge in fully to build flight time leading to a career or if you like the idea of flying but cannot really afford to do it, flight instruction can provide a solution for both. We’re hearing a lot today about a pilot shortage however the shortage of flight instructors cuts even deeper. There are so many opportunities for CFIs working either full or part time for established flight schools. Many CFIs prefer to remain independent and give instruction without affiliating with any flight school. Sometimes instructors find a comfortable situation with someone who has bought an airplane and prefers to have a certified flight instructor riding along with them. And the beauty of it all is that you are paid doing what you love to do!

Salaries for a Certified Flight Instructor

Most full time flight instructors earn an average of $18,000 to $40,000 per year. Part-timers can augment their income from another job by bringing home an additional $100 to $200 per week from instructing. Then again there are large flight schools that offer sign-on bonuses and salaries reaching $50,000 to $60,000 per year. Airline and FAA Part 142 flight training centers pay their instructors $75,000 to $120,00 per year to train pilots in advanced high performance and transport category aircraft.


As you can see there are many reasons to consider getting a flight instructor certificate. While it often is helpful to ask instructors what it’s like to be a certified flight instructor remember that every instructor’s motivation may be different from yours and it is important to look at all the benefits both long- and short-term and how they might fit into your plans. But aside from all the reasons stated in this article, there is nothing quite like the satisfaction of doing what you love and knowing that, as the instructor, you are controlling the show while someone is paying you to enjoy it.

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.


FAA Part 61 Regulations

What to Expect for a Starting Commercial Airline Pilot Salary

Jennifer Payne

Pilots have been underpaid, leading to overworked and fatigued pilots, which creates a shortage of qualified applicants. Has aviation finally learned that low wages are hurting the industry?  It first needs to be clarified that this is the starting commercial airline pilot salary for all pilots. At the beginning of every pilot’s career, they must start at the bottom, as with any other business. For pilots, this is the commuter airlines or regionals. When a pilot is hired on with one of the major airlines (Delta, American, Southwest etc), they are not considered “starting pilots,” and that is the next step in their careers.

A commercial airliner in flight - Commercial Airline Pilot Salary

Since 2001, the aviation industry has had a surplus of pilots and the economic downturn of 2008 did not help with the shrinking airlines. Add the economic downturn to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) increasing the retirement age of pilots from 60 years to 65 years of age, and this created a scenario that forced many pilots and those interested in becoming a pilot out of the industry.

Since the “65 rule” passed in 2007, there have been very marginal retirements at the top of the industry, stranding pilots in their current position. As of 2012, the seniority list has begun moving with the retirement of those pilots. This has allowed for the industry to begin moving forward again, giving a positive outlook for pilot’s future. Due to the shortage of pilots created from a stagnant 5 years, lower paying pilot positions have become harder and more costly to fill. Pilots feel that if they do not like their job, there are plenty of other opportunities out there.

With the shortage of applicants today, the aviation industry is finally starting to see honest requirements when looking for and hiring qualified pilots. According to Kit Darby, a retired pilot who consults on pilot hiring trends, regional airlines have increased pilot recruitment through offering signing bonuses of $5,000-to-$10,000. Although that has helped, sadly, the starting commercial airline pilot salary at the majority of regionals still remains low, often being anywhere from $16,000 to $25,000 (Carey & Nicas, 2014). Starting bonuses are a step in the right direction to helping the upward trend of pay for pilots, and recently SkyWest Airlines raised starting pay from $22 to $30/flight (“SkyWest Airlines Payscale”, n.d.)

With the increasing mandatory requirements, such as the 1,500 minimum hour rule, new fatigue and rest rules and lack of entry-level pilots, the industry needs to attract new talent now. With the rate of pilots retiring now and the lack of potential applicants due to high costs of schooling and previous years of low pay, it is becoming harder to fill the seats in the front of the plane. Now is a perfect time for becoming a pilot and joining the industry, due to the movement that is beginning to occur. Pilots entering the aviation industry today will possibly be paving the way for rapid movement up the totem pole to the major airlines, with better pay, experience, and benefits.

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.


Carey, S., Nicas, J. (2014, February 3). Airline-Pilot Shortage Arrives Ahead of Schedule. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from

N.A. (N.D.) SkyWest Airlines Payscale. Retrieved from

Flight Simulator Training: Cutting Costs and Improving Skills

Stimulation by Simulation

Vern Weiss

A long time ago they discovered that training pilots could be done more efficiently if there were a means to duplicate the objectives of instruction given in an aircraft. Not only could pilot training be cheaper but some maneuvers could be accomplished without the window of vulnerability for hazards that comes with some training scenarios when attempted in an aircraft.

A Brief History of Flight Simulator Training

Very rudimentary ground-based simulators had been developed to teach pilots target practice during World War I. It wasn’t until a musical instrument manufacturer and hobby flier became dissatisfied with his own flight training that the first functional simulator became a reality. In 1927, Edwin Link used components from church organs to build his first simulator which featured spartan generic cockpit controls and instruments mounted on a movable platform. Other than erratic and wobbly instrument indications and movement of the student’s seat in the trainer, it provided little else. Even so, Link sold the idea to the military and manufactured some 10,000 of these Link trainers. The Link trainer remained the standard for pilot simulator training until the mid-1950s when Pan American Airways contracted the Curtiss-Wright Aircraft Company to develop the first full-motion, aircraft-specific simulator. At the same time, United Airlines bought the same simulator but added a visual display which was provided by a camera moving over a model of miniature cities and ground terrain.

Over the years the development of flight simulator training has steadily improved and its value increased. As aircraft operators noticed the cost-effectiveness of using such devices, government agencies took notice as well and began to offer “relief” from some pilot licensing requirements when simulators are used.

The Flight Simulator Training vs. Aircraft Issue

At the center of the simulator-versus-aircraft training issue is the credit toward pilot certification for one over the other. For the purpose of this narrative let’s confine our discussion to flight simulation that comes under the watch of the US Federal Aviation Administration. Other countries have their own governance such as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) that define their own certification criteria. In order to receive FAA approval for use of a flight simulator, it must meet many design, functional and demonstrable requirements. In other words, the PC computer program, Microsoft® Flight Simulator does not satisfy those requirements. Although some maintain the program is helpful to pilots for casual use, it fails to meet the strict demands of the FAA regulations as a training tool.

The classifications of simulators have become confusing and sometimes clumsily blurred. In fact, there are over 30 such classifications worldwide! Simply stated, the difference in the classifications is this: If the simulator has a letter designation (i.e. Level “C” simulator) it moves and costs big bucks. If the simulator has a numerical designation (i.e. Level “5” simulator), it doesn’t move but still costs a lot of dough (although not as much). The higher the number or letter, the more sophisticated the device. Only devices that move are recognized by the FAA as “simulators.” Those that don’t are considered “trainers” or “devices.” The big difference is that full flight simulators can be used to meet most requirements of a pilot check-ride whereas partial credit for training hours is all you can expect from a trainer.

The 7 Levels of Flight Training Devices and 4 Levels of Flight Simulator

Level 1 flight training devices (FTDs) are no longer manufactured and those few that still exist have been grandfathered into the approval process, but it is unlikely you will encounter one today.

Level 2 FTDs are also no longer manufactured although some operators still use theirs that were grandfathered into the approval process years ago.

Level 3 FTDs are no longer approved however some continue to be in use. The FAA now considers those Level 3 trainers as “Advanced Aviation Training Devices” which is a new classification that we’ll cover later.

Level 4 FTDs consist of a touch-screen and are used only for procedural, navigation and flight management system training. Such trainers are generic and do not have any distinction between aircraft class such as single engine or multi-engine nor do they incorporate a control yoke. These are similar to what is known as a “cockpit procedures trainer” and today the FAA is only officially certifying them for use in helicopter training. They do exist for airplanes however their use is not approved for the training requirements of fixed wing ratings. Visual systems are not required.

Level 5 FTDs begin to look more like an aircraft and are configured with aircraft class attributes (single-engine, multi-engine etc). While Level 5 trainers are certified as representative of a generic single-engine aircraft, some manufacturers are producing Level 5 devices with specific attributes of a particular model of aircraft. Level 5 trainers require special FAA certification and a control yoke, but a visual system is not required.

Level 6 FTDs must be designed and certificated to provide you with accurate function as well as tactile, aerodynamic and spatial relationships (i.e. as you increase power you receive instrument indications of a commenced climb and increased backward pressure on the yoke requiring input and trim). A physical cockpit with accurate controls and instrumentation is required, but a visual system is still not required.

Level 7 FTDs must be model specific with all applicable aerodynamics, flight controls, and systems including a vibration and visual system. These trainers are presently only certificated for helicopters.

But wait! We’re not done yet!

A new classification of FTD has appeared on the scene: The Advanced Aviation Training Device (AATD) and the Basic Aviation Training Device (BATD). What makes the BATD and AATD confusing is that certification by the FAA is often subjective and without specific criteria as defined by regulation. To further muddy the water…although the BATD and AATD is a flight training device and not a simulator, it is not required to move; however, it might, depending on its manufacturer! Furthermore, even though an AATD may offer motion it still does not qualify under the FAA guidelines for meeting the requirements of pilot training in the same way that a full flight simulator would. An AATD can save up to a maximum of 10 hours of aircraft flight time toward your instrument rating and 2.5 hours toward your private license. Like any FTD, an AATD assists in making you more familiar so as not to require repetitive practice while an aircraft Hobbs meter is ticking away (which means: $$$).

What do the “Big Boys” (and Girls) Use for Flight Simulator Training?

Now that all this talk about the 7 levels has given you a headache, let’s add the coup de grâce to send you running for the aspirin bottle: SIMULATORS.

Mercifully there are only 4 categories of full-flight simulators, Level “A,” “B,” “C,” and “D.”

Level “A” simulators are now gasping and wheezing and nearly extinct. In fact, there are only about a dozen left. They’re required to provide motion of course but provide only rudimentary visual displays and less sophisticated aerodynamic modeling such as the properties of ground effect. Level “A” simulators are only certified for fixed wing aircraft and not helicopters.

Level “B” is slightly more sophisticated than Level “A” simulators although only a handful remain in the US. 80% of an FAA type rating may be completed in one, but the remainder of the check ride must be accomplished in an actual aircraft. These simulators provide you with a higher degree of aerodynamic feedback, physical movement on their motion bases and better panoramic visual displays. In addition to widespread use for airplane training, this is the lowest level simulator that is approved for helicopters.

Level “C” simulators are only slightly different than Level “B” simulators. The visual displays are improved and both feedback and response time is more realistic. Only Level “C” and “D” simulators are approved for a full pilot proficiency check. Other simulators can be used for instrument portions of your proficiency check, but credit is not given for the landing portion as is permitted in Level “C” and “D” versions.

Level “D” simulators are approved for use for a full type rating because of their sophistication. This is the highest level of simulator currently available. In addition to sound, these simulators can even generate smoke in the cockpit to simulate a system fire; no kidding! Full daytime and nighttime visuals are required as well as 150 degrees of up, down and horizontally accurate visual displays. Such simulators are incredibly expensive with a price tag that runs between $1 million to $40 million, depending on whether your shopping with coupons.

So What’s the Best Way You Can Save Money with Flight Simulator Training?

The answer to this question is simple: utilize some form of training device that will not only save money on aircraft rental/expense but also permit you to make mistakes, practice and repeat maneuvers until you are confident and comfortable.

Today there are a lot of different flight simulator training devices being manufactured and the question as to which one is best for you comes down to either an AATD or a Level 5 FTD. Right now the FAA credits more FTD training time toward your license when you use a Level 5 FTD than with an AATD. To be fair, however, there is an FAA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to grant applicants the same credit toward a license or rating in either type of training device. What a student should not ignore is the enormous benefits offered in a Level 5 FTD over an AATD. A Level 5 FTD provides far greater fidelity in feel, response and performance and the experience is closer to what you experience in a real aircraft. At the same time, the Level 5 FTD is aircraft specific whereas an AATD is generic and is to flying like foosball is to playing real soccer.

The bottom line is that Level 5 FTDs provide better quality training because the perceptions are well defined. In the event that the NPRM does not become law, Level 5 FTD training will still stand head and shoulders above AATDs, not only by saving you a great deal in cost on the minimum hour requirements but by making your training time much more realistic and efficient.

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.


FAA Advisory Circular 61-136A November 17, 2014

FAA Advisory Circular AC-120-40B July 29, 1991

FAA Part 61 Regulations

Federal Register, July 6, 2015 NPRM Aviation Training Device Credit for Pilot Certification

FAA Flight Simulation Training Device Qualification (FSTD) Bulletin 10-02

Telephone conversation with Jeremy Brown, Frasca December 2, 2015

AOPA “ABCs of Simulators” Alton Marsh May 1, 2011 (

A Growing Number of Professional Pilot Jobs

Many frequent visitors to Upper Limit Aviation‘s website already know that now is a tremendous time to be a professional pilot. The amount of professional pilot jobs available today has increased substantially, outnumbering any previous time in commercial aviation history. The ongoing hiring boom shows no signs of slowing down, with even greater access to opportunities looking increasingly likely as industry plans for the next year are announced. The aviation industry is in the midst of a tidal wave of transformation, as the industry finds new and exciting ways to utilize the services of pilots and aircraft.

The Expanding Array of Today’s Professional Pilot Jobs

There are many potential career paths for tomorrow’s professional pilots within the modern aviation economy. Whether you are a helicopter pilot or a fixed-wing/airplane pilot, you will find that there is an increased reliance upon quick, effective transport solutions to meet the demands of the increasingly diversified infrastructure of many domestic and global companies. Professional helicopter pilots may find themselves working in oil and gas support in the Gulf of Mexico region. In the same industry, professional airplane pilots can envision themselves working in the field of pipeline inspection.
The reason we’re taking this moment to point out the breadth of opportunities available to today’s professional pilots is because we want to let potential students know that they have an important decision to make. Many of these prospective pilots do not even know that there is a life altering opportunity available to them. So if you have found yourself here out of curiosity, take a short amount of time to browse through some of the information we have on this site about the opportunities available to professional pilots, and know that we are doing everything we can to help prepare our students to meet the demands of the most significant moment in aviation history.
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You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

The Five Best Things About Being a Student Pilot Going to College

What Can You Expect as a Student Pilot?

Deciding to begin a career as a Professional Student Pilot can be one of the most rewarding and one of the most challenging decisions you’ll ever make. Can you imagine, as a college student, getting to fly helicopters or airplanes on a daily basis as a part of your college experience?

Medical school students don’t get to start seeing patients for at least 4 years.  Law school students don’t get to represent clients for years after college. The same thing can be said about engineering students; they don’t get to build awesome stuff until years after graduating. Heck, education students (future teachers) don’t get to teach in the classroom for years.  But what about student pilots?  They can start flying weeks after starting their freshmen (first) semester. That is awesome! Helicopter flying over a city - Student Pilot

Medical students, law students, and engineering students have to go to school for 6 to 10 years before they start their career. Student pilots, potentially, can start flying “commercially” (paid) within 18 months of starting their training. When comparing an aviation career with any other professional career the benefits just keep stacking up.

The 5 Best Things About Being a Student Pilot and Pursuing an Aviation Career

#5 Global demand.  New Experiences:  Being a commercial pilot means you could be flying just about anywhere, at any time.  Potentially, you could fly all over the world. You will fly to some very interesting places.  With the global demand high for both helicopter and fixed wing pilots, you can virtually get a job anywhere on the planet. Helicopter pilots can take off and land just about anywhere, and typically you find heli tours in the most beautiful places on earth.  Airplane pilots can fly and land at airports in Los Angeles, New York, Paris, London, Beijing, Sidney, and even backcountry airstrips or (With the right equipment) on shorelines.

#4. Live a Life of Adventure: Flying helicopters or airplanes is not necessarily something that comes naturally.  We were not built to fly (if we were, God would have given us wings).  Flying aircraft is extremely adventurous.  You will going places and doing things most people never do.  Helicopter pilots take people up on mountains to heli-ski.  They transport folks to oil platforms in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, transport trauma victims to major hospitals, and they might even help locate a criminal and bring them to justice.  Some very lucky pilots get to fly the President of the United States to and from the White House.

#3. Gain Respect:  Professional people garner respect.  Doctors, lawyers, professors, engineers, and professional athletes typically enjoy respect from many aspects of the general society. The same can be said of pilots.  With your commercial pilot ratings, you will be one of a the chosen few that has gained the skills and earned the right to fly commercially.  This means you have risen to a place of respect in society.  People are generally impressed by the fact that you are a pilot. Most people understand what it takes to become a pilot and therefore, they know that you are something special and unique. Pilots receive tremendous respect from their family, friends, and the community.

#2. Personal Growth:  As a pilot you will be tested.  You will be challenged.  You cannot make excuses – people must have unshakeable confidence in you.  You will have to dig deep and find out who you are.  The best aspects of you will get better, and the areas you need to work on will become evident – and you will improve and conquer the areas of your life that most people never deal with.  The question is… do you have what it takes?  If you do, you will grow “personally” more than you could ever imagine.  The responsibility of flying helicopters or airplanes is tremendous.  In order to be “trusted” you will have to become the best version of yourself in all ways.  Get ready to grow to heights you never knew were possible.

#1. Rewarding Career:  There is no doubt about it.  Good pilots make great money.  It may take time and a great deal of sacrifice to become a commercial pilot, but remember, helicopter and airplane pilots make an extremely good income.  A pilot does not have the typical 9 to 5 job.  As an aviator, your office view could be at 35,000 feet.  As a helicopter pilot, you might be “spotting Tuna” at sea as you fly for a commercial fishing company. Or, you might be covering live major news events as they happen.  This list of “rewards” for commercial pilots goes on and on.

Coming to the Right Conclusion about Aviation and Pilots

First, please get the picture of being “Maverick” from Top Gun out of your mind. You will not be spending all your time between flights cruising the beach on your motorcycle, grabbing the Hot Girls (or Guys), drinking beer and playing volleyball all day in the sun. If you’re serious about becoming a Professional Aviator, you are going to have to be dedicated and be ready to make serious personal sacrifices.

You will have to commit yourself to studying; probably more than you ever have in your entire life. Learning how to fly and everything that is involved with flying requires a tremendous amount of hard work and focus. If a Flight School advertises a life of “Fun in the Sun” with a helicopter parked on a yacht in the middle of a lake surrounded by girls in bikini’s…  we recommend that you think seriously about the level of training they are actually going to provide. Remember, this is a serious profession and only those who take it seriously will be successful.

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

Top 6 Tips for Student Pilots to Land the Best Aviation Jobs

For most student pilots attending helicopter flight school, it is all about landing the best paying jobs as a career pilot. Why else would anyone invest a great deal of money to learn to fly (as a commercial pilot) unless it was to position yourself to compete for the best aviation jobs?

Therefore, there are certain decisions that student helicopter pilots need to make before they start flight school. In other words, before you move across the country to attend a top flight school, you need to consider the steps successful student pilots have taken to land the best paying commercial pilot jobs. We recommend that you learn from those who have succeeded.

#6.  Personal Branding – Develop Powerful Social Media Presence: Start branding yourself before you start flight school. This may sound presumptious, but there is a lot you can do before you start developing your piloting skills. At the very least, get plugged into the vast network of commercial pilots and helicopter companies.

In the very near future your personal brand will become extremely important. And, it takes time to get your personal brand established (e.g. Social Media). When it comes to your current and future commercial helicopter pilot career, you need to establish and then promote your personal brand (your professional image). Imagine “branding” success when the brand you’re promoting is YOU!

What is a personal brand? “You’re a brand. I’m a brand. We’re all brands, whether we try or not”.

Personal branding is the purposeful process of managing and optimizing the way that you are seen by others, especially potential employers.sam-cribbs

The benefits of developing a powerful online personal brand.

1. Being seen by the right people (prospective employers), seeing you in the best light.
2. Build positive network associations – building your brand reputation.
3. Develop beneficial associations (connections) within your industry
4. Generate greater credibility and value
5. Create recognition and prestige through your associations.

Effectively designing social media profiles is the best way to promote and manage your personal brand. You can either control the narrative (the information), or be controlled by it.

Just how vital is your personal brand strategy? We recommend that you do a Google search of your name. Trust me, your future employers will Google your name before they schedule an interview. After Googling your name, what did you find? Is it positive? Does it represent you well? Will the info that comes up when Googling your name help you compete against others, helping you land the best aviation jobs?

The top search results should be from your social networks; Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, and Google+. If you’re serious about promoting yourself professionally, people should also find images, videos, and blog posts that you have written and published online. Next, when clicking on your social media accounts, is your professional image proprely presented? Does your social media presence help you to stand out above the rest?  If not, it’s time to get started.A helicopter association conference - Networking is a big part of landing the best aviation jobs.

Your social media presence (and content: images, video, blog posts) can be the backbone of your personal branding strategy – helping you to get your foot in the door and effectively compete for the best jobs.

#5.  Networking – Attend Aviation Association Conferences: You will hear the following over and over again… “its not what you know, as much as it is who you know.“ Mastering the art of “networking” is how most people get the top jobs in the aviation industry. For examples of top paying “Tier 1” industry jobs, click here.

Networking is hard work and takes skill and patience. Networking is not brown-nosing or schmoozing. There’s actually an art to it. When done properly, with authenticity, integrity, and honesty, networking will open doors like nothing else can.

#4.  Find an Experienced Mentor: Most employed commercial pilots can identify at least one person who took them “under their wing”, helping them to advance their careers. Before you get your start in the aviation industry, we recommend that you find a flight training program stacked with mentors.

r-44-feedAn effective mentor is an experienced pilot (or pilots) who will contribute to your overall success as a commercial pilot. A good mentor will educate you, through wisdom and experience, so that you can plot your career path before it ever gets started – and then be there as a guide as you advance your career towards the best aviation jobs.

At its most basic level, mentoring is a process in which an individual with more experience or expertise provides encouragement, advice, and support to a less experienced colleague, with the goal of helping the person being mentored learn something that he or she would have learned more slowly, less effectively, or not at all if left alone (definition by Chip Bell as written in “Manager as Mentors”).
Webster defines a mentor as, “a trusted counselor or guide.” Mentors will make the difference between getting a job and being unemployed.

Mentors, people with industry experience, will not only help you start your career, but also open some doors when you are ready to land your first industry job.  The aviation industry is small, and competing for good paying jobs is all about “who you know.” Through a well-connected mentor you can get your resume to the top of the stack.

If you have a family your spouse must be 100% behind your career. Before starting flight school your spouse has to know what you are getting him/her into – your spouse needs to know everything about becoming a commercial pilot (how long it will take, the time commitment, the cost, the career opportunities, the salaries and wages, location(s) of the jobs, and the type of work schedule). This commitment is a shared commitment (all family members), and without the spouse’s support it will become a nightmare.

Choosing the right flight training school is the first step to your commitment. Do your homework – don’t choose the first school that comes along.  Your flight school will determine your value and worth as a pilot, so make an informed educated decision. The flight school you choose should help you with all six of these “6 Tips”.

#3.  Total Commitment and Focus: Experienced pilots will tell you, that in order to become a commercial pilot (especially pilots with the best aviation jobs), you need to be 100% committed and focused on your training and career development. Becoming a commercial pilot means that you must be a professional pilot – with a big emphasis on “professional”.

A commercial pilot is not a part-time recreational endeavor.  Learning to fly can be fun, but to become an employable commercial pilot it takes tremendous sacrifice, persistence, and total commitment. Total immersion is required.

Becoming a commercial pilot is very similar to becoming a doctor or a lawyer.  Your training and education is very important, and not very forgiving. Meaning, as a student pilot you can’t afford to make mistakes. Your mind, energy, and focus must be completely funneled toward your training. If you are not ready, or able, to commit everything toward your training – don’t start.

#2.  Know the Industry: Before you start your journey toward becoming a commercial pilot you have to make the right moves from day one (i.e., choosing the right flight school). Your career depends upon making the right choices at the right time for the right reasons. Therefore, before you start training, you need to know the industry.

We recommend that you do your research. For example, call a few of the Helicopter Tour companies in Las Vegas. Tell them that you are serious about becoming a commercial pilot and you are conducting some research. Ask to speak with a Chief Pliot, or the Chief Instructor. You need to know the answers to the following question:

  • “What pilot jobs are available?”
  • “What is a good career path as a professional pilot?”
  • “What makes a good pilot?”
  • “What are employers looking for when hiring pilots?”
  • “What experience will make me more employable?”
  • “What is the typical cost for flight training?”
  • “How long is training going to take, and what personal commitment must I be willing to make?”
  • “What are some of the mistakes others have made that hurt their careers?
  • “What are the choices of high paying pilots that advanced their career?”
  • “Do I have what it takes?”

Once you have a pretty good idea about the questions above, start looking for a flight training school that will present a path towards the best aviation jobs. When interviewing prospective flight schools they should answer each one of the question above exactly in the same way that the Helicotper Tour companies did. The school’s answers to these questions should jive with the best Tier 1 Employers answers. If they don’t, move on to the next school.

#1.  Choose the Right Flight School – Do Your Homework: Have you ever noticed that most presidential candidates graduated from Harvard or Yale? The same is true with Wall Street executives and CEO’s of top corporations –they’ve all graduated at the top universities (there are always exceptions). The point is, to get the top jobs in government or private business you need to attend a top school. The same is true with getting the best aviation jobs.

Your flight training and education will matter. It will make you or break you. The type of training you receive, along with “who trained you”, will either advance your career or hold you back. Our recommendation is that you carefully explore your options and make an informed choice. Go so far as to visit at least three flight schools before you enroll. Interview the people who will be training you. Look deeply into their results… meaning, “Where are their graduates? Where are they employed?”

Related Articles

Tier 1 Helicopter Pilot Jobs

Landing a Tier 2 Helicopter Pilot Job

Types of Tier 3 Helicopter Pilot Jobs

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Knowing Simple Aerodynamics Helps Your Aviation Career

When it comes to teaching someone about aerodynamics, it is possible to teach simple aerodynamics in a way that doesn’t require a physics course as a prerequisite. I am a firm believer that as your flight career progresses, so should your knowledge. However, we need to take a simple to complex, known to unknown approach. If you are a Flight Instructor, you know this is a key fundamental of instruction. Take ‘Lift’ for example; at what point should someone be expected to know the Coefficient of Lift (CL)? Here’s what NASA says regarding the lift coefficient:

“The lift coefficient is a number that aerodynamicists use to model all of the complex dependencies of shape, inclination, and some flow conditions on lift. This equation is simply a rearrangement of the lift equation where we solve for the lift coefficient in terms of the other variables.

The lift coefficient Cl is equal to the lift L divided by the quantity: density r times half the velocity V squared times the wing area A. Cl = L / (A * .5 * r * V^2)

The quantity one half the density times the velocity squared is called the dynamic pressure q. So Cl = L / (q * A)

The lift coefficient then expresses the ratio of the lift force to the force produced by the dynamic pressure times the area.”

Above, NASA states this equation is “simply a rearrangement of the lift equation”.  Perhaps if you have a PHD and work for NASA this equation is simple. Why is this complex lift equation shown to brand new student pilots across the Country? If we know that a key fundamental principle of instruction is to go from simple to complex, known to unknown; why would we ever introduce a complex physics equation to a new student? Instead, when introducing lift, ask your student a few simple questions:

“Have you ever been driving down the highway with your hand out the window? Have you noticed that if your raise your hand up slightly, your whole arm wants to shoot up like you’re waving to oncoming cars? That is lift…simple”

When learning simple aerodynamics, where should one start?

The first thing I have my students learn, are the basic definitions of helicopter aerodynamic terms. I focus on their rote memorization of bullet point definitions. Once they have these memorized, I then focus on their understanding and application. I present aerodynamic terms to my students in a question / answer format. Before a Student Pilot is ready to take their Private Pilot exam, they will need to be able to describe aerodynamics much more in depth. However, if you’re new to aerodynamics, I recommend you start by memorizing the key definitions below. Writing these questions / answers down on index cards is a good idea to aid in your memorization of these key aerodynamic terms.

What are the forces of flight?

A. Lift, Weight, Thrust and Drag

How is lift developed?

A. LIft is developed by creating an area of positive pressure beneath the airfoil and negative pressure above the airfoil.

What is Bernoulli’s Principle?

A. Bernoulli’s Principle states that as velocity increases, pressure decreases. This is also known as the Venturi Effect.

What is Newton’s Third Law?

A. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

What is Angle of Attack?

A. The angle between the chord line and relative wind.

What are the three types of drag?

A. Profile, Parasite and Induced drag.

What is Profile Drag?

A. Drag caused by the frictional resistance of the blades moving through the air. Composed of Form Drag and Skin Friction.

What is Parasite Drag?

A. Drag caused from all Non-Lifting surfaces of the aircraft.

What is Induced Drag?

A. Drag that is a result of developing lift. Also known as Vortex Drag.

What is Coriolis Effect?

A. As the center of mass moves closer to the axis of rotation, the blades have a tendency to accelerate.

What are the two external factors that cause Coriolis Effect?

A. Coning and Blade Flapping.

What is Coning?

A. Coning is the result of two forces acting at the same time; Centrifugal Force and Lift.

Why do helicopter blades Flap?

A. Helicopter Blades are allowed to Flap to compensate for Dissymmetry of Lift.

What is Dissymmetry of Lift?

A. Unequal lift between the advancing and retreating halves of the rotor disc.

What is Retreating Blade Stale?

A. Due to Dissymmetry of Lift, at high forward airspeeds the retreating blade exceeds its critical angle of attack causing the blade to stall.

What is Translating Tendency?

A. The tendency of the helicopter to drift in the direction of tail rotor thrust.

What is Translational Lift?

A. Improved rotor efficiency resulting from directional flight or surface winds.

What is Effective Translational Lift (ETL)?

A. ETL occurs at approximately 16-24 knots when the rotor system completely outruns the recirculation of old vortices.

What is Transverse Flow Effect?

A. Occurs at speeds just below ETL. Induced flow drops to near zero at the forward disc area and increases at the aft disc area.

What is Gyroscopic Precession?

A. Gyroscopic Precession states that when an outside force is applied to a rotating body, the result of the outside force will occur 90 degrees later in the plane of rotation.

Begin introducing the “Why?”

450px-Clear_light_bulbOnce you have memorized some of these key definitions, it will be time to start asking “Why?” The short list above is exactly that…short. Notice I did not include aerodynamics of autorotations, conservation of angular momentum or other complex aerodynamic principles. There is a lot more to learn, but building a foundation of key definitions is where we should start. Once you have the definitions memorized, the next step is to gain an understanding of what is actually happening. Helicopter Aerodynamics can be made simple and enjoyable to learn. Start with the basics and develop a good foundation to build on. This is my approach to teaching aerodynamics to a brand new student. There are other good approaches that Instructors use and they are successful in their teaching. With a goodFlight School you will be surrounded by a large amount of Flight Instructors ensuring that your individual learning needs will be met.

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Top Three Myths About Becoming a Commercial Pilot

Have you always dreamed of becoming a commercial pilot, either flying Helicopters or Fixed Wing Aircraft? Is it your dream to become a commercial pilot and fly for a living? Before you invest time and money into becoming a pilot, there are a few things you need to know.

You’ve probably heard that there is a high demand for pilots, and this is the perfect time to become a professional pilot – and it is. We talk to dozens of prospective flight school students every day. There are many myths and misconceptions that we attempt to correct. Below are the top 3 myths about becoming a commercial pilot.

Myth #3: There is a High Demand for Pilots.

This is perhaps not so much a myth as it is a controversy – the demand for qualified pilots. The controversy starts and finishes with the term “Qualified Pilots”.  In 2012, Boeing forecasted that 70,000 pilots will be needed in North America between now and 2031.

In 2012, Boeing forecasted that 70,000 pilots will be needed in North America between now and 2031. However, on July 10th, 2013, the FAA released the final rule for the Pilot Certification and Qualification Requirements for Air Carrier Operations. This ruling requires pilots to hold an air transport pilot certificate (ATP) in order to fly for an air carrier (which is a good thing). However, this made it harder to become a commercial pilot. The point is that fixed wing operators are looking for “quality pilots” to fulfill the forecasted demand.

To apply for an air transport pilot (ATP) certificate, applicants must have at least 1500 flight hours. Although there is a large demand for pilots presently and in the near future, the demand is for “experienced pilots” who are qualified to meet the FAA’s new ATP requirements. It is important to note that this FAA rule change only had an impact on Air Carrier Operations. Helicopter companies, looking to employ helicopter pilots, do not operate as “Air Carriers”. For this reason, helicopter operators were not affected by the FAA change.

What about commercial helicopter pilots? Is there a demand for commercial helicopter pilots? The truth is that experienced helicopter pilots who are well trained are in high demand – no doubt. There are incredible opportunities for helicopter pilots who have the right training and solid experience. The key factor is “where did you get your training?” If you have graduated from a reputable flight school, you will find that there is a demand for your services, and you will be positioned to get the best jobs.

Myth #2: You Can Begin a New Career as a Pilot in Mere Months.

There is a belief that someone who has never flown before, can get a Pilot’s License (Certificate) and start a new career as an aviator in mere months. While there is some truth to this myth, we need to clarify that it takes a great more to begin a career as a professional pilot. The truth of the matter is yes, a person can get a pilot certificate within a few months of training. However, the first certificate you will receive is a Private Pilot Certificate. This certificate does not allow you to fly for compensation or hire. If you want to fly for a living and start a new career as an aviator, you will need additional certificates and ratings.

The Ratings and Certificates needed for a top level aviation career will likely include:

•    Private Pilot License (PPL)
•    Instrument Rating (IR)
•    Commercial Pilot License (CPL)
•    Certified Flight Instructor (CFI)
•    Certified Flight Instructor of Instruments (CFII)
•    Air Transport Pilot (ATP)
•    Misc. Add-On Ratings (Airplane, Rotorcraft, Multi-Engine, Type Ratings etc…)

Everything listed above is not required to begin your aviation career. At a minimum, you will need a Private Pilot’s License and a Commercial Pilot’s License in order to legally fly for compensation. The Aviation Industry is a highly competitive field, so do not expect to get offered a job with the bare minimum. A new student pilot will have to dedicate 1-2 years to his or her flight training.

A new student pilot will have to dedicate 1-2 years of training in order to get the necessary certificates and ratings desired. You will then need to work an entry level job for 1-2 years, or more, as you build proficiency and gain flight experience. Before you know it, you will be ready to market yourself as a qualified pilot for many of the better paying jobs. Be ready to pay your dues before you start making the good money.

Myth #1: Instead of Becoming a Commercial Pilot, You Are Better Off Getting a Traditional Education Like Your Parents Did.

The average young adult, after dedicating 4-6 years of their life to college studies, can walk away with the once coveted Bachelor’s Degree. However, they quickly realize that it is tough to find a job in just about every field of study: Employers want ‘experience’ among other things. Well, where do you get that experience? Today, more than ever, you start from the bottom and scratch your way to the top. Get ready, it might take awhile.

All too often today’s college graduates have invested a great deal money to gain an education that they may never end up using. Many college grads are taking any job they can find. Simply type “College Grad” into a Google search window, and the results are peppered with entries about how tough it is for college grads to find jobs. The number of college graduates working minimum wage jobs in 2012 was nearly 71 percent higher than it was a decade ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest figures. I’m sure the 2013 figures are much worse.

However, aviators with a college degree are finding jobs.  As a matter of fact, college educated aviators are in high demand. There are many different degree choices for professional pilots. Plus, from day one, as a student pilot in a college program, you will be logging flight hours and gaining the experience needed to launch your new career. Student pilots go to class in the morning and fly in the afternoon (or visa-verse).

Can you imagine a Law Student or Medical Student stepping into the courtroom or emergency room on day one of law/medical school? Neither can we. Both law and medical students take Labs as a part of their course work. But these labs don’t put the students front and center into their respective fields. Meaning, they are not in court trying cases or working with patients. Commercial pilots, on the other hand, start flying in their “lab” courses right from the start. Student pilots start building flight hours in week one of flight school. That’s why today, more than ever, deciding to launch an aviation career is one of the best choices you can make!

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

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