6 Student Pilot Mistakes That Can Ruin a Career

There are certain things that student helicopter pilots need to know before they invest in an expensive flight training program. In other words, you might want to consider some things that can sink your career before you ever start. You may be surprised to know the following examples of student pilot mistakes have kept many student pilots out of the cockpit.

#6. Social Media Disasters: Posting photos that would make your grandmother cringe or inappropriate Facebook posts can ruin your career. Images and videos you post on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram last forever. Controversial, offensive, and off-color posts/images can keep a career from getting off the ground. Remember the day you got drunk with your buddies in Tijuana?  As a Facebook or Instagram post, it might be funny to you, but if you aspire to be a professional helicopter pilot, it could be a job killer.

When your potential employer finds photos of you looking less than professional, it could put your resume in the trash. Google your name and see if you need to start looking at damage control. When you post anything, think deeply about how your posts could affect your future.

For example, Alica Lynch did not think when she posted an image of herself in the outfit she’d put together for a Halloween party. She had on a Victoria’s Secret running skirt, blue T-shirt, and road-race bib, accessorized by a faux gash on her forehead and bloody, bruised legs. The 22-year-old Michigan resident uploaded the image to her Instagram and Twitter accounts, as she had done with so many photos before. She used the hashtag #boston #marathon #runner. Her costume? a Boston Marathon bombing victim. You can imagine how this social media disaster played out for Alica.

Your future aviation employer will check out your social media accounts – count on it. A recent survey by Vault.com found that 44% of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates. Therefore, be smart… use social media to present yourself to the world in a way that reflects the values of prospective employers. Brand yourself to succeed.

#5. Being Too Heavy – Overweight: Helicopter pilots have to watch their weight. To a student helicopter pilot, weight is extremely important. Why? The cheapest aircraft for pilot training is the Robinson R22 ($200 to $300/hour). The weight limit for each seat in the R22 is 240 lbs. However, with fuel load and other considerations, student pilots above 200 lbs may need to train in bigger, more expensive aircraft, such as the Robinson R44 ($500 to $600/hour).

If you are a prospective student pilot above 200 pounds, and it is possible to lose weight and maintain a health BMI, our recommendation is that you start dieting now. Eat healthy, and cut out the beer, sodas and potato chips. We realize that this may sound cruel and insensitive, but the repercussions of being overweight are real. It’s also a safety issue, not to mention an expensive journey.

Some students lay down a big sum of money for flight training, sign up for courses, and attempt to start their training 15 to 20 lbs overweight. Guess what? They are grounded until the shed the excess weight – unless of course, they are willing to pay twice the amount for the larger aircraft.

#4. Piercings, Tattoos, and Dyed Hair: You need to know how piercings and tattoos can limit your career opportunities. Piercings and tattoos will not prevent you from becoming a pilot, but they might slow you down when it comes to getting your dream job.

A recent study from the Pew Research Center found nearly 40% of people between the ages of 18 and 29, have at least one tattoo. And, it should come as no surprise that body piercings are a growing means of self-expression among people in this age group. Although piercings and tattoos are becoming more acceptable, they can harm people in certain industries – aviation being one of them.

Just as important, piercings and tattoos can limit each new job opportunity – not to mention future performance evaluations, raises, promotions. The fact is that most employers will make assumptions about your character based on your appearance.

#3. Criminal Record – Driving Under the Influence & Domestic Violence Charges: If you are charged or convicted of Driving Under the Influence (DUI), it will affect your future as a professional helicopter pilot. It might even prevent you from becoming a pilot. As a pilot, if you are found guilty of driving under the influence your career can be ruined. Although each situation may be looked at differently (case-by-case basis), a DUI is hard to overcome.

The FAA is not going to stop you from obtaining your pilot ratings if you’ve been charged with a DUI. It is also true that you can earn your pilot ratings having been convicted of a DUI. However, as a professional pilot your job prospects will be very limited at best.

With a DUI conviction, no employer will be eager to put you in an expensive aircraft with precious cargo. Prospective employers are very concerned about driving records (speeding tickets, reckless driving, etc.). So, a DUI can be considered a job killer.

If you don’t have a DUI, we recommend that you never get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol. Never! If you have a DUI, the best thing that you can hope for is to put some distance between yourself and your past poor choices. Somehow you have demonstrate that you have learned from your mistake(s). Show that you have become the kind of person who will never do those things again.

A domestic violence conviction will end your commercial flying career – period. Essentially, if you have a criminal record it will be very hard, if not impossible, to get a good job in the aviation industry. Our recommendation is that you don’t spend a dime on flight training if you have a substantial criminal record. There are way too many helicopter pilots out there without a criminal record – competing for those same jobs. Very few aviation companies will take the gamble on you.

#2. Skipping School – A College Educational: Earning a college degree is not necessary to obtain your flight ratings. Moreover, you can land good paying helicopter pilot jobs without a college degree. However, having a college degree is becoming more and more important to the industry. This trend is gaining momentum.

Some industry experts believe that it is only a matter of time before a relevant college degree will be a prerequisite to applying for the best jobs. Furthermore, in the aviation industry, there are plenty of incredible aviation jobs that pilots aspire to land – good-paying jobs. The top jobs in the industry require a college degree. At the very least, without a degree, you will be limiting your future career options.

#1. Choosing the Wrong Flight School: The best and worst decision a student pilot can make is related to the helicopter flight school they choose. Too many prospective student pilots fail to do their homework on flight schools before enrolling. Unfortunately, students can spend a great deal of money before they realize they chose the wrong school.

To become a commercial pilot (professional pilot), all students must earn a Commercial rating. But to get an entry level job as a commercial pilot it takes a lot more than ratings – it takes 300 to 400 flight hours or more (in most cases, a lot more). A student pilot can earn a commercial rating at 150 hours, which is not enough flight time to get a job. Therefore, most students go beyond the Commercial rating and obtain a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) rating. As a CFI, a pilot can earn the flight hours necessary to obtain their first industry job (referred to as a Tier 1 job). Find a flight school that can take you all the way through the process, including CFI.

What’s more, is the fact that most new pilots get their first industry job through networking. The aviation world is small, and where you get your training matters. To effectively compete for Tier 1 pilot jobs, you have to be credible – as a pilot and as a person. That means you have to be known by someone with credibility. Your mentors, flight instructors, and the school you get your training through must be able to help you enter the industry. So make sure you get your training through a school with a verifiable track record of graduates landing good paying jobs.

We hope this helps you avoid these student pilot mistakes and keep your aviation career progress on track.

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