As life in Europe slowly returns to normality, so does the world of aviation. During the height of Covid-19 the number of flights across European airspace dropped by 85% compared to the same period last year. However, this number is steadily improving as air traffic continues to increase throughout the months of June and July.
While the aviation industry is currently going through a difficult situation at the moment, aviation as an industry continues to grow and becomes stronger after each crisis. Using the 2008 world recession as an example, it took a short two years for the growth of passenger numbers to exceed what it was prior to 2008.
As a recession follows the Covid-19 outbreak, this is expected to be a shorter and less severe recession as countries and airlines held a lot less financial debt compared to 2008. This will have a big impact on the industries speed of recovery going forward.
Aviation during the period, 2010 – 2020 (January) saw a passenger growth on average of 7% yearly. This growth increased the number of aircraft and pilots required around the world. Boeing reported back in 2013, that by the year 2032, over 500,000 pilots will be required globally.
But the question must be asked, with limited flying opportunities, how can pilots keep active and most importantly, current.
An entry level pilot who plans on starting their training now, will be joining the aviation industry in a time of growth and recovery. The typical entry level pilot must undergo on average two years of training before they can get hired by a commercial airline. A new cadet starting their training must complete a PPL license, ATPL theory exams, CPL license, MEIR and finally an MCC.
This allows cadets to steadily build up their hours while earning their various licenses and qualifications required to apply for a job with a commercial airline. By the time a cadet is finishing their training, European airlines in particular should be in a position to hire new direct entry pilots as they look to bolster their roster.
While the current situation might look bleak, a cadet should be planning for the future while focusing on their current training. As the average cadet completes their aviation training aged 25 – in theory, they will have a 40-year career in aviation ahead of them. Short term goals, long term ambitions.
For a lot of cadets who are nearing the end of their aviation training, this could be considered a difficult crossroads, “should I continue and finish?”, or “should I delay my training?”.
Having spoken to a wide range of cadets who have reached this crossroads the majority feel they have come so far it would be a shame to not complete the journey. The training journey on average takes a cadet two years to achieve, but for many, it has taken longer. Think of the time, money, stress and commitment a cadet has invested, to then stop just short of the finish line.
The added benefit of completing your aviation training, including your APS or MCC/JOC course is once airlines start hiring again – you will be the most current and be ready to apply as soon as the application process opens.
Throughout 2018/2019, we spoke with cadets who nearly finished their training back in 2008-2010, but stopped their training short of completion. They delayed their training and ended up working in an office environment, which they didn’t enjoy but also felt they couldn’t leave. They had missed out on their dream job as the aviation industry began to boom.
Just like a normal flight, cadets will endure some turbulence throughout their training, while also currently facing a strong head wind, just remember, an aircraft takes off and lands against the wind.
Cadets who are finishing their training need to keep active/ current and the best way to create an impressive CV is to gain an flight instructor (FI) license. In the last few years, flight schools have been searching high and low for instructors and authorities for examiners. There was a such a shortage of instructors, some schools had as many as 40 cadets per instructor.
Once you achieve your FI, you can get paid to fly until a suitable commercial pilots’ job opens up, but most importantly, for every hour you are instructing you can log those hours as pilot in command.
As airlines start hiring again, there will be a competitive talent pool. By using this current situation to your advantage, you could double your flying hours, gain pilot in command experience and add a teaching aspect to your CV.
Airlines look for pilots who are passionate about aviation, who have kept current/keep hour building, but are also looking for suitable candidates who one day might become an airline TRI/TRE.
It is also worth approaching your flight school and asking, do they have enough instructors?
During the European wide lockdown, airlines grounded entire fleets overnight with some airlines operating reparation and cargo flights on a skeleton roster. Some pilots have not flown for three plus months, but under EASA guidelines are still required to complete their three take off/landings. This can all be done in a simulator. While this must be completed every 90 days under EASA guidelines, most airlines have their own internal policy which requires this type of re occurrence training to take place every 45-60 days.
As a commercial pilot, it is a particularly quiet time in the airline industry, especially as the winter schedule is getting closer. Similar to a pilot who is nearing the completion of their aviation training, a commercial pilot can use this down time to their advantage.
Once commercial pilots have their license valid, they can fly light aircraft to log hours, while also inquiring with ATOs and sim operators like Simtech Aviation to avail of downtime on the simulators.
Another option during this period would be to better understand the aircraft you fly and getting more familiar with your airline’s SOPs, checklists and procedures in the case of emergencies. While you won’t forget how to operate an aircraft, you will lose your sharpness the longer you are away from the aircraft.
The saying, everyday is a school day, is an important quote to remember. There are a number of courses online which are free to avail of such as Harvard’s free online Backyard Meteorology course, which includes a certificate.
This course is hosted here along with thousands of other courses free to use.
While this aviation downturn affects the industry as a whole, its important for pilots regardless of experience to keep positive, keep learning and where possible keep flying. As mentioned at the start, this is a period which is challenging and difficult for pilots and all those who work in aviation. The world is getting smaller and the number of passengers will continue to increase and in return the number of pilots and aircraft required will do likewise. Reports are suggesting their will be a large spike in passenger numbers in 2021 as people are missing trips away with work, family and holidays.