Alternative Piloting Careers

by Lauren Burmester

picThe typical path to becoming an airline pilot involves starting as a student pilot to complete FAA certifications (Private, Instrument, Multi-engine, Commercial, Instructor, Airline Transport Pilot, etc.).  Once all required certifications have been obtained the pilot then continues to fly on their own to gain hours or becomes a flight instructor.  Flying on your own time can become extremely expensive to accumulate hours.  Flight instructing is the most popular and economical method to build hours and get paid while doing it.  All pilots flying for hire must obtain a Commercial or Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate.   What about piloting careers outside the airlines?

A corporate pilot flies aircraft owned by businesses and corporations.  They transport company executives and employees on cross-country flights.  A corporate pilot will arrange for in-flight passenger meals and ground transportation at destinations.   They are also responsible for supervising the servicing and maintenance of the aircraft as well as keeping aircraft records. The job is often demanding and challenging, as the pilot is expected to fly in all kinds of weather into many unfamiliar airports. The aircraft may be a light twin-engine plane, a small executive jet, or even an airliner. The pilot is on call as needed by the company executives, so they are subject to irregular hours.  If the company owns a fleet of planes, pilots may fly a regular schedule.  As with becoming an airline pilot, you will need to build your hours before obtaining a job as a corporate pilot.

A charter pilot or air taxi pilot flies paying passengers for on short trips over varying routes in light aircraft such as single engine or light twin engine planes.  Most charter companies want new pilots who have already acquired their ATP with at least 3,000 flight hours.   Charter pilots will need to have a strong background in customer service as they work closely with their passengers coordinating ground transportation and special requests from their customers.  These pilots fly passengers and cargo as service demands.  Flights are mostly of short duration and pilots can count on returning home at the end of the working day.  If the pilot works for a company with a fleet of aircraft, they may fly on regular schedules over the same routes, much like a small airline.

Cargo or freight pilots fly mail, packages, freight, cargo, perishable items, etc.  In the United States there are few major companies that fly strictly cargo, such as:  FedEx, UPS, and DHL.  These companies primarily fly large jet aircraft.  Some of the smaller cargo companies may fly twin-engines, turbo props, or small jet aircraft.  Cargo pilots typically fly late nights and early mornings from 9pm to 7am.  The path to becoming a cargo pilot is a little lengthier than becoming an airline pilot.  Major cargo companies are looking for experienced pilots to fly for them.  Typical experience could include flying for a regional airline as a captain or a major airline as a first officer.  Major cargo companies are not willing to hire pilots who have built their time solely from flight instructing experience.

Becoming a pilot for a government agency or the military is a little different and has its own challenges.  To become a military pilot, you must be a member of the military.  Typically, with the exception of the Army, you will have to be a commissioned officer to be a pilot.  This can be achieved in several ways.  You can enroll in ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) through Embry-Riddle and compete for a flight slot.  Keep in mind that you are not guaranteed a flight slot, and you could potentially be placed in a non-flying position if the military is not looking for pilots at that time.  If ROTC is not an option you can join a Reserve or Guard unit after you complete your bachelor’s degree. Obtaining a piloting position in the Reserves or Guard may be difficult, as you will be competing against prior and current military members with seniority.  Both options require a commitment to serve for a specified amount of time.

If becoming a military pilot is not the best option and you still want to fly for the government, there are many different agencies that need pilots.  Depending on the agency they will only use military pilots or those with law enforcement backgrounds for security reasons.  Some agencies that will hire non-military personnel include, but are not limited to:  Forestry Service, NOAA, NTSB, FAA, Bureau of Labor Management, etc.  To become a pilot with NOAA, you must be accepted to the flight program following a three year assignment at sea as a Bridge Watchstander.

Whether you decide to become an airline, cargo, corporate or charter pilot, the path to a flying career is similar.  Start by getting your licenses and certificate through Embry-Riddle or  a local flight school. Depending on the pilot career path, additional type ratings may be required.  Build up your flights hours on your own or as a flight instructor to meet the minimum requirements to obtain a position as a first officer, and then move on to a captain position.  Regional airlines are an excellent option to acquire more flight time and experience before moving on to corporate, charter, cargo, and major airline piloting careers.

Lauren Burmester is new to the Career Services Office as a Program Manager.  She has been an employee with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University since 2006 working in Advising and Admissions.  She completed both her Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Studies with concentrations in Aviation Safety, Space Studies, and Business Administration, as well as a Master of Science degree in Aeronautics with a specialization in Safety Systems at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.  Lauren’s passion for the Aviation and Aerospace industry is instrumental in assisting students achieve their personal and professional goals.

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Alumni Career Spotlight: Michael Raynard Mayberry

Michael Raynard Mayberry graduated from the Worldwide Campus of Embry-Michael MayberryRiddle Aeronautical University in March 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics and minors in Aviation Safety and Management. Michael then went on to pursue a Master of Aeronautical Science in the specialty fields of Aviation/Aerospace Safety Systems and Aviation/Aerospace Operations, graduating in May 2012.

Michael is a retired U.S. Navy Combat Veteran who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Global War on Terrorism. In August 2007, Michael joined the civilian workforce at Flightstar Aircraft Services (FAS) as an Avionics Specialist. During his time at FAS, he continued his education path by completing his undergraduate and master degrees. He didn’t stop there. His focus was to use his military experience and college education to land a position in Safety, Quality, or Operations. With the help of Career Services resources, he was able to build a government resume that detailed each career field for which he wanted to apply. Within time, the interviews started coming forth. On August 30, 2010, Michael started work with the Federal Government, Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) as an Aircraft Quality Assurance Engineer.

Michael is an active leader in his community of Orange Park, FL. He’s a member of West Jacksonville Church of God in Christ where he’s a volunteer leader of ReSon to Care Male Mentoring Ministry (ages 6-16) and The Men of Distinction (MOD) Ministry.  Michael has been married to Michelle for 23 years, by whom he fathered two lovely daughters, RayNiesha and Deja.

Michael also serves as the Florida Federation/North Area Director of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. where he was awarded Upsilon Lambda Chapter New Brother of the Year Service Award in 2004 and Brother of the Year in 2005. He served as Chapter President in 2006 and 2007. Since then he has held numerous chapter executive positions.

With your background in aviation safety, avionics and quality engineering, what career advice do you have for people seeking employment in these areas?

Stay with what you know!! Most military personnel have multiple skills, and it’s quite okay to have multiple skillsets since it gives you more opportunities to land a job. The fields of Safety and Quality have similar backgrounds, so that made it much easier to build my government resume with keywords for the electronic resume systems. My undergraduate studies at Tennessee State University were Technical Aeronautics within Industrial Engineering. The ERAU Professional Aeronautics degree was definitely a refresher in up-to-date studies and programs to prepare me for the civilian sector. Advancing into a master’s program in Aeronautics and Aerospace gave me the opportunity to apply for mid-level career jobs. To sum it all up, the more education and experience you have, the more of an invaluable candidate you are for employment. If you find yourself facing challenges getting employed in one field, customize your resume for another field of study or experience you may have. Any certification courses (such as A&P, ASQ, Lean Six Sigma) that you completed while in the military or college are definitely a plus when seeking employment.

You successfully navigated the federal government application process. What tips do you have for application success?

The federal government resume should be at least five pages, and that can be very difficult for anyone just getting out of college. Prior military personnel can establish a lengthy resume by utilizing their military assignments. I suggest utilizing performance evaluations written in Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) as a key resource. College students should make every attempt to acquire an internship within the federal government. This will get you in the door and establish a federal record. It can take six months to a year to successfully get into the federal government system. It all starts with the resume. If you know someone who is already within the government system, ask that person or contact Human Resources to get a copy of the Job Skillset of your career path. You can also retrieve skillset information from the job descriptions that is within the job announcements on USAJobs. Take advantage of the resources offered by ERAU Career Services.

Networking has been a successful job search technique for you. How have you used networking to obtain employment? What did you do to market yourself to potential employers?

My technique of networking was to compile a list of people I knew within the companies that had my interest. I continued forwarding my resume to each of them with updates and suggestions that were given to me. Each time I received a name via the Industry/Career Expo, internet, telephone, or through referrals, I would add that person to the email when forwarding my resume. It’s good to enter your name into a company’s database so you will be readily available once an announcement posts. I still attend the ERAU Industry/Career Expo and other job fairs every opportunity I get. This is a good way to meet people within Human Resources or representatives from a targeted company. It’s also important to review and update your resume on a monthly basis.

How have your Embry-Riddle degrees opened doors for you?

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is a well-known, respected university in the aviation industry.  Technical skills are in high demand in today’s economy, and a degree from ERAU is priority because of its technical educational studies. Let’s just say a degree from ERAU is priceless.

Alumni Career Spotlight: Gino LeDonne

Gino LeDonne

Gino LeDonne, WW 2010

Gino LeDonne grew up in Port Orange, FL and began flying at the age of 14. He was given free lessons from a retired Army pilot who owned a Cessna 172. In exchange for yard maintenance and basic mechanics on the C-172, Gino was given free lessons up to his private pilot certificate. He then began working on his degree at ERAU while taking flying lessons at the Comair Aviation Academy, beginning with his Instrument Rating all the way to Certified Flight Instructor.

Gino began flight instructing and attending the Embry-Riddle Worldwide campus in Orlando at the age of 19. Shortly after he turned 21, Gino was offered a position as First Officer with the now defunct Comair Airlines. He flew as a First Officer on both the Embraer 120 and Canadair Regional Jet. After obtaining the several thousand hours of jet time, Gino upgraded to Captain on the CRJ at the age of 24.

He began to realize that the schedule that came with full-time line flying, in addition to a commute to New York, was not agreeing with his desired quality of life. After much deliberation and finishing his degree in Professional Aeronautics, he decided to focus on a major job search. This search eventually led to his current position as an Airbus A320 Instructor Pilot with JetBlue Airways in Orlando, FL. He has worked for JetBlue since 2010 and currently resides in Daytona Beach, FL.

How did you land your position as an Airbus A320 Instructor Pilot with JetBlue Airways?

I landed my position with JetBlue Airways by creating a profile on the company website and an account with LinkedIn. Approximately 3 months after creating a LinkedIn account, I was contacted by a JetBlue Airways recruiter and invited to apply for the position of Airbus A320 Instructor Pilot. I applied for the job and asked for a few recommendation letters; with a bit of luck I was interviewed within three weeks. A week later, I was offered the job via phone contact and email.

What does your role as a Airbus A320 Instructor Pilot entail?

My role of A320 Instructor Pilot entails training new and recurrent pilots to the standards of the company/FAA. We are required to teach ground school classes, as well as simulator events. A full time instructor may also fly line trips 2 days per month, so it is really the best of both worlds.

What three traits or skills have made you most successful in your career?

Three skills that have made me successful in my career would be: attention to detail, a humble attitude, and persistence. These three traits have allowed me to prevail, regardless of any setback that may have occurred along the way.

Do you have any advice for pilots looking to make a career change?

My advice to pilots looking for a career change would be to branch out and use every available resource. I received wonderful guidance via ERAU Career Services. I also was determined to get outside of my “comfort zone” to gain experience with such things as resume building, interviewing, and communicating with non-aviation employers. Ultimately, I was lucky enough to stay within my career field and obtain employment more conducive to my desired lifestyle.

Alumni Career Spotlight: Chris Jones

Chris Jones WW 2009

Chris Jones (WW 2009)

When Chris Jones landed a job with the US Navy after graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics from the Worldwide campus in 2009, he contacted the Career Services Office to let us know how valuable his internship experience had been in directing his career path towards the field of emergency management. Before getting hired by the Navy, Chris started a small business, CJ’s Mobile Wash and Wax LLC, which he still owns and operates. We are thrilled to have the chance to share his positive and inspiring experience.

What professional endeavor have you been devoted to lately?

Over the past 18 months, I have been working for the Department of the Navy as the Emergency Operations Center Manager at Naval Station Everett. This career involves working with enlisted service members, military officers, and civilians, helping them to prepare for, respond to and recover from man-made and natural disasters.

We know that you are an advocate for experiential learning.  Tell us why you feel internships are so important.

I am a solid advocate for the internship program whether paid or unpaid. Having spent a year and half in an unpaid internship in emergency management taught me the value of experiential learning. One of the tasks I was assigned included beta testing a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) software program known as Depiction. I had no idea what a beta test was nor what GIS was for that matter. That endeavor gave me great insight into many emergency management areas, including where above- and below-ground utilities were in reference to schools and hospitals; mass-transit information such as the number of busses, how many they seat, how much fuel the hold; where sign boards are for notification purposes and so on. That training was one of the keys that I brought to my interview and later, my career with the Navy. Not only do I now know what GIS is, but I also know how to employ it for situational awareness for decision makers.

How do you utilize your network to help you in your career?

One of my projects with the Navy involved analysis of which of our public protection strategies would be best with regard to HAZMAT spill scenarios we were running. Earlier in my internship, I was introduced to Dr. Jerry Galt who wrote the algorithms for the air modeling program we were using. In a conversation with my boss, I mentioned my connection with Dr. Galt and that I would invite Dr. Galt down for a conversation. A few weeks later, Dr. Galt came by, presenting some basic and in-depth wisdom to our EOC staff and our HAZMAT techs. Simply invaluable!

What is one piece of career advice you would like to share?

The one piece of advice I would offer is to consider internships that might be out of your specific area of interest. For me, my minors were business management and safety. The internship I did was in Emergency Management. That was the best decision I ever made.

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