All posts tagged 'Career'

Top 5 Jobs in Aviation (That are not Professional Pilot)

Since I was a young girl and I took my first airplane flight, I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life associated with this wonderful world of flying machines. My immediate action after this flight was to decide I would be a professional pilot. After all, in my young mind that was the only job that would let me be around airplanes and airports all day. Since then, I have pushed on with single-mindedness towards earning my flight ratings. First private, then instrument, now I am building hours towards taking my commercial pilot checkride.

However, he more that I dig deep into the world of professional flight, the more I see that it is certainly not just the pilots that play an important role. In reality, they play just as important of a role of any of the hundreds of other personnel that run airports and flight operations daily. These jobs are not given the "rock star" persona that the general public tends to give pilots, and I believe that is a terrible misunderstanding.

In my Crew Resource Management class at my flight university we have been discussing a lot about what exactly the definition of "crew" is. Is it just pilot flying and pilot monitoring? Is it also ATC? If ATC is included, wouldn’t maintenance and dispatch also make the cut? A commercial flight operation could not possibly happen without the combined efforts of all of these resources.

I want to give a brief overview of what I consider to be five of the most important "crew" resources for every commercial flight. I would also like to encourage every young aviator out there to take a step back and appreciate all of the supporting people that work to make these operations happen. They are all "rock stars" in their own right and work very hard to keep the skies safe and efficient.

Air Traffic Controller

Picture this scenario: It is a sunny and beautiful day at a medium-sized airport that supports both commercial and general aviation traffic. Everyone suddenly gets the urge to stretch their wings and spend a few hours in the air. At the same time, routine commercial flights are coming and going at breakneck speed to accommodate travelers. As a controller, it is your job to perfectly orchestrate the dozens of aircraft that are in your airspace at any given moment. You also have to take into consideration the type, speed, altitude, and intention of each plane. Air traffic controllers have an extremely difficult job, that when done well is not noticed.

Dispatcher

A dispatcher is in charge of organizing a large portion of the logistical information for a flight. In the U.S. and Canada they also share legal responsibility for any aircraft they are assigned with the pilot in command. Dispatchers are trained to ATP standards, and must have extensive knowledge of meteorology and aviation regulations in general. A dispatcher typically handles between 10 and 20 aircraft at the same time, and must monitor each of them to ensure safe flight operations.

Aircraft Maintenance Worker

If aircraft were not maintained to the high standard that they are today, there would be twice as many accidents happening during daily flight operations. Aircraft maintenance technicians are highly skilled in mechanics, computer systems, and a whole host of other practical expertise. They spend weeks memorizing the complex systems of each aircraft that they work on. They are not afraid to get dirty, and keep thousands of aircraft flying every day.

Management

With all of these moving parts, there has to be some sort of management in place to assure that everything is running smoothly. That is where the managers, administrators, HR workers or "higher-ups" come into play. They know the business side of aviation, and often incorporate their personal aviation knowledge into their managerial methods. These are the people that help to keep the business going when things get tough.

Flight Attendant

No list of important aviation jobs would be complete without mention of flight attendants. These hard working crewmembers deal directly with the general public for hours every day. They travel the world just as much as the pilots do, and have to be wise and patient when handling any issues caused by passengers onboard. They must be friendly but assertive, constantly holding a professional demeanor. The life of a flight attendance is not glamorous, but it sure can be fun.

This list does not scratch the surface of all the types of jobs available in the aviation industry. I am sure that if you thought of almost any job, there is an equivalent job in the aviation industry. Keep an open mind when looking towards your future career endeavors, and always do what you love! We have a great list of job search resources available on the GlobalAir.com Aviation Directory.

A Conversation with the Next Generation of Pilots

The Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education (KIAE) is a one-of-a-kind endeavor, currently networking 20 high schools in the state to provide students direct experiences in aeronautical engineering, flight, aircraft maintenance, and space systems. When I asked Tim Smith, Director of Frankfort High School’s Aviation program and CIO for KIAE, why this was important, he said, "Programs like these will lead to more students enrolling in post-secondary opportunities in flight/aeronautics, aircraft maintenance, aeronautical engineering, space systems engineering, aerospace computer engineering, air traffic control, and aviation management/operations. Another important element of expansion is that potential grant opportunities and other sponsorships examine viability and scale of the initiative. So, it is important to show its implementation in a variety of environments. In short, the more students that are studying aerospace, the more that will enter the workforce."

Three of their students got to experience a different end of the spectrum when they rode along with a gathering of Yakolevs at Bowman Field in Louisville, KY (just outside GlobalAir.com’s office). See more on the gathering itself here. I spent a few minutes with Michael Dahl, Jason Smith and Seth Padgett just before they climbed into their respective cockpits for a bit of formation flying.

Michael Dahl climbing into a Yak to experience formation flying.

GlobalAir: What inspired each your interests in aviation?

Michael Dahl: My uncle took me flying in an open-air cockpit bi-plane right here at Bowman Field when I was 11 years old, and that summer I flew on a commercial airliner on our vacation to California - all that exposure to flying in a short amount of time got my attention. When I found there was an aviation-related program at Frankfort High School, I made sure to get involved!

Jason Smith: My mother often took me to the airport as a baby to let the sounds of aircraft calm me, so I’ve been interested a long time! I knew after seeing "Top Gun" that I wanted to be a fighter pilot – I even dressed like Maverick for Halloween once.

GA: You’re too tall to play Tom Cruise!

JS: (laughs) Well, this was a while ago. Then I got involved with the aviation program at school. I was also motivated by learning about the various mission aviation programs that exist when I was at Oshkosh, so I’ve also become interested in contributing there.

Seth Padgett: I was born in Germany, so I’ve been on aircraft since I was a child flying back and forth to visit family. I became more seriously involved through an aviation camp where we did flight planning, and from there Tim Smith turned me on to the KIAE program in Frankfort.

Jason Smith receiving a safety briefing on riding along in the Yak.

GA: What have been the biggest obstacles for each of you in pursuing your pilot’s licenses?

MD: I was always concerned about "what if there’s a problem during flight"? I had to tell myself to get past it and stop being afraid to try.

JS: For me, it’s the number of hoops you have to jump thru, plus the financial burden. But, even though it’s a cliché, you truly can do anything you set your mind to do.

SP: It’s so much easier to get a driver’s license – take a test, drive an instructor around, and you’re done. Earning your pilot’s license is such a time investment; it’s easy to get discouraged. You have to remind yourself that you will get there, just be patient and stay focused!

GA: We, in the aviation industry, already know that bringing youth to aviation is vital to growing the industry. So what would you want to share with kids your age that may be interested, but intimidated, by flying?

SP: Statistically speaking, flying is very safe. When you see how many check-ups and tests you have to do to become a pilot and take care of your aircraft, you’ll see there’s nothing to be intimidated by.

MD: If you’ve never flown before, or are scared of flying, find an airport and see if anyone is willing to take you up and experience it for yourself. Learn more about airplanes & how they work - that’s how I got hooked!

JS: I agree – get up and fly! Talking about it isn’t enough!

Seth Padgett scoping the taxi path as they maneuver for takeoff.

GA: Lastly, what do you plan to do with your licenses – personal enjoyment, or career aspirations?

MD: Right now, mostly personal enjoyment. It’s still a little early for me to look beyond to career options.

JS: I mentioned earlier about being a fighter pilot and doing missionary work – which requires mechanical knowledge as well, so I’m putting focus there too.

SP: I’d like to fly for the Air Force initially. Afterward, I’ll likely transition to flying for services like UPS, FedEx, Delta – many options! But also personal enjoyment for sure!

Shortly after our conversations, all six pilots met and discussed formations, with the three boys listening intently. The students then met with the pilots of their Yaks and got personal instructions for their safety and knowledge about occupying the second seat. I marveled at the focus they all had on the task at hand as I snapped a few pictures – my presence wasn’t even registering anymore. They were now sponges, soaking in everything about the aircraft they were climbing aboard!

A few gallons of avgas were added, the Yaks (and their accompanying Cessna 172R and Christen Eagle II) taxied out and took to the air. I managed to catch a couple of passes over Bowman Field before I had to leave for another appointment, so I didn’t get to stick around to get their impressions afterward. But I think it was safe to assume that it was nothing but joy and excitement all around!

Watch the Yaks, 172 and Christen Eagle taxi out for takeoff!

So You Think You Want To Be A Pilot

     I first believed in myself when I discovered my plan. Childhood came and went, as did my youthful dreams of one day becoming a Veterinarian. My teenage years brought a whole new light to the subject and before I could turn around and blink three times I was out of the veterinarian stage and driving off to fill out applications to culinary schools. Needless to say, a few years behind the swinging kitchen doors of a TGI Friday’s were more than enough for me to come to the clear realization that my days of working as a chef were limited. During my first two years of college I was waitressing tables at a local restaurant, while and attending classes part time at a local community college roughly studying Nuclear Medicine. I noticed that I no longer had the same spark of certainty that I had once possessed and I longed to rekindle the same passion that I once had to become a veterinarian. Everything changed the moment I stepped into Ron Biddle’s Diamond DA 40 XL. Suddenly I realized that every negative thing that I had ever experienced in the career world had been leading me to that very moment. I spent a long time searching and never once felt right or certain about anything until that day I experienced Ron’s Diamond for the very first time.

     One day, my boss called me into the conference area for our routine meeting. This gathering was nothing out of the ordinary, but what struck me as dissimilar was his rather new interest in my thoughts for the future. He inquires on what I plan to do with my life by asking me what I want to be when I grow up. This question required absolutely no thought on my part at all as I lucidly exclaimed that I want to be a pilot. His reaction left me puzzled; I was under the impression that everyone knew this about me already. As calmly and collected as ever he looked at me and said, “No you don’t.” His tone was gruff like, completely sincere as if he knew my best intentions. Of course, being the stubborn and fussy woman that I am, I immediately wanted to dispute this opinion; but before I could internally prepare myself for battle he offered a truce. “So write about it” he stated. The pressure was on; he was challenging me!

     Okay pilots, here is what I intend to do - I intend to create a short series about the different types of careers that can evolve from a job as a pilot. Therefore I am asking for help from my readers. If you are a professional pilot of any sort, please contact me. I would love to learn about you! Just send in a quick email to keely@globalair.com explaining what your career is and your name. My plan is to then choose several different types of pilots to interview and write about. Everyone has a great pilot story, we want to hear yours!

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