aviation strategy

Question #3 in the Aviation Career Series

No doubt you have heard about having a plan B in aviation.  Plan A is pretty easy to figure out and make a step by step plan for.  But what happens if plan A does not work out?  There have been plenty of pilots who become stuck when they put all of their eggs in the Plan A basket and that basket gets a hole in it.  A pilot who has a Plan B, is a person who has figured out that the aviation industry can throw some curve balls.

Some examples:

  • John wants to become an airline pilot for a major carrier and cannot get hired.  He just does not interview well and somehow keeps getting denied.  What does he do?  He hates being a regional pilot because the pay is low but he cannot go anywhere else.  To make matters worse, he has been at the same regional airline for 8 years and has some seniority in his base, to leave now would be hard.  Whats Plan B?
  • Bill is a flight instructor and just got up to 1200 hours of flight time.  The goal was to get the 1200 hours and then move over to that freight company that starts you out in single engine piston aircraft and move up from there.  They also fly an assortment of multi engine airplanes in which he can fly and then move on in his career.  The economy tanks, a war starts and the price of fuel skyrockets.  All hiring freezes and no companies are even taking applications.  What is Plan B?
  • Jeff is a corporate pilot for a very small family that flies a great corporate plane.  He works his way into the chief pilot position and is making a nice living.  He has a family and they settle into their life when the family decides to sell the jet and eliminate the job.  At the moment, no one is hiring that particular aircraft type and the longer he stays without a flying job, the faster he becomes a hiring risk.  What is Plan B?
  • Keith is a airline pilot in his first year at a major airline.  He just completed his probation period and is excited about year two.  Suddenly the airline decides to furlough and his union cannot do anything about it.  Just like that he is out of a job and cannot find any flying work because all the other airlines are in the same position.  What is Plan B?
  • Kelly is a flight instructor who just graduated college.  Kelly is also married and has one young child, flight instructs in the Midwest and does not want to move away from family.  The weather in the Midwest in the winter does not give many good flying days and he can be hard pressed to find students.  What is Plan B?
  • Dave graduated from an aviation school with a degree in aviation but changed his mind about flying full time for a living.  10 years later, Dave decides to get back into his aviation career and look for work after getting current.  No one wants to hire Dave since his last job was not an aviation job, what is plan B?
  • Spencer is a cargo pilot flying for good sized freight company that does not have the best reputation.  Although he is careful to keep a good record and not break any regulations, he is finding it hard to get interviews at desirable companies.  Spencer spends more time sending out resumes than he does going to interviews.  what is Plan B?

So what is Plan B?

I know that is the question your dying to ask right?  The answer depends upon you and your situation.  I know that is a lousy answer, but it takes a little planning.

  The mere fact that you have a Plan B puts you at a tremendous advantage.  You would be surprised at how many pilots put their eggs in one basket.  One thing worth mentioning, a good plan B, a really good career plan does not necessarily involve aviation.  There are several things you can plan that take the risk out of having two plans in the same field.  If you can more or less start to digest that, the better off you will be.  Here are some suggestions to help make yourself bullet proof.

Develop Business

  • Develop or buy a business that is not part of aviation.  Depending on where you are in your career, a business can be a really great insurance policy against a career expectation that did not pan out.  Franchises and proven concepts remove the risk and a lot of times can be run concurrently while you fly.  The key is to have a plan and have some help.  Pilots with spouses are better equipped to handle this kind of option.  They key is to find something that you are passionate about and building the business around that.  Passion is the key to staying interested and engaged.

Invest in Property

  • Buy Rental Properties.  Rental properties are a great hedge against aviation.  Some jobs give you time off in which you can find properties and/or improve them.  There is always a target rental market in any economy and in any town.  Real Estate is a great way to make sure money comes in while you do other things.

Build or Buy Intellectual Property

  • Build a website.  I know that sounds kind of weird, but I would not tell you to do so if I had no experience doing it myself.  Some flying lends itself to long layovers with not much to do,  If you are disciplined, you can make good use of that time and build something that will last a long time.  I favor sites that sell something, an actual product.  Chances are there is something you are interested in that would make a nice niche business.  One word of thought, once you are moving, opportunities keep coming.  If you are not moving at all, nothing will happen.  I could easily quit my flying job and pursue my other side plans if I so desired, which is a good feeling.

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Current Opportunities

  • Look for companies or businesses that are currently for sale in your area.  There are a lot of opportunities out there that most people miss.

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Back to the Basics

  • Teach flying.  I know that this may be where you started, by chances are you were too busy on your journey to stop and enjoy the instructing experience.  These opportunities change and have better options now that you are older and more experienced.  Like anything, when you are immersed into it, other options always become available.

You are an expert

  • Look for consulting positions.  Chances are you are an expert at something besides aviation.  Perhaps you can locate some consulting positions that would interest you if you actually started looking or advertising for them.

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Don't Stop

  • While this certainly is not an complete list of ideas in the aviation industry, it gives you the encouragement that there is certainly more out there to find.  Remember this, lots and lots of people are already impressed that you are a pilot.  that is leverage that you can use to work for you.  And even if you make your goal, things can change.  Aviation is always changing and just because your made it to the top does not mean its your long term solution.

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Hopefully this perspective has given you a nudge that working as a pilot needs to have an alternate aviation strategy.  When you start to think in a more tactical manner, it will make you feel more secure about your financial security especially if there is a bump in the road.

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