Pay for Training Rears it\’s Ugly Head Again

May 16th, 2010

Pay for Training is a concept that comes and goes with the ups and downs of pilot hiring cycles. Whenever there is a downturn in the economy, or a major event that affects air travel, for example the SARS virus or 911, the hiring cycle swings from an employees market to an employers market, as in any industry. When the hiring cycle is on the up side for pilots, you can walk into an entry level turbine job with a few hundred hours, or join an airline with as little as 1500 hours. You don\’t need a type rating to get a contract or a permanent position in a country which you are a non-patriot, and instructors are always in demand. When the hiring cycle is on the down side, type rated pilots with medium or heavy jet experience sit on the ground or fly in positions flying single engine piston charters. Instructing jobs are even becoming difficult to get, and if you do get one, everyone is fighting for the hours, employers can name their price, and attach a list of demands to it. If you want to stay in the industry, and in a job that will support your family, you often have to shift countries.

It is difficult to predict when these cycles come and go, and also very difficult to wait them out. Which is why pay for training exists. If you happen to be just qualified, or you are made redundant, or for any number of reasons find yourself in a position of not having a flying job that pays the bills, in a down cycle you have to either know someone, be lucky, be prepared to do anything for any amount, or have some kind of edge on your CV to get a job. Waiting it out, which could take up to three years, may not be an option – either you have too little time or too low hours, or your psyche can\’t take being grounded (meaning you are only flying a few times a year to keep current, since your ground job or your family commitments doesn\’t afford anything more).

Pay for training offers various options to get into the market, but at a cost. And is this cost to your pocket only, or is it a burden on air safety?

If it\’s the first time you\’ve heard this term, you might be thinking what is this all about, since, apart from very lucky sponsored cadets, we all have to pay for training don\’t we? Pay for Training is a term that relates to the practice of charging students for flying time in a commercial flight operation, or charging an excessive amount for a type rating because you are guaranteed a flying position for a limited time once you qualify.

This offer benefits to students, since in a depressed market, a type rating alone will not get you a job, you need a type rating plus experience, and no one except perhaps a few movie stars, royalty, and arab sheiks, can afford to pay for this required experience, which can be anywhere from 50 to 1000 hours on type depending on the aircraft and the company. When you are an employee for a company, this experience is completed on company aircraft with training captains, so you might again be wondering, what the difference is.

The major difference, and the major danger, is when the dollar begins to rule the selection process.

In any commercial operation where you are being paid to fly, even in the best of economic and aviation industry conditions, there is a selection process followed that ensures the company selects pilots who are, in the companies view point, the best person for the job. This of course does not guarantee that they are always the best for the job, but it does provide some checks and balances to ensure that pilots with dangerous attitudes or major deficiencies in training or ability are flying far paying passengers.

To sum up this intro article on pay for training; It\’s a great way for employers to cover costs of training, and for those that need to to shortcut selection processes that are otherwise stacked against them because of nationality, age, or other discriminatory or unfair factors, however both parties need to ensure integrity is maintained and above all safety standards are not compromised.

And a final word of warning for pilots who consider this route: be very sure that you know what you are paying for, make sure that the company is reputable – with a high standard of reliable references, and that courses, completion standards, and employment offers are based on ability and not ego pandering.

Keep the radar up for more on this matter soon.

Cessna Training Manuals

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