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Ready For Takeoff - Turn Your Aviation Passion Into A Career

The Ready For Takeoff podcast will help you transform your aviation passion into an aviation career. Every week we bring you instruction and interviews with top aviators in their field who reveal their flight path to an exciting career in the skies.
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Now displaying: December, 2020
Dec 31, 2020

“Well, that fixes the pilot shortage.” This has been the “word on the street” since the Covid-19 crisis hit in mid-March. Since then, thousands of airline pilots have taken early retirement packages and extended leaves of absence.

 

The good news? Private charter flights are more in demand and first-time aircraft buyers are entering the market. While those factors might generate pilot demand, there aren’t enough positions to employ every furloughed airline pilot. And even if there were, many operators are leery of making the investment in them.

Temporary Relief

According to global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, it might take up to four years for airline demand to come back to pre-pandemic levels. In the meantime, airlines have “solved” for this by offering early retirements, halting the natural progression of pilots through the ranks. But the strategy has produced the same effect as when the FAA raised the retirement age to 65. And that decision, as we know, fueled the pilot shortage.

When a vaccine is readily available and business and leisure travelers start flying again, will the airlines be ready? Many fear that they won’t be because furloughs and early retirements have gone so deep. As we know, retraining takes time.

So how will we be ready when travelers return? Especially when we’ll have a core of middle-to-late active career pilots and a surplus of out-of-currency pilots, many of whom just started their careers. Will these younger pilots leave the industry altogether? 

While I don’t have a crystal ball, it’s likely that the resurgence of travel and the start of additional age 65 retirements could occur simultaneously. Thus, another “perfect storm” looms, where demand for talent outstrips supply. And another pilot shortage begins.

So now, temporarily, we do have some relief. But not for long. It will return, and when it does, I fear it will come with a vengeance!

Don’t Let Up on the Gas

In business aviation, we’ve made tremendous progress with regard to becoming competitive against the airlines. Most business aviation operators have realigned compensation and addressed headcount to help with work/life balance.

Despite Covid, most of the pilots in this segment remain safely employed. More than ever, the industry is proving that being a business aviation pilot is an outstanding, stable career.

At present, it’s important to support our current retention strategies. Also, let’s not allow the flood of unemployed pilots to give us a false sense of security. Because when pilots return to the airlines, there likely won’t be enough. Thus, the pull on business aviation could possibly be even more extreme than it was in the first quarter of this year.

Is it worth becoming a pilot today? I would say “YES,” resoundingly. The public will travel again, and whether it’s with the airlines or on a private jet, we’ll need pilots!

This is the business aviation industry’s time to shine and for the next generation to understand why a piloting career in this segment is so wonderful. Let’s not lose critical ground by kicking the proverbial can down the road.

Despite an industry slump that has seen mass pilot lay-offs, the global civil aviation industry will still require an estimated 27,000 new pilots from the end of 2021, or 264,000 over the coming decade.

That forecast comes from Canadian training and simulator provider CAE, which on 9 November released its latest prediction covering the demand and availability of pilots through 2029.

This year, the number of active pilots has declined year on year by around 87,000 to about 300,000, but will bump up to an estimated 374,000 by the end of 2021, says CAE.

Though still less than 2019 levels, by the end of next year “age-based retirements and attrition” will leave the industry short 27,000 flightcrew, says the study.

That figure will balloon over 10 years to a requirement for more than 264,000 new pilots, CAE says.

“Despite the short-term decline in the number of active pilots due to the impact of Covid-19, the civil aviation industry is expected to require more than 260,000 new pilots over the next decade,” CAE says.

“Fundamental factors influencing pilot demand prior to the Covid-19 outbreak remain unchanged. Age-based retirement and fleet growth were, and are expected to remain, the main drivers of pilot demand.”

CAE predicts the civil aviation industry will require a total of 484,000 pilots in 2029: an estimated 426,000 for airlines and another 58,000 business jet crews.

Of those, 167,000 pilots will be needed to replace those who are retiring or otherwise leaving the workforce, while the remainder will be needed to meet industry expansion, CAE predicts.

“Thousands of pilots have been furloughed in recent months. Many of them have pivoted to other professions and might not want to resume their pilot careers,” says the report.

The Asia-Pacific region will require the most new pilots – about 91,000 over 10 years, equating to about one-third of total demand. North America will need a combined 65,000 new pilots; Europe 42,000; the Middle East 25,000; South and Central America 16,000; and Africa 4,000, CAE projects.

Dec 28, 2020

 

Kimbrell received her commission in 1998 after graduating from the USAF Academy, later she attended Undergraduate Pilot Training at Laughlin AFB, TX and was awarded her pilot wings in August 1999. She then completed Introduction to Fighter Fundamental training at Randolph AFB, TX in November 1999. In August 2000, she graduated from her initial F-16 training at Luke AFB, Arizona, becoming the first African American female fighter pilot in the USAF.

 

She was assigned to the 13th Fighter Squadron, Misawa, Japan for her first operational assignment. During this time she was deployed to Turkey and Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Northern and Southern Watch. Her flights in Operation Northern Watch marked her as the first female pilot to fly combat missions for Misawa's 35th Fighter Wing. Additionally, during Operation Northern Watch she became the first African American female pilot to employ ordnance in combat.

 

In July 2004, she graduated from the Joint Fire Control Course and was assigned to the 15th Air Support Operations Squadron. Later she deployed as the 2nd Brigade Air Liaison Officer in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

 

In June 2007, Kimbrell was assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano AB Italy where she served as Assistant Director of Operations for the 555 Fighter Squadron.

 

In 2009, Kimbrell relocated to 6th Combat Training Squadron, Nellis AFB where she served as the Course Manager for the Air Liaison Officer Qualification Course and an instructor. From this assignment she separated from active duty Air Force and transitioned to the Air Force Reserves in Oct 2013.

 

Beginning October 2013, Kimbrell served as an MQ-9 Pilot and Mission Commander for the 78th Attack Squadron out of Creech Air Force Base, Nevada.

Dec 24, 2020

Furloughs in the airline industry are forcing pilots to find new work in other aspects of aviation, including flying privately-owned aircraft.

Private aviation is in the midst of an expansion that's seeing aircraft operators invest in more planes to bring in a new market of first-time private flyers who are abandoning first class thanks to the pandemic. A fleet of new planes requires more pilots to fly them and as the airlines contract during the downturn, private firms are looking to hire former airline pilots with plenty of experience.

It may seem like an easy transition since flying a plane is the same whether it be for an airliner or private charter company, but the workload and lifestyle couldn't be any more different. Instead of flying a plane full of passengers, a private aviation pilot caters solely to the wealthy and powerful, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

It's a challenging job that requires a pilot to go above and beyond, at times, according to Sean Scialfa, a 31-year airline pilot who has spent time on both sides of the industry. Unlike the airlines, private aircraft pilots deal with problems head-on and face to face instead of from behind a locked cockpit door and through a public announcement system.

Here's how flying private aircraft is different than flying for the airlines.

1. Wearing many hats
Pilots on this side of the industry are very much the face of the operation and frequently interact with guests, which is why private aviation CEOs look for pilots with personality and a customer-service oriented attitude. It's not a job where pilots can show up a few minutes before boarding and not speak to a passenger the entire flight.

When an airline pilot shows up at the airport, the expectation is not to greet passengers in the gate area before a flight, scan their tickets, and load their bags for them. All that is done by the army of support staff that airlines employ to service any given flight.

But those tasks are routinely performed by a private aircraft pilot who typically arrives at the airport about an hour before their flight to prep the aircraft, which can include getting it fueled, stocked, catered, and cleaned. Once the passengers arrive at the plane, it's the pilot's responsibility to cross-check their identification with the manifest, load their bags, and even give the safety briefing if there is no cabin attendant for that flight.

2. The cockpit door is always open
Access to the cockpit on a commercial airliner became highly restricted after September 11, 2001. Cockpit doors were reinforced and locked to prevent any undue entry and only opened if the crew needed to use the restroom or receive their meals with no passenger access to the flight deck on most flights.

On the private side, however, the cockpit doors are normally left open. Passengers can see everything that's going on and come visit during the flight. Some private aircraft don't even have cockpit doors with most light and propeller aircraft, namely, having open environments and little to no boundaries between the passenger cabin and cockpit.

The problem isn't the threat of a hijacking with these aircraft but passengers having direct contact with pilots can lead to stressful or pressure-filled situations that could make pilots behave differently. For example, if an aircraft was late to arrive at an airport that is dangerous to access at night, Scialfa said, being pressured by passengers could lead to the pilot to make a fatal mistake by giving in instead of making the safe choice.

3. A different lifestyle, for better or worse
The wealthy often go to extremes when they travel and often visit exclusive and exciting locales that may make a pilot's life seem like one long vacation in between flights. Holiday weekends in the winter, for example, can see pilots flying to Aspen, Colorado; Jackson Hole, Wyoming; or Sun Valley, Idaho, then off to Europe or South America for weeks at a time in the summer.

But that lifestyle also means being away from home for long stretches, more so than at the airlines. Pilots working for a charter operation can be on-call or on the road for weeks at a time. Airlines trips are typically only a few days, with periods of time off in between, but private aircraft pilots often have a certain number of weeks on-call followed by hard days off.

According to Scialfa, pilots that can't keep up with that lifestyle will often ask themselves: "Is this better than working in Home Depot, or is it not?"

4. Living local
Private aircraft pilots often have to live within a certain radius of their home airport since flights can pop-up at a moment's notice, especially with on-demand charter flights. Some companies require pilots to live less than 90 minutes from the airport to be able to pick up what is known as an "ASAP" trip while some will allow commutes upwards of three hours.

Airline pilots don't need to live near the airports out of which they're based and will fly in and out around their work schedule. A New York City-based American Airlines pilot can live in Los Angeles, for example, and commute the day before the first flight of his trip and back as soon as he lands back in New York since pilots are given flight benefits on nearly any commercial airline.

"With the airlines, you know, you're not going to be gone for more than four to six days," said Scialfa. "And then, depending on where you live, you drive home or you jump in an airplane and commute to Ohio or wherever you may live."

5. Arriving early and leaving late
Private aircraft pilots are often required to arrive at the airport at least an hour before every flight to allow enough time to prepare for passenger arrival. During this time, the pilot will order fuel for the plane, perform pre-flight procedures, file the flight plan, check the route weather, stage the catering order if one was placed, and await passenger arrival, according to Scialfa.

Once the aircraft has arrived, the pilot has to stick around the button up the plane by checking the cabin for any issues, removing any trash, inspecting the exterior, and sometimes placing coverings on the engines and important gauges. If the plane is leaving early the next morning for a flight, the pilot will often stick around to see it fueled and ready to go for the early departure.

Airline pilots often show up a few minutes before boarding and perform all of the pre-flight checks while passengers are getting on the plane. But wealthy passengers expect to depart as soon as they arrive so that isn't an option on a private aircraft.

6. Moving to a smaller pond
Private aircraft operators are often family-like environments where all the pilots know each other and can fly in pairs based on experience. The same two pilots can be paired together for months at a time, especially if both assigned to the same owner, so there's less variety when it comes to the cockpit crew.

That also applies to the passengers with repeat-business very common in the private aviation world, especially with the owner of the aircraft. Pilots have to maintain relationships with passengers they fly as it will directly influence whether they fly with that company or flight crew again.

8. Making the most out of a bad situation
Private aircraft often have more flexibility in getting passengers from point A to B than airliners do thanks to the unscheduled nature of the business. If bad weather delays all flights into New York, for example, a pilot can file a flight plan for Boston and then request a diversion in mid-air since it's less likely to be turned down or directly ask passengers if they want to leave earlier to beat the storm.

And not all aircraft need to follow flight plans, with smaller aircraft often operating under visual flight rules restrictions that allow them to fly more direct routes and avoid certain types of delays. It's often done with shorter flights since visual flight rules can only be used under 18,000 feet.

Pilots can also depart under those rules to avoid ground delays with instrument flight plans and then request clearance to pick up a normal flight plan once they depart.

9. Working the holidays
To paraphrase the famous saying, private aircraft pilots follow the calendar of the elites. That means more trips over the holidays and especially long holiday weekends when the kids are off from school or when the office is closed.

The Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday periods, as well as the Fourth of July, are peak travel times. Some companies will allow pilots to fly home between flights but it's at the discretion of the company.

10. Max duty days
The longest workday for a private aircraft pilot is 14 hours and passengers will often seek to make the most of that timeframe. Early morning flights and late-night returns are very common and can occur back to back with only as little as 10 hours of rest in between.

Private aviation executives are predicting more day trips for business travelers as they seek to reduce exposure while on the road.

11. A more relaxed environment
Pilots coming from the airlines may be taken aback by the informal nature of private flying, according to Scialfa, especially when it comes to executing procedures. Airlines have a more regimented training program while the private side may not be as stringent, with multiple ways to accomplish a task in the latter compared to only one way in the former, according to Scialfa.

"It's hard for an airline guy to go, 'what do you mean there's three different ways to do that?'" Scialfa said.

 

Dec 21, 2020

Every day over 2,000 healthy dogs and cats are euthanized in our nations shelters— the result of too many animals and too few homes.   We are working to reduce euthanasia rates by transporting animals from places with overcrowded shelters to adoption centers in other geographic regions where loving families are waiting to adopt them.

DIMC flies as many animals as possible in a single flight to maximize efficiency.  DIMC does not charge our partners organizations for our transport services.  As opposed to long-distance ground transportation or the red tape of commercial flights, transporting animals via private aircraft is efficient and affordable — just $64 per animal, per flight. But resources are always in demand and DIMC looks to the public to keep flying.

Since its founding, DIMC has grown from saving a few hundred lives a year to more than 2,500 annually. DIMC’s success is due also to its dedicated team of organizers and contributors.

Peter, “The Pilot”, is an East Coast refugee, who always believed that he was switched at birth with a kid from New Jersey. After working his way through medical school as a pilot, he practiced Orthopedic Surgery for more than thirty years. Instead of retiring to a golf course, he has returned to the skies as our Chief Pilot. Peter holds an Airline Transport Pilot rating and is qualified to fly single and multiengine aircraft as well as seaplanes. He is also a certified flight instructor. Transporting animals to forever homes in a Cessna Turbo Cessna 206 Stationair and Cessna Grand Caravan, he says that the view from his new office beats any other.

Dec 17, 2020

From First Flight Society:

December 17, 1928, the 25th Anniversary of the world’s first powered flight, the Kill Devil Hills Memorial Association held a special ceremony commemorating those historic flights at the birthplace of aviation. The ceremony included the dedication of the boulder marking the site of the first flight and the laying of the cornerstone atop Kill Devil Hill for the Wright Memorial. Construction of the memorial atop Kill Devil Hill began in the spring of 1931 and was finished and dedicated November 19, 1932. Orville Wright was guest of honor at the dedication. The inscription around the base of the monument is a reminder to us of the incredible accomplishments of the brothers: “In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright. Conceived by genius and achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith.”

Today, First Flight Society still serves its founding mission – and much more. Membership, programs, educational outreach, publications and scholarships were added over the years to serve the Society’s mission of cultivating support, education and understanding of the Wright Brothers Legacy.

Each year, FFS provides countless service hours to preserve, protect, inspire and teach. By supporting the society, you join a dedicated decades old community that shares in the wonder of aviation and this national treasure – Wright Brothers National Memorial for future generations. Thank you!

Dec 14, 2020

Tammie Jo Shults was accepted by the Navy for Aviation Officer Candidate School at Naval Air Station Pensacola. After completing the twelve-week course and receiving her commission as an Ensign on June 21, 1985, Shults attended flight training, also at NAS Pensacola, where she trained and qualified for her pilot's wings in the T-34 .

After Pensacola, Shults was stationed at Naval Air Station Chase Field as a flight instructor for the T-2 Buckeye. She later qualified in the A-7 Corsair II with training (RAG) squadron VA-122 at Naval Air Station Lemoore. Her next assignment was VAQ-34, a Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron at the Pacific Missile Test Center located at Point Mugu, California. When the squadron relocated to NAS Lemoore in 1991, Shults became an instructor under the command of CAPT Rosemary Mariner, the first woman to command an operational air squadron. Shults became one of the first female naval aviators to qualify in the F/A-18 Hornet when the squadron transitioned from the EA-6B Prowler.

During Operation Desert Storm, the combat exclusion policy at that time prevented women from flying combat sorties, so Shults flew training missions as an instructor aggressor pilot for naval aviators. She finished her tour of duty in March 1993.

In December 1995, she was promoted to Lieutenant Commander (LCDR), then transitioned to the Navy Reserve, where she flew the F/A-18 Hornet and EA-6B Prowler until August 2001. 

After leaving the Navy, Shults joined Southwest Airlines as a pilot, flying a part-time schedule of 8–10 days per month so that she could also raise a family following her marriage to fellow naval aviator Dean Shults.

On April 17, 2018, while Shults was captain in command of Flight 1380 from New York to Dallas, an engine fan blade on the Boeing 737 failed and flying debris damaged the left side of the fuselage and one side window; the window failed, causing the plane to decompress. One passenger was partially sucked through the damaged window and was later pronounced dead at the hospital. Shults made an emergency descent and landed in Philadelphia. Her actions, calm demeanor, and competence during the emergency were noted by Southwest Airlines officials and passengers as well as Chesley Sullenberger, another commercial airline and former military pilot who controlled a similar situation in 2009 on US Airways Flight 1549.

Shults later revealed that she had not intended to be the pilot of that flight, but had swapped the shift with her husband.

In 1994, she married Dean Shults, at the time a fellow naval aviator in the A-7 Corsair II, who also joined Southwest Airlines as a pilot that year. Together, they have two children. The couple lives in Boerne, Texas. Shults is a devout Christian who teaches Sunday school, and helps the needy, such as internally displaced persons from Hurricane Rita.

Shults wrote a book about Southwest Airlines flight 1380, Nerves of Steel, which was released in the United States on October 8, 2019.

 
 
Dec 10, 2020

If you read my blog post My Love/Hate Relationship With Oxygen Masks, you know I have some great experiences in flight where the ever-present oxygen mask saved the day. If you're on LinkedIn you may have seen my recent video "Lights Out At Kadena", where having an oxygen mask was instrumental in my safely completing an Air Force mission.

I had another Air Force mission where the absence of an oxygen mask had the potential to end very badly. I was flying an O-2A aircraft (military version of the Cessna 337) on a local training mission out of Patrick Air Force Base, Florida. During the flight, the standby magnetic compass, sometimes called the "whiskey compass", started leaking. 

The liquid inside the whiskey compass is highly corrosive and the fumes can cause permanent neurological effects. And the O-2A does NOT have an oxygen mask! Fortunately, before the fumes could cause a problem, I came up with a solution: I retrieved an air sickness "barf bag" from my flight suit pocket and wrapped it around the leaking compass. Problem solved, but at the time I sure missed having an oxygen mask to protect me from the fumes.

But not all of my oxygen mask stories are pleasant. It was late 2004, and I was flying a B777 from Seoul, Korea to Narita, Japan. Halfway across the Yellow Sea, my flying partner Nick Hinch had to leave the flight deck to use the lavatory. We called a Flight Attendant up to the flight deck and, in keeping with FAA regulations, I donned my oxygen mask while I was the only pilot in a control seat. After my Nick returned, I stowed my oxygen mask, but I felt like something was wrong. My face itched, and I felt like I had been breathing dust. I carefully looked at my oxygen mask, and it was filthy with dust. Apparently, it hadn't been used in some time (I'll give all the previous crews the benefit of the doubt and ASSUME that no one ever left the flight deck on their flights!). I felt grubby the rest of the flight.

Let me digress. I had been in training to participate in the" Pump and Run" event in the 2005 Arnold Classic, a fitness contest in which contestants first bench press their body weight as many times as they can, up to a maximum of 30 reps, and then run a 5K. Every rep on the bench press subtracts 30 seconds from their 5K time, up to a max of 15 minute reduction in time. I had been running religiously, and was on track to run a 21-minute race. 

And I had an edge. Competitors over age 60 only had to bench press 70 percent of their body weight. And because I would be over age 60 when the 2005 Arnold Classic was held, I would only have to press 115 pounds, not my 160-pound body weight. I can press that for 30 reps any day of the week.

So, I was on track to have a 5K score of about 6 minutes, good enough to be second or third place. But when I returned to the hotel in Narita and went out for my daily run, where I'd been consistently cutting a few seconds off my time every time, I was out of breath and couldn't even finish my run!

When I got home I got on my treadmill and had the same experience - I couldn't run at my normal pace, and I couldn't finish my normal distance. In fact, when I tried pushing myself I started getting chest pains. I went to my primary care physician, and he put me through some tests, and then sent me to see a Pulmonologist, who did more tests. 

"You've got asthma," the doc said, "You got it from the dust in the oxygen mask." I was dumbfounded. "You can't CATCH asthma," I protested. "

Tell that to all the people who caught it from the Haman Fire (the largest wildfire in Colorado history)." 

"How long will I have it," I asked.

"Just the rest of your life."

So, obviously I didn't compete in the Arnold Classic, and to this day I can't really run any significant distance. And I still have asthma.

So, that's my love/hate oxygen mask story. I probably should have filed for Workman's Comp, but that ship sailed more than 15 years ago.

Dec 7, 2020

Dianna started flying in a J-3 Cub at six weeks old, flying with her airline pilot father. She learned to fly as a teenager with her father as her CFI, and soloed before she got her driver's license. Mark started flying as a teenager and paid for his lessons working at the Golden Corral.

Both Mark and Dianna attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and entered the Air Force after graduation. Dianna flew C-5s for the Reserves at Dover, then transferred to the Air National Guard. Mark was a FAIP (First Assignment Instructor Pilot) in the T-38 after Undergraduate Pilot Training, then flew the F-16 at Shaw Air Force Base. While there, he picked up the call sign Genghis. While in Korea, he was re-named Rush. Most of Mark's flying in combat was at night.

Dianna picked up the nickname "80's Baby". Her first flight into Iraq was totally blacked out. In addition to Air Force flying, she was hired by a legacy airline, first flying the B-737, then the B-787. She also served in the Chief Pilot's Office as a management pilot.

After finishing his active duty flying, Mark was hired by a different legacy airline and also transitioned to the Reserves.

In 2010 they purchased a Cessna 170 from a friend, and have enjoyed owning it for the past ten years. They had the airplane through four moves.

Dianna recently took a "Zero-G" flight, riding on a parabolic flight path. She also recently entered a beauty pageant, and was named Mrs. America-Nevada.

Dec 3, 2020

If you're like most Americans, you've resigned yourself to gaining a few pounds over the holidays, then plan to spend the next 11 months trying to lose the weight. 

But now, with the pandemic approaching 10 months, it gets worse, as many of us are stuck at home, unable (or forbidden!) to go to the gym. So naturally, we sit in front of the computer or television, and we don't get that "10,000 steps each day" exercise that we plan on completing.

Here's my story: in the year 2000, at age 55, I had gotten to the point that I was putting on a pound a month as a wide-body (pun intended!) Captain. I weighed in at 182 pounds and my waist was 36 inches. And I had tried a lot of fad diets, failed, and resigned myself to being a fat old man.

There's an expression "when the student is ready, the teacher appears". During recurrent training I was introduced to a fitness program, Body-for-LIFE, that changed my life forever. And I learned how to control my weight, fitness and health for the past 20 years. It's kind of like learning how to perform a magic trick. I currently weigh five pounds less than when I wrestled in high school!

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