Becoming a Pilot in a Post COVID-19 World – A Commercial Aviator’s Recent Experience

Aug 4, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating to many industries, arguably none more so than the aviation industry. Thankfully, there is light at the end of the tunnel and passenger numbers are increasing along with flights. This means the airlines are hiring again.

Personally, I completed my Integrated ATPL towards the end of 2019. The pilot shortage I had been told about when I was looking to start my flight training was definitely present. Within a couple of weeks of graduating, I had secured my first job offer with a Spanish airline. Most people will tell you to take your first commercial pilot job offer because in aviation, getting your foot in the door can be important. As I had not applied to any other airlines, I decided to turn this job down and send my credentials to airlines all around the world. I made a list of every airline I could think of and picked out my top 15. For each of them I made a detailed cover letter and did a lot of research before sending off my application.

It can be quite frustrating waiting to hear back from an airline but they have hundreds of applications and will only reply to those they are interested in. I heard back from a total of 11 airlines. Some with offers to participate in their application process and others telling me I had not been successful.

I got through to the final stages with an airline in the Maldives having progressed through their admission process with no trouble. At the same time I applied to Ryanair. My application with TMA was ultimately unsuccessful as they were unable to hire any pilots who had tattoos that would be visible in short sleeves. However, all was not lost as I was progressing with Ryanair.

A standard application to an airline will include multiple stages. Initially you will need to upload your credentials including your license, education, flight school reports and other documents that will show the airline your potential.

If they believe you are a good fit for the airline, they will invite you to complete a series of online assessments. These will cover many different aspects like aviation theoretical knowledge, coordination, problem-solving, critical thinking and others. If you’re able to pass these, you will be invited to a telephone/video interview.

Finally, once you have passed the video interview you will be invited to the headquarters or training centre of the airline where you will be interviewed by the human resources team and also an experienced pilot. These will include technical questions and also questions about your background. On this day, they will also ask you to perform a simulator assessment where you will be put into the aircraft simulator and asked to perform some basic flight manoeuvres. This is where an APS

MCC (Airline Pilot Standard – Multi Crew Cooperation) completed on a jet aircraft really comes in handy and will help you stand out.

You need to be willing to show flexibility and patience when it comes to securing your first job. In any industry, it is rare to proceed directly from graduating into a job. Usually in aviation, the application process can take at least three months. These can be a long few months but the jobs are out there and the airlines need pilots. Show resilience and believe in yourself.

I was offered my job in March 2020. The word Covid was ringing louder and louder as it spread across the world. To begin with, my start date was delayed, then it was delayed further. Eventually, I was told that Ryanair would contact me when they are ready to begin my training. As you can understand, I was devastated. I felt like I had gotten so close only to fall at the final hurdle. Yet I still knew that one day they would need me, I would make sure I was ready when that day came.

In February 2021 I heard that they were going to start my training again. Myself, and others in my position had to have another interview with the HR department so they could decide if we were still the right fit for the company. Thankfully, I had maintained hope and continued to develop my skills as a pilot and a leader.

I started my type rating on the Boeing 737 alongside many others in March 2021. It was hard work, but I loved every minute of it. Now, I am living the life I once dreamed of. I’m flying passengers around Europe with a huge smile on my face. Every time I sit at the end of the runway ready for takeoff I feel grateful for making that decision to start my pilot training and persevering through the aviation industry’s darkest hour.

There have been obvious signs of recovery for aviation as we reach the end of this terrible pandemic. Already, airlines are hiring and trying to fill the void of pilots. With aviation, we must always look into the future to decide our actions. If you are considering training to become a pilot, you should be looking 16 months into the future. That gives you a couple of months to choose and join the Aviation Academy and then 14 months to complete your ATPL training. Things are already looking up and in 16 months there’s no doubt within the aviation industry that it will be back to pre Covid levels within 2-3 years. Already in July 2021 EuroControl say aviation traffic is at 65% of 2019 levels even while there are travel restrictions in place in some countries. This is better than even their best case predictions.

Follow Eamonn Brennan on Twitter for up to date industry news. He is the Director General of EuroControl –   –  EuroControl provides up-to-date articles and figures of the aviation industry in Europe.

It just goes to show that already, we are seeing the industry planning for the future, recovering well and getting ready for a large influx of passengers with a lot of pent-up demand to go away on holiday!

Ryan Stock

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