Contract Airline Services

"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fly For Free

Nothing in life is free. And either is Flying For Free. Pilots can fly for Free but first they must pay for their training, and work for Free. Oh... and sometimes they must pay to fly too.

Is this a smart business concept, 
or Pilot Exploitation?  

I was trying to figure a way to put a business into service to help pilots get their flight hours, and was told this idea was not possible. Perhaps not in the United States. Hello Airline, a Swiss Charter Airline, is doing just this.

I've been told: "Pilots who have a type-rating, but not enough flight hours will pay up to 50,000 euros (approximately $65,000 U.S.) for 500 flying hours as co-pilot." 

For those that do not have a type-rating, I think you can get an A320 rating in the US from $13,000 - $14,000. 

If you look at this from a pilot's perspective, you could pay $100,000 to get enough hours to get your dream job. Should we view this as an expense like college? 

There is a U.S. charter operator doing this too. However, with the FAA change of rules requiring 1500 hours, I wonder how this will change their business plan. 

Obligation to the Passengers
What is the obligation to inform the passengers of these type of operating practices? What expectations do passengers have? For pilots, would you be willing to take a loan and buy your training? 

I would love your thoughts. 
Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 


  1. Many airlines in Eastern Europe, Northern Africa and Indonesia do this.
    As a passenger, would I feel safe flying in an aircraft where the pilot is paying to be there (while others build their hours the normal way, earn their pilot interview, pass the selections and are then getting employed by the company)?
    That's how it is run in those countries, there is simply no other selection than signing a check. If you have the money, you can be a 737 or a 320 copilot. Fair? Safe?
    As an employer, would I recruit a pilot who's bought his previous job?

    It is very clear on the webforums that many students are already commited to pay for their "line training" on top of the type rating before they even try to get a job (about $40,000 for a 737 or 320 Type Rating in JAA Europe, due to the very high cost of flying an empty aircraft and complete 6 touch-and-goes).
    They do not even try, they don't want to fly Cessna's for a while, tow gliders, do some sceneric flights, they just want the shiny jet straight away and they are ready to pay for it.
    The airlines know that and just offer them their dream job at an insane price, but if they are willing to pay .. why not?

    It used to be 100 hours (10 years ago), 200 hours (5 years ago), now 500 hours is the norm. How many hours is it going to be in the future?
    Will they have to pay their whole life to seat in the right hand seat of a jet?

    My airline (fleet of Boeing 737NG) does not take any pilot who's been through a "500 hr 737 program" and most other airlines in Europe do not either because they know what kind of skills those pilots have. Unfortunately, the fact you pay doesn't guarantee a good training and most Captains do not like the fact they are seating next to a FO who's paid to be there and hasn't been through any kind of selection. Not to mention he is straight out of school with 150 to 200 hrs flight time.

    Last but not the least, does it come from the airlines ... or the pilots themselves?
    Well, here is a clue:
    In my company, we have received CV's from 19 year old 200 hour pilots who have paid for their own 737 Type Rating (with the strict minimum of 36 hrs in the sim while I flew 72 hrs during my TR, airlines do take safety seriously) and being rejected by the airline because they did not fit the requirements or failed the selections, they have offered to pay for their own line training. Which the airlines did not accept, thanks god.

    Who's to blame?
    To me, the answer is pretty clear.

    1. Wow... this is a great comment. You know, there was a time when it was required to have a Flight Engineer rating. So we bought one. Southwest required 737 type... so we bought one. But, those were add ons to experience. I have to wonder if this "buying" training has taken a life of it's own. I guess we really don't need to wonder.
      Yes, the answer is clear.

  2. Karlene,

    I can't say I've never paid for flying. I don't know that it will ever be possible to get the basic ratings without spending quite a bit. However I'm a big believer that unless you're flying for fun, you shouldn't have to pay for flying (or fly for free) once you have your commercial ratings. Provided you're willing to travel a bit, and probably not make that much, there are almost always job opportunities available for pilots, even in a bad economy. I talk to people all the time about going up to fly in Alaska, even for regional carriers, and they aren't interested in moving up there. You have to be willing to do what it takes to get flight time, but it should never be paid for or for no compensation.

    1. Daniel, so true! What if nobody accepted these positions... would they then have to hire real pilots to run their operations? I think yes.
      We've all paid. But the price should be our sweat and tears, not our cash.
      Thanks for the comment!

  3. Or a young person could get "free" time by putting his or her life on the line for four years or so for the air force. Not sure that's "free" either.

    1. I'm not sure anything in life is free. :) Especially when our lives are on the line. Air Force is a great place.

  4. This is an interesting topic that hits close to home. When I got hired by my current employer, you had to have a base of time (2500 TT/500 ME) to get an interview and if you were selected they set up in a class at Flight Safety and you bought the Citation type rating. Once done you started the line as FO in a Citation S/II. They no longer do this, but it was a way to cut cost for the carrier during a time when flying jobs were hard to find. When the market dried up, the 'pay for your type' program was eliminated.

    Buy the actually flight time is definitely taking that to a whole other level. I'm not for it.

    1. Brent, you're so right...many places required type ratings and we were willing to buy the training (type) for the job. I guess it's no different than paying for a college degree. But I'm with you... No buying flight hours.
      Thanks for your comment.

  5. Outstanding article! Stumbled on this out of nowhere! There has to be a way to provide high quality time to pilots at a fraction of the cost without raising the FAA's eyebrows too much. I was just brainstorming about a method by which to do this all weekend. As a young pilot who's already spent upwards of $25,000 on initial and little advanced training, to my peers, it seems as if the interest in General Aviation as well as aviation as a career is suffering as a whole. This seems to be a direct result of the high cost perceived with earning any type of rating at all. Many of the individual's that I've spoken to who express a lifelong interest in aviation feel discouraged out of the gate because of the high prices. I do believe that there may be a technological disruption to the current flight-training model in order to make it more affordable for aspiring career-pilots to receive the highest quality training for a fraction of the cost. If you check out ride-sharing services such as Uber, or lodging startups like Airbnb, a more personalized approach is being taken to everything from private jet sharing (JetSuite; Social Flight) to rental cars (Getaround). What if there were a solution to provide a similar service for students on their cross-countries or pilots trying to build time towards their 250x commercial? A service that allowed the general public to choose destinations within ex. 100miles and split the cost (pro-rata share) with the students? I'm sure there would be some FAA hurdles to jump, but if petitioned with the proper amount of force, aviation could once again, become a reality for all of those who've caught the bug.

    1. J.B. Please accept my apology for the delayed response. I posted and intended coming back with a response of how much I liked your idea... then life got in the way. But... I think this is an outstanding idea! What if someone created a website...where pilots could log on and post if they were flying someplace. Many of us don't care about building flight time... so the person who is could log the hours, and share the expense. All we need to do is make it happen. I think People will do it. Is this something you have the skills to make? I could work on it with you. Let me know!

  6. Most commentators seem to have missed the point that P2F schemes have destroyed this profession. In the US you now have the 1500h rule in part because the Captain of that Q400 was a P2F pilot who paid to fly with Gulfstream on the B1900. He was then a customer who was "passed" despite shortcomings on his annual IRT. Across the pond it is far worse - teh SouthWest LoCo model has been twisted beyond recognition - airlines now use 3rd party agents and pilot mills who subcontract their students to the LoCo. Google the 737 TR for CAE and RYR - read the small print! The vast majority of RYR pilots are self employed but only have one customer! EasyJet's TR/Pilot Mill school fired experienced pilots in favor of low time students who wouldn't complain - many were in 150,000USD flying debt and had to go back to bar jobs after the A320 TR. Others paid the airline for 300h of line flying but were given no job afterwards. WizzAir interviewed 5 A320 rated pilots and severla ex military but took none of them in favor of cadets who wanted to pay 50,000 Euros for the A320 rating. This is diabolical - the passengers don't know about it.

    The EU/JAR/EASA system is not working - it promotes the zero to hero schemes and the result is pilots who have not just forgotten how to fly but were actually given minimal practice in the first place - see AF447 - the two in the seats had 1000s of hours burning holes on automation before the fatal pilot induced deep stall - before that they had short JAR CPL integraed courses with no spinning and minimal stalling. The new MPL is even worse - 70h in an actual aircraft and 200h in a 1G SIM. We have gooten away with it because of very strict SOPs, reliable automation and aircraft. But still some 2000 have died due to pilot loss of control over the decade according to Boeing.

    Thankfully even Lion Air have now stopped their P2F schemes but Ari Namibia, Farnair, Gemania and some other UK and EU carriers persist!

    1. Anonymous, I read your anger and frustration in this comment. I doubt anyone would disagree with you. Do you know that many people did not know that the Colgan Air CA came from a program as such. Why don't you email me, and write a post that we could educate everyone on this. Let's put your passion to creating change. I'm on this with you... this is what I'm doing to create change: Join me on this. We'll get your voice heard! Going into the next novel...but I need more details.


Thank you for your comment! If your comment doesn't appear immediately, it will after I land. Enjoy the journey!