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"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.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Aviation Career Advice

What would you do?

Last week I received an email from an International Pilot who is just starting his career. He is faced with an interesting dilemma and would like your advice. I sent him mine... now we're curious what you would do.

I finally got my CPL last year...

I flew a Cirrus Sr20 until January part 91/135 when I got offered a first officer position at a major airline here in Venezuela. I started my training on February for a SIC on a DC9, got type rated last June. I finished up my line training on July 30th. I have been flying as SIC since then, but now there are several rumors which I heard around the water cooler that the company is going to be on bankruptcy on the oncoming months. Now half the fleet is grounded, there are 4 aircraft flying by now 3 MD80 and a single DC9. As you may know political and economical situation here in my country is pretty unstable and this crisis is caused by the control of exchange which leads to a lack of dollars.

I am scheduled to start ground school for the MD80 this month but there's no clue about when are we going to sim in the US. I barely flew 28 hours last month and this month is going to be like 15 hours on my schedule as much. I would like to get a job out my country because salaries here suck big time. I get paid $400 monthly now. Buddies who fly corporate here make around $4000 as F/O .

The check airman who did my commercial/instrument check ride now is offering me an opportunity as co-captain on a brand new King Air 250 based at my current city so I won't have to commute again. The same company is acquiring a Citation XLS and a Stationair. There is another chance to fly 2 King Airs at the capital city, salary in $ too.

I have no idea on what to do. I would like to go to another airline more organized and better airplanes outside my country, but don't know if PIC time on a King Air and the XLS would help getting a SIC position outside my country. It is a plus to say, that I ear the highest salary in Venezuela when it comes to first officer's salaries among the Venezuelan airlines.

I currently have 457 TT. 142 Turbine, 150 ME TT. 307 SE TT. 250 PIC, 142 SIC. A FAA PPL and an ICAO CPL/IR.

What would be your advice for me? Smartest thing to do would be stay on my current position I guess, but I not flying a lot these days. I am just going to fly for 8 days this month. These airplanes I've been offered are flying a lot, indeed the 250 flew into Miami yesterday."

What would you do?

The interesting part of this story for me is a job with a major airline with 457 hours. Also, to be able to get hired by a major airline the year after you get your pilots license wouldn't happen in the US. And then the pay... so low. But this is the same pay the Guyana pilots were paid flying a 757 when I instructed there. 

Please give my friend some advice. He's just beginning his career

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 


  1. I suggest looking at Copa Airlines out or PTY. Im a FA with them... They need FOs bad. From what i know, foreign pilots need 1500hrs to apply, but you may be able to get an exception because Panamanian nationals only need 250hrs and a CPL to apply as an FO. I myself will be starting training, with a school they are funding, in January and once i graduate with my 250hrs, ill be headi g to their FO training program then the right seat in either a 737 or E190. Salary is about $1700 plus perdiems (viatico) totaling about 3500-4k per month. If they absolutely require the 1500... Hop in that king air and fly the year or so until you get your 1500 y vente para panama!

    1. Thank you so much S.B. for the great advice!! Good luck on your career. Keep me posted on how you do. I know you'll do GREAT!!

  2. Judging salary of another country using a measurement stick from the US is a non sequitur. Also judging competency using only two indicators--passage of time and number of hours--that have very low validity is also a non sequitur.

    1. This definitely shows the difference in the world of aviation with hours and pay. But... times are certainly changing. All over the world.

    2. She is right you know...

  3. I've been in somewhat comparable situations during my life (school, 1st and 2nd career). I can sympathize with all the adverse dynamics you are facing. I am still inexperienced comparatively but this is what I've learned and my 2 cents:

    No matter how tough it seems, it could always be worse. Keeping your head up and maintaining your composure will develop the character that will define your career and will pay dividends as you pursue your career. People will notice this and will be a marketing factor for you.

    As for your particular situation - be patient. See where this ground school leads to. But I would place heavy emphasis with the Kingair/Citation options. The pay is better, the commute is better, and you will be more likely to get left seat time faster than otherwise, even though you will still technically be an "FO". You have the ability to upgrade in that environment faster and can build multi-turbine time, total time, and PIC time while earning a better salary until you become eligible and competitive at larger flight departments or airlines. The kingair and Citation airframes are VERY popular world wide and having international experience combined is incredibly valuable; something I dont think you would achieve otherwise at this point in your career. I started out flying Citations and Kingairs with similar flight time as you and it has opened doors for me that I had not expected. You may find that those airplanes are something you may wish to pursue for long term career, and if not, they will help you build the valuable time necessary to move on to other options.

    Whatever you decide, always keep all options on the table, never put yourself into a corner you cannot get out of, and if it sounds too good to be true, IT IS!

    A flight sim partner of mine flies corporate in your country. I will place a call in with him to get his perspective and will remit any differences of opinion he may have.

    Best of luck and hope this helps.

    1. Bill, Thank you so much for the great advice! I think you hit it on the head. Keep your head up. Your composure in check. And... Be patient.
      I am sure this will help.

  4. This one is quite complicated... I will give my advice anyway.

    You have been contracted to work for an airline in Venezuela. You speak Spanish and you speak English (or more).

    The speculation you've heard may be right for the reason they are paying you $400 and many aircraft are grounded. But someone told you earn the highest, though it is reasonably low given the fact you are a pilot.

    What if you stay in your current airline, continue with your MD80 type rating and see if the airline will eventually restructure?

    On the contrary, the business field seems to be brighter. If you change fields, you might get a higher salary. But who said you won't be able to come back to the commercial field? Of course it is possible!

    Have you considered Chile, Argentina and Peru? You could move to the business jet field located at your base, gain more flight hours, experience and a higher salary, then send your application to the airlines located in the country I have mentioned. I'm just not sure if you would have an opportunity in Brazil because of your language.

    In other words, you have 457 hours. To be sincere, in my humble opinion, these numbers are quite low. You need more experience. In Brazil you would only be eligible if you hold 1500 hours under the belt. 500 hours if you have a degree in Aeronautical Sciences. But even with 500 hours and a degree in Aeronautical Sciences would not be enough because these are *minimum* requirements.

    In the end, if I were in a similar situation, I would stay in my current airline and give a chance to see what will happen from now on, then, depending on the case, I would change to the business field. After getting more than 1500 hours, I would send my application to other airlines from different countries within Latin America.

    Don't be too anxious though, do it one step at a time. Just be patient and take your decisions wisely. It is a good time to look at market statistics for Latin America. Try studying IATA's charts, they will give you a great market outlook.


    1. ALX this is excellent advice. I think that the patience is the virtue here. We want it now. But he has an entire life ahead of him. Sticking to something and seeing it through has a lot of value too. He has many years to fly. Experience now is what he needs. Thanks again for the comment!

  5. First of all, the advice above is excellent. I’m not sure if I have anything valuable to add, but I’ll give it a try.

    I would encourage you to be quick to listen and pay attention to what is happening around you while being slow to take action. It really is quite amazing that you were able get a job flying a DC-9 with less than 500 hours total flight time. I would hate to see you throw that away for the sake of rumors. As I’m sure you are aware, rumors can be terribly destructive. In the end, you will have to make up your own mind regarding the health of your company, but you should make those decisions based on fact, not what you hear around the water cooler.

    That said, I understand how difficult it can be to leave one company for another. The company I work for right now is in bankruptcy. As a matter of fact, we have been in bankruptcy protection for almost two years now and the process has not been pleasant. For a while, things here got bad enough that I considered leaving and began the application process at other companies, but none of those jobs worked out for me and I’m glad they didn't. At the moment, I’m very happy where I am and I think there is a lot of good in my future.

    This may be a little cliché, but it has been said many times that a pilot won’t know if he made the right career decisions until the day he retires. This industry is constantly in flux. The company on top today may be the one in bankruptcy next year. It’s impossible to see the future, so all we can do is make the best decisions we can with all the information we can get.

    You are in a unique position right now, and if your company survives and begins to succeed financially, then you might be better off staying where you are. If you are interested in moving on to another airline at some point, DC-9 and MD80 experience will look much better in your logbook than time spent in the right seat of a King Air.

    To answer your question directly, I would probably consider leaving for one of two reasons. One, I was convinced the airline was not going to survive. Be very careful not to base this decision on rumors. Or two, if I was given the opportunity to gain PIC turbine time in the King Air or Citation…the pay raise would certainly help. I don’t like to base career decisions solely on the basis of salary, but $400 vs. $4000 a month is significant. It would be difficult not to be influenced by those numbers, but I don’t think I would leave the right seat of a DC-9 for the right seat of a King Air.

    I will add that I have always been weary of corporate flight departments. I suspect it is the same in your country, but here in the United States, when a company starts to struggle financially, the flight department is the first thing to go. Pilots often lose their jobs with little or no notice. That is a risk you would be taking. The job may look great now, but it doesn't take much for a company to forget any loyalty it had for pilots.

    I wish there was a clear answer to your question. In the end, you will have to make this decision on your own. I suppose Karlene may not be the original author of this thought, but I often give her credit for encouraging people to “enjoy the journey.” You have a long career in front of you and you have many decisions to make. At times, the road ahead of you may seem long and the end goal may seem discouragingly far off, but the journey is filled with experiences that will help you become a better person and a better pilot.

    I wish you great success and I will continue to hope and pray for clear answers to your questions. All the best to you!

    1. This is excellent advice! Thank you so much for taking the time to write.

      I had to smile at the comment of trying to leave but in hindsight glad you didn't. There are times we do all we can, it doesn't work, and it turns out for the best. Happened to me too. But so glad it's working out for you.

      Yes, that old cliche when we retire, might be true. But sometimes we find out a little sooner.

      Thanks so much for writing. And yes... we must all enjoy the journey. That's what it's all about.

  6. If it was me in that circumstance, I'd make the jump to corporate. For one thing, you're battling several demons in your current situation: the shrinking hours and fleet size at your airline, the extremely low pay, and the financial instability in Venezuela. Even if the rumors of impending bankruptcy are not true, there are likely better options out there.

    I went from a clapped out, 50 year old ex-military King Air 90 (aka U-21A) straight to a Gulfstream IV, so I wouldn't look askance at the BE-200 gig. As someone else pointed out, there are zillions of King Airs and Citations out there, and in the charter/business/corporate world, it's not what you know, it's WHO you know.

    Just my two cents, of course.

    P.S. No matter what you choose, you're better off than those who look up at the sky and only wish they could be flying an airliner, business jet, or twin turboprop. Keep that as your perspective and you literally can't lose!

    1. Ron,Thank you so much for the great advice!!! And I love it...better off that those who look up and wish!

  7. If it was me I would jump to the corporate side, but that is coming from a guy with very little time in the front seat. What I base my opinion on is my observation of the pilots I have met.

    While I was working at the FBO in Austin, TX I met countless pilots. Some of them hated their corporate job, while others loved it. That is true of every industry though. What interested me, and why I would make the switch, was the unbelievable opportunities if you worked hard and got your name out there.

    I know there are no guarantees, but I saw a girl go from teaching lessons in an old Cessna 152 to flying a King-Air 350 in less than a year all because she worked hard, and put herself out there.

    Aviation is a fickle industry, but there is an amazing career to be had if you are willing to take some chances, and do your best.

    1. Dave, Thanks for your advice. You know... I think there will always be people who don't like what they are doing. There are so many benefits to both. But... the corporate is more challenging, fun, and unpredictable. But some need predictable. I think maybe we have to look at our personalities. Thank you so much for the great comment!

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