• “Looking up” by Patrick Milward

    A Professional Pilot Training Center is the first step to achieve the dream of a career in flying. Because of this, we are always looking up to the possibilities that will be given to our students at the end of the runway.

    Early in 2020 we were still looking at a fabulous amount of opportunities available to our students for the next 10 years. Nothing prepared us for the violent impact covid-19 had. We went literally overnight, from a booming market where shortage of pilots was the norm to airline shutdowns, major strategy shifts for aircraft builders, a sudden glut of pilots and, of course, layoffs on the full spectrum of the industry. An industry wide slap in the face.

    What are we looking at?

    The two major world builders were hit immediately. Order cancellations or delivery postponements came in fast. Many airlines preferring to pay astronomical cancellation fees instead of being locked in purchases that might never be used. Major research was canceled all over, and Airbus even announced major shifts were to come soon in their market views and strategies for the future.

    Airlines worldwide were grounded, employment reductions announced, fleets at least partially mothballed, the jumbo jets (A380s and B747s) put into early retirement probably never to get back to the skies. Non-profitable lines shutdown, for some companies in a definitive way.

    Aeronautical industry suppliers are totally lost as what to expect for the future. Builders and airlines might be losing essential suppliers for their activities.

    As for pilot schools, the worst-case scenario is a loss of interest in the business by potential student pilots. It will be the same for all the other job training centers.

    What can we expect?

    For the immediate future things will be a bit bleak. To say the least.

    During the next two years, pilot hiring will be down. Ab initio pilot enrollment will fall. Highly experienced pilots will be put on early retirement plans. The student pilots actually in training, or near the end, will be facing difficulties in finding their first paying jobs. Worst of all, the despicable pay-to-fly will return. Weeding out, if not the best, at least the poorest candidates. But read on!

    What can we look up to?

    As always in such situations the basic actions are binary: hide your head in the sand and hope for the best orface the situation and go for the opportunities. Needless to say, I clearly don’t accept the first option.

    Facing the difficulties is the only acceptable course of action. The opportunities are there. Remember, aeronautics has never been for the faint of heart. Becoming a professional pilot demands hard work, courage, dedication, anticipation, and – did I say it? – hard work. The view from our window follows three major guidelines:

    1 – Just qualified or soon to be? Keep it up!

    You want to be a professional pilot? Don’t give up, maintain your flying skills. Sure, there will be disappointment and frustration. For the newly licensed pilots, you might have to take on a purely “bread on the table” job before you get paid to sit in a cockpit, but maintain your qualifications and licenses. Try to dedicate a part of your income to this. Keep your flying skills up to par. Most of the pilots flying today have been through the 2008-2018 crisis. If they are flying today, it is because they never gave up on their dream. It will not be easy, but your future employer will undoubtedly appreciate your fighting spirit when times are better.

    2 – Have a dream of becoming a pilot? Prepare now!

    Are you looking into becoming a professional pilot and are scared of taking the dive? Only natural, it means you are cautious and anticipating. Good qualities for a pilot. Don’t let the situation take you down. An integrated ATPL course will take you about two years, just when most analysts believe the market will be picking up again. Not a bad bet! Also, don’t disregard the modular ATPL route, longer but safer, it gives you the possibility to work or go after extra diplomas while you are training as a pilot, but keep to mind you must put yourself to very high standards for your training.

    3 – High standards!

    As mentioned above, choose the best training facility for your needs. Yes, price is a strong factor, but you will be up against strong competition when the market opens again. Taking the easy route will not train you to the high level of expectations demanded by airline recruiters.

    4 – Where will the first jobs be?

    In all honesty, it is impossible to say. Analysts the world over concur that the market will follow three paths:

    – Business aviation will be the first branch to recover. As commercial airlines are struggling to reopen, business customers needing to get around fast will look at the best thing available. Although more expensive, business aviation gives them speed and flexibility.

    – Commercial aviation will start reopening lines soon but hiring pilots will kick in only when demand reaches pre-covid levels. That will not be before a couple of years.

    – Last but far from least, high level professional flight instructors will be needed. Building time and experience before moving on when times are better. Think about getting flight instructor qualifications.

    As for Astonfly?

    Our choice is to aim for excellence. We will be pushing for a high level of quality throughout our organization. When the market is ripe again, we want to be out there with the best. We owe this to our customers.

    With highly qualified pilots available, trained to excellent airline standards, we know we will be hiring fabulous instructors in the weeks and months to come. Our trainees will benefit from this. We will be pushing them. It will be hard, but better training will make for better employability.

    We will keep investment up and expect a lot from all within the organization because we are embarking for a stormy flight and that is when aviation professionals are at their best.

    Meanwhile, since the past two years, all of our integrated students benefit from the Astonjob pack containing, amongst other benefits, the guaranty of maintaining their MEP and IRME qualifications for two years after their initial validity. Accompanying our customers is a habit with us.

    So, buckle up, look up and don’t let go. We won’t !

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