The flight time conundrum

Many of you with actual paying flying jobs will remember this phase in your aviation career. Some of you might have given up at this point in your flying career and went to do something else for a living. I found it a highly annoying part in my progression back in the day. For most of us, it seems to be somewhere right after you get your commercial pilot ticket. It took me a couple of years to get past this part. You need the hours to get the job. But without the job, how do you get the hours? Many or my students had this idea that once they have their commercial license, they go out and knock on the door at a commercial operator and boom they’re off, they have “arrived”, bring on the captain pay. I was there myself. I remember them laughing at me when I showed up with my 200 hour resume ready to get into a Huey.

The key I have found in my career was to get your Flight Instructor rating. You will get paid (poorly) to do some flying, and you get (some) experience as well as tons of survival instincts (every time a student tries to kill you). But you will arrive at your goal sooner and with great experience and even greater stories. Guys I know who tried to get around the CFI rating will usually take a lot longer to find a job and might fly way shadier machines in the progress. And I have mentioned this before, when I was in charge of hiring people and I had to pick one out of two pilots with equal flight hours but one had a CFI, I’d always pick that pilot of the other one. The other benefit of working as CFI is that you will get to meet a lot of people. Some of them are in the market for a plane and helicopter or have influence in the industry and getting to know them could become your “in” into the industry.

Do any of you have different experiences? Let’s hear your stories!


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7 comments on “The flight time conundrum
  1. Robert Young says:

    When I was working as an A&P at a smaller FBO, our flight instructors were basically just out of flight school and after a few years went on to fly for regional carriers/cargo outfits.

    On the experience bit, a friend got a degree in electrical engineering, and couldn’t get a job because they all wanted 5 years experience. He ended up working for the auto industry designing steering columns.

  2. Lloyd Massey says:

    CFII/MEI-Gold seal from 30 years ago. great experience. I keep it current but rarely use it. Lots of paperwork changes with computers and the internet and security post 9/11. But I am proud of it and it is nice to do spin or acro, tail wheel training with new aviators. Of course this was back when every airport had an FBO and flight school and the tiny airports at least had an old timer doing instruction part time.

  3. Catch-22…
    Here since the beginning, will be here well into the future 🙂

  4. SRPspotting says:

    I’ve always been wondering which model the Roost Air 172 is, so i scanned the archive for strips that has any kind of information about it. After a good while i have concluded with that it’s a 172D. This is because the 172D was the last 172 to have fuses as the 172E featured electric circuit breakers(in the “Going full macgyver” strip, Chick says he blew a fuse in the Cessna), and the 172D was also the first 172 model to have the “Omni-vision” aft window. Another strip that proves this is a strip where Chuck and Julio are discussing whay they want to buy, and they say; -Maybe the 160 HP conversion for the Cessna, which makes sense because the 172D has a 145 HP Continental O-300. The yoke doesn’t really match though, otherwise all the signs prove it is a 172D.

  5. Frank E. Merrill says:

    I raise my glass this day in a toast to my favorite flight instructor, Larry. He flew B-314 Clippers across the Pacific for Pan Am in the 1930s and flew B-24s and B-29s for the Army Air Corps. He went back to Pan Am after the war and worked his way up to flying B-707’s across the Pacific. On my long, dual cross-country flight I asked Larry how much time he had in his logbook. He snorted a bit and asked how many hours there are in a year. I pondered that a while as we drilled small holes in the sky in that li’l C-152, and when I came up with the number he snorted again and said “About five.” “Five years, Larry?” I asked. He snorted again and said “You’re letting your heading and airspeed wander kid. Pay attention to the important stuff!”

    I imagine there aren’t many pilots with more than 40,000 hours in their logbook. It has been more than 50 years now and Larry has surely slipped the surly bonds, but I will always think kindly of grizzly old flight instructors.

  6. Karel A.J. ADAMS says:

    This conundrum is not limited to professional flying. A free-lance IT’er (or an IT free-lancer, if you will) I am often contacted for opportunities involving “cloud” infrastructure – to be dismissed immediately for lack of “cloud” experience.

  7. Magnoire says:

    This is the exact same thing but for Librarians! Fresh out of Library School but never worked in a library, I applied for entry level jobs only to be told I don’t have any experience.

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