COVID-19 So What Now?

COVID-19 and the impact upon the Aviation Industry

It’s March 2020 and COVID-19 hits the aviation sector. At that stage, nobody could foresee the damage that this would still be having upon the industry six months on. Pilots that had already faced redundancy in previous months due to companies tragically going into administration, little needed the additional challenge in the form of COVID-19. Of course, since March, many other pilots have also find themselves facing redundancy or the prospect of redundancy as the airline industry struggles to stay airborne. In this article we look at some of the things that pilots can (and should) consider doing whilst we wait to see how things develop.

I’ve being made redundant or given notice of redundancy

This is the nightmare scenario for most pilots and whilst we all know that the industry has its ups and downs, we all hope that this won’t happen. What should you do?

Reach out for help. The first thing we would recommend doing is to reach out to your friends and colleagues and ask for some mental support – it’s an incredibly distressing time no matter what your personal circumstances. Plenty of charities and companies are doing their bit to support, you should check out charities like Aviation Action  and providers like Motion Flight Training, UKFlying and even here at Flight Deck Wingman, where we are adding support through our “unemployment support” page, where Flight Deck Wingman are offering the opportunity to book a free 15 minute career support chat to talk about anything recruitment related, or even if it’s just someone to talk to.

The Motion Flight Training fixed base 737 device being utilised by two pilots maintaining their skill-sets.

Keep your license and instrument rating valid. It’s important that you do this, as any future opportunities will almost certainly ask you to have a valid instrument rating as a minimum.

Keep your medical in date. Whilst you only need to have a valid medical if you intend to “exercise the privileges of your licence”, we would recommend keeping your medical valid. Once again, when operators and airlines recruit, they commonly ask you to upload these documents as part of your initial application – without medical you may not even be able to apply.

Consider keeping your type-rating valid. Not every type rating is as marketable as another, but where possible we would recommend you keep your type-rating valid, particularly if it is on a highly marketable aircraft type such as the A320. Beware of some organisations charging overly inflated rates for simulator hire.

Network. Reach out to all of your industry colleagues and take full advantage of websites like LinkedIn where you cannot only keep up to speed with any recruitment opportunities, but also utilise a network of contacts to perhaps give yourself the edge when it comes to any future opportunities. Make sure that your own LinkedIn profile is professional and complete, gaining you the “all-star” status. Recruiters frequently use LinkedIn to source their candidates.

Be prepared for any future recruitment opportunities. It is imperative that you do not switch off when it comes to any future opportunities and potential application and selection processes and no, we are not “just saying that”! We currently estimate that there are more than 1500 unemployed pilots in the UK market alone.

“It is imperative that you do not switch off when it comes to any future opportunities and potential application and selection processes and no, we are not ‘just saying that’!”

Getting an application ready. When opportunities do arise, it is imperative that you have a highly effective application ready and prepared for any assessment process. You must update your CV and complete this process for any operator that might recruit, even if it’s not something you think is worthwhile doing. Check out our CV and covering letter services to learn more about how we can help.

Be interview ready! When opportunities do arise, interviews can happen very quickly. You will kick yourself if you haven’t taken some time to prepare for an assessment process. If you have been out of the recruitment process for some time, then it may be a shock when you discover the modern day recruitment processes the airlines utilise. Getting some exposure to these types of processes is super easy .Visit our interview and group exercise services page to learn more.

Stay in employment if possible. Remaining in employment demonstrates motivation, initiative and resilience to future employers. Even if your role is not airline industry related, there are likely to be many transferable skills which you will be able to evidence to a future airline employer when the time comes.

Keep your flying skills up to speed. Whilst it might be difficult to fund regular flying, you can do some things to keep your skills in check. Consider regular attendance at an affordable fixed base training device like Motion Flight Training’s 737 simulator. Skill fade is real and whilst in the first six months of an employment you might not notice this skill fade, when it comes to validating your license or any future recruitment opportunities, keeping your skills up-to-speed is vitally important.

Register with recruitment companies. Not all recruitment companies are particularly good or proactive, but this should at least keep you aware of any future opportunities.

I’m in flying training, or thinking of starting flying training. Should I continue?

This all comes down to personal circumstances of course. Here are some things that you should consider:

Which training route? Think very carefully about which route you think you should take, either the integrated or modular route. You can learn more about these two routes in our article here. Do your thorough research on every flight school, taking anything they say to you with a pinch of salt. The advantage of a modular route currently, or a “fast track” modular route is that you will not likely have to put a significant money down in advance and you can pause your flying training at any stage. This way, you can see how the market is developing and take a view on whether you should complete your training in one chunk, or spread it out to try and coincide with the future market recovery.

“Do your thorough research on every flight school, taking anything they say to you with a pinch of salt.”

Pausing flying training. If you do pause your training, then do bear in mind that you will have some skill fade and returning to flying training may mean a few refresher flights before you get back on track again.

Future opportunities. Do bear in mind that any future recruitment opportunities may first go to pilots that are type-rated, although this isn’t always the case. Be prepared for a bit of a wait on completion of your flying training before any jobs materialise, and the fact that you will have to stay in flying currency, keep your instrument rating valid and your medical valid in order to be eligible for most recruitment opportunities. This all costs time and money of course…

Make sure that you thoroughly research your Flight Training School and beware of placing large amounts of money “up-front”.

I was due to leave the Armed Forces to pursue a civilian career as a pilot. Should I still do this?

Recruitment opportunities have clearly dwindled in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic. It is likely that there will be some pause of approaching 18 to 24 months before any meaningful recruitment restarts – it could be longer, or maybe shorter. The military has seen a reasonably large swathes of pilots return to the Armed Forces having left in the last year or so, as these pilots were at risk of redundancy or have been made redundant.

Have many pilots returned to the military? In short – yes. These pilots will have signed up to a minimum return of service having re-join the armed forces. This means that when recruitment is open, some of these pilots may not be in a position to re-apply for their previous roles in the commercial world and you may have an opportunity to take advantage of this.

Photo credit @this_is_air2air

Should I still PVR? Do bear in mind any request to PVR within the next 12 months, as it is unlikely there will be significant recruitment in this time period and you may have to find employment in an alternative sector upon leaving the Armed Forces.

Competition for jobs. There will be many type-rated pilots with experience that were not former military pilots (or have been commercial pilots for some time), looking for jobs when recruitment does research again. You will be competing directly with these pilots and whilst your experience is hugely valuable, don’t expect any favours when it comes from the recruitment teams in relation to your military experience.

“You will be competing directly with these pilots and whilst your experience is hugely valuable, don’t expect any favours when it comes from the recruitment teams in relation to your military experience.”

What does the future look like?

It’s anyone’s guess really, but global demand for air travel was increasing exponentially and this is likely to remain the case as we exit this pandemic. Pilots and aspiring airline pilots should be prepared for a wait ahead of any major resurgence, so use this time wisely and make sure you are prepared for any future opportunities. If you’d like to discuss the ways we can help, then please get in touch.


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