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Flight Crew Futures: a hand on the career ladder

by Captain Andy Brown BALPA member

Last week, more than 300 pilots took advantage of a huge opportunity organised by BALPA and Seager Publishing Ltd. 

The Flight Crew Futures event, at the Hilton London Gatwick, was designed to help both newly-qualified and current airline pilots further their careers by showcasing the hundreds of jobs now available amongst the world’s airlines.

BALPA’s Captain Mike Davidson gave the welcome address and this was followed by presentations from Emirates, NetJets, Ryanair, West Atlantic, CAE Parc Aviation and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, all keenly attended by those present. There was also the chance for pilots to speak directly to airline representatives at the numerous stands, with established airlines such as Thomas Cook, Wizz Air, Norwegian, West Atlantic, Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon, Air Baltic, BA CityFlyer and Flybe as well as the Air Accident Investigation Branch and several aviation recruitment agencies and pilot training organisations all in attendance. 

On the BALPA stand to welcome the pilots we had our own General Secretary Brian Strutton, along with several members of the NEC, the nextGen Steering Group, many current BALPA pilot members, as well as the wonderful team from Membership and Careers Services, all on hand to help and advise pilots in establishing their careers. 

Delegates were also able to take home many free guides to the industry provided by BALPA, such as Living and Working Overseas, the CV and Interview Guide, as well as a members’ tax guidance. The questions were wide and varied, but for the newly qualified pilots who had just spent around £100,000 to achieve their dream in obtaining an airline pilot’s licence, there was a major hurdle to overcome – how to get that first airline job without any experience? 

Many airlines are desperate to attract pilots, but then expect these indebted pilots to pay out even more for further training and experience. I hesitate to recall my first introduction to the airlines many years ago, but I will because it is instructive to see how times have changed. At my interview with my first airline, I was told I would enjoy working with them so much, not only would they pay for my type-rating, but they would not even bond me. I could leave the next day if I wanted, but of course I didn’t. Now, many pilots who joined with me at that time are in management positions in established airlines. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if they could use their influence to ease that difficult transition into your first airline? And with airlines forecast to expand considerably over the next decades, surely airlines wish to both recruit and keep their best pilots? However, it is encouraging to see that there are so many keen and well-motivated newly-qualified pilots on the market at the moment.  For those pilots thinking about getting a professional pilot’s licence, BALPA will also be present at the Pilot Careers Live at the Sofitel London Heathrow Terminal 5 on Friday 2nd November and Saturday 3rd November.  We look forward to welcoming aspiring pilots at the BALPA stand!