Look to Military Pilots for Civilian Aircraft

It is frequently debated that we are on the cusp of a worldwide pilot shortage and this one might even be worse than what was experienced by the airlines back in the 1960s. One only has to look at manufacturers’ order books and retirement schedules to see that if a pilot is willing to move around the world to work, there will be many flying jobs. The occasional references to remote-controlled airliners are ridiculous and will meet with considerable passenger resistance as many will want the pilot to face the same risks that they do.

There are going to be airlines that will be desperate for cockpit crew. Pay levels will increase as poaching will be one of the only means of getting experienced pilots. Job nationalization is critical in most countries of the world, but if a pilot has enough experience to keep the airliners flying safely, while a country trains its nationals, there will be jobs for years into the future.

For at least the past decade, entry level pilot jobs have been horrible. Poor pay, long hours and sluggish career advancement. Pilots had to really love flying to pursue this career track. Many young people, looking for a career, turned their backs on flying because they spent as much money getting trained to be a pilot as they would have spent to join the ranks of other, more lucrative professions. So where are the soon-to-be-in-demand pilots going to come from? They will have to be trained from scratch, ab initio, at universities and technical schools and even cadet training departments at the airlines themselves.  

As the first signs of this pilot shortage begin to appear, I am completely bewildered by companies that have access to highly-trained pilots and are not willing to hire them because they do not meet their ‘standards.’  

Hiring standards are established by the companies themselves and are accepted by the appropriate regulatory authorities that issue and monitor their operating licenses. These standards can be ‘tweaked’ by the operator with approval of that authority.

A wonderful example of this is going on right now as a group of ex-Royal Air Force Red Arrows’ pilots try to get flying jobs in civilian life. The typical response from aircraft operating companies is: “Sorry, we can’t use them. They don’t meet our standards.” Standards might have been a question decades ago, after the war in Vietnam. However, all fast jet pilots should be not lumped into the same stew of Roger Ram-Jet, fighter jocks.

An operator told me that these pilots flew single seat jets and don’t have any multi-crew cockpit experience. I have never seen a better example of cockpit crew coordination than in the famous ‘Diamond 9’ formation.


Another operator told me that they didn’t have transport experience while that same operator has a cadet program that accepts youngsters with absolute minimum flight experience once they graduate. While I understand the benefits of ab initio training, individuals with the kind of experience these former Red Arrows pilots have is invaluable and they should be incorporated into the civilian aviation sector once they leave the military.

Get them into civilian cockpits as soon as possible so that they can gain the transport and multi-crewed cockpit experience that they can pass on to the youngsters following them.

All of these pilots may not have ATP licenses but they can certainly get the written out of the way and get the ‘frozen’ certificate. With simulator training as advanced as it is today, there would be no problem with these pilots getting their ATPs and a type rating at the same time. Let’s avoid the waste of wonderful aviation training and talent. Not just the Red Arrows; let’s get well trained, military pilots back into the air where they belong and where they long to be.