Louis Smith knows a thing or two about the aviation industry. A retired Northwest Airlines captain, who completed his career flying the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 on international routes, Louis heads up FLTops.com, a web-only career planning service for professional pilots.
I had the good fortune of meeting Louis earlier this month at the Boyd conference in Aspen. And so when I recently wrote about JetBlue Airways and Cape Air’s new pilot recruitment programme for Flight, I asked Louis to give his thoughts.
First, some details about the so-called Aviation University Gateway programme, which identifies potential future Cape Air and JetBlue pilots at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the University of North Dakota (UND).
Under the initiative, participants intern at Hyannis, Massachusetts-based Cape Air – which operates Cessna 402 aircraft – and then serve as an instructor at their respective flight school.
Following this process, candidates will fly with Cape Air for at least two years and then be eligible for a final interview at JetBlue, which operates Airbus A320s and Embraer 190s.
From a broad perspective, Louis believes the programme is “a very good resource strategy and necessary to build the supply of our next generation of pilots”. However, to be really effective, he says:
“The programme should contain more than a guarantee of an interview. In today’s slow pilot job market, an interview has considerable value. When the pilot hiring market later heats up, the corporations will need to create a hiring pool based on performance, not just a guaranteed interview.”
No doubt there will be some interviewing going on next week in Chicago, where FLTops.com’s next pilot job fair will kick off on 28 October. Check out the site here, and note the “dog” option.
Pilots who take the Greyhound bus to Chicago will get free admission to the “low time” session, which will host recruiters from US regionals American Eagle, Colgan Air, Mesaba and Pinnacle. “Just show us your Greyhound ticket and you’re in the hunt,” says the firm.
The job fair’s “high time” room will host recruiters from Air India, All Nippon Airways and Delta Air Lines, among others.
Delta, you say? Why yes indeedy. The carrier, which is putting the finishing touches on a merger with Northwest Airlines, says it is “proudly recruiting pilots for first officer positions”.
As a new Delta first officer, “you have an opportunity to initially be assigned to a Boeing MD-88/90, a 737NG, or even a 757/767 aircraft type among our fleet of more than 440 aircraft”, it adds.
Let’s just hope that demand doesn’t drop too much in the coming months. Delta management recently warned that a severe dive in demand could prompt the carrier to cut its 767 fleet.
Key quotes from Delta CEO Richard Anderson:
“We can get the cost out quickly. We demonstrated that earlier in the year when we took about 15 airplanes out. We go very diligently and really attack all of the fixed costs that go with each one of those airplanes. I think we’ve demonstrated that we’d do that and we’d do it again,” says Anderson.
He adds: “Given that the capital ownership of the 767-300 is as low as it is, we don’t have to bring those airplanes back and won’t bring those airplanes back to the domestic system just to add capacity for the sake of adding capacity.”