Credit: Rex Features
If you’re a pilot in North America and are looking to further your career then you may well be considering the wide range of opportunities that taking an international contract can hold.
You’ll be familiar with the employment landscape within the aviation sector in North America and you may be one of the 700 ALPA pilots on furlough or know someone who is, or maybe you just think that it is time to give your career and personal development a boost. This is the ideal time for you to be considering the regions of China, India, The Phillippines and generally in the Pacific and South Sea/Asian regions where the aviation sector continues to expand rapidly, providing excellent career development opportunities.
Opportunities for contracts abroad are extensive and can be an exciting challenge for any discerning pilot, no matter the location. Taking a contract outside of North America for two years or more can provide an exciting change of scene.
The three main areas we work hard to satisfy for all of our contract pilots are salary and benefits, stability and lifestyle.
In North America there are significant differences between the salary of those joining at entry level positions and those senior captains who have already clocked thousands of hours. With the implementation of the new regulation from the FAA that all pilots must have 1500 hours under their wings before taking their place in a commercial cockpit, prospects for new and aspiring pilots are slightly more complex.
However, if you’re lucky enough to have the experience required but want the rewards a contract elsewhere can offer, then salaries in places such as China can be up to $16k per month plus bonuses (including travel allowances) with excellent holiday allowance.
The hours flying are generally lower, yet the rate is significantly more with local income tax often covered by the airline, making the salary even more attractive.
If you’re looking to build a pension pot then a contract with a sizeable return could be just the measure to top up your funds.
In addition, accommodation is often included in the benefits package of most contracts, which is an added bonus when moving to a new location.
Contracts abroad are generally offered for three years (or shorter durations can be negotiated) and this can provide a consistent period of stable employment with a very modern and expanding fleet. Many carriers offering roles will also support type rating upgrades.
Carriers in the Far East and Asia are consistently opening up new routes and bases around the world. As they grow, existing flight crew stand the best chance of being offered the opportunity back in their home country or another overseas basing if you want to broaden your horizons still further.
A recent report by Boeing says that there will need to be 27,000 new pilots every year until 2033 to meet the worldwide growing fleet of passenger jets. In the Asia Pacific region alone that’s 216,000 pilots according to the report. This can only be good news for those looking for future prospects in the Asia region.
Credit: Rex Features
The lifestyle difference when working abroad will always be a big change for those who have not taken a contract elsewhere before. Contracts in Asia could potentially mean a move for the entire family and this is understandably a big but potentially incredibly rewarding decision.
The change in culture and day-to-day environment is an exciting prospect with each city providing a different way of life, scenery and even climate. Some of the bases for the contracts are on beautiful coastlines or at the heart of vibrant cities. There’s something for everyone.
Many airlines in Asia have worked hard over recent years to marry money with quality of life and match your comfort in the cockpit with that on the ground. This means your living conditions, hours worked, flights home and family allowances plus bonuses will all be to a high standard.
If you choose to move your family for the duration of the contract there are excellent international schools catering for all languages and the opportunities for employment for westerners is extensive. There are also welcoming expat communities to join with a busy social events calendar.
When applying to take a contract abroad the only barrier stopping you from making the step is mindset. As an American, origin of birth is not an issue and you will be accepted with ease almost anywhere in the world (providing you gain the correct validations on your licence for the region). In particular the Chinese CAAC bases much of its procedures and protocol on the FAA certification including simulators and performance charts so this will all be familiar territory for you.
The one thing that is different from America is the medical assessment. This is an area where we receive the most questions and are able through our extensive experience to guide and support you through the process. In China, it is well known to be tough, although should not be seen as a stumbling block if you are well prepared, which we can support you with.
Many pilots have been enjoying flying Asia Pacific routes for years whilst taking full advantage of the many benefits: “I finally retired two months before my 69th birthday still with a Class One medical. I had no trouble with any of the CAAC licensing or medical staff, quite the reverse. The last years that I flew in China capped my career with a golden crown. I only wish I could do it all over again.”
We have in-country support within China that means we can support you fully from your application process and interview through to settling you and your family into the local community.
One of the pilots we worked with, Captain Jurij Gololobov, said of his application process in China: “It was a long but nice journey to Chengdu. I was picked up in the airport and escorted to the hotel by Frank a very nice and helpful person. Yesterday we received our schedule for this week and we are starting tonight with a SIM check. Generally I have to say that people here are great, very friendly and helpful.”
The recruitment and assessment requirement is relatively standard, although there are some differences in expectations and the level to which the assessments go. A Chinese ATPL will need to be obtained, the CAAC Medical passed and a full Chinese working visa obtained; all of which we can help you with. Applications (including which airlines to apply to) should be very carefully thought through and presented as the CAAC generally only allows a pilot to process an application with one airline at a time. The following are all vital to give the best chance of passing the selection process:
When considering opportunities with us you can rest assured that we are 100% committed to ethical contracts and place a great deal of importance in looking after the interest of our crews. The testament to this is that many of our pilots return to us time and time again to take advantage of the wealth of advice and support we can offer. All of our pilots are guided through the application process with support available for the duration of their contract.
Our business ethos is based on the following core values.
The carriers we work with in Asia include Cebu Pacific, Sichuan, China Southern, Spring Airlines, Hong Kong Jet, Etihad Airways, Hainan Airlines, Nok Scoot, Juneyao Airlines, Xiamen Airlines and Jet Airways and IndiGo in India amongst others.