Alan Dron

If you want to be an airline pilot, don't bother with university. And if you do make it into a cockpit, there is a 33% chance of being unemployed at some time in a given five-year timespan, with the average fallow period being one year.

These are just two of the findings of the Flight International Pilot Employment Survey 1998, believed to be the most comprehensive snapshot ever compiled of pilots' prospects and problems.

It correlates responses from more than 4,200 pilots in 30 countries, more than 90% of them serving captains or first officers.

The survey found that, to maximise earnings, pilots should begin their careers as early as possible. "The earlier you start, the better," said David Learmount, operations/safety editor of Flight International, at the report's launch yesterday. "Only get a degree if you want to be a management pilot."

The survey found only 19% of respondents had degrees. Remarkably, 27% indicated they had passed no examinations at school, which gives some credence to the belief that many pilots are 'born', not 'made'. Possibly the most surprising result, however, says Learmount, is the degree of instability in a profession which reflects - and amplifies - the cyclical nature of the global economy. Travel budgets are rapidly cut by companies and individuals as a recession approaches, and revive sharply as signs of recovery reappear, as companies send sales forces out on the road again.


The survey defines the 'average' pilot as 42 years old; he got his first aircrew job at 25 and has worked for four employers. The average first officer's salary is £33,490 ($55,250) and that of a captain, £55,960. However, only a very small percentage of captains reach the upper levels.

And, unlike virtually every other job, most pilots have to pay for their training; current cost is £60,000.

The survey is available from Vaughan Gordon on +44 (181) 652 3307.

Source: Flight Daily News