While the aviation industry has been charting the end of the recession-driven “Lost Decade” of the 2010’s, pilots were cheering the onset of a personnel shortage that meant a greater choice of jobs, paid training, a living wage for new aviators, and the demise of practices like “pay to play” in order to build flying time. However, just as life began to improve for those in the right and left seats, the industry has suffered a blow affecting ones pilot career, like many others businesses because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While some might wonder if it is best to pause flight training for the duration of the pandemic and shutdown, moments such as this provide your aviation school with an opportunity to not only manage these unusual circumstances, but turn them into a positive experience for your pilot career.
1) Your Aviation School Guides Study and Ground School Learning
In the event your flight school normally holds in-person training, it may have shifted to virtual meetings or one-on-one video appointments with your flight instructor as he or she answers your questions and guides your understanding of basic aeronautical concepts. This time of uncertainty can have the happy effect of providing you with the chance to delve deeper than you ever have into the academic portion of your flight training.
Depending on your state, county, and city, your flight school may still provide lessons in the cockpit or simulator, or these could remain closed for a while. In either case, the shutdown creates space for you to memorize such necessities as the phonetic alphabet or the process of conducting a pre-flight walk around. While some student pilots might continue to work part time or even full time as they pursue their pilot career with a private certificate during the pandemic, the loss of family obligations, sporting events, and public socializing forces quiet time where some might not have existed before.
Your flight school has designed a learning program specifically aimed at helping you process, understand, and remember the fundamentals of flying. In normal life, it is sometimes tempting to rush through the academic portion of ground school in favor of “just getting through it” or in the excitement of spending time in the left seat. By dedicating extra concentration to these important concepts and explanations now, you will become an even safer and more efficient pilot when the time comes to fly on your own.
2) Logging Time for Your Pilot Career
Aviation schools that continued or resumed flying operations, provide their students with the invaluable experience of safely applying aviation concepts with an experienced certified flight instructor (CFI). As is the case with ground school material, the stay at home orders are providing the chance to gain time in the cockpit or simulator that might not be available otherwise. This is a terrific opportunity to advance quickly.
Many students learn best when lessons are taken with smooth regularity, rather than with large gaps between them. Studying ground school material, then reinforcing it with time in the air or simulator, can help you attain readiness for your check ride faster than if you were attempting to do so in fits and starts.
3) Preparing You for Future Demand
It is a mistake to assume the current state is how it how things will be in the future. If the early part of 2020 has taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected. Therefore, although airliners slowed down and company charters are at a minimum, that does not mean this will still be the case next year or in the near future. As stay at home orders are lifted, businesses re-open, and tourism resumes, the aviation business will respond accordingly. The good news is, airlines are making plans to resume regular flying in June.
While some major events and conventions have been cancelled, such as the NBA season, others, like the baseball and hockey seasons, are merely postponed. Moreover, the economic impact of other affected events have yet to take place. For example, various major sporting in the United States which usually happen in May have been shuffled to later dates. The Indianapolis 500 has been rescheduled to August; the Kentucky Derby will run in September. In time, bans on international travel for both business and leisure will lift. The “pickup” from these industries will spread accordingly.
4) Connecting to the Aviation World as we Wait
Aviation schools connect you with members of the piloting community you might not otherwise connect with. Pilots who start training now will be in a good position later, either by the time they have earned their private certificates or when they have accumulated enough hours to advance to the next stage in their careers. As well as the many connections made along the way.
Remember that what caused the pilot shortage initially is still in effect—a wave of retirements, the aging of the Baby Boomer generation, and a stifling of the hiring pool from a long recession. While charter companies and airlines may take time to reverse furloughs, some older pilot careers have ended as they have accepted early retirement packages and will not return to the workforce. Other pilots may have diverted to alternate careers during the shutdown.
There is room for you in aviation. Your pilot career will advance. Be patient, connect online and in person, and make use of this time to learn and improve.
Mr. Matthew A. Johnston has over 23 years of experience serving various roles in education and is currently serving as the President of California Aeronautical University. He maintains memberships and is a supporting participant with several aviation promoting and advocacy associations including University Aviation Association (UAA), Regional Airline Association (RAA), AOPA, NBAA, and EAA with the Young Eagles program. He is proud of his collaboration with airlines, aviation businesses and individual aviation professionals who are working with him to develop California Aeronautical University as a leader in educating aviation professionals.