Do you dream about traveling the world as a pilot? Are you still fascinated with watching airplanes take off and land? Most pilots have been interested in aviation from a young age and are passionate about flying. Many professional aviators still remember the nervous excitement from when they were starting flight school and how valuable airline cadet programs were in helping them through. Those pilots have now come full circle, back as mentors in those programs and ready to assist you in navigating through training.
Just as every flight training school is different and each pilot is unique, there are many types of airline cadet programs. The one thing these programs all have in common is their goal: to help student pilots successfully transition to a full-time airline pilot career. Flight training students who want their future business cards to have a commercial airline logo above their name are the ideal candidates for an airline cadet program.
What Is an Airline Cadet Program?
An airline cadet program usually begins with a partnership between an airline and a flight school/university. Cadet programs vary in their benefits, but they all help provide a pathway to becoming a professional pilot – first for a regional airline and then for their parent / major airline. The resources offered by these programs range from mentorship to conditional employment contracts after graduation. Some airline cadet programs even help fund flight training and may offer sign-on bonuses.
These programs help passionate students with the determination, skills, and abilities to become commercial airline pilots. They also help the airlines select the most highly motivated and qualified candidates. While a cadet program can provide resources (including open job positions) that are not available to the general public, there is no obligation or guarantee of an employment offer after you graduate. However, although a job isn’t guaranteed, the employment trend in the aviation field is increasing faster than average, and the projected growth for commercial pilots from 2020 through 2030 is 10%-15%.
Benefits of Airline Cadet Programs
Enrolling in an airline cadet program during your flight school training could offer you a wide range of benefits (depending on the program, airline, and school/university), including:
- Mentorships, connections, and contacts in the aviation world. Joining a network of experienced professionals already working in the field gives you access to an extended network of coaches, role models, and potential references for future job referrals.
- A safe place to practice communication skills. Some airline cadet programs invite student pilots to semi-annual meetings at the airline headquarters (all expenses paid) or other seminars or tours. These interactions are perfect situations to rehearse how to act in a professional setting and to get valuable feedback.
- A smooth transition from student cadet to career pilot. The sense of pride that comes with corporate identity begins early, in addition to the partnerships, connections, and friendships you will make along the way. Establishing a relationship with an airline during training school can help you form a bond with that company. Having that employment track set in motion also removes some pressure, as you can focus more on your coursework and less on searching for job postings.
- Tuition assistance/reimbursement and sign-on bonus offers. Many cadet programs offer financial incentives to entice aspiring pilots. Qualifying flight training students have various options available to help with school expenses, including grants, loans, scholarships, and more. Cadet programs stay competitive by helping fund some of your training, which could include paying for current courses.
Remember that each airline has different requirements to join their cadet program. Additionally, financial assistance from the airline is provided after you have been accepted into the program, met its prerequisites, and fulfilled whatever mandatory conditions the airline has set.
Many flight training schools have airlines they partner with, either regional or national. Recruiting representatives from those airline partners visit the schools regularly, making presentations and outlining the advantages of their cadet programs. The schools help you gain all the necessary skills and knowledge to become a competent pilot after completing your training, and the partnerships strengthen your pilot career opportunities.
Airlines benefit from the affiliation with flight training schools and universities because it provides the airlines with a pool of pilot candidates. Recently, there have been other options available. Some airlines have actually purchased schools so that they can run their own flight training programs. They directly recruit candidates, develop their skills and teach them through their flight schools. These airlines use their academy as an extension of their cadet programs so that they can hire pilots upon completion of their training.
How to Enroll in an Airline Cadet Program
A cadet program is a great way for student pilots to have a direct pathway to reach their airline pilot career aspirations. To register for any airline cadet program, check the required qualifications for the airline you want to enroll with to see if you are eligible. If you do not meet the criteria, is there anything you can do to change that? For example, you may need to have a certain number of flight hours or be a student at a participating aviation school. More often than not, attending a flight training school or university with airline partnerships can provide a clear and direct path to enrolling in an airline cadet program.
The Bottom Line
Cadet programs are excellent opportunities for student pilots to develop and grow as professionals. Considering the many benefits that an airline cadet program can contribute to your flight school training, it is to your advantage to do your research and apply to the one that best matches your career path.
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.