The COVID-19 pandemic has totally wrecked the entire world. It’s not a joke. It’s not a fake, and it’s not a conspiracy to control the masses; contrary to what too many people believe. The pandemic is very real and killing people and it should not be taken lightly.
But one of the biggest industries that got decimated by the pandemic is aviation.
I mean TSA went from putting well over a million people through security a day to under 100,000 a day in April.
That’s just insane.
It also meant that there were a lot of airlines that got hit very hard. Airports were lowering flight numbers like crazy and many people were starting to get scared of being laid off.
Then the government helped by pushing through a PSP to help people and keep some businesses open.
Even with that, there have been 14 airlines that have gone bankrupt up till June, and we can expect more to come in the future.
It’s absolutely terrifying to be in such a volatile environment right now. There hasn’t been this severe of a downturn since the Twin Towers were attacked by terrorists on 9/11.
I’ve been asked a lot about the aviation industry because of this. I got even more questions when I decided to become a pilot during this crazy time in the aviation industry.
Nonetheless, the saying has proven correct for me: Once you get aviation in your blood, you can’t quit.
Plus, I’m optimistic.
I’m not going to lie, I’ve always thought of myself as a smart guy. I mean, yeah, I have done plenty of stupid things, but I’m overal really smart. I study philosophy and literature for fun. I learned a lot of health because I wanted to be healthy and lift heavy weights.
I have a good capacity to be a smart human.
So, I got a bit annoyed when I found out that I didn’t need a degree to be an airline pilot. It’s often recommended to get a degree as a fallback plan because aviation is pretty hard and expensive to get into, but it’s not a requirement.
That also made this next fact a little surprising to me: There is a pilot shortage.
You would think that any career that is on the rise in need and is so high paying would never be in a shortage. Coupled with the lack of a degree requirement, it just didn’t make sense to me.
The only theory for this fact is that it is the same as almost all other blue collar jobs, college was pushed so hard on people that pursuing a career that doesn’t require a degree seemed absurd. That and aviation is expensive to get started in, but it’s not much more expensive than some colleges. In fact, it can be cheaper than continued education for a lot of people.
Regardless of all that, if you look at the FAA’s pilot registration list, you will see a trend of mostly staying steady despite the massive growth in the travel industry.
The pandemic did hit the aviation industry really hard. Some pilots were being offered early retirement and even some were being furloughed by major airlines.
My theory is that the pilot shortage isn’t going to go away.
Even though now there is less need for pilots than before, it’s still absolutely necessary. There are some pilots that are airline pilots now that are being forced into early retirement, which means when the industry picks back up, and I guarantee it will pick back up, that there will once again be a pilot shortage. It may even be more severe than before the pandemic due to all the early retirements.
Is It Worth It In 2020?
Of course, I can spit all these numbers at you, but that doesn’t answer the question: Is it worth it to become a pilot in 2020?
Most pilots will say yes because they see what I see. The industry is in a funk now, but it will go back to normal. I think it will explode once all the restrictions get lifted because people are tired of sitting in their houses for months on end.
I think it’s going to take a bit. I don’t think that the industry is going to just boom the very next day after travel restrictions are lifted, but it will happen.
That being said, I think it’s probably not the best move to go to an accelerated program like ATP because they will be able to put you through with no pilot experience in a matter of 6-8 months, but you won’t be able to get a job after that. Plus, tuition at a place like that is crazy expensive.
Now, if you were to go to a part 61 school that will let you do everything at your own pace, then you will probably be set up better. It’ll for sure take a longer time to get all your licenses and endorsements, but it’s still going to get you where you need to go.
My plan is to go to a small school in my area at a local airport that can get me all the way to be a certified flight instructor. I then want to find a job doing that while I’m still working as a flight attendant to maintain my benefits, both flight and medical, and I can build time until I can get my airline endorsement. Then I can get my multi-engine rating and go work at a private airline or fly cargo until I make it to a mainliner.
My plan is to take about 2 years to get my instructor endorsement and then just work as much as possible. I think I will get a job at an airline before I’m 30 (I’m 26 now) and then I’ll be able to work there and fly planes for 35 years at the least.
I want to keep instructing while I do all of this because I think I will love it and I will want to build those relationships with younger people trying to get into aviation.
To answer the question: Yes, it is absolutely worth it to become a pilot in 2020. In fact, I would say it’s a smart move. That way you’re ready when the call comes after travel restrictions lift.