First pilot job

Even with an ATPL and type rating in your pocket, finding a first job as a pilot is not an easy task. In today’s European aviation industry, not even a type rated pilot is necessarily considered suitable for employment. Very often airlines require at least 500 additional flight hours. Unfortunately, also type rated pilots in need of flying hours are seen as a business opportunity by some airlines and organisations. Such is the case for Pay-to-Fly schemes (pilots functioning as an employee of an airlines but receiving a very low salary or paying the airline).


Getting the first job is the hardest challenge for young pilots. The “pilot shortage”, happily advertised by flight schools and aviation experts, is in reality a convenient myth. In fact, unemployment amongst pilots is a significant phenomenon. The average unemployment rate for pilots across Europe is around 15%*.

And despite this, training schools continue to churn out pilots at high speed.

Your professional life can also look very different depending on where you land a job as highlighted by a survey ranking over 120 European airlines from ‘Social Excellence’ to ‘Social Junk’

The survey asked pilots to look at criteria like the use of precarious atypical employment forms in their airlines, contractual arrangements, union relations, collective bargaining and work-life balance. The intention was to take stock of pilot satisfaction in Europe’s cockpits and get an idea of how much of an attractive and social employer airlines are. Survey respondents were given the opportunity to also leave specific comments about their experience at the airline they operate for.

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