How is the demand for First Officers changing globally?

First OfficersDavid Santo: Comes to mind is, I am, as an Airbus Captain, I am constantly getting marketing material from recruiters, both at airlines and at placement services. And I’ve gotten these for years. But they were always targeting captains with a minimum of 500 hours experience. Within the last 12 months, I’ve been getting the same ads for first officers.

So that just shows me that there is a demand. These recruiters would not be putting that out if they didn’t actually need the first officers. Now, are all recruiters created equal? Of course not. Are all flight schools created equal? Is there some ethics problems there? I don’t know the answer, because I’ve never done that.

I do know that there are opportunities to fly outside the United States as a low-time first officer to build your time. And I am validating, saying I know that there’s this opportunity based on the ads that I’m, the email inquiries that I’m getting on a regular basis.

Paula Williams:   Right, and you probably know of pilots who already have commercial airline training ready to go for those . .

David Santo: We worked with a lot of students that have gotten jobs outside the United States. And they’ve worked with various different employment agencies, recruiters, to do that.

So in general, the general sense that I get is that’s been very successful. Now, I do strongly encourage anybody, before you sign a contract, to make sure that you have done your due diligence. And that includes, go onto the social media, ask for references. Contact those references of people that have been successful in these programs.

before you sign a contract, to make sure that you have done your due diligence.

There are things about living outside of the United States that I think have to be considerations, that people have to make sure they carefully vet. But in the end, what we’re telling people, and I believe it’s factual, and I can point to the advertisements. If you don’t want to flight instruct, if you want to go and have an adventure and fly in the Pacific Rim as a low-time first officer in an Airbus or a Boeing, those opportunities are there.

That’s not to say they’re easy, but no job is easy in this industry. So you’re going to have to put forth the work to go get it, but those opportunities are there. And those people coming back are going to be at the front of the line, right, to get on with the airlines.

David Santo: I told you the funny story about, I was on a jump seat, and I ran into a gentleman, maybe,

David Santo: Late 20s who had gotten on with Comair right towards the last class, or right in the last group that they hired.

Paula Williams:   Right.

David Santo: So he sat reserve for awhile, didn’t really get a lot of flying in, this is before the FAA approved the  Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) rule, and found himself furloughed.

He went, with very low time, very inexperienced, very low time, I don’t even think he had 1,500 hours. He went to Emirates in Dubai, got on as a first officer, worked there for five years, flew the 330, the 340, and the 380, came back to the United States.

And he was kinda talking about how during the interview process, the people were kind of geeked when they saw that he had flown the Airbus 380. Cuz that’s the largest airplane in the world, and we don’t have them in the US.


people were kind of geeked when they saw that he had flown the 380.

Paula Williams:   Mm-hm.

David Santo: So he thought it was funny how people were kinda fighting over him, to get him hired.

And I’m like, really, you’re surprised by that? You’ve got experience that they don’t have.

Paula Williams:   Yeah, and it’s cool. [LAUGH]

David Santo: And it’s cool. So he’s going to get the pick of the litter. Well, that’s my point is, so how do you, in the mass of hundreds or thousands, but let’s say hundreds, how do you make yourself stand out?

Well, being a commuter pilot is the norm. So probably 80% of the civilian pilots hired are probably going to come from the commuters. I don’t know whether that number’s exactly accurate, but let’s just say a large percentage. Well, if you’re coming in the door and you’ve been flying in A320 in Vietnam, who are they more likely to hire?

Paula Williams:   Yeah.

David Santo: Somebody that’s been flying an Airbus, or somebody that’s been flying a regional jet? Both of them really is high quality training. But an Airbus is still incomparable to an Airbus if they’re going to fly for the airlines.

Paula Williams:   True. So these folks don’t have to dual citizens.

They don’t have to be citizens of the country that they’re coming from all the time. I know there’s some situations where they do prefer their own nationals. At these airlines in Germany, in particular, I think they all want German citizens, and things like that. But there are opportunities for US citizens to fly overseas and bill time.

David Santo: Yeah, so yes. I mean, Germany, for example, and Europe, they don’t have the pilot shortage that, they’re about the same as the United States, right? We won’t hire non-US citizens.

Paula Williams:   Right.

David Santo: Asia doesn’t want to hire non-Asian nationals, but they don’t have enough pilots.

Paula Williams:   Right.

David Santo: That has not been an airline career path that’s been accessible to them, that they thought were accessible to them, until recently.

Paula Williams:   Yeah.

David Santo: So they don’t have the pool of pilots in their flight crews. They don’t have that background. So what they’re allowing, and they’re allowing it begrudgingly, is for expatriates to come and fly short-term contracts while they’re trying to figure out ways to get their pilots qualified.

Paula Williams:   Okay, so this would be a contract pilot kind of a situation rather than an employee situation?

David Santo:  These airlines typically are not going to hire US citizens any other way than on contracts.

They do three to five-year contracts.

Paula Williams:   Okay.

David Santo: And there’s a huge market of expatriates that’s currently doing that. And that’s all the pilot jobs and listings  that we get from AviationCV and VOR Holdings and Rishworth International. And they’re all offering contract jobs.