Entry Level Pilot Jobs for the New Commercial Pilot
Hello CHI students! My name is Liam and I have been a dispatcher at CHI since November of 2021. I recently earned my commercial pilots license here at CHI and wanted to share some things that I learned along the way and also some low hour pilot job ideas with the students of CHI to get excited and inspired to keep pushing through training and investing in yourself as a pilot!
To preface this, I have been flying since 2019 and have been dreaming of getting a job as a commercial pilot since I was very young. Finally earning my wings as a commercial pilot was soon tempered by the coming daunting reality of finding my first low hour pilot job. Like many fresh-faced commercial pilots, I quickly discovered that getting that first job is often the most challenging part of pursuing a career in aviation. Here is a compilation of a few things I've learned along the way that may help fellow low hour pilots navigate the job market, and a list of potential first jobs!
The number one thing a low hour pilot can do is to keep their expectations realistic..
After spending many hours behind the desk chatting with the flight instructors, the biggest thing I learned from them was how important it is to keep your expectations realistic. While we all dream of flying big jets or private planes soon after earning our commercial, it's essential to realize that most pilots will have to instruct for a year to a few years before their first job flying outside of instruction. I personally am excited to instruct here at CHI and build up my hours before my first job outside of instructing. That being said, I have considered other low hour pilot jobs that are very tempting! One other thing to note is that instructing isn't for everyone. Thus, I have compiled a list below of truly entry level oriented pilot jobs outside of instructing for a commercial pilot in the New England area. I have also included a few bonuses outside the area I thought should be mentioned.
Air Taxi Pilot: Working for a small air taxi company is the first one on my list. (The list is in no particular order) This job typically involves flying smaller planes, such as Cessna 172s, Cirrus aircraft, etc and transporting passengers to regional airports. I found a few companies in the New England area that offer this as a service and would be a great job for an entry level commercial pilot looking to get into the charter world.
Charter Pilot: Charter companies in New England also hire entry level commercial pilots to fly their planes. This job may require some travel and overnight stays, but it's a great way to build your hours and gain experience. One thing to note is that this gig may not hire at that 250 hour minimum mark and realistically hires around 500-800 hours if you don’t have an inside connection at the company you are looking at. Outside of the New England area, charter oddly becomes more realistic for lower hour commercial pilots. My personal favorite charter company is a very unique company out of Florida. The company is called Tropic Ocean airways. They operate a fleet of amphibious Cessna Caravans out of Miami Seaplane base and travel their customers all over the Bahamas! The best part is they hire SIC’s at 250 hours! To me, this seems like one of aviation's best kept secrets and is something I’m seriously considering after instruction. PS: There's a local New England Company, Tailwind Aviation that flies out of Boston harbor on the amphibious caravan to Nantucket and a few other spots around NE..
Sightseeing Tour Pilot: Many cities in New England have sightseeing tours that take tourists on scenic flights over the area's landmarks and attractions. These companies often hire entry level commercial pilots. One company that stood out to me is Scenic Flights of Acadia. One of my favorite spots to visit in the summer with my girlfriend is Acadia. What an amazing opportunity it would be to perhaps share that experience of flight in that beautiful coastal Maine area with people from all around!
Pipeline Patrol Pilot:Another classic low hour commercial pilot job is the pipeline patrol jobs. Pipeline patrol involves flying low along oil and gas pipelines to check for leaks or damage. Through my experiences training across New England I have seen all types of planes and helicopters flying low over these oil pipelines. Most recently I was flying the pattern in Keene when I noticed a small helicopter doing an aerial inspection of a pipeline in that area. This job might not be for everyone as you are flying somewhat low in mountainous, rural areas. For others, this may sound like the perfect alternative to instructing!
Aerial Survey Pilot: Another job similar to pipeline patrol is aerial survey. Pilots fly planes equipped with cameras and sensors to collect data for mapping, environmental research, and other purposes. This job definitely requires more precise flying and attention to detail. As a photographer this job stuck out to me! These jobs are somewhat rare in New England so if you see them jump on them if you are interested in something like this.
Skydiving Pilot: This is another classic low hour flying job staple in the industry. Companies like Skydive Coastal Maine over in Biddeford hire pilots for their 182T at lower hours and would be a great summer gig. Depending on the aircraft being flown, you can find these fun summer jobs In New England ranging from 250 hours in a Cessna to 1000 hours for a multi-engine DeHavilland Twin Otter like they have over at SkyDive New England in Lebanon!
Corporate Pilot: While corporate pilot jobs typically require more experience, we are gifted to have companies like Planesense Inc. right next door to CHI Aerospace. Planesense offers fractional jet ownership to executives and businesses all over the continent! The best part is they start hiring around 500-800 hours for an SIC on the Pilatus PC-12! CHI Students, keep in mind that we have a partnership with them where you are guaranteed an interview if you are an instructor here with us when you reach 820 hours. Another company based out of New England with a similar structure and hiring requirements is Tradewind Aviation. I like this company because they do a lot of flying out of Puerto Rico in the Winter and a lot of flying in New England in the Summer. The perfect combo!
These are just a few examples of low hour pilot jobs in our area. Keep a look out and remember to network as much as you can! Also, as you explore the job market, be sure to consider your interests, goals, and qualifications to find the best fit for your long term career aspirations. Most importantly, keep investing in yourself and never give up on your goals of becoming a commercial pilot! It’s a long and challenging road, but the return on investment is going to be incredible. Thank you for reading and I hope to see you in the skies soon!