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Is it common for former Airforce pilots to end up working as commerical pilots?

What are the statistics? Which education is better: commerical pilot school or military pilot training? This question was posted by a CareerVillage administrator on behalf of the students of CareerVillage. #aviation #airline-industry #pilot #air-force

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Jim’s Answer

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The number of military pilots transitioning into civilian flying careers has been largely dependent on the job market. In my 19 years in the Army the industry went from like warm (when I was going through civilian aviation training in college), to cold, to blazing hot in the last couple of years. It's an industry about timing and the military is by far the best option to maintain currency and time your entry into the civilian market. To fly in the military you need to get a degree and commission as an officer (unless you're a warrant officer in the Army which is primarily helicopters and a degree is needed more and more to be competitive). I would recommend joining the reserve or national guard and use the education benefits to help pay for your flight training at a civilian school (preferably part 141 to maximize your VA benefit). While in school, you can commission through ROTC and only do two years if you're prior enlisted. In your junior to senior you will start the as sessions process and compete for a flight slot at which point you could go active duty or attempt to get a guaranteed reserve forces duty contract (for the Army National Guard anyway, not sure about other services). Eventually you would have the time to apply for an entry level airline job and start working your way to a major airline.


You could also bypass the military all together. There are new programs available with Jet Blue where they will pay for your training and eventually hire you once you have acquired the neccesary time. I am uncertain how the selection process for this goes or what their terms are, but it's worth checking into.


At the end of the day, it's a career path that requires passion and patience. If you have those two things, it's the best career you could ever pursue. If you're impatient and just "kinda like to fly", it will be a long and painful road! Best of luck, and be safe!

Thank you comment icon Thank you sir Hajira
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Rob’s Answer

A high number of military pilots end up working as commercial pilots. When it comes to pilot training, military pilots have a great advantage in training since the military pays for all of it. The USAF spends about 1.5 million dollars training its pilots. Military pilots get to fly in all types of environments and conditions around the world, giving them the upper hand on experience.

Thank you comment icon A lot of military pilots become civilian pilots. In the past, the military was the primary source for airline and corporate pilots. The military isn't training as many pilots as it used to. About 3/4 of the pilots that I have flown with in my career came from civilian backgrounds. Military pilot training is undoubtedly the best, but it is also the most difficult. Because there are few slots, the competition is rigorous and the training is intense. Most civilian pilots are now trained by civilian flight schools. The quality of civilian flight training schools varies. Some schools are Federal Aviation Regulation 61 and are very informal. Others are operated under FAR 121 and are more regimented. A 121 school would provide training that is more similar to an airline training program. David Thornton
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much for your information Hajira
Thank you comment icon What is statistics Hajira
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Robert’s Answer

It is common for former Air Force pilots (and Navy pilots) to later become Commercial airline pilots. Most Air Force pilots who leave after their initial service commitment of 10 years go to the airlines. Of course, that varies depending on whether the airlines are hiring at the time. Right now they are hiring.
However, if an Air Force pilot stays in the service beyond his initial 10 year commitment, all the way to a 20 year retirement or longer, the percentages of them ending up with an airline job decrease. This is because some of those longer serving Air Force officers acquire staff, leadership and administrative skills later in their careers that lead to non-flying jobs with aerospace companies.


The biggest difference between military pilot training and civilian training is the military will pay you while you become a pilot and it's up to you to pay for civilian flight school. Of course, the military will require you to serve for 10 years instead of being free to pursue an airline career right away if you go the civilian route.
An exception to the long military commitment is to apply for flight school through the National Guard or Air Force Reserve. They will send you to the same Air Force flight training then return you to the unit that hired you where you will serve about 2 years full-time. After that you will fly part-time with your military unit and can also pursue a civilian airline career.
My advice is to go the military route if you really want to fly military jets and serve your country. It is a great and rewarding experience. Don't join the military just to eventually become and airline pilot. You can do that directly via the civilian route.

Thank you comment icon Thank you for your advice and your information Hajira
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Gary’s Answer

Eric, Currently about 80 percent of airline pilots come from civilian pilot training. civilian training is available at most local airports and numerous aeronautical universities.
Many pilots have also served the military in some way other than as a pilot. As you may see from the earlier post the military does offer excellent training with a long term commitment. In addition many pilots also receive that same training in the reserves without the full time commitment.


Good luck no matter what route you choose.

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Mac’s Answer

Over the past several years 2013-2015 approximately 30-35% of former military pilots have become commercial (in most cases airline pilots). Civilian training programs vary on quality based on company goals (make a profit or produce safe pilots). Civilian schools concentrate on aviation related training only and cover material at a rate set by the students ability to advance. Military flight training combines aviation and military subjects with a hard and fast syllabus that requires specific benchmarks (Phases) be mastered within a minimum time. Aptitude, finances, time available, motivation and goals are some of the important factors in choosing a path to professional aviation. I retired from a major airline and flew with many pilots from a variety of training backgrounds. Although many military pilots had more adjustments to make coming to the airline, within 12-18 months of airline indoctrination, all pilots achieved a mindset and skill set that masked those different training backgrounds for the most part.

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