Most work days are an 8-hr simulator event but can start as early as 4:00am or as late as 8:00PM. Each Sim event involves a 2-hour brief, then a 4-hour sim ride followed by a post-brief.
As an instructor at United Airlines, we work 18 days a month. Three of those days include flying the line to maintain proficiency. My schedule is a bid process based on seniority and most work blocks are 4 to 7 days in row with about 3 to 4 days off in-between.
I find my job to be very dynamic–full of constant change and variety. One week I could be teaching a new hire first officer who is training in a jet for the first time. The next week, I could be training a new captain who has been flying an Airbus for 20 years and wonders why our old 737 still has a trim wheel! As an instructor, you have to be proficient in all aspects of the aircraft, as well as be proficient in every seat. One day you are acting as a captain, first officer or ATC. The next you are an instructor/mentor and CRM facilitator. In the end it all comes down to communicating to the student in way they understand and remember. I find that as a great challenge–but also very rewarding.
I enjoy all of it. I get to teach, fly airplanes and tell a few jokes in the process. What’s not to love about that?
I would say being at work at 4:00AM is not my favorite thing to do. But luckily, I only have to do it a few times a month.
I think the changes you see will be huge. Many retirements are coming up, and hiring is in full swing. When I started as an instructor a few years ago, there were thirty-four B737 Instructors. Today there are one hundred-ten B737 instructors, and new simulators on order. We are spooling up for some serious training.
The pay is based on what aircraft you can hold and seniority with the company. You would be looking at a range of $90,000 to 200,000 a year.
You can have a degree in music and be an airline pilot–so always get an education in something you love doing. Aviation is flexible in the fact that your college major and hours in a logbook are two separate things. I work with many individuals with IT, business, and aviation degrees from great institutions and I also know some without degrees. All are excellent pilots. Always have a solid education behind you in case the industry has a cooling down period or a personal disaster strikes. You may need it. I was fortunate enough to miss a furlough by 12 months, but when my friends junior to me had to leave the airline, I took a hard look in the mirror and asked myself what would I do if I could never fly airplanes again? The list was pretty short! So always have a plan B.
I look for individuals who are good communicators and who are able to portray ideas in a clear and creative way. You have to be interesting–ask yourself what separates you from the pack. There are a lot of pilots out there who want your job. We currently have approximately 12,000 resumes on file. When I interviewed for my first job in the training department, the phone rang and they told me to show up with a ten minute lesson on something non-aviation related. I had been at the airline for six years so I figured they already knew I could fly an airplane. I had one day to prepare something, and after giving them a ten minute lesson on how to play a few rock chords on the ukulele, I was hired.
[Special thanks to UVU Aviation Advisor Marilyn Riddle for putting together these alumni spotlights. Watch for them throughout the school year.]