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Bare Minimum Time For A Job?

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Well-known member
Jun 14, 2002
Ok folks. I'm sure there are many ways to fly for a living. Freight, regionals, traffic, etc, etc. My goal is to get to the majors, and I want to avoid flight instruction. I have my Instrument, and will have my comm/multi in about a month. I'll have 400 hours TT, and about 12 hours multi.

Now the big question comes, what is the best way to get time at this stage in the game (besides instructing) and what are some low time (500 hour) jobs that I could expect to find? Right seat multi time, anything. I just want to be sure it is valuble time for getting job in the future.
My understanding is that you're not going to get real competative for Airnet until you're at about 900 hours or so. So really if you don't want to instruct, you're probably going to have to either find something flying jumpers or doing traffic watch.

I got my first job flying jumpers at about 350 hours, so it's possible. Unfortunately there are lots of furloughed regional guys out there now, so I think most drop zones have more than enough applicants with far more experience these days.

I've seen flyers for traffic watch, but every one wants 500 PIC and a CFI. Dunno why they want the CFI, but there you have it.

Why not instruct? Really, it's probably the fastest way of building time until you get to 135 mins.
Unless you know someone on the inside of the 135 companies then it will be somewhat or should I say very difficult to "secure" a right seat gig due to the current job market where surplus far exceeds demand at the present time. I was just speaking to our chief pilot and I was amazed with the resumes from low (300-500 hour) pilots that have been coming in, however he also stated that resumes from pilots with upwards of 3000TT have also been coming in at the same rate. ("IF" we hire in the future guess who gets the call first)- On the bright side I have heard that some departments are still hiring the lower time pilots so keep your eyes open... n e t w o r k , n e t w o r k & n e t w o r k- Banner towing, sight seeing flights, repo flights, photography flights, etc, probably will be alot easier however like I said their definately is not a shortage of low time pilots in your exact same position so you need to make yourself more marketable and stand out from the rest of the pack- Good luck


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Just remember, published minimums are usually not a hard minimum. I was hired by Great Lakes with well under the posted minimums (tenacity...no connections whatsoever). We just hired a guy at our dropzone who had LESS than the insurance requirements. He must have done one heck of a job selling himself to the owners (350TT when insurance required 500TT). Guess what...he has over 500TT now. An interesting side effect to flying jumpers is the ability to get into multi-engine turbine equipment at relatively low time as PIC. Skydive Chicago recently hired a pilot who had 800TT. He is now flying a Twin Otter. He is also a jumper though which helps a LOT when you are a jump pilot. Remember, when somebody says "no", they really mean "check back with me soon". T.E.N.A.C.I.T.Y
I got my first flying job at 275 hours flying jumpers. Check out the DZ's in your area or try dropzone.com for a listing of DZ's. Most of the places now might be full, but you could get your name in for any openings.

Good luck. Flying jumpers is a blast. In spite of what you might hear, it is good experience as long as you can suppliment it with some instrument work.
Airborne traffic watch

Non-instructing low-time jobs are extremely hard to get. It's a supply and demand problem. There really aren't that many low time jobs, despite what you hear and read. And, there are plenty of people available to fill them.

Many people suggest flying radio traffic watch. These jobs, absolutely, positively, don't grow on trees. They are scarce. I know. I worked in broadcasting full-time for fifteen years. First of all, not that many radio stations use airplanes. Those that do will be primarily in larger markets, which means larger cities. There is no shortage of pilots available to fly these airplanes and, dare I say it, for free to build the hours. We had someone like that fly an airplane for our radio station. I even flew the airplane a couple of times (I was a newsperson at the station and employed). Many radio stations that have airborne traffic watch do not operate their own aircraft but subscribe to services that provide the information to several radio stations in the same market. I have a friend who manages such a service. So, in a particular market, there may not be as many traffic airplanes as it appears.

If it were me, I'd opt for the path of least resistance. Your CFI is a credential that will get you work. Get yours and get your experience. Good luck to you.
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You are really limiting yourself by not instructing. Even with a 135 or 121 company there are positions where a CFI experience might be valuable. These companies need instructors as well. Yes you can instruct with an ATP within a 135 or 121, but I for one would want to see some real demonstrated ability in instructing and evaluating. You also learn alot from instructing. I know the argument will be how much can you learn being a PNF from the right seat. But when you have to observe and evaluate other people's mistakes, you learn in the process. When you have to teach a subject matter on the ground over and over and evaluate a student applying it in the air over and over, you gain much more than book knowledge.
If you are thinking of working for Airnet, bear this in mind: Bob told me very specifically that they preferred pilots who had worked as instructors and had RECENT flight experience. They are not looking for somone who was laid off six months ago, and has not flown since then. They will look at your thirty, sixty, and ninety day totals.

I'm not suggesting that it will be impossible to find as job as a low timer, but supply and demand have changed a lot in the last twelve months, and it will be more difficult than you may realize.

Just as AWACoff suggested, be tenacious. Also be persistent. Work at finding a job every day, if only for a few minutes. Make phone calls. If you need to, write out a script to guide you in your questions about the operation where you would like to work. Visit airports. Ask the crew of that Navajo if they can show you the airplane. This will open up an oportunity for questions about jobs they might have heard about, or even employers that you may want to avoid!

Don't quit!
Traffic Watch

If you want to fly a lot and you don't mind doing it in a 172, go out to Van Nuys, CA (VNY) and hit the pavement...you'll find a job. That's where most of the Traffic Watch companies in L.A. are based. Several companies use Cessnas and there are still plenty of jobs to be had out there.

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