Quality Of Time not Quantity

Many pilots struggle to figure out the right path to take in their flying careers to achieve their goals. Should I go where I can get into the right seat of a King Air fairly quickly, or should I go to that other place where I can get the left seat on a Cessna 206? No one can really answer this question but you. If no one can tell you what to do then why keep reading? I’m going to give you some tips on how to make your own decisions with regard to career moves. I must caution you that this is my opinion, based on my experience. While it may be really good advice it might not serve everyone equally. 

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Left or Right Seat? 

Every pilot’s goal is to get the pilot in command (PIC) time. But we can also admit that flying some really cool, maybe even really big machines is also a goal. Let's be honest, I think if anyone of us got our freshly minted commercial pilots licence and was offered a job flying in the right seat of a Boeing 787 we would be hard-pressed to turn it down. Strap in, these types of decisions are going to be haunting you for the rest of your career. In Canada you probably won’t ever be faced with the choice of flying a 787 right out of flight school...especially post COVID. But there are other, equally tempting options you might be faced with. 

At the end of the day, PIC time is gold. Multi PIC time is Platinum! During your flight training, it is important to start thinking about the career path that might interest you. Some routers come with more opportunities to fly nicer machines but less opportunity to get into the left seat and build that PIC time. Other routes might have you flying older less desirable aircraft in less than ideal conditions but get you on a fast track to the left seat. 

Early in your career, it is important to take opportunities to get the PIC time. This is one reason why flight instruction is a popular choice. All of your time as an instructor is PIC time. Yes, it's mostly a single-engine but that doesn’t make a difference when you're that low on time, to begin with. When you start to get closer to the airline transport pilot licence (ATPL) requirements we need to factor in the multi PIC time. As an instructor maybe you have an opportunity to teach on the twin. This is how I built up all of my required Multi PIC time for my ATPL.

Not everyone wants to teach and that’s ok. Grab that pipeline job that gets you a ton of PIC flying quickly. once you have some PIC time then maybe start looking for opportunities on light twin-engine aircraft. You'll likely have to take the right seat for a while but it’s easier to move into the left seat since you have some PIC time under your belt.

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Chasing Tin

Maybe you have heard this expression. If not, basically what it means is that you don’t care what seat you are in, you only care about the aircraft you are flying. Getting out of flight school, having an opportunity to go straight into the right seat of a Dash 8 or maybe even a King Air might not be the way to go. The question you need to ask yourself is if I take this job what are the requirements going to be for me to upgrade? Will I have to leave that job, or aircraft to get some multi PIC time on something smaller, maybe less fancy? You might be qualified to go from the right seat of a Navajo to a King Air than to a Dash 8 than a 787 but what happens when you want to upgrade? I sure wouldn’t want to go from flying a 787 back to a Navajo just to build multi PIC time.

Let me give you an example. I was on the recruiting team for a large airline when we received the resume of a guy who had a bunch of time on the aircraft our airline flew. The chief pilot at the time was excited to have him in for an interview with the assumption that he would be a great hire. Once we looked closer at his resume we realized that he didn’t meet our PIC requirements. To put this in perspective I believe at the time our PIC requirements were only 500 hours. And I don’t even think that was Multi-PIC. Regardless, it was such a low number we were all shocked that a pilot with this experience would not qualify for our minimum requirements. He was not invited for an interview and missed an incredible opportunity. Now I can’t say what his career motives were but this could be summed up as an example of why chasing tin was a bad idea. 

Quality of Time

No matter which route you take in your career, always be planning ahead. Always be thinking about how each step you take will affect the next move. Just because an opportunity might feel good doesn’t mean you should take it. You don’t want to end up stalled later in your career and have to backtrack because you didn’t pursue the right kind of time. Yes, the number of hours you have is important but even more important is what kind of time all those hours are; Quality of Time. 

As the industry changes and goes through its hot and cold cycles opportunities will change. Set yourself up for success by keeping an eye on the trends and understand how a move will affect your ability to make future moves. 

I’ll wrap up by saying that the most important time you can get is a safe time. Yes, some flying jobs are more hazardous than others and I'm not steering you away from those. What I am saying is mitigate risks, keep it legal, and remember that no one is looking out for you but you! Fly safe, make good decisions, and don’t let anyone push you down a road you can’t come back from. I don’t know where this quote came from but I like it. “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots but there are no old bold pilots”

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