How to Become a Ferry Pilot: 10 Steps

How to Become a Ferry Pilot: 10 Steps

I have seen a lot of posts on social media recently about people looking to get into ferry flying. I did a video on this several years ago where I talked about how I got into it, and while the industry has changed, many things have still stayed the same. I do believe in mentoring and helping the aviation community and the people coming into the industry now, and hope that we continue to mentor our young instead of trying to eat them alive!

If you are trying to get jobs, these are some things to think about:

  1. You need experience to get experience. This seems impossible, but there are ways to get experience without having it.
  2. Be willing to take an entry level job. I know that Van Bortel is often hiring ferry pilots. The pay isn’t great, but they will train you and you will get a lot of experience. 
  3. Become a CFI. Even if you don’t want to teach, many times the owners of recently purchased aircraft need training and they will choose a ferry pilot who can sign their logbook over someone who can’t.
  4. Be smart and use good judgment. Employers and customers aren’t impressed with harrowing tales of narrowly escaping danger. I have people who interview with my organization who brag about times they flew through a thunderstorm and escaped it or they flew with known mechanical problems and somehow pulled it off, and this is not a good thing to an employer.
  5. If you want to get into International flying, you will need to go with someone who has done it before. While Canada/Mexico are fairly easy, I know as an insurance agent and ferry pilot that an insurance company won’t cover a pilot for a crossing without ocean crossing experience. The only way to get this is to work with a company who does it and trains people (there are plenty out there – the Flight Academy is to name one). People can be guarded on having new pilots go along because they don’t want the competition, but the right candidate will find the right company to train them (don’t give up!). 
  6. Networking is everything. It’s rare that I have hired “off the street”, although I remember getting personalized letters through SNAIL MAIL from a candidate who showed incredible dedication and perserverence, and he has been a great ferry pilot. I knew I had to offer him a job or he would never give up! Other people I met through mutual friends, or even one that I had lunch with at a random picnic table at Oshkosh!
  7. Never turn down the opportunity to fly a new type. Having time in type is critical for insurance, so fly as many planes as you can.
  8. Specialize in something. Almost everyone can fly a Cessna 172 or PA28. While those type of planes do make up a significant amount of the market, the jobs end up in bidding wars and don’t pay that well… if you can even get the job! If you are the go to person for a turbine Bonanza… well then you can get the salary you want because very few people can get covered by insurance.
  9. The best money is in specialty aircraft and international. This means anything that is rare, needs a type rating, or goes overseas. Specialize in something and that will help you obtain jobs. While there might not be as many King Airs being sold as Cessna 172s, you will bring in a greater salary with something specialized.
  10. Never give up. Don’t get discouraged. Keep fighting for your dreams. I have a friend of mine who sent over 200 resumes out, all specifically tailored to employers, and finally got a job. Right now we have more pilots than jobs, but perseverance is key!

I hope this has been helpful. Good luck to everyone in their aviation career search!

Sarah is currently a FAA Safety Team Lead Representative, NAFI Master Instructor, Gold Seal flight instructor, and 757/767 pilot for a Major U.S. airline. Sarah holds an ATP, CFI, CFII, MEI and has flown over 6500 hours. She holds a pilot license in 4 different countries (USA, Canada, Belize and Iceland – EASA) and has flown over 147 different types of airplanes in 20 different countries including oceanic crossings in small aircraft. She is the owner and chief pilot of FullThrottle Aviation; which started out in 2013 as a small flight school and grew to an international business with over 20 pilots moving airplanes around the world today. She continues to stay involved in general aviation through her leadership roles and volunteering for different aviation organizations. Although much of her flying is now professional in nature, she enjoys flying her Super Cub, Patches, and instructing her Cessna 170, Stanley, on her days off. As a regular fly-in attendee of Oshkosh, she enjoys the company and camaraderie that general aviation brings.

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