Tag: ferry pilot services

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.

Supply and Demand and the Falling Value of Pilots

Supply and Demand and the Falling Value of Pilots

Supply and Demand and the Falling Value of Pilots

Pilot Wanted: $10/hour!

I was recently perusing some aviation related groups on social media to find that a particular screenshot of a job opportunity had been making rounds. The screenshot detailed a job posting for a helicopter pilot to work part time for $10/hour. Throughout many groups, people both mocked the low pay, chastised those considering it, and many even offered their thoughts on how their career progression involved working for pennies putting their “dues in” toward a lucrative career. It was a stark contrast to the good times that we have seen over the past few years where pilots went from sub-par pay to prosperity and proliferating wages across the industry. While to many it is upsetting to see wages so low and no shortage of pilots willing to take it, we must remember that nobody is truly incorrect in their opinion toward the falling value of pilots we have been seeing since the pandemic started.

I recently had one of my ferry pilots reach out to me about some concerns he had in his local area. This ferry pilot was one of thousands who ended up without a job when one of the regional airlines ceased operations amid the pandemic. He was upset because there was another pilot who was employed and being paid full wages by an airline who was trying to take business from him. I talked to him and as we discussed it, I told him that it wasn’t unique that a pilot would only look out for themselves, and that there are many retired and active pilots out there that would take a job, perhaps if only to ease boredom regardless of pay, even if it meant taking income away from someone else who needed it. While we can debate the morality of such behavior, in a way we are asking for a form of collectivism in the industry when we ask others who aren’t financial struggling to not take jobs away from those who are. In fact, unions are the prime example of an effective way of pooling together to keep working conditions good and wages higher within an industry; but for the most part most aviation jobs outside of the airlines are not unionized. I remember someone advertising free ferry pilot services, and while many responses were negative toward the poster, I remember one particular comment of “since when we did we have a ferry pilot union?” That hit the nail on the head – supply & demand outside of unionism defines the going wages for a particular job. And at that, unions still feel the effects of supply & demand and are constantly adjusting for the current industry. In many cases recently, airline unions temporarily prevented furloughs by presenting temporary concessions to the pilot group.

Whenever there is a surplus of pilots, there will be a shortage of jobs. This is why we have seen falling wages across the board. And unfortunately, there will always be someone who will take those low wages as they are still receiving another form of compensation that is often overlooked in our industry – flight time and experience. When someone is faced with renting a plane or helicopter to meet the requirements or working for that experience at $10/hour, we can see the obvious choice for many, particularly our younger and lower time pilots. There used to be a jet operator in Houston that you could pay $15/hour to in order to sit right seat in the jet, which was required for their insurance! However, when pilots were in short supply, they ended up having to pay for the SIC instead of getting paid. This is the basic economics of supply and demand, something we are seeing the negative consequences of across the board.

This article is not meant to condemn those who are taking the low paying jobs or those seeking additional employment in spite of their income, this is merely a discussion of why we are seeing the changes we have all felt over the past few months. While Socrates debated with his brother that people’s behavior only exists for self-interest, I tend to think that we often have to choose a balance between our own needs and that of our industry. This isn’t always black and white and we often have to make decisions that are the best for our own lives and families, in addition to balancing its effect on our future. While many would love to see collectivism rise and we band together to rid the industry of opportunists paying low wages, while supply is high and demand is low this will continue to be the norm. With time the industry will continue to ebb and flow toward supply and demand, and in the future, there will be times of prosperity again where a shortage of pilots leads to high wages and great opportunities. While it’s easy to get discouraged by the falling wages, we must remember that perseverance is key and while fogging a mirror was the minimum in the past to get hired in may jobs, now comes the time to differentiate ourselves from the competition in order to be successful. This now comes through networking, hard work, and sacrifice; but in the end the reward is just as sweet.

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 and instructing in her Super Cub, Patches, and 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.

Airplane Review – Turbo Maule M5-210

Airplane Review – Turbo Maule M5-210

By Sarah Rovner, Tailwheel ferry pilot

As a Super Cub driver, I’ve been a little biased toward airplanes with sticks. Although I do admire the amazing flying characteristics of some of the other epic yoke taildraggers such as the Cessna 180/185, I’ve always been particularly fond of airplanes with a stick. I was expecting about the same handling characteristics of the Maule M4 in the Maule M5, but was pleasantly surprised to see how versatile the M5 was.

I recently looked into buying a Maule M5 with the Franklin engine, which has a bad reputation. While doing research, I found out that many Maules had engine conversions to the Lycoming’s. Surprisingly, there just are not a whole lot of Maules flying around and the ones that are have much lower value than similar airplanes such as the C180/185. I found the Cessna 175 with the O-360 conversion to be the same way – a versatile, great performing airplane that had a bad reputation from the start with an engine that was notorious for problems (originally came with the geared O-300).

I was contacted to ferry a 1978 turbo Maule M5-210 for a client who planned on using it for mountain flying on private airstrips. This is one of 7 turbo Maules in the country that came from the factory with a carbureted, turbo-normalized Lycoming O-360 that puts out 210hp. In fact, Maule claims that the plane will maintain 200hp all the way to FL200. I found that to be true, although I didn’t take it all the way up to FL200. I was still getting sea level power at 11,500ft, with the throttle not even close to being all the way in. With the turbo and constant speed prop, I was able to take off in record distance at not even close to full power. It would maintain a 1000 fpm climb all the way up to 10,000ft, and probably much higher if I wanted it. And that also wasn’t at full power!

For a backcountry landing, I found it to be a stable airplane compared to its squirrely brother, the Maule M4-210. Although I didn’t have any big crosswinds on the trip, I found that the plane really didn’t try to go off on its own for landing. Even coming in fast, although it did float, it did slow nicely with the 40 degrees of flaps and I was able to stop within 1000ft with minimal braking. After approaching slower (about 60mph) I was able to get stopped in about 500ft with a nice 3-point landing. I tend to like 3 points in this plane since its very pitch sensitive and hard to finesse to avoid a bounce for a wheel landing.

Overall, I really enjoyed the turbo Maule M5. All of my Maule time has been solo, so I’m not sure quite how much performance would be lost with 4 people in it. But from what I’ve seen, it’s a solid, good performing airplane with an unnecessary under-whelming reputation. I’d be glad to fly one any day, and would feel pretty good on being able to match stock Super Cub performance in a lot of situations.

“What If I Don’t Want to Instruct to build time?”

“What If I Don’t Want to Instruct to build time?”

By Sarah Rovner, Master CFI / FAASTeam Lead Representative

“What if I don’t want to instruct?”

Those words, when uttered, generally bring on a slew of bitter old pilot responses on how new pilots should be “putting in their time.” After all, most of the pilots that have come before us in the past decade have only had instructing as an option as they attempted to build time in an industry where pilots were plenty and jobs were few. The aviation industry is on the rise, and we are at a time where expansion is outgrowing the pool of pilots available, bringing many opportunities for pilots of all experience levels.

If we think back to our training days, I’m sure we can all remember a distinct instance where we had an issue with an instructor. That issue could have ranged from poor communication, lack of ability, or complete disinterest in teaching. I have had many people reach out to me with these issues, and the students often change instructors. Not everyone is cut out to be an instructor, and in my opinion we shouldn’t force people to be an instructor I they don’t want to. It doesn’t do anybody any good to have an instructor who doesn’t care to be an instructor. Students, instructors, and the industry suffer as a whole when that happens.

People often ask me about whether or not they should pursue a CFI rating. Many university programs offer this even if the student doesn’t plan to instruct for the school upon graduation. My answer to this is yes, even if you don’t plan on teaching full time. When I was a new CFI, I had many opportunities to fly with plane owners to do BFRs, IPCs, and other occasional training events. I tagged along on Angel Flights, long cross countries, and was able to get experience flying in a variety of airplanes, many of which I could log PIC time as dual given because I had a flight instructor certificate. The networking opportunities were endless. I was introduced as the local CFI in EAA meetings, FAASTeam seminars, and other events. I never instructed full time, and yet I was able to gain opportunities just having the license and giving occasional dual in some amazing, rare airplanes that I would have never gotten to fly otherwise. Additionally, I was able to log just about every flight I took in the right seat because a CFI can log PIC while giving dual instruction, circumventing the rules regarding splitting flight time. Having the rating and being a Master CFI continues to make me more competitive for other jobs and sets me aside from my peers.

There are many opportunities in aviation in which many qualified pilots are applying for the same job. When you want to set yourself apart, the best way to do that is through differentiation. There is absolutely nothing wrong with instructing – it will give you a skillset and insight to flying that will make you a more knowledgeable pilot. However, the best way to differentiate yourself from your peers is to get involved in other aspects of the industry. Being a CFI can help you network and gain these opportunities.

I would never fault a pilot for declining to instruct when they don’t want to. I agree that we all have to do things we don’t want to in order to progress in our careers. But the last thing that aviation needs are instructors who don’t want to instruct as they do a horrible disservice to their students. My advice is to networking as much as you can, fly as many planes as you can, and volunteer your time as much as you can. These three things will take you farther in aviation than you would have ever thought of. And when the time comes, those things will make you stand out amongst your peers.