Special Advocacy Supplement 2009

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Surviving Economic Slump Hinges on Networking, Persistence

In today's tough economy, an increasing number of flight department employees are finding themselves looking for new opportunities. "It's very sad," remarked Janice Barden of Aviation Personnel International (API), a San Francisco aviation placement service. "In 38 years, this is the worst I've seen." And the belt tightening isn't just being done by large companies.

Leaders at Pennsylvania-based MI Windows and Doors told James McMahon, the chief pilot, to pare his budget, fly less and expect more frugal digs while on company trips. Flights now require more approvals, and crews can expect to be gone longer – no more shuttling back home while company officials do business, says McMahon. The company also has slashed flying time from 400 to 200 hours per year. MI's lone Cessna Citation 650 was recently placed on a Part 135 certificate to generate revenue to offset expenses.

Raymond Stebler of Jet Professionals in Teterboro, NJ says his aviation placement agency is "seeing a significant slowdown that's unprecedented." Flight department managers are using his company to sift through the deluge of applications they're receiving for a handful of pilot jobs. Maintenance technicians, however, are the exception. "Part 135 maintenance is still strong," as is demand for contract flight attendants, he reports.

The Good News

Magellan Jets might be the silver lining in today's distressed economic tapestry. Business is booming, doubling every month, in fact, says Anthony Tivnan, company president. Based in Quincy, MA, Magellan Jets and its 10 employees sell jet travel memberships for $250,000 each.

While business aviation hiring in general is way down, it hasn't stopped, which is why it's critical for pilots to network. Companies hire people they know, because finding the right personality eclipses seniority when trying to fill a position, according to MI's McMahon.

"Unlike the airlines, where you change crews every month, you can fly with the same person for years in business aviation," he says. But as pink-slipped pilots saturate a region, networking options diminish, admits McMahon.

He predicts a business-pilot shortage in several years, as laid off aviators who find work in other professions will balk at leaving higher-paying, predictable and steady employment for the uncertainty and modest income of a business flying career.

Still, API's Barden is upbeat about the future. "We're very optimistic things will come back," she says. Out-of-work pilots need to stay positive, have a plan for finding employment and not overlook details such as having a good credit report and maintaining an interview wardrobe, Barden says.

NBAA Air Mail (www.nbaa.org/airmail), the Association's series of Internet forums, is one way that aviation professionals and employers can network. Companies can announce jobs and applicants can post résumés there.

Ask colleagues and friends in the business for referrals. Practice your pitch before you call, and work to secure a face-to-face meeting. It may take dozens of calls to get through, but success comes only to the persistent.