Two Ways NOT to Ask for a [Pilot] Job

More real stories from my e-mail in box and blog.

I was away for four days, completely off the grid. Even my cell phone didn’t work where I was. I had a lot of catching up to do when I got home Sunday night. This included my e-mail in box and comments on my blog. Both yielded fodder for this blog post.

The post is really about job hunting and two things you shouldn’t do when trying to find a job as a pilot. In this case, it’s a helicopter pilot job, but it could be any kind of pilot job. In fact, it could be just about any kind of job at all.

Fishing with Comments

The first was a comment on one of my blog posts. The post in question was from June, 2008. That’s over a year ago. I’d written about my upcoming work drying cherries in Washington State. The post had gotten a few comments — over a year ago. But this weekend’s comment came out of the blue and had very little to do with the post content:

Do you hire any pilots of have any pilots that help you out with flying?

Knowing the number of out-of-work helicopter pilots are out there, I automatically jumped to the conclusion that this person was fishing around for job openings. I wasn’t kind to him. (I really can be a bitch sometimes.) My response was:

If this is the extent of your job-hunting capabilities — posting comments on old blog posts — you may as well give up on finding any job. Sorry to be so blunt, but you asked for it.

After posting this snippy response, I considered that maybe he wasn’t looking for a job. Maybe he was just curious to know whether I hired other pilots to help me — but didn’t necessarily want to be one of those pilots.

But my first instinct was probably right.

The One-Paragraph Resume by E-Mail

The second poor job hunting attempt arrived in my Flying M Air e-mail in box. Keep in mind that unless you have my Flying M Air e-mail address, which I no longer publish anywhere, you can only e-mail me by filling in a form on Flying M Air’s Web site. The same page that includes the form also includes my phone number. Yet this person chose to use e-mail to inquire about job openings. Here’s what he wrote; I XXXed out the identifying info to protect this guy from personal ridicule:

Maria Langer/Chief Pilot:

My name is XXX and I am a commercial helicopter pilot. I am inquiring about whether there is an available pilot position within Flying M Air. I have a little over 200 hours total time, which consist of 120 hours in the R-22, R-44 pilot in command endorsement, 70(+)hours in the Hughes 300, and the Robinson safety course in 2008. In addition, I will be receiving my Associates in Applied Science degree-Flight Technology in December 2009. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an interview I can be reached at XXX-XXX-XXXX or emailed at

This is wrong on so many levels:

  • This guy has only 200 hours. What helicopter charter company would even consider hiring a pilot with barely enough flight time to qualify for a commercial certificate?
  • This guy has only 10 hours of time in the aircraft my company owns and operates: an R44. (Do the math.)
  • How much of this guy’s flight time is solo or other PIC? (Remember, he said total time.) I’m guessing less than 25 hours solo and only 100-125 PIC.
  • Does this guy really think that an AS degree is worth anything to an employer looking for a pilot? (Or, with apologies to those of you who place significant value on a 2-year degree, any employer?)
  • Is this the extent of this guy’s resume?
  • Does this guy really think that an employer would call him for an interview after receiving a paragraph about him via e-mail?

Although I wanted to reply with any combinations of these thoughts that ran through my mind, I didn’t. Instead, I wrote:

Sorry, we don’t have any jobs available at this time.

Good luck.

And that brings up the real problem with this lame attempt at job-hunting: my reply e-mail bounced back. He’d entered the wrong e-mail address in the form.


Think of What You’re Asking For

When you ask for job, you’re asking for a responsibility.

For a pilot job, you’re responsible for your employer’s paying passengers or cargo. That means other lives or possibly valuable merchandise. Do you honestly think someone would consider hiring you when the best you can do is fish for a job online via blog comments or e-mail? When the ink is barely dry on your commercial pilot certificate? When you can’t even type in the correct e-mail address to get a response from the person you’re querying?

The helicopter job market is tight — especially for low-time pilots. The economy has tourism down — and tourism jobs are the entry level jobs most pilots wind up with. The other jobs are being filled by the out-of-work tour pilots who have just enough turbine time to give them added value to an employer. Silver State and the copycat flight schools that still exist are pumping out helicopter pilots after feeding them healthy doses of optimism and lies about the job market and taking their money — much of it acquired through loans.

The truth is, I don’t know of any employer who will hire a pilot with fewer than 500 hours of flight time. If they say they will, read the fine print. Are they really hiring and paying as a pilot? Or is it just a scam for them to get free pilots while suckers build flight time?

I get at least one contact per week from a helicopter pilot looking for a job. I’m not hiring. But I know that I wouldn’t hire the vast majority of the folks who contact me. They just don’t understand what it is that employers want and what they’re asking us to give them.

4 thoughts on “Two Ways NOT to Ask for a [Pilot] Job

  1. At least they didn’t address those comments to “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To whom it may concern”.

    I’ve been to a couple of pilot job fairs, and offered to help my instructors and others with their resumes. In the process, I’ve seen some pretty classic mistakes–the things that, when you read about them in a job-hunting how-to guide, you say, “No way anybody’d ever do that!” But what I figured out is that the majority of these guys had never applied for a job that didn’t involve filling out an application. That sounds elitist, doesn’t it? But it’s true. Many are straight out of high school or the military, and are new to the concept of being on a career track. Whatever the reason, it is not an excuse. If you want to differentiate yourself (in a good way) from the hundreds of other low time pilots that are competing for the same jobs you are, invest some time learning about effective business communications and job-hunting strategies.

    • Chris: Well said.

      I think the problem is that they believe so strongly that they are different or better than the competition that they don’t think they need to prove it to anyone. Don’t they understand that there are literally hundreds of pilots out there, all fighting for the same few jobs?

      I couldn’t imagine doing a job query “cold call” by e-mail. Are they too cheap or too lazy to pick up the phone to even see if the company is hiring? How many people did they send that generic e-mail to? Don’t they have any idea of what qualifications most employers are looking for? How can they be so absolutely clueless? Not only do their stupid mistakes make them look stupid, but they prove that they’re really not serious about finding a good job.

      At least that’s my take.

  2. Maria, I have been an owner and a chief pilot for a couple of helicopter companies.. I remember interviewing a pilot for a contract position with our company. While perusing his resume I asked the pilot how long he had worked for Camarillo Helicopters? It was not clear when he had left their employ. He gave me a rough guess saying that it wasn’t very long and that he had not really seen any future with that company.

    I told him that the company had not seen him, anywhere. “I owned that company”, I said and “I am sure I would have remembered you, just as I’ll never forget you now”.

    • Keith: All I can say is “Holy cow.” Some people have a lot of f-ing nerve.

      I guess I should also add that you have the right idea in letting someone else own or manage now. Being the boss is a huge responsibility that often isn’t worth the headaches that come with it. Can’t tell you how many times I think of you enjoying your standby time in the Mediterranean or Australia — especially when I’m writing a check to pay for insurance or a new sprag clutch. Ah, but that’s another blog post.

What do you think?