An AvGeek Identity Crisis

Ah, spring! When college graduates flood the workplace, resumes in hand, seeking work in their field of study to pay off their massive student loans and enter the drudgery of adulthood.

It’s a little bit different for those of us seeking FAA employment. Many people assume you can simply send a resume to the control tower and get a job.

In reality, the FAA hires centrally. You have to wait for a vacancy posting on USAJOBS and then apply. Your application (along with thousands of others) is shepherded through some sort of screening, then sent to panels, who either use a complex hiring matrix or a completely random process (nobody really knows which) to decide who gets hired.

FAA’s central hiring process opens up naught but once or twice a year. It all depends on projected staffing needs and the machinations of the budget-makers, who have recently been behaving rather badly. I’d be a lot less anxious about this whole process if not for the fact that I will age out of eligibility to get hired in almost exactly two years.

So try as I might to be optimistic about my prospects with the FAA, I must weigh the very real risk that I will find myself unhired with few other prospects in aviation.

Here’s how I see my options.

Do Nothing

I do currently have a loathsome stable career and job. I could simply sit back and wait to get hired. This option seems like a bad idea: if I wait two years and fail to get hired, then I will be two years older and in the exact same position as I am right now, only without the hope.

Infinite Job Hunt

Right now, I am actively pursuing any aviation job I qualify for. Unfortunately, that’s not much. Due to a quirk which I did not foresee in my class planning, I may not qualify to get my dispatcher’s license. Without that, I can apply to entry-level admin jobs, but the market is slim and the callbacks have been…well, nonexistent. This option seems not good also.

Baccalaureate

I could always go ahead and finish my B.A. in Aviation Admin. This would set me back another $20k or so, but it would open a lot of doors on the business end of this industry. The question I have to ask myself there is, do I really want to spend another $20k to sit in an office and go to meetings for the rest of my life?

A&P Mechanic

This option seems good. I like to play with mechanical things, though my actual experience with them is pretty minimal. The market for qualified mechanics is phenomenal right now: for every aviation admin job I find, I find ten or twelve A&P mechanic jobs. Working on airplanes for a living could be a good way to go.

The only problem is that, deep in my heart of hearts, I think I want to Just Go Fly Some Goddamn Airplanes.

I think I have let fear get the best of me. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to fly airplanes, but I’ve always let myself get talked out of it: the pay is crap, the hours suck, the airline life will kill your soul, etcetera, etcetera.

But should I really let the fears that other people have of flying for a living affect my own career plans? Professional piloting is not the ‘glory job’ it used to be, and it comes with its own unique and interesting stresses and aggravations; but even knowing what I know of the professional flying world, I think I could be a happy man sitting in the cockpit. And really, can you put a price tag on happiness?

YES. Yes you can. For me to go from where I am now to a CFI would take at least $40k in further flight training, and then years and years of low-paid entry level flying work. But money isn’t everything. In the twilight years of my life I’d hate to be sitting at home and wishing I’d done it differently.

Anyone else out there struggle through a similar scenario in your life? Any sage advice?

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6 thoughts on “An AvGeek Identity Crisis

  1. If you can, get a CFI and build time instructing. Then persevere trying to get hired as co pilot on turbine equipment. If you can do that, good things may follow; flying jets all over. Pretty rewarding work. Good luck.

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