Last month I enjoyed the privilege of speaking at the EAA air show in Arlington, Wash. I was surprised at the amount of people asking about careers in aviation. When we think of the aviation field, being a pilot is the first thought to cross our minds. There are so many career fields in aviation that it boggles the senses.
Being a pilot is the goal of many young people. They have the image of the airline pilot, stalwartly and courageously transporting passengers, over great distances, in a gleaming air transport aircraft. There's more to aviation than piloting an airplane.
What about the support staff, the plethora of folks that take care of the behind the scenes activity that allows the pilot to have a plane in the first place. I won't go back as far as Orville and Wilbur, I promise. Let's look at the industry itself.
Aviation wouldn't be where it is today without scientists and design engineers to develop the fine aircraft that we have available. It begins with the aircraft design and development phase. Then the manufacturers, aerospace workers and mechanics take over and the plans become reality. After the plane comes off the assembly line, the sales staff sells the aircraft to a buyer who puts it to work on their company line.
At an airline there are dispatchers who monitor aircraft and crews. The dispatcher must be familiar with routes and aircraft characteristics, watch weather trends and see to it that aircrafts arrive at their destination on time.
There are mechanics, both maintenance (airframe and engine) and avionics (radios and electronic equipment), who keep the aircraft in flying condition. Cabin maintenance personnel maintain the interior of the aircraft. Auto mechanics to keep the ground service equipment running.
Most airlines have on staff, a meteorologist to analyze the weather, a schedule coordinator to coordinate crew with airplane, and a station agent or manager to control flight and ground operations. Reservation agents are on staff to recommend services to meet the customers needs; ticket agents, of course, sell tickets and help passengers coordinate their travel plans.
Of all the careers in aviation, the flight crew is the most readily recognized. Pilot, co-pilot and on some aircraft a flight engineer, comprise the cockpit crew. In order for the cockpit crew to perform as they do they require ongoing training. This is where the instructor pilot comes in. The instructor pilot gives recurrent training to flight crews on new procedures and routes that the pilots will be using. Training for an emergency is also part of recurrent instruction.
Flight attendants, who are there for our safety, receive initial training in cabin safety as well as recurrent training during their careers.
Outside of the airline industry there are many more opportunities. There is military service, flight instruction, commercial piloting and dispatching for small air carriers. Sales personnel in aircraft sales and corporate pilots are always in demand. In addition there is the government service. The U.S. Forest Service and Federal Aviation Administration offer careers such as air traffic controllers, flight service station specialists, avionics electricians and other Department of Transportation aviation specialties.
There are many, many more jobs in the aviation industry than are mentioned in this short article.
Trained aviation personnel are needed in most aviation arenas. Experienced pilots, mechanics and other personnel are not coming from the military as they had in the past. If you decide on a career in aviation, talk to someone who works in the field in which you have an interest.
I hope that this article has stirred a desire in you to join the aviation field. I have enjoyed my career in aviation and hope to have many more years to go.
Patricia Mattison is the Safety Program Manager for the Federal Aviation Administration's Juneau Flight Standards office.