“But I only want some extra pocket change”



I recently had a conversation with a full time employed pilot, who seemed to think he should charge low rates for some “pocket change” because he was “only going to be SIC and would not have the responsibilities” even though he was “Captain qualified” on the airplane. 

I suggested a “Reality Check” that I will share here.


As a part time contract pilot--with a full time paycheck, benefits and employer paid training—you go ahead and establish yourself as a contract pilot--charging a couple of hundred dollars less than the going rate.  Everything is great.  You get work, you have “extra pocket change”, and the operators are calling you instead of me because I won’t work for the lower wage.  Life looks good...for now..


Six months after you’ve become a successful part time contractor you get notified that you are out of work.  (It happens!)  All of a sudden the only thing between you and your creditors is FULL time contract work.  BUT, you’ve established your “worth” as a cheap contract pilot with cheap rates.  Your customers are not likely to understand that you suddenly need more after paying you less. 


Now, say you had 6 months or less left on your last recurrent and PPE when you were suddenly out of work.  The perfect job doesn’t just fall into your lap, and the next 6 months quickly go by.  More and more insurance companies are requiring simulator-based training within the last 12 months—even for contract co-pilots.  Now you need to come up with somewhere between $10,000.00 and $40,000.00 (depending on aircraft model) for a one time recurrent, or go find another way to make a living.  Keep in mind that there are only 365 days in a year that you can work to make enough money to support yourself, your family and your training bill.


Still think the low rate was such a good idea? 


There is one more consideration.  The aviation community is a small one.  Networking is everything.  If you’ve been out getting “cheap pocket change”—undercutting the full time professional contact pilot, who is paying for his/her own training on multiple type ratings--don’t expect them to help when you are suddenly in need of referrals and work.


It’s something to think about.  It really doesn’t matter if you are a part time contract pilot, a pilot out of work trying to make a living while looking for the next job, or you’re breaking into the profession of being a full time IC pilot, we need to establish some ethics and work together. 


Our skills, experience and credentials have value.  Think long and hard before you establish your value as a pilot cheaply.





Susan Anderson, Pres.

Factory Pilots Plus, Inc.

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