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Mon, Jul 23, 2007

Jumpstarting Your Aviation Career at AirVenture

Career Opportunities Out There, But You Need To Perform Legwork

by ANN Correspondent Dave Ziegler

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is a place of dreams for anyone with a love of flight, and visitors looking to turn their dream of an aviation career into reality certainly won't feel left out. However, while this year's AirVenture holds some terrific opportunities for those seeking an education or job, the dizzying multitude of things to see and do there makes proper planning extremely important.

In this feature, we'll meet some of the very qualified aviation professionals who will be presenting this year, get some advice from some of the most well known aviation schools, and take a look at how to best organize your Oshkosh adventure so that you can get the most information while leaving plenty of time to enjoy the show.

Must-Attend Presentations

With hundreds of presentations and seminars to choose from, deciding which to attend can be a daunting task. To make things a little easier we'll look at those of particular interest to the career-minded.

Kit Darby
  • 7/27 5:30P-6:45P Dake Corporation Pavilion, "Airline Pilot Job Market Forecast 2007 & Beyond"
  • 7/28 2:30P-3:45P Sportys Pavilion, "How To Become An Airline Pilot & Get The Job"

Kit Darby, a retired airline captain with over 20,000 hours of flight experience, is president of Aviation Information Resources, Inc., a career information service for prospective airline pilots. He is also the author of several handbooks, guides, and workbooks.

In his presentation "How To Become An Airline Pilot & Get The Job," Darby will cover such topics as educational requirements, job search planning, career options and necessary qualifications, market analysis, and more.

In a second presentation,"Airline Pilot Job Market Forecast 2007 & Beyond," Darby will discuss the current job market and projected trends for the future. "I'll be able to put out the facts that back up the hiring volume, show the qualifications and experience levels of successful candidates, talk about the economic factors that drive the airline business. The airlines appear to be approaching a profitable phase, and whenever they're profitable they reinvest in equipment and expand their operation and need additional pilots. We're also seeing the peek of pilot retirements this year. There are over 2,000 pilots a year retiring right now and those pilots have to be replaced."

Robert Mark
  • 7/24 5:30P-6:45P Authors Corner - Sky Shoppe, "A Professional Pilot Career Guide"
  • 7/25 2:30P-3:45P Authors Corner - Sky Shoppe, "A Professional Pilot Career Guide"
  • 7/26 5:30P-6:45P NATCA Pavilion, "A Professional Pilot Career Guide"
  • 7/27 4:00P-5:15P Authors Corner - Sky Shoppe, "A Professional Pilot Career Guide"

Robert Mark, a former airline and corporate pilot who is now CEO of CommAvia, a business communications firm that caters to the aviation industry, will also help aspiring airline pilots get a leg up. "We're going to talk about what it's like to find a job these days," Mark said of his presentation, "A Professional Pilot Career Guide."

According to Mark, many segments of aviation are hiring, and not just pilots. "Airlines, corporate, fractionals, regional airlines - they're all looking for people to fly, as well as technicians and mechanics. They're really, really short on mechanics."

Danny Mortensen
  • 7/23 4:00P-5:15P AirBP Pavilion, "Aircraft Dispatcher Job Opportunities"

Danny Mortensen is president of Airline Ground Schools, author of "The Airline Career and Interview Manual," and is also a former FAA Air Traffic Controller. His presentation, "Dispatcher Job Opportunities," will explore the role of dispatcher.

"The majors, or the legacy carriers, have been passing off their short and medium haul runs, or routes, to the junior partners, the commuters, and they are going into the international market more," Mortensen explained, adding, "That means all the smaller carriers are carrying more people, they need to hire more pilots, they need more dispatchers."

Like Darby and Mark, Mortensen painted an optimistic picture for those seeking aviation jobs. "We're carrying more people on the airlines, nationwide and worldwide, today then we were before September 11th."

Mike Russell
  • 7/24 2:30P-3:45P Ultralight - Sport Pilot, "Expedite Your Pilots Certificate"
  • 7/25 8:30A-9:45A NATCA Pavilion, "Expedite Your Pilots Certificate"

Mike Russell, a CFI and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with a degree in Aeronautical Science, aims to help pilots from sport to ATP pass their FAA knowledge test and practical exams with his seminar "Expedite Your Pilots Certificate."

E. Allan Englehardt
  • 7/28 2:30P-3:45P REMOS Aircraft Pavilion, "High School To The Airlines -      Planning Your Career As A Pilot"

E. Allan Englehardt is a Boeing 777 captain with 35 years of flight and ground instruction experience. As an FAA designated pilot examiner, he administers over 150 FAA flight tests per year. In his presentation, "High School To The Airlines - Planning Your Career As A Pilot," Englehardt will describes how to plan an educational program to be a professional pilot.

Researching Schools

How important is college? "To work at the highest level in the majors, you're going to need a college degree and flight training," Darby said during his interview. "If you already have college, that's fine; if you don't, the colleges that include flight training are a little more expensive but they provide excellent training."

Approximately 18 colleges, universities, and trade schools will have booths at AirVenture this year, offering prospective students a great opportunity to gather information and have their questions answered. But what questions should you ask?

Robert Mark offered this advice. "You really need to be able to ask a college the right kind of questions when you're talking to them. What kind of a degree would you suggest that I get in addition to learning to fly? When I finish up all my flight instructor ratings, do you have a place for me to teach at your school so that I can build experience while I'm still finishing my education? How helpful are you at finding jobs? What have your alums done, where are they? Are they responsive to recent graduates?"

Colleges, Universities, and Trade Schools at AirVenture 2007 (Booth #)
  • Blackhawk Tech. College Aviation Cent.   3113
  • Fox Valley Tech. College-Aviation Center   64
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University    S-11
  • Midland College      3001
  • Iowa Lakes Community College     2139
  • Kansas State University at Salina    83
  • Lewis University      4091
  • Minnesota State University-Mankato    3011
  • Pennsylvania College of Technology     3157
  • Southern Illinois University Carbondale    4094
  • St. Cloud State University-Aviation Dept.   4158
  • UND Aerospace      217
  • University of Alaska Anchorage Aviation Tech. Division 4002, 4003
  • University of Dubuque      3092, 3093
  • University of Illinois Institute of Aviation   4011
  • University of Oklahoma      4127
  • WMU-College of Aviation     Combo O
  • San Juan College      4081

"Research is key," explained Alicia Smyth, Career Services Director at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. "Find out what programs are offered … and what career paths those programs can lead to."

Karen Ryba, Director of Communications at UND Aerospace, added, "Compare the schools: Compare the size, compare the cost, compare the location, compare technologies offered by each school. Ask about flight schedules, aircraft availability, mentors/advisers, etc."

Sheila Jones of the Blackhawk Technical College Aviation Center also offered the following: "[C]onsider local public institutions, which often are less expensive than large, private schools. Ask what the student/instructor ratio is, how much hands-on work is provided, what is the variety of aircraft available to work on."


Another great benefit of AirVenture to future aviation professionals is the ability to network with people from every facet of aviation. With access to hundreds of aircraft and avionics manufacturers, industry leaders, policy makers, educators, and pilots of all levels, there's a good chance of finding a mentor or even future employer.

During his interview, Mortensen explained that, while AirVenture is not geared towards employment, "There are lots of opportunities to network in the pavilions. There will be a couple of airlines there recruiting, and APA [the Airline Pilots Association] will be there with a booth."

Darby agreed, saying that while there may not be a large number of airlines at AirVenture, the opportunities for networking are there. "There are always a few schools, and a few airlines," he explained, adding, "If you hone in on the professional aspect of it…there's also a wealth of professional tools there for the serious student that will make their journey go more easily and more quickly."

Mark had some advice on networking as well. "I would suggest that if someone were looking for a job, I'd ... have 500 business cards printed up ... with a phone number and an email on it."


Because AirVenture is so huge, and the number of exhibits and presentations related to aviation education and careers are relatively sparse and spread out, proper planning is important. Consider starting with workshops, many of which you'll only have on shot to attend. Then look at the exhibitor's booths you'd like to visit and see where they are in relation to the workshops. With a little bit of forethought, you can do all the researching and networking you need and not miss any of the awe and wonderment of AirVenture.

FMI: www.airventure.org


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