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Desperate Times?


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I got my license in the early ‘80s, and the economy went for a nose dive to celebrate. Over the period of a year I made two cross country road trips banging on doors. Everyone I talked to were all very nice but all had the same message. “We can’t hire you when we can’t keep our regular pilots busy.”

I was living on the west coast at the time in a small travel trailer. I was so broke I couldn’t afford propane for the furnace and subsequently came down with double pneumonia in the winter. I still vividly remember how wonderful it felt to sleep in a dry, warm bed and to be served three meals a day without having to get out of that wonderful bed, in the hospital.

When I got out of the hospital I phoned a few companies that had, in the past, hired low time pilots. I told them of my plight and said I would work for free and only asked for one thing in return, a dry place to sleep. A small outfit took me up on my offer but made it very clear that I was not to have any expectation of employment.

I lived in the loft of their hangar and did whatever I could to help, 7 days a week. I washed helicopters, I kept the hangar spotless, spent a lot of time helping the engineers. They were very supportive of my ambition to be a pilot. Over the course of the next five months they gave me a 206 endorsement and I managed to log about 25 hours in ferry flights.

Then one day in early summer the owner pulled me aside and said “Bullwinkle, I like your work ethic, I’m letting one of the guys go and hiring you.”

The following year I logged 870 hours and haven’t looked back.

 

There is nothing new about working for free in the aviation industry. And it doesn’t necessarily displace paid employees. What it does do is give a potential employer a no risk look at you, and it puts you in place to get hired when a position becomes available.

 

Oh, and the pilot they let go, he was in Canada on a work visa.

 

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I was working in a hanger in Anchorage in the eighties. We could see the neighbors loft from our attic. They had cots set up for the new pilots they hired every summer. They flew a DC4 on Tundra tires and picked up fish from various beaches along the Alaskan Peninsula. They did not seem to mind and even washed out the cargo area every couple of days. I guess everybody starts somewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

quote name='Bullwinkle' date='Apr 23 2009, 11:50 AM' post='112758']

I got my license in the early ‘80s, and the economy went for a nose dive to celebrate. Over the period of a year I made two cross country road trips banging on doors. Everyone I talked to were all very nice but all had the same message. “We can’t hire you when we can’t keep our regular pilots busy.”

I was living on the west coast at the time in a small travel trailer. I was so broke I couldn’t afford propane for the furnace and subsequently came down with double pneumonia in the winter. I still vividly remember how wonderful it felt to sleep in a dry, warm bed and to be served three meals a day without having to get out of that wonderful bed, in the hospital.

When I got out of the hospital I phoned a few companies that had, in the past, hired low time pilots. I told them of my plight and said I would work for free and only asked for one thing in return, a dry place to sleep. A small outfit took me up on my offer but made it very clear that I was not to have any expectation of employment.

I lived in the loft of their hangar and did whatever I could to help, 7 days a week. I washed helicopters, I kept the hangar spotless, spent a lot of time helping the engineers. They were very supportive of my ambition to be a pilot. Over the course of the next five months they gave me a 206 endorsement and I managed to log about 25 hours in ferry flights.

Then one day in early summer the owner pulled me aside and said “Bullwinkle, I like your work ethic, I’m letting one of the guys go and hiring you.”

The following year I logged 870 hours and haven’t looked back.

 

There is nothing new about working for free in the aviation industry. And it doesn’t necessarily displace paid employees. What it does do is give a potential employer a no risk look at you, and it puts you in place to get hired when a position becomes available.

 

Oh, and the pilot they let go, he was in Canada on a work visa.

 

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Imagine PAYING for the priviledge of working!

 

Carl Millard, of Millardair in Toronto was famous for charging his new co-pilots to work for him. He reasoned that it was to pay for the aircraft type endorsement and training they were receiving... after 6 months he would begin to pay them.

 

Another company during the boom of the James Bay Project, had an unadvertised program where a 100 hour pilot would pay an intermediary $1500 which was then forwarded to persons capable of hiring. Interesting employment service... and you would be surprised at some low time pilots (at the time) who took advantage of it.

 

Work for free?... perhaps that is better than Jobs for Sale!

 

For the majority of us who managed to impress whomever into giving us a chance, it was no differant than today... long hours, little pay, sacrifice family-life, no guarantees. Has it been worth it?...I would think yes, looking at all the friends I run into year after year in established positions, or contract-pilots when a new season begins.

 

I suppose we all wish for a change... especially those 100 hr wonders just starting out.

 

I am grateful that I am not a low-time pilot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi everyone,

 

We concluded our poll on low-timers working for free last night. Here are the results:

 

Question: Should low-time pilots be willing to work for free to build hours?

 

"Yes, they should pay their dues": 15 votes or 3.9%

"Sometimes, depending on circumstances": 72 votes or 18.7%

"Absolutely not, it's bad for the industry": 298 votes or 77.4%

 

I guess we know how the majority of you feel on the topic! Thanks to everyone who voted. New poll is up on the home page.

 

Cheers,

 

Elan

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H56

 

Totally agree with the NDP problem. They will shut down anything profitable, and keep all the "poor me hippies happy". I say we keep the liberals on in BC. Can't stand watching Carol James light off anyhow.~!~! She walk around in a purple Toga!!! :rolleyes:

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:lol:

But if no one is willing to work for free who's gonna fly pax's around the columbia icefields?

:blink:

That is so funny!!! At least they're flying! Pretty good ops training and hey, they're flying, unlike a lot of other drivers. Who's smiling now?? :lol::lol:

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:lol:

That is so funny!!! At least they're flying! Pretty good ops training and hey, they're flying, unlike a lot of other drivers. Who's smiling now?? :lol::lol:

 

If your working for free? Probably only your boss in the end. Retirement looks pretty good when flying becomes just a job.

 

I myself am not there yet but its coming, just ask anyone thats done this for more than a few years.

 

Its a great job but man if you can afford to do it for free (or next to) please just do it as a hobby.

 

 

 

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