An aviation career isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle and a lifelong passion. Ask anyone in the industry and they’ll most likely tell you that having the chance to make a living doing something you love is a rare opportunity that not many people are lucky enough to have.
When it comes to aviation, the first career option that usually comes to mind is an airline pilot. However, many instrument-rated pilots and flight students are choosing to pursue a career as an Instructor Pilot instead. The motivations behind becoming an Instructor Pilot are as varied as the people who take on this critical role and are influenced by their priorities during different stages of life.
Growing up, Pamela Behr would visit the local airport with her father, a paratrooper in the US Army. Together, they would watch aircraft take off and land for hours at a time. These excursions instilled a love of aviation in Pamela, but it wasn’t until adulthood that her flight path took shape. “I was given a flying lesson for my 27th birthday”, said Pamela. “As soon as the lesson was over, I signed up right there and then to get my pilot’s license.”
It took 10 months to complete her PPL training, and a year later she earned her Instrument Rating, Commercial Single Land Rating, Commercial Multi-Engine Rating, Certified Flight Instructor, Certified Instrument Instructor, and Certified Multi-Engine Instructor qualifications. Pamela’s flying career has since led her on a wide range of adventures, from piloting small airplanes for tours over the Grand Canyon to flying turboprops at Atlantic Southeast airlines.
Meanwhile, halfway across the country, Tiffanie West-Dandrea and her father lay on the roof of their van at the nearby Air Force base to watch military aircraft practicing maneuvers overhead. Determined that a career in aviation was her destiny, Tiffanie pursued her private pilot’s license at a local Salt Lake City flight school, eventually becoming one of the first female flight instructors to teach at a flight academy in the USA.
While Tiffanie and Pamela’s career journeys look slightly different, they both dealt with the age-old question faced by many pilots: How can I balance work and personal life?
As much as Tiffanie had a passion for flying, she had a dream of starting her own family. So, when her second child was born, she put her aviation career on pause. Two years ago, Tiffanie stepped back into her role as an Instructor Pilot, allowing her to pursue her dream job during the day while still being actively involved with her children every evening.
Similar to Tiffanie, by her mid-30s Pamela decided to raise a family. Fifteen years and four children later, she returned to her first passion, flying…as an Instructor Pilot.
As more pilots are now discovering, being an Instructor Pilot is one answer to balancing career and life. Instructor Pilots have a more consistent schedule than a traditional flying pilot. This means they work in state-of-the-art training facilities equipped with the latest avionics where they spend their days talking about aviation or virtually flying in a full-flight simulator. And at the end of their day, they go home. Instructor Pilots can also take holidays off, as training does not occur. Plus, they don’t spend long periods of time away from family and friends or worrying about jet lag when they return. "CAE is a global, forward-thinking company that takes care of its employees, and that’s awesome,” said Pamela. “They take a genuine interest in me not just as an employee, but as a person knowing I'm also a wife and a mother, a sister, and a daughter."
As an Instructor Pilot, knowing you are responsible for the education of a pilot is extremely satisfying. You are constantly on your toes and certainly never bored. To see a student learn something new or discover a new method for doing an approach that you’ve taught them is exhilarating. When your students achieve their goals and earn their licenses sharing that accomplishment with them is unbeatable.
Instructor Pilots also enjoy a variety in their work not common in most pilot jobs. You’ll always be engaged and responding to new situations. As every individual learns differently, helping students learn becomes a unique challenge. “As an Instructor Pilot, I train people from around the world, both new pilots and seasoned pilots. They all share one important similarity to me: a love of flying,” said Tiffanie. “For me, it’s a privilege to help them achieve their objectives and dreams of flight and it’s something I look forward to every day.”
Teaching others to fly is a skill that is in high demand for the foreseeable future. According to the latest Pilot Demand Outlook by CAE, the civil aviation industry will require more than 219,000 new commercial pilots over the next decade and more than 45,000 business jet pilots. Age based retirement and attrition combined with fleet growth are the main drivers of this pilot demand. Approximately 3.8% of commercial pilots are expected to retire or leave the profession every year for the next 10 years. During the same period, 3.6% of business aviation pilots are expected to retire every year and more than 11,000 additional business and commercial will join the active fleet in civil aviation. As a result, Instructor Pilots will be highly sought after as they play a critical role in training a new generation of pilots.
Offering an ideal combination of flexibility and stability, more pilots are discovering that a career as an Instructor Pilot is a rewarding role that fits with their priorities and life’s changes. Whether it’s pursuing a passion for flying post-retirement, a medical status change, or just wanting to be home nightly, becoming an Instructor Pilot provides an avenue of continuing your career in aviation. In many ways, it is the best of all worlds. You’ll spend every day doing what you love and collecting a paycheck for it while continually upgrading your personal knowledge about everything aviation as you help pilots pursue their dreams.
Seeing more women take this flight path and become leaders in the industry, is something that both Pamela and Tiffanie applaud “As I walk through the halls of the facility, I bump into more women than ever before,” said Pamela. “It’s very exciting to see these young women coming up in the ranks.” As the world leader in aviation training with more than 70 training facilities across the globe, CAE is making it all happen for aviators everywhere. As Tiffanie states, “You know, CAE is where dreams come true. It's a place where people walk in with the passion and can achieve their goals at virtually every phase of life.”
Take the next step in your career and join CAE as an Instructor Pilot.
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