There is still an ongoing understanding about the aviation industry that it entails switching your career to become a pilot or that age is the big decider, depending on when and whether one can enter this new field. However, the number of people that have steered this change during various stages in their careers to pursue the dream of working in aviation is growing, and reinforcing the idea that aviation holds much more career opportunities than meets the eye.
One of the exciting things about aviation is that it offers a wide variety of positions like ground / baggage handlers, flight dispatchers, ground staff, aircraft maintenance and operation crew to name a few. These positions are not limited to long years of education or training, or restricted by age. While making a career shift can be daunting, and will require hard work, Alison Dsouza, Director of Aerviva Aviation Consultancy, a Dubai-based international consultancy, specializing in aviation recruitment and document management, says that no matter the age, as long as one puts in the effort, most may find their place in aviation.
“The world of aviation can offer interesting and dynamic jobs that have prior training or on the job training options. What is needed is motivation and hard work to achieve your goals, plus deciding whether one prefers their feet firmly placed on the ground or floating in the sky, so to speak. Taking that first step toward the change can be difficult, but at the end it’ll be worth it.”
Ground handling sector, which includes customer service functions like ticketing, lobby managing, aircraft boarding, and ramp services like marshalling, baggage and freight handling, usually offer great entry-level requirements for those new to aviation, notes Dsouza. For other specialized positions, training can be anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks or longer, which means that opportunities to make a career switch to a member of a ground handling team are open.
On the other hand, for more technical aspects of an aircraft, positions like a technician or a mechanic are where the interests lie, then this might take longer to master, and has some basic prequalification requirements, explains Dsouza. To be able to work on an aircraft will require to finish an aviation maintenance technician school or gather necessary knowledge for gaining certifications by learning on the job, with experienced workers.
“This would entail getting anywhere between 18 to 30 months of experience, according to both EASA in Europe and FAA in the US. While the road to becoming an aviation mechanic is longer than other positions in ground handling, the only requirement is to be at least 18 years of age. Other than that, various certifications and qualifications can be obtained through experience gained working in the maintenance segment and becoming a higher qualified technician.”
If one looks more towards the sky, then trying out for a cabin crew member could be the right fit. Most airlines will train their flight attendants after they have gone through the hiring process, explains Dsouza, so no prior experience is needed. However, it is still important to understand that flight attendants have higher responsibilities than most might think at first. These start with safety regulations, and include cabin preparation and pre-flight operations, understanding aircraft systems and how to use emergency equipment and responses and many more. That is why the training can also take up to 20 weeks in some cases.
Dsouza highlights, that there are a couple of nuances that affect one’s eligibility to become an aviation professional, which are necessary to ensure the safety of the applicants and the ones they will be taking care of.
“The options available depend on the postion aimed for, health condition, as well as prequalification and experience that one comes with. It is easier to make a shift to cabin crew and ground handling staff opportunities as compared to maintenance engineers, for example, since these jobs are best if they are started out earlier in life due to experience needed for some of the certifications. Additionally, the general retirement age for all aviation jobs is between 60-65, and there is a minimum age requirement of 18 years of age.“
There are a couple of difficulties when shifting career to aviation, notes Dsouza.
“One of the major difficulties that people face when thinking about switching over to aviation are the costs involved for some of the schools and training. It is no secret that aviation is an expensive industry – not only in terms of training, but also tools, equipment, machinery used. It all comes down to the aspect of safety, tight rules and regulations, and highest standards. Another thing to consider is time required to complete the studies, as there won’t be an income coming during that period. For some, the change of lifestyle that ground handlers, maintenance and cabin crew lead might also be not as close to heart, and if the physical fitness is not up to par, that could also present issues, as some of the positions bear a lot of responsibility.”
However, the benefits might outweigh the potential difficulties. For cabin crew members, those benefits include opportunity to travel the world, and experience different cultures and languages, says Dsouza. For ground handlers and maintenance crew it’s the passion for knowledge and the opportunity to have a true hands-on experience with an aircraft, see the inner workings of an airport, or simply enjoy the bustle of large, multicultural airports.
Pursuing career in aviation might seem a more achievable dream, knowing a bit more about the inner workings of the interesting career opportunities the industry can offer. With enough passion and hard work, taking the first step into aviation could be very rewarding further down the line.