On the count of three I want you to name an aviation job. Ready? One… Two… Three! OK, hands up all of you who came up with one of the following: pilot, flight attendant, gate/ramp agent, airplane mechanic, air traffic controller. How many of you are thinking to yourselves that you’d really like to work in aviation, but those jobs just aren’t a good fit for you? Well I have some good news. You don’t have to be a pilot or a flight attendant or an air traffic controller to work in aviation. Want proof? Read on!
If you’ve read my prior posts then you know a little bit about how my interest in aviation developed. However, working in the aviation industry was not something I really considered. Life took me off in other directions and family obligations left me little time to think a whole lot about airplanes. Oh, I attended air shows when I could, and I used LiveATC and flight tracking apps on my phone, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I was able to truly reconnect with my passion for aviation.
At the time I was working for a large Fortune 500 company and I although I liked my employer and didn’t mind my job, I really had no enthusiasm for the industry. I kept wishing I could work at something that actually interested me. Unsurprisingly, aviation kept coming to mind. At first I dismissed it – after all, I’m definitely NOT flight attendant or ATC material and I’m pretty sure I’m not cut out to be a pilot, or at least not a commercial one.
I knew that my employer had two or three company jets so I did some investigating and discovered they had a small aviation department. Some of the positions in that department were what you would expect – pilots, mechanics, etc. To my surprise, however, there was also an admin/accounting position. Transferring to the aviation department really wasn’t an option for me since it would have required a move to Chicago, but it gave me hope that getting a job in aviation might actually be possible.
My next step was to take stock of my background and skills to see where they could fit into the aviation picture. Prior to my stint with the Fortune 500 company I had spent several years in education, during which time I not only worked with college-bound students and their families, but I also developed my accounting, administrative and clerical skills. I determined that the university (which has an aviation program), the FBOs, a private charter company and the airport would be the most likely employers to need my particular skillset. So I started watching for job openings at all of those places. I had to be patient – many of the openings I saw weren’t a good fit. It took over a year before an accounting position at the airport opened up. I applied right away and after several interviews, I got the job… and the stairs trucks of the world got their biggest fan!
It Takes All Kinds
The truth is that it takes a whole lot of people doing a whole lot of different things to make the aviation industry run. There are a plenty of jobs out there that would allow you to play an important role in the world of airplanes that you probably haven’t considered. For example:
Technology – people with technology skills are in HUGE demand in the aviation sector, just as they are pretty much everywhere else.
Wildlife Management – it’s more than just firing off the bird cannon (although that is a really cool part of the job). This position requires an understanding of the entire airport ecosystem.
Pavement Specialist – In case you haven’t noticed, airports have a LOT of pavement. Someone has to know the best way to maintain it, how and when to replace it, etc.
Administrative Support – there are at least 8 administrative specialists at my airport who support departments and members of management by doing things like scheduling meetings, putting together presentations, ordering office supplies, etc. Heck, the administrative associate at the FBO not only does many of those things but she also drives tugs, helps load/unload cargo and checks passenger tickets!
Airplane Watcher – Yes, you read that correctly! In the ops department at the passenger airport there is someone (or possibly several someones) who watch airplanes, sometimes live and sometimes on video. Large airports subscribe to tracking systems to monitor flights and eventually we probably will too. But for now, we use a more basic tracking system (think flightaware) and we like to confirm visually if we can. I am going to lobby to have that responsibility transferred to me ASAP! In the meantime, I console myself by remembering that those lucky airplane watchers almost certainly also have other, far less awesome tasks that they are also required to perform.
So, Do You Want To Work In Aviation?
If the answer is yes, then seriously, what’s stopping you? Trust me, if I can do it so can almost anyone. My only advice is to make sure that whatever aviation job you pursue is one that you will enjoy doing. Sure, it’s awesome to see airplanes whenever you look out the window, but it cannot make up for a job that makes you miserable. You might find yourself not loving aviation any more – and we definitely don’t want that! But if you can find a place for yourself in the aviation industry doing something you like, then every day can be plane spotting heaven!