So You Want to Work in Aviation

take offOn 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!

IMG_0694My Journey

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.

IMG_1716At 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.

IMG_1713The Search

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!

IMG_1719It 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.

IMG_1587Pavement 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!

FullSizeRender (27)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.

IMG_0678So, 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!


Feeling the Love

IMG_1395Soon after I started this blog several people mentioned that it reminded them of how much they used to enjoy the airport… before they had to deal with it every day. After months/years of the “daily grind”, the airport lost its magic somehow. I remember being a bit dismayed. Lose its magic? Oh dear! Will that happen to me too? Well fear not intrepid readers – I’m happy to report that after over a year on the job I still love the airport as much as I did the day I first walked in the door!

The Airplanes

IMG_0976I don’t care how much of a grind my job gets to be, I don’t see anything ever changing my love of airplanes. I’ve seen more planes take off, land and taxi by the window than I can possibly count and I still get just as excited every time. Airplanes are never boring to me.  Besides, I never know what might fly in.  F-18s, T-38s, KC-135s, and AirForce 2 have all “dropped by” while I’ve been there. Plus I’ve seen some really cool business jets. And you never know what chartered airplane might be sitting on the ramp.  There is always something new and interesting to see.

The Ground Equipment

IMG_1405Thought I might not like snowplows as much now that I’ve sat in one? Wrong!!! Sure, I sat in one, but not while it was snowing. Or on a runway. Or in a convoy. Or at night. I still love broom trucks too. And I still love deicing rigs. And ARFF equipment. And mobile conveyors. Basically, if it gets to go tooling around the airfield then I’m a fan. Well… OK, I’m not a fan of the honey wagons (aka lav trucks). Sorry, but I’ve gotta draw the line somewhere!

The Mobile Stairs

IMG_1398Be honest – when I didn’t mention the mobile stairs in that last paragraph you thought maybe, just maybe, I’d gotten over my thing for stairs trucks. Nope! They are still my favorite piece of ground equipment! About a year ago someone with a sick sense of humor parked a set of motorized stairs outside my office where I would have to see it day after day. Can you believe it is STILL parked there – nearly a year later? That’s cruel and unusual punishment! I found out recently that the airport conducts auctions periodically to sell off assets that are no longer needed. I asked if we ever sell stairs trucks and I got a blank stare in return. I had to explain what a stairs truck is.  Again.  Clearly, I still have work to do!

Things to Look Forward to


I love that the newest K-9 got his picture in the newsletter, just like every other new employee!

There are some interesting events ahead this year.  We’re getting a new airline in May.  Well, sort-of new.  They used to fly to my airport but then stopped a couple years ago.  But now they’re coming back and I’m sure there will be quite a bit of fanfare over their return.  Speaking of fanfare, we’re just about done with all the construction. Hooray! There is going to be quite a celebration, including the opening of a new gallery featuring interesting artifacts and pieces of airport history.  Resurfacing the north runway is scheduled to begin in just a couple months.  That means the south runway is going to be a busy place.  Right now I do a lot of running back and forth trying to catch as much of the action on both runways as possible, but for 6 months all the action will be going on right outside the department windows. Yay!  We are still hoping to make a trip over to Flight Safety to see the simulators.  I can’t tell you how awesome that would be! I get super excited just thinking about it. Keep your fingers crossed – I promise I’ll keep you posted!IMG_0948