Sample Pilot Cover Letter and Example

Pilot Cover Letter Tips, Content, and Example

In your pursuit of pilot employment, a cover letter will often be required to complement your pilot resume. Though not always necessary/requested, you should plan on devoting ample time to developing an effective pilot cover letter.

View Examples Of Effective Pilot Cover Letters:

Sample CFI Cover Letter
Sample Airline Pilot Cover Letter
Sample Corporate Pilot Cover Letter

Need resume examples too?  Click here to see sample resumes for CFI’s, Airline Pilots, and more.

While a detailed analysis of cover letter tips and tactics is beyond the scope of this article, we’ll take a brief look at a few basic pointers. As with your pilot resume, it’s essential you take every precaution to ensure your cover letter is error free, concise, and relevant to the position you’re pursuing.

Use the same paper color/weight/size as your resume.  As with your resume, your pilot cover letter should be on a single 8.5″ x 11″ (or A4) sheet of 24 lb, 100% cotton paper. Whatever color you choose for your resume (discussed on our Sample Pilot Resume page), be sure to use that same color for the cover letter.

Brevity is key. Your pilot cover letter should be no more than 3-4 brief paragraphs. As with your resume, this document will only get a few seconds of scrutiny. If it takes more than about 30 seconds to read, you’ll want to make some edits.

See an example of a pilot cover letter to the right of the page.  Click here to download the PDF version.

Supplement, don’t duplicate, your resume. This is where many job applicants mess up. Recipients will be receiving your resume too, so don’t duplicate the same info on your cover letter. Instead, your goal should be to introduce yourself, explain why you’d be a good addition to the company’s pilot staff, and thank them for their consideration. That’s it. Your pilot resume will provide the specifics for them.

Tailor each cover letter to its intended recipient. While life would be easier if you could develop a one-size-fits-all pilot cover letter, doing so would be unlikely to work in your favor. Potential employers want to know you’re eager to work for them, not that they’re number 12 on your job search list. For this reason, at least a portion of your cover letter should refer to information specific to that potential company. Maybe their equipment, location, or financial strength makes you want to work for them. Whatever the reason, a bit of personalization will definitely work in your favor.

Keep your Pilot cover letter up to date. You’ll need to revise your cover letter(s) as your qualifications change. Whenever your career goals or credentials change, be sure to update your cover letter accordingly. Additionally, it’s often wise to revise your cover letter to reflect changes in the industry or within the company’s hiring practices. Currency is key if your pilot cover letter is to be effective.

What if a Pilot cover letter is not specifically requested/required? Many job applicants and employment services seem to believe cover letters are obsolete/unnecessary. Your objective here is to research each potential employer’s hiring practices. If the company or past (successful) job applicants advise not to include a cover letter, don’t. If you’re unsure, you’re usually better off to include one. Even if a job states that a cover letter is not required, I would recommend writing one just in case. If necessary, you can always present it during the interview if the subject comes up.

As you can see, designing a basic pilot cover letter is fairly easy, and does not require a major in writing to come up with something eye catching. Now that you have the necessary guidance on how to create a pilot cover letter, you should start thinking about how you should craft your pilot resume.  We have put together some great resources for Aiployment members that will help you to craft the perfect resume which will help you stand apart from the competition.

Click Here to learn more about the many benefits of an membership.

Tips On Finding A Pilot Job Through Networking After A Furlough

Many pro pilots agree that a furlough will be a “when” event rather than an “if” event for airline aviators. For some airline pilots, furloughs will occur multiple times over the span of their careers. Fortunately, such unpleasant experiences don’t have to doom your flying career. Taking a few simple precautions can help you weather the storm and discover life after the layoff.

Build Your Network Early

For maximum effectiveness, you’ll want to develop a network of references and contacts at other aviation companies. While most pilots try to do just that, many go about it the wrong way. Do things a bit differently and you’ll position yourself at a significant advantage over the masses.

Take Advantage of Good Times: Don’t wait until a furlough is imminent to develop your aviation connections. Many pilots wait until they have a layoff notice to start asking for favors from industry acquaintances. At this point, it’s easy to appear pushy and desperate; definitely not qualities you want to portray. Instead, maintain regular contact with your pilot friends while times are good. Be a friend without seeking anything in return. Better yet, offer to help them out if their job ever hits a rough spot. By being helpful when you don’t need their assistance, most friends will remember you when times get tough. Besides developing a friendship, you’ll be ahead of the game when a downsizing does take place.

The Power of Three: Lots of professional flyers make the mistake of thinking more is better. When suddenly furloughed, they embrace the power of volume and mass-mail applications to anyone and everyone. Though this might seem effective, it is often counterproductive. Airline interviewers can tell when you’re just copying and pasting a one-size-fits-all résumé. It’s a highly unimpressive technique and one that’s unlikely to help with your chances of an offer.

For maximum insurance, aim to have three companies on your “Furlough List”. Work to develop references/contacts at these airlines that can be used to secure a job interview. Learn everything you can about these companies: their history, financials, routes & equipment, aircraft orders, changes among key personnel, etc. With this knowledge, you’ll be much more impressive during an interview and your genuine desire to work for them will show.

Why three companies? Any fewer and you risk putting all your eggs in the same basket. More than three is just unrealistic to manage. Take some time to consider your goals and opportunities before selecting the airlines for your Furlough List. With your big three in place, you’ll have options to help you get back to the flight deck.

Do Keep Flying

Even if you wind up delivering pizzas to make ends meet, it’s imperative you keep flying while furloughed. If you want to get another flying job, make it a priority to keep your instrument (and preferably, multiengine) skills sharp. The last thing you want is to secure an interview only to bust the sim ride because of rusty skills. Even if you just rent a 172 a few times a month, you’ll be doing yourself a tremendous favor.

Go Backward to Go Forward

In some cases, you’ll be able to find work with a previous aviation employer. For this reason, do whatever you can to leave each job on good terms. If the company knows you’re hardworking and reliable, it’ll probably welcome you back rather than risk hiring an unknown. Besides keeping your piloting skills sharp (on the company’s nickel), you’ll be able to show recent flight experience when you’re able to land an interview. This flight currency will give you a sizable advantage over other furloughed pilots who’ve flown only sporadically.

Being furloughed is never a pleasant experience. However, if you work in aviation for any length of time, the odds are good that you’ll eventually be a victim of downsizing. By following the strategies outlined above, you can likely minimize the length of a layoff. In a future post, we’ll explore additional options for surviving a furlough. Until then, work on developing your Furlough List and strengthening your industry contacts.

There is more great information like this in our FREE “How To Find A Pilot Job In A Turbulent Economy” ebook.  You can signup to receive this guide instantly by entering your name and email in the form on the left hand side of this page.

4 Resume Tips For Military Pilots Transitioning to Civilian Aviation

When we leave the service at the end of our obligations, we typically have a plan.  But, sometimes that plan doesn’t reflect either reality or the current civilian work environment for which we are unaccustomed.  What can we as military pilots do to ensure that our efforts are best served and that we market ourselves appropriately?

First things first is putting together our résumés.  Think about it, when was the last time you had to put together a simple résumé?  Many of you probably have said never….others once or twice based on what you did prior to joining the service (and I’m betting that that was a long time ago).  Well fear not, as many before you have had the same concerns and issues that you have.  Let’s talk some basic do’s and don’ts for the transitioning military pilot:

1. Market yourself based on your experience.

Let’s face it, you’ve received the absolute best training in the world and were responsible for expensive, cutting edge equipment, material, and people.  Use this information to communicate to your prospective employer the cold hard facts about what you’ve done, where you’ve been, and what you have to offer.  List your qualifications and hours as well as any aircraft you may have flown throughout the course of your career.  Furthermore, list your designations and endorsements as well so that the employer knows what type of flight leadership they are getting if they were to hire you.

2.  Appear willing to learn new platforms and take on different roles within the organization.

Bad news: You’re not going to be an Eagle or Hornet driver anymore.  Nor are you going to be an evaluator performing check-rides right off the bat.  Good News: There’s a whole new world of opportunity in the commercial field.  Think of it as platform selection time all over again.  You could land a job as an A319 First Officer or you could be flying CRJs.  Either way, be prepared to embrace your new position and perform as you always have and be ready to jump on new opportunities as they come up down the road.  If you perform well and put in your time, you’ll set yourself up for success.

3.  Do not approach the interview or prospective employer with any condescending or “holier than thou art” attitude based on your personal background and experience.

You may have been a squadron commander or the senior guy on deck at your old job, however, this does give you free reign to be a jerk to anyone at the prospective company or airline.  Remember, you may have the hours and qualifications to fly a multi-engine platform right off the bat, but you’ll still be the FNG at your company when compared against your senior peers.

4.  Do not lie about your hours or qualifications.

With the extreme amount of former military pilot in the industry, you’re bound to run into somebody you know, or somebody that knows you.  If you’ve exaggerated your quals or hours in any way on your résumé, somebody will find out, it’s just a matter of time.  That being said, you will be asked to submit copies of all logs, records, endorsements, etc., so be prepared and have these items ready during the application and interview process.

I hope this helps guide you in the right direction when putting together your résumé.  Bottom line: Be honest and humble and let your experience speak for itself.

Getting A Job As A Pilot After The Military

jobs for fighter pilotsIt seems that getting a job these days with any commercial or corporate aviation entity can seem rather tough.  Gone are the days where Eastern Airlines roamed the streets looking for potential pilots to fill their growing fleet of 727s.

However, just because the glory days of aviation hiring are gone doesn’t mean that you can’t land a job with a reputable company with decent prospects for growth and promotion.  Being a military pilot definitely helps, regardless of what many may say.  The training and discipline you received is highly regarded among the industry and enhances your credibility amongst your peers.  So what exactly are the big airlines and executive transportation companies looking for?

Hours…And Lots of Them

Well, for starters, they want hours.  Lots and lots of hours.  Not to mention, they want pilots with ratings/endorsements/certificates.  Anything you can do to continue your progression in the civil and commercial aviation world helps.  And these days where seats are rare and competition fierce, any edge you can give yourself helps.

What else are they looking for?  Well, they want to know you can work together with other crewmembers to accomplish the job safely and efficiently.  For some single-seat types, this may prove difficult.  However, if you have a solid track record of demonstrated flight leadership, i.e. 2/4 ship leads (section/division for the Navy/Marine Corps brethren), then this can make up for some of the lack of exposure to multi-place aircraft.

So, you have the hours and quals, what now?  How do you get your foot in the door and actually get an interview or an offer?  Now that’s the million-dollar question.  However, it’s not as hard as it sounds.

A Top Notch Resume

First, update your résumé and then review it.  Over and over again.  Interviewers give your resume a very cursory glance at best.  If there are any simple grammatical or spelling errors, this almost certainly means you’re not getting an interview.  Next, start making some calls to your old squadron mates who may be flying for some of the legacy carriers.  See what they say about the company and if they have any contacts in HR either there or elsewhere.  These guys are probably your best resource to get the pulse of the industry.  Finally, contact some of the aviation-oriented headhunters out there.  They may be few and far between, but at least you can work on your interview skills and techniques as well as get guidance from those with experience.

Check out the Free Pilot and Resume Tools that come with every account.

There are numerous other ways to get an interview, including calling hiring departments at various airlines and commercial aviation firms, and of course, using the internet to search for potential hiring periods.  Bottom line, with the amount of competition out there these days, you’ll need to work hard to sell yourself to a company.  You need a proven track record and healthy grasp on how the civilian aviation hiring process works.  Remember, check your ego at the door and be ready to go if the company calls.

What to do When you Fail your ATP Checkride

Airline Pilots in Cockpit #2For any pilot, having a less-than-stellar checkride performance is never a fun experience. That’s especially true for professional pilots or future airline hopefuls. While busting any checkride causes concern for career-bound aviators, failing the ATP ride is often viewed as the granddaddy of black marks. Yet it happens. If you’re handed an orange slip rather than a white temporary certificate, take heart in knowing that all is not lost.

The Devil is in the Details

On ATP checkrides, it’s rare that someone goes out and bombs the stick-and-rudder part of the ride. Instead, on the ATP ride, many applicants bust for overlooking the seemingly small regulations and operating procedures. As an example, one of my coworkers failed his ride because he performed a reduced power takeoff with the engine anti-ice turned on. Although the flight was never in any real danger, our company Operations Specifications (Ops Specs) require the use of max available power any time the anti-ice is used during takeoff. He wasn’t busted for poor piloting, but for violating a company procedure. As I’m sure you’re aware, any violation on a checkride is grounds for failure.

A Look at Some Numbers

My above-mentioned coworker’s checkride performance was hardly unique. At my regional, approximately 50% of upgrading pilots failed their ATP/type rides on the first attempt. However, it was nearly unheard of that anyone failed on the second try. Despite their high expectations, the airlines recognize that we’re all human and will occasionally perform less than perfectly. That’s why my company allowed one mulligan during the course of training. One failure from time to time isn’t unforgivable, so remember that if your own performance needs some improvement.

Conditions of the Ride

Another thing you should consider is the condition under which you performed your checkride. If you’re like many regional pilots, you might perform your ATP ride during your upgrade/type rating checkride for your company. Under such conditions, you’re guaranteed to be under a great deal of scrutiny and a fair amount of pressure. In addition, the ride isn’t likely to be described as easy. Slipping up under these conditions is bound to happen from time to time.

Now consider a commercial, buy-your-rating organization that specializes in cranking out a high volume of ATP certificates. Though I’ve never been to or worked at such a place, I have an idea that one of their priorities is customer satisfaction. As such, I’m willing to bet their version of the ATP ride is a bit less strenuous than the airline version. I’ll even go out on a limb and wager such business checkrides consist of the bare minimum to meet FAA requirements. Comparing the two, are you necessarily less of a pilot for failing an airline-style ATP ride than someone who passes a for-profit training company’s checkride? I don’t think so. My guess is airline interviewers don’t either.

It’s All Relative

Going a bit further, let’s look at the ATP checkride versus, say, a private pilot checkride. On one hand, you’re subject to strictly VFR conditions, fairly simple maneuvers, and a relatively basic level of knowledge. With the other, you’ll be doing most of the flying under low IFR conditions, at night, while dealing with a planeload of frightened passengers and a laundry list of equipment failures. Which one do you think presents more opportunities to slip up?

As the highest level of pilot certification, the ATP is designed to put you through the wringer. With such high standards and so little margin of error, it’s understandable that good pilots occasionally miss the mark. Additionally, if you’re taking your ATP ride at the Part 121 level, you’re still a relative rookie. The airlines know that as time goes on, you’ll accumulate a wealth of experience that will help make you a safe employee. If you happen to bust the ATP checkride, take heart in knowing it doesn’t have to be a career ender.

Honesty is the Only Policy

If you hope to succeed in this industry, it’s imperative you be forthcoming with any checkride failures. The FAA has your performance records on file, and you can rest assured any Part 121 company WILL have seen them. While there’s a possibility that Part 91 employers or small charter companies won’t conduct as in-depth a background check, you’re still much better off if you fess up from the start. Occasionally screwing up a checkride is one thing, being branded a liar is much harder to overcome.

Tip: If you busted your ride while employed at a Part 121 carrier, make sure you secure copies of your training records. These can be a big help down the road. While a potential future employer might know you busted your ride, they don’t always know the specifics behind the failure. Being able to present evidence that you failed for a minor oversight will probably help to convince them you’re not a danger in the sky.

Like many things in life, a large part of your career success depends on how you deal with failure.  Rather than focusing on the negative, look at the steps you can take to overcome the occasional obstacle. A single checkride failure along the way will only hurt your career if you let it. Instead, develop a game plan to address the issue. Remember, a good pilot is always learning.

Sample Pilot Resume Samples, Examples, and More

View All Sample Pilot Resumes:

CFI Sample Resume
Airline Pilot Sample Resume
Corporate Pilot Sample Resume

Need a sample pilot cover letter too?  Click Here to see some examples.

Before you can hope to secure a professional flying position, you’ll need to make yourself (and more importantly, your qualifications) known to potential employers. To accomplish this, it’s imperative you develop an outstanding pilot resume. While some job hunters downplay the importance of a well-developed curriculum vitae(CV), a professional pilot resume is critical if you wish to succeed in the fiercely competitive commercial aviation industry.

A word of warning: crafting a professional pilot resume is not something you’ll be able to accomplish in an afternoon. Nor will you nail the perfect CV without significant edits and revisions along the way. To stand out    amongst the flood of applications that airline recruiters receive, you’ll need to devote significant time and effort to creating a nearly perfect pilot resume.

Why spend so much time on a single document? Quite simply, because your efforts will be one of the first impressions you’ll make on an airline’s hiring staff. It’s also one of the easiest ways you can stand out from the competition. Regardless of how badly some fliers want to become pro pilots, a significant number seem to skimp on their pilot resumes. Their lack of effort will show; while your attention to detail will earn you bonus points as applications are evaluated.

Layout and Appearance

Do a quick internet search and you’ll find sources claiming each pilot resume gets 5-30 seconds of a recruiter’s attention. With such a limited glance, you’ll want to make each precious second work in your favor. To accomplish this, plan on spending significant time developing a clean and aesthetically pleasing format. The layout and appearance of your pilot resume will count as much (if not more) as the information presented in the document.

Sample Pilot Resume Paper Stock and Color: Unless otherwise specified by a particular company, use 24 lb, 100% cotton paper for your pilot resume, cover letter, and associated documentation. Color wise, white and ivory are generally accepted throughout the industry. In some cases, cream-colored or light grey stock is also accepted. Many applicants claim that using a slightly off-white hue is an easy way to stand out from the masses. However, before you venture too far from white, make sure the company in question accepts the color you’re considering.

Above all else, remember that aviators are a conservative bunch. Peacocking might work on the social scene, but standing out with your stationery is the surest way to get your paperwork thrown out. Remember: the key is to stand out without standing out.

Sample Pilot Resume Font and Type: When selecting font size and type, remember that the overall message you want to project is one of conservatism. Leave the swirling scripts for the liberal arts crowd and select a simple, legible font. Personally, I’ve done just fine by sticking to 12-point Arial throughout my career, though Times New Roman, Cambria, and similar scripts will probably do just as well. The only place I’ve ventured to try a different style is for my name in the heading section (24-point Monotype Corsiva). I’ve found this script adds a bit of personal style to my pilot resume (and name) without being gaudy.

The bottom line: there is no exact formula or perfect script for your pilot resume. Unless a company is known to prefer a specific font, try a few variations that maintain a conservative yet aesthetically pleasing appearance. You might even want to create multiple versions of your pilot resume, each of which utilizes a slightly different font style/size. Solicit input from family, friends, and colleagues on each design. If one version garners significant praise, you’ll probably leave a similar impression on pilot recruiters.


Sections, Headings, and Bullet Points: One of the challenges you’ll encounter while constructing your pilot resume is how to avoid a boring, dry-as-dust appearance when you’re limited to a single page of black on white. The trick here is to make effective use of headings, sections, bullet points, bold type, italics, and even white space. Note the word “effective” in the previous sentence. Using any of these for no particular reason will likely detract from your pilot resume and leave reviewers unimpressed.

For a pilot resume, you’ll probably have 4-6 primary sections, each with a corresponding heading. Common sections will include flight time, certificates & ratings, education, work history, activities/awards/miscellaneous, and an objective section (each of which will be discussed later). You might also have additional sections, depending on the particular job you’re pursuing. Again, while there is no hard-and-fast rule here, you’ll want to draw attention to each section while maintaining a clean appearance.

After extensive trial and error, I opted simply to use bold type for each heading, which I listed on the left side of the page. Corresponding descriptions and information was listed to the right of each heading, continuing down the page to the subsequent section. This layout allowed me to maintain a clean, logical flow of information while avoiding a cluttered appearance. However, my format is far from the only suitable alternative. You might find that bold, italics, underlining, or a combination of formats works best for you. Experiment with a variety of options until you find a format (or three) that serves you well.

Sample Pilot Resume – Calling Attention to Your Info

In addition to the headings, you’ll want to find a way to break up the body of your pilot resume. Nothing will lose a reader’s interest faster than line after line of uniform black ink. To keep readers engaged and draw their attention, you’ll need to vary the format of the information you present. The most effective way I’ve found to do this is through the use of bullet points.

Except for the objective section, every other part of my pilot resume incorporates bullet points to some extent. In each case, the bullet points serve to break up, highlight, or otherwise organize the information presented. In some sections, I use secondary bullet points to delineate subsets of information. Without such points, the body of my pilot resume would be a confusing mass of jumbled black ink. For organization, all sections of my pilot resume utilizes the same type of primary bullet point (dark circles), with secondary bullet points (diamonds) aligned one tab to the right. Such a format helps maintain continuity of appearance throughout the document.

Bold, Italics, and Underlining: Other effective techniques for breaking up your pilot resume’s content are to alter the appearance of parts of the text. Throughout my pilot resume, I’ve sprinkled bold, italics, and underlining to work in concert with tabs, headings, bullet points, and white space. The key here is to use each option sparingly. Too much of any effect will detract from your pilot resume and leave an undesirable impression on the recipient. Remember, the point of each option is to make the highlighted text stand out! Only use these options to the extent they accentuate the information you don’t want the reader to miss.

For pilots, a common temptation is to highlight flight experience and certificates/ratings. Avoid the urge to do this. If you’re applying for a piloting position, the recruiters already know (or at least, expect) you meet the minimum aeronautical experience and certification requirements. The purpose of these sections is to allow the recruiters to quickly verify that you meet the company’s minimum qualifications for the position in question. Unless your flight time and/or ratings are uniquely impressive, this section really won’t make you stand out from most other applicants. Instead, save the special fonts for info that is unique to you and likely give you an edge on the competition.

As with most rules, there are exceptions to the no-highlight rule for flight time and ratings. The most common is if you possess a type rating in the aircraft for which you’re applying to fly (Southwest, anyone?). If you’ve served as a check airman, pilot in command (PIC), or have other type-specific knowledge most other applicants will lack, by all means let the recruiters know! Without such specialized training, stick to your standard format for these categories.

Blank Space can Speak Volumes: An often-overlooked technique for articulating your pilot resume is through the use of blank space. Trust me; nothing will make a recruiter cringe more than border-to-border text from top to bottom. Remember, you likely have just 5-30 seconds to make an impression. Your goal is to persuade the reviewer(s) that you deserve an interview, not to recount your life story. When properly utilized, blank space can be one of the most effective techniques for making your pilot resume stand out.

As I’ve said before, there is no one format that will trump all other designs. On my pilot resume, I’ve found that a one-inch margin on the left and right sides (smaller for top and bottom edges) has worked well. Additionally, I’ve made it a point to include at least one blank line between each section of the pilot resume (and in some instances, within sections) to minimize clutter. The left column of my pilot resume (the headings) goes even further, with significant white space between each section heading. With this format, the reader can instantly see where each section begins and ends.

Just One Page?

Unless otherwise specified, your pilot resume should be just one page long (single-sided). Don’t try to skirt this guideline by using legal paper. When applying to North American companies, use letter size (8.5″ x 11″) stock. For overseas employment, A4 paper (210 mm × 297 mm {8.3” × 11.7”}) is the international equivalent.

Not enough (or too much) room? That’s a very common concern among job applicants. If you’re just entering the workforce, you might find it challenging to fill an entire sheet. Experienced workers often lament that they can’t fit all the necessary info into such a tiny space. Wherever you are along the spectrum, we’ll examine the essentials for a pilot’s pilot resume, as well as material that can usually be omitted.

Items to Include on a Pilot resume

Objective: Read a few online employment articles and you’re bound to see authors, interviewers, and HR experts claiming that an objective section is obsolete and should be omitted from your pilot resume. Personally, I’ve always included an objective on my aviation pilot resumes. Based on the percentage of callbacks and interviews I’ve gotten, including an objective doesn’t appear to be detrimental. Besides, this section is usually just one line and when written effectively, can boost your chances of securing an interview.

Download an example of a pilot resume to the right of the page.

My rationale behind listing an objective is to let the recipient know exactly what I’m after. If you want a pilot job, bear in mind that the recruiters (depending on the company) might review applications for a number of different departments and positions. You don’t want your paperwork to end up in the flight attendant or aircraft mechanic stacks, do you? With a single line in the top section, you can help ensure your paperwork gets to the right place.

Won’t your flight time and ratings make it obvious you’re applying for a pilot position? Ideally, yes. However, bear in mind that the reader will likely spend just a few seconds glancing over your paperwork. With an objective, you reduce the chances of any confusion that can result from a quick scan of the document.

A Word of Warning: An objective section can be a double-edge sword. The key is to make effective use of this line. You won’t impress anyone (quite the opposite) by simply writing “Pilot Position” here. The key is to be specific. Are you looking to work as a flight instructor, charter pilot, demo pilot, banner pilot, first officer, or pilot in command? Let the reviewer know exactly what you’re after. Also, make sure you tailor each objective section to the specific company that’ll be receiving your pilot resume.

If the company operates several types of equipment and/or flies from several locations, you might want to include the model/hub for which you’re applying. Dallas-based Boeing 737-700 First Officer Position communicates a great deal of information to the reader. In one line, they know your desired base, aircraft, and seat. This also shows that your pilot resume has been developed specifically for them. However, you don’t want to be too specific if you’re just looking to get your foot in the door. XYZ Airlines Entry-level First Officer Position would be a better choice if you’re willing to accept whatever base/aircraft comes available.

Hours and Ratings: Though we’ll discuss these together, they should actually make up two separate sections of your pilot resume. I use “Flight Experience” and “Certificates” for these section headings, but feel free to develop your own effective titles. A common mistake here is the urge to include everything you’ve ever done in an aircraft. However, remember that you have only one 8.5″ x 11″ sheet and 5-30 seconds to communicate 4-6 sections of info. The trick here is to include only the ratings and flight time that relate to the position you’re seeking.

In most cases, you’ll want to list your total time, pilot in command (PIC) hours, turbine experience, multi-engine time, and IFR hours. Additionally, night hours and experience as an instructor might be good to include as well (depending on the position sought). However, you’re unlikely to impress anyone by listing instruction received, airplane single engine land (ASEL), day, VFR, or non-cross country hours. Second in command (SIC) time is generally only impressive if it’s used to demonstrate turbine, multi-engine, Part 121, or Part 135 experience. In all cases, ask yourself, “Is this time relevant/impressive for the position I’m seeking?”. If the answer is no, you probably don’t need to include it on your pilot resume.

While you’re at it, remove any certificates/ratings that don’t apply to the position. Though you might be experienced in gliders, helicopters, and seaplanes, these ratings won’t do much if you want to fly Boeings or Airbuses for a living. Instead, use your pilot resume to highlight turbine, PIC, multi-engine, Part 121, and Part 135 experience you have, as well as any type ratings you hold. If you hold a flight engineer (FE) rating or have passed the FE written test, only include these for companies that operate equipment requiring FEs. Likewise, if you’re only interested in a pilot slot, don’t advertise that you hold an A&P certificate.

Multiple Pilot resumes for Multiple Purposes: Throughout your career, you’ll need to adjust your pilot resume as you climb the career ladder. Early on, you might even include all your flight experience and ratings (landing your first CFI job) before cutting back to Part 121 turbine PIC (major airline applications) later in your career. If you pursue multiple aviation jobs, develop a separate pilot resume for CFI, FE, Part 135, Part 121, and A&P work. Additionally, be sure to update each document as you gain experience, either at set intervals (i.e. every six months) or whenever you achieve a major milestone (earned ATP certificate).  We have plenty of sample pilot resumes for CFI, Corporate, and Airline Pilots for all of our active members, which you will gain access to once you signup for a full account.

Ratings in Progress: In a few instances, it makes sense to list flight time and knowledge exams for ratings you’re currently pursuing. The most common case for this is while pursuing your first regional airline job. Many regionals require applicants to have passed the ATP written exam prior to employment. Even if the company you’re pursuing doesn’t require this, it’s still a good idea to demonstrate your commitment to attaining your ATP. Additionally, at this level you should consider listing your progress towards the aeronautical experience requirements (night, cross country, IMC, etc.) for the ATP rating {see 14 CFR 61.159(a)}. Doing so will allow the company to anticipate your upgrade eligibility.

Note: Currently, Congress is considering legislation for a proposed 1,500 Hour Rule; which would require all Part 121 first officers to possess an ATP certificate. If it passes, regional airline FOs would be required to accrue at least 1,500 total hours (with certain exceptions) to become eligible for the ATP certificate (and Part 121 employment). August 2, 2013 is being given as a possible implementation date, so be sure to stay aware of any developments and plan accordingly.

Employment History: Your work background is another area where you’ll want to forego the urge to list your entire employment history. Instead, just include positions where you’ve served as a pilot and your current/most recent job. If you have a lengthy employment history, narrow it down to the 3-4 most relevant for your pilot resume. If the company wants more info on your employment background (they will), you’ll be able to fill in additional details on the company’s application (discussed later).

Unless otherwise specified, list your jobs in reverse chronological order. On my pilot resume, I include the dates of employment (month & year), company name, company location (city, state, {and country if foreign}), and a one-line description of my position/title. Though somewhat scant, this information has proved sufficient for pilot resume purposes. Once invited for an interview (or asked to submit the company’s employment application), you’ll be asked to include phone numbers, physical/mailing addresses, supervisor names, etc. on the company’s form.

Minimal Employment History: If you’re young and just entering the workforce, don’t let an absence of work background deter you. At this stage, you’ll be applying for entry-level positions anyway (i.e. CFI), so most employers won’t think poorly of you if you’ve only worked at Burger King. Besides, they’ll be able to determine from your education dates (discussed below) that you have probably been a student until very recently (or still are).  When I applied for my first flight instructor job, I had a single minimum wage position to my credit. I still got hired, so this category doesn’t carry a whole lot of weight early on.

Gaps in Employment: Employment gaps are a common cause for concern among job applicants, but they don’t have to be the death knell of your pilot career. For at least four years now, the fragile economy has left significant numbers of workers unemployed for extended periods of time. If you’ve been out of work for a while, rest assured this doesn’t carry the stigma that it once did. The secret in dealing with employment gaps lies in how you present the situation.

Thankfully, questions about employment gaps usually won’t come up until after the recipient has reviewed your pilot resume and application. If they’re bothering to call, it means they’re at least moderately interested in you (congratulations!). The key here is to explain how you’ve used the time off. You’ll want to be able to show that you’ve been productive during this period of unemployment. Perhaps you added instrument and multi-engine ratings to your CFI certificate. Maybe you completed the ATP and FE written exams, obtained your FCC Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit, and lost 40 pounds to ensure you can pass a Class 1 medical exam. Whatever you do, have something positive and productive to say about how you spent this time. If you can offer a confident and unapologetic answer, you’re likely to convince the interviewer that this gap is not a big deal.

Education: You’ll definitely want to include your post-secondary education on your pilot resume. List your highest degree (PhD, masters) first and work down to any lesser degrees (bachelors, associate) you may hold. If you have more than one degree at a particular level (i.e. two bachelors), list them in reverse chronological order.

In this category, be sure to include at least the dates of attendance, name & location of the school, degree(s) earned {and semester(s) awarded}, and your GPA (plus the grading scale used). If you graduated with any honors (summa cum laude, Dean’s List, etc.), or awards (i.e. academic scholarship), be sure to list them too. Such items show potential employers: 1. you’re trainable 2. people think you’re worth spending money on.

Is a Four-Year Degree an Absolute Necessity? The short answer to this question is: yes. Though you’ll generally be able to find work at entry level positions, lack of a bachelor’s degree will hinder your advancement up the aviation career ladder. Without at least a bachelor’s, your odds of securing a pilot job at a major airline are extremely slim.

Why the emphasis on education? In many ways, the airlines view a degree as evidence of your trainability, devotion, and ability to commit your time and effort for an extended period of time. It’s one way for them to gauge how you’ll perform as an employee of their company. To an extent, a college degree also helps them thin out the competition. In such a highly competitive industry, it’s yet another measure to determine which applications make it into the short stack.

Will an advanced degree (PhD, masters) give you an advantage over the competition?  While there’s certainly no downside to earning advanced degrees, I’ve yet to hear of it giving any significant advantage to pilot applicants. Most airlines are happy with a bachelor’s, regardless of the field in which it’s earned. If you choose to pursue an advanced degree, do so for reasons other than merely strengthening your pilot resume.

Is an Aviation Degree Advantageous? From personal experience, I can say that majoring in aviation doesn’t give you any noticeable advantage over the competition. Both my associate’s and bachelor’s degrees are in aviation, neither of which has ever proven to be overly beneficial in my pursuit of flying jobs. In fact, majoring in aviation has been one of those decisions I wish I could do over.

Before I put anyone off college aviation programs, let me be perfectly clear that there is absolutely nothing wrong with majoring in aviation. My college courses were informative and enjoyable, and I came away with loads of valuable knowledge. My reasons for wishing I’d chosen another field have to do with backup options. By studying nothing but aviation, I effectively placed all my eggs in the same basket. Since my college days, the aviation world has experienced 9/11 and the global economic crisis, both of which dealt major blows to the professional pilot industry.

Many professional pilots earn their degrees in business, accounting, engineering, or any number of unrelated fields while earning their pilot certificates on the side. All non-aviation-major pro pilots I’ve shared the cockpit with have been just as safe and knowledgeable as my fellow aviation majors. They also have a huge advantage in that, should a furlough occur (and at some point in your career, it’s all but guaranteed), they have a specialized set of skills to fall back on. Should it become necessary to work outside of aviation for a while, these individuals have more options than someone like me.

Activities, Awards, and Miscellaneous Info: Compared to other categories, this pilot resume section is usually the first to be cut when space becomes an issue. While this section is perhaps the most optional of those we’ve discussed, it also offers ample opportunity to set yourself apart from the masses.

What sort of info should you include in this section? Generally, you’ll have just a few precious lines in which to tout your accomplishments. Make sure anything listed here portrays you as an upstanding individual and a real standout amongst potential employees. If it doesn’t, it’s probably not worth space on the page.

Community/Charitable Involvement: I’ve yet to hear of an interviewer that doesn’t admire pilots who give back to society. If you do anything for the betterment of humanity, it’s probably worth including on your pilot resume. Examples for this section can include: building houses with Habitat for Humanity, providing air transportation through Angel Flight, initiating community recycling programs, missionary work in developing nations, organizing blood drives, or anything else that involves donating your time and efforts.

To be effective, your volunteer efforts should be something you do long term. If your pilot resume shows you’ve only been a member/participant for three weeks, interviewers will probably see this as a ploy to pad your pilot resume. Likewise, you need to be an active member for such activities to count in your favor. If you’re an officer or founder/organizer, so much the better. If you just sign up and disappear for months on end, you’re not going to win any points with airline recruiters.

Awards and Honors: Awards you receive through school, work, or community involvement can be valuable additions to your pilot resume. Are you an Eagle Scout, Valedictorian, or Rotary Club award recipient? If so, let potential employers know! Such achievements are definitely worth drawing attention to (bold, italics, etc.), as they’re a great deal less common than most other listings on your pilot resume.

Specialized Knowledge/Foreign Language Aptitude: If you speak a foreign language, potential employers will certainly view you favorably. With the ever-increasing globalization of society, multilingual abilities are in high demand in nearly all fields. Aviation is no different, and your pilot resume is one of the places you can promote your aptitude to potential employers. Regardless of other skills you might have, language aptitude will surely work to your benefit.

Before you proclaim yourself a polyglot, let me further define the requirements for pilot resume inclusion. In order to claim foreign language proficiency, you need to be fluent (or at the very least, conversational) in the language in question. If your skills are limited to a dozen phrases you learned for your last vacation, forego promoting this on your pilot resume. The last thing you want is to get a surprise phone call from the airline in which they test your ability. Worse yet, you don’t want to get called out in front of a room full of interviewers. Unless you’re completely confident in your conversational abilities, don’t list foreign language skills on your pilot resume.

Avoiding the Circular File

While the primary purpose of your pilot resume is to secure an interview, you also want to take every precaution to avoid having your paperwork thrown out. This is where small mistakes can wreck your chances of employment. Though many of these errors will seem perfectly obvious, they continue to plague job applicants throughout the industry.

Spelling/Grammar Errors: If you do nothing else, triple-check your pilot resume for simple errors. Regardless of how impressive your credentials might be, they won’t make up for a pilot resume that’s loaded with typos. Don’t rely on your computer’s spell checker to catch all mistakes either. Look up any words you’re not 100% sure about. Have at least three other people proofread your docs (ideally English majors/teachers). Pore over every letter on the page multiple times. Simple errors can lurk nearly anywhere, though none will improve your odds of a job offer.

Inaccurate Dates/Addresses/Numbers: You’d be surprised at how many job seekers don’t bother to verify the info they list on their paperwork. Many appear to guesstimate GPAs, employment dates, and all matter of numbers-related info. While it takes time, it’s absolutely imperative that you verify everything listed on your documents. Airline recruiters WILL conduct background checks, and any surprises will only hurt your chances.

Addresses, phone numbers, and emails do change from time to time. Make sure all such info on your pilot resume is current at the time of submission. Not sure of your exact employment dates? Call former employers and verify what they have listed. Can’t remember when you earned your degree? Any college’s records department can look this up for you. Though it might cost you a few hours, ensuring the accuracy of your information is critical to advancing in the hiring process.

Embellishments: Nothing will do you more harm than claiming credentials you don’t have. While we all want to look good for potential employers, asserting falsehoods can do irreparable damage to your career. A single instance will have an airline believing you’re untrustworthy, which could even get your name blacklisted. Additionally, bear in mind that professional aviation is a very small community. People talk, so a mistake you make at one company can easily follow you elsewhere. Whatever you do, NEVER claim a credential unless you can prove you truly possess it.

Read World Numbers

If you’ve stuck with me this far, you know that a professional pilot resume is critical to succeeding as a pro pilot. This single document is the foundation upon which so much of your career success will be based. Just as you wouldn’t skimp on your flight training, be sure to devote the necessary time and discipline to crafting an outstanding pilot resume.

For those of you who are still skeptical, let me provide a little firsthand experience as to how important a professional pilot resume can be. In the dark days following 9/11, I was a recent college grad competing for a CFI job in a market saturated with unemployed aviators. On one occasion, I received an invitation to interview for a job I had found online. During the interview, the hiring manager said I was one of seven individuals invited to interview out of over 250 (and climbing) applicants. Though I didn’t get the job, I beat out over 97% of applicants based entirely on my pilot resume.

A few months later, I received an invitation to interview for another CFI position. I later learned the company in question had received approximately 800 applications for the four open slots. Eighty received brief phone interviews, 12 were invited to personal interviews, and I was one of the four interviewees offered a job. Again, my pilot resume alone was responsible for placing me ahead of at least 90% of the competition. Follow the guidelines I’ve mentioned in this section and you too can give yourself a competitive edge over the masses.

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Also, check out our sample pilot cover letter which you will obviously need when applying to potential employers.