The economy may be recovering, but business aviation, which always lags recoveries, is still in the doldrums. Aircraft factories are operating at a fraction of capacity, and thousands of pilots, maintenance technicians, dispatchers and managers have been laid off.
The biggest risk during an extended layoff is that your currency— how recently you’ve practiced your profession—may lapse, which can make it nearly impossible to get re-hired. Some pilots and techs pick up contract work— part-time freelance jobs—but for those who can’t find anything, life can be grim.
One of the leading training companies, Flight Safety International, just announced an extension of a program to provide people who have trained with them in the past a chance to keep up their proficiency if they’ve been laid off. It’s not the first time FSI has done this; back in 2009 and ’10 they introduced the offer, “So this actually represents an extension of what we did back then,” says company spokesman Steve Phillips.
He credits company CEO Bruce Whitman with the original idea. “Bruce wanted us to come up with a way to help these people out, and this is the result,” Phillips says. The program is open to those have been “involuntarily unemployed since January 1, 2012,” according to a release. Pilots of business aircraft under a training contract with FSI at the time of layoff get no-cost training in whatever type aircraft they were training for.
Maintenance technicians who were enrolled in FSI’s Master Technician program at the time of involuntary job loss also receive the next course to completion for free. Pilots and technicians are not required to repay for the cost of the training.
Phillips says there’s no tax deduction for FSI, and although there will be some costs to the company, “The costs will be managed,” he says. “People in the program will be added to classes that are already scheduled, but yes, there is a cost for simulators and manuals and the like.”