Summer Hours

Pilots wanted: low pay, long hours.

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After the pig-pickin' party, most of the pilots will scatter, aviation's nomads in search of multi time. "It's time to move on," says Jody McGee, the most senior in the Aero Tours hierarchy with three years of tours and charters and 1,400 hours. "He has to grow up and leave," is how Mankedick puts it. But the door is always open. "Once they've flown for us they can stay in the Shed as long as they want," he says. "We'll try to keep them in beer money.

"Ninety-five percent say their summer here was the best flying they've ever done," Mankedick says. "Monitoring a big machine through the air via computers isn't flying." But, he concedes, "it pays a whole lot better."

O'Brien logged 400 of his 900 hours this summer, and will be flying corporate jet charters in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Mark Pfister, who logged half of his 1,000 hours this summer, may go to Atlanta for multi work. Bent, who logged 300 hours during his brief stay, is going back to school to study aviation science. Dreelin, who logged 320 hours flying banners for a total of 750, will winter over with Riebau, who will move into the Shed when it gets too cold and maybe learn some carpentry skills when the flying slows down.

Turner, who now has 1,400 hours, maps out his career. "My plan of attack is flying here until October at the latest," he says. "Then maybe fly canceled checks or light parts for two years, building up multi time, get some instrument time. Maybe I could meet up with a corporate who needs a first officer, stay with that company and upgrade to captain. It's who you talk to, like that 310. I couldn't come across an opportunity like that if I was renting. Five years from now I'd like to be flying for a commuter, then the airlines," or better yet, an air express outfit like Federal Express or UPS, where "there are no price wars and they don't furlough that often."

Turner is not worried about the current glut of airline pilots-in-waiting, and industry predictions are on his side. "I think opportunities in aviation are going to start to open up," he says. "The pilots who came out of Vietnam are in the airlines now, all getting close to mandatory retirement. Not to mention there aren't that many people starting up their student pilot licenses. I think there will be a drought eventually."

At summer's end, Chuck Turner, Mark Pfister, and Scott Challice headed to Marco Island, Florida, where Turner and Pfister started logging multi-engine time flying charters to Key West in a Cessna 310. Biplane Scott spent the winter going in circles, giving Waco rides and making killer tips.

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