U.S. pilots find high demand, high pay overseas
Foreign carriers are turning to U.S. pilots to fly their increasing number of jetliners.
June 4th, 2012
11:06 AM ET

U.S. pilots find high demand, high pay overseas

The pilot of the Nigerian jetliner that crashed in Lagos, the country's largest city, on Sunday was an American, said Oscar Wason, Dana Air's director of operations, on Monday.

Wason did not identify the pilot by name or hometown, but he is among a legion of U.S. pilots now captaining jets for foreign airlines, said Kit Darby, an aviation consultant in Peachtree City, Georgia.

"A lot of U.S. pilots are working overseas, more than ever before," Darby said. "It's pretty common."

Darby said that as airlines have consolidated in the U.S., the job market for experienced airline captains has become "stagnant." Experienced captains are losing seniority, and it may take them 10 to 20 years to get a captain's position back, he said.

So they turn overseas, where aviation is expanding and there is a clear need for the experience the Americans bring. They typically end up captaining jetliners with co-pilots and crew who are from their host countries or from other countries where aviation professionals are less experienced.

The co-pilot of the Dana Air MD-83 that crashed Sunday was from India and the flight engineer from Indonesia, Wason said.

"It's a challenging position, half trainer and half pilot," Darby said of captaining a foreign-flagged airliner. But the rewards can be substantial.

Americans signing on to pilot jetliners in the Middle East, China and India can make well over $100,000 a year, plus add-ons like housing, according to Darby.

He said a pilot working in Africa would probably make a bit less than those working in Asia or the Mideast but would still do well.

"The big deals come with the captain's seat," he said.

The Dana Air MD-83 that crashed Sunday is a fairly new plane by African standards and would probably provide a well-paying post to a captain, Darby said.

American pilots looking to work overseas may negotiate their own deals or be matched up with a foreign carrier through a recruitment service, he said.

Wasinc International is one of those services. The company's website currently lists 34 pilot positions with carriers in China.

For instance, Air China is hiring captains for Airbus A330 aircraft, and it will train. Pay is $4,000 a month during training and then $11,000 a month plus a $4,000 monthly living allowance once training is completed, according to the Wasinc ad.

The website BestAviation.net lists 101 pilot or first officer jobs in locations including China, Lithuania, Indonesia, Mauritania and South Korea.

In a report from February, Bloomberg said airlines in China will be hiring 16,000 pilots in the next three years, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

Shen Wei, a recruiter for China's Spring Air, told Bloomberg that China was a strong market for U.S. pilots.

“Everyone is facing a pilot shortage,” he's quoted as saying. “Foreign pilots are the quickest option.”

How do you know your airline is safe?

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Filed under: Aviation
soundoff (101 Responses)
  1. Mr.mackey

    Got to stop the crashes mkay

    June 4, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  2. mickey1313

    But the resources are not controlled by the people, so they have shoddy equipment. Sad but true. Colonialism has ravaged this nation just as our has most of Africa

    June 4, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. D. Evil

    I would rather be a bush pilot in africa than deal with american unions that benifit only lawyers.

    June 4, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pete

      @DEvil,are you an ex union employee,or are you one that's disgruntled because you didn't get the supposid fair shake,or a union wanne be of sorts..I am a retired UNION pipewelder with over 30 years working in the trade.I'm now retired,mind you the unlucky recipient of a career ending cancer.I'm a cancer survivor now and wouldn't trade my union card and time spent welding and fitting pipes nationwide for anything.I have great brothers and sisters all over this great country and when they found out of my bout with cancer they never stopped calling,sending cards,even flying in with family to visit,it doesn't get any better.So don't you try dragging any UNION thru the mud,because of us,you have lights,gasoline,all the chemicals and products made stateside because we UNION BROTHERS AND SISTERS BUILT IT,the refineries,factories,auto plants,nuclear power plants,conventional power plants and so on,the lists too long,that's how much UNIONS are involved.All your major cities were also built with Union hands,no rats back then to compete with our craftsmanship and knowledge,that's a fact you people don't know.We all had to have high school diplomas and when to Union apprentice schools for years to master our crafts..Our Union blood and vision built this great country,not you republican hypocrites who are chopping at the bit to destroy it....

      June 4, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • BRUCE

      BIEBER CAN FLY THE PLANE

      June 4, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Pete

    My exfather in law was a pilot with PanAm,flying the 747,he was layed off stateside because of his union alliance.He drove cabs,drove trucks,anything to bring money in.Then he got the call from a buddy about flying for a Saudi prince,who just happened to own a middle eastern air lines.He was hired and flew for them over 15 years till he got a call stateside,asking him if he'd like a job with Delta air lines,he accepted and worked there til finally retiring in 2004,as captain of a L1011 Airbus also having an European route.Sometimes having foriegn friends also helps because of his time spent flying combat missions in a Phantom fighter bomber for the AirForce while in Vietnam..His friends are world wide because of the military influence everywhere,its commonplace for him to get calls from Germany,Asia,Middle East ,anywhere a friend might be,he's never surprised knowing friends are still around thinking of him,that's the military and union brotherhood,it a tight knit group,they do stick together,that's true friendship...

    June 4, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zombie Iron Chef America

      Oh for the love of God, stop.

      June 4, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • BobZemko

      The L-1011 was not built by Airbus. It was built by Lockheed.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pete

      @BobZemko,my mistake on the make,sorry to Zombie,didn't mean to offend ya!!

      June 4, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  5. VET

    SOUNDS LIKE AN EARLIER TIME IN OUR HISTORY.

    June 4, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  6. s. bator

    roll the dice and take your chances when flying as a pilot overseas

    June 4, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Carl

    I love all the anti-union comments. Why don't you guys ask non-unionized U.S. commuter pilots working insane hours, sleeping in lawn chairs for 22K a year. Corporation's are people...HA!

    June 4, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill Duke

      Unions are for thugs. Look at the NFLPA defending the players who engaged in illegal bounties. The only thing unions ever did for me was take my money.

      June 4, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • BBQ

      exactly

      June 4, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Well...

      No one is making them work those jobs... that is their choice. There are plenty of piloting jobs in the world that pay well. Those people too dumb or not ambitious enough to go after have no one to blame for the current conditions but themselves.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jim

    One should point out here, this ex-Alaska Airlines MD-83 does not have a Flight Engineer position.

    June 4, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • BobZemko

      Wow, an airplane that can type on a computer !!!!

      June 4, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Rick Springfield

    Air America!

    June 4, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  10. cgs

    AirIndia needs help! "Day 22 of pilots' strike: Air India loss mounts to Rs 310 crore" 60 Million already lost!

    June 4, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jerry

    My brother in law is in the middle east flying for a very well respected airline. He had no choice with the American airline industry being what it is, there just was no alternative. He had 10 years as a Captain, a check ride Captian and instructor with thousands of flight hours coming up to the peak of his career with many years to give and no one wanted to talk with him. He loves the company, they treat him very well and his accomondations are as good as anything here in the US. However it's awful far from home and especially married with children. The sacrifice is great but you gotta do what you gotta do at the end of the day.

    June 4, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dan

    Guess OBL pilots did not work out.

    June 4, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  13. motofe

    Unions are a thing of the past. There was a time that they were needed but not in this time. They burden the companies they work for with high pays and benefits that is just insane. No wonder many companies are having troubled times. They have priced themselves so out of competition its plain crazy. I am sorry get an education and a good paying job....factory workers who screw one bolt in a car doesn't deserve a 100K salary I am sorry. I don't want to hear skilled labor either. This is directed at Pete.

    June 4, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. midogs2

    We should be sending the FAA maintenance inspectors as well.

    June 4, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. jorge washinsen

    It would be a good deal if they could take the pit crew with them.We know not what happened on approach but we will if Boeing is allowed access to the info boxes.Could have been an accident that no man could have prevented.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
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