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. American Flier

    I honestly didn't expect to see a diatribe about union-vs-non union labor, but I feel compelled to wade into these waters, especially since the ignoramus tea-bag imbecile view is well represented here (Leo, et al).

    I don't really care what you think you know, Leo. You, like most right-wing idiots pull your facts out of your ass, or Fox News, which is is equally sourced and accurate. The labor movement of the early part of the last century brought you healthcare, the 40-hour week, workplace safety, child labor laws, paid vacation & sick leave, and on and on and on. But, far more importantly, it brought the ability to negotiate pay, benefits, work rules that affect not just their jobs, but workers performing similar jobs. In short, unions made the middle class.

    But I am sure you're undaunted by all this. The reason I know this is because I'd bet anything you don't work in a union now, nor have you ever. But you know everything you need to know, because you watch Fox News. You attend healthcare rallys to keep that black-devil president from giving us healthcare (yes, all tea-bag a-holes are racists). You think that these idiot governors (Walker, Haley, Perry, Kasich, Snyder and others)–who are on the payroll and are the complete property of the Koch brothers, ALEC, Freedom Works (Dick Armey)–who peddle the lie that breaking the back of the union has mean great things for these state's economies. The truth is that the best that these states have to offer are shitty service-sector jobs, or watered-down jobs, say in the auto industry, that pay around 60% of what UAW workers make. Of course there wouldn't be an auto industry at all if your side had prevailed. Remember all the cute little slogans "Government Motors" and let Detroit go bankrupt. Never mind that such a bankruptcy would have decimated the entire auto industry in this country because it would have destroyed the entire supply chain, which supplies all manufacturers.

    The stakes in tomorrow's election in Wisconsin have never been higher. Walker is out-financed and is outspending his opponent by 25 to 1 and the polls have him dead-even. If Walker wins, it's game over for labor, at least in the public sector in the country. Already, membership is down to a shadow of its former self, prior to all of Walker's union-stripping legislation.

    Why is he doing this? Because the corporate-criminal crowd (ala Romney) don't want there to be an opposition party. Citizens United has stacked the deck so heavily in favor of the Republican party, who only cares about the super-wealthy and corporations. But unions represent the last vestige of political opposition to corporate & wealthy donors and Walker's success will effectively drive a stake through the heart of labor, the party the represents labor (Democrats), and the entire middle class.

    Don't take my word for it. Read Krugman, Chomsky, The Nation. Listen to something other than angry, white, male programming (ala Rush, Beck and Michael Savage) and listen to Randi Rhodes (if you can find her), Thom Hartmann, Rachel Maddow, and Ed Shultz.

    "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts"
    -Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan

    June 4, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • ComSenseWiz

      The fact of the matter is that retirement and health benefits, relative to the private sector, have gotten out of hand. A an expert in the pension business, I can tell you that there is zero doubt that public employee pensions are way out of control. Those must be trimmed back as the unfunded liability to taxpayers is unsustainable. Those are the facts my friend whether you like it or understand it.

      June 5, 2012 at 7:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Real American Flyer

      Rachel "The Bull" Maddow and "Comrade" Ed Shultz??? Are you freaking serious??
      Get your commie a** out of here!

      June 5, 2012 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Samsc

      Well put. It is nice to know that there are still people that passed American History.

      June 5, 2012 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
    • E Money

      American Flier ... you are EXACTLY what is wrong with this country!

      Your so called facts are WRONG and you have less of a clue then brocolli!

      1) Do you even know what "et al" means ... I'm guessing not. If you did then you wouldn't have used it so impropperly!

      2) Unions were, at one time, exactly what this country needed and they did a great service to this country with what they got for the hard working blue collar American workers. Their time, however, has passed. All unions do is charge people excessive dues and use unethical tactics to get their employees unfairly overpaid. (Cement truck drivers went on strike in New York a few years ago because they thought $85/hr was not enough ... REALLY??? PLEASE!!!) (And, yes, I'd gladly drive a big truck in NYC for 2/3 of that $!)

      3) Letting Detroit Autocompanies would NOT have been detremental to any of them! They could have gone into reorganization and not only would every single employee kept their job but they wouldn't have STOLEN retirement funds from hard working middle classed Americans like the Obama plan did ... all to provide the Unions with unreasonable amounts of cash! (The majority of the Bond holders who got screwed by Obama in that deal were not 1%ers but they were hard working middle classed Americans trying to save for their retirement!)

      Your disgust with Corporate America and the rich is so off based it makes you sound pathetic.
      Fact: The richest 10% of Americans pay 90% of the taxes
      Fact: 47% of American pay NO taxes
      Fact: I have never gotten a job from a Union worker or someone on public assistance but I have had several jobs from corporations

      June 5, 2012 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      Smoke some more dope liberal.

      June 5, 2012 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
    • C. Williams

      Nice post for a flaming liberal! Interesting to note that you begin your lecture with a reference to the early part of last century. The over reaching bull headed unions of today are nothing like the unions of that era and you probably know this. And by the way, I was part of a union briefly and it was the most miserable working conditions that I have endured.
      Unions have outlived their useful lives unless you consider greed and corruption necessary .

      June 5, 2012 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Maddy Gascar

      Applause, applause, American Flyer!

      When y'all are working sixty and seventy dollar weeks on a thirty-five hour a week salary, while your CEO is getting record bonuses, and upper management tells yu you have no recourse because they basically own you, remember what others have fought for, and y'all laughed in their faces.
      When you have to pay more into your health-care than you can bring home to feed your family, remember.
      Keep decimating the middle class, fools.
      Keep taking away until we are nothing more than serf's at the whim of the kingdom of rich jackals.
      Keep making people who work their tails off the new poverty-stricken citizens.

      June 5, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  2. Oscar R Buergis

    The salaries offered to various job-categories show the estimation, that group has within the society. That shows not less than the society consideres the pilots to be idiots. Therfore they're right to look for jobs abroad to gain a decent remuneration. At the end, the critics in the begar-states can operate the planes themselves...

    June 5, 2012 at 5:47 am | Report abuse |
  3. unowhoitsme

    Prediction: More American airplane crashes.

    June 5, 2012 at 6:05 am | Report abuse |
  4. rick1948

    The domestic airlines are what is driving experienced American pilots overseas. One of the major reasons the airlines turned to toy airliners is so they could hire rookie pilots to fly them and pay them chump change to do it. The experienced American captains, who were flying the bigger airplanes had two choices – take a huge pay cut to fly to toy airplanes, or take their experience elsewhere.

    June 5, 2012 at 6:12 am | Report abuse |
  5. rkdres

    "The Dana Air MD-83 that crashed Sunday is a fairly new plane by African standards"...

    So what does that mean, 28 years old? More importantly, what are the standards there for maintenance and do they actually keep up with it. How do those standards compare to what we have here in the states as well as Europe?

    Answer these questions and I think you may find a clue as to why so many commercial planes go down in those parts of the world.

    June 5, 2012 at 6:18 am | Report abuse |
    • ronfor1

      One more question to answer.............a "flight engineer" on an MD-83....??? There's hardly enough room up there for the two pilots !!!

      June 5, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  6. Dave

    How good is that? They get paid more from the foreign airlines. Who has ever had to pull their arms and body in closer from the aisle on a foreign carrier? It's the norm on US carriers, to avoid being bumped by whatever's coming down the aisle. The pay is better and the service is better. 95% of staff on foreign airlines actually seem like they like their job.

    June 5, 2012 at 6:28 am | Report abuse |
  7. doppler

    Sad that CNN is such a blatantly obvious arm of the new order. Note they closed and/or will not allow any comments on the Nigerian crash stories. Probably due to almost every post commenting on just how bad their aviation is and that looting was the primary concern of the onlookers.

    June 5, 2012 at 6:36 am | Report abuse |
    • peridot2

      What (imaginary) new order is that, please? My spouse is an airline pilot and I'd love to know what you mean by this.

      Do tell.

      June 5, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
  8. Mike1964

    The MD-83 does not have a "Flight Engineer" as reported. Will reporters ever understand this business?

    June 5, 2012 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
    • JoMama

      Unfortunately Mike, today's media doesn't have to know a thing about what they're reporting, only how to sensationalize it. Sad.

      June 5, 2012 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
  9. cdonohoe

    I would have thought pilots would make $100,000 in the US. Is that not the case?

    June 5, 2012 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
    • peridot2

      Remember 9/11? Salaries were cut to the bone afterward. Pilots no longer make the big bucks. The airlines are hurting, like everyone else in this country.

      June 5, 2012 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  10. Smako

    Just why are there so many jobs available overseas? Could it be because the pilots that are being replaced were being overworked and NOT paid? You guys need to look at the reason jobs are available.

    June 5, 2012 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
  11. Humanist11

    Staring pay for a regional jet pilot is just under $20K/yr. That is a lot of responsibility for that money. I don't blame experienced pilots for running overseas to get paid what they are worth.

    June 5, 2012 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  12. cdonohoe

    Humanist11, that's crazy. I knew starting pilots didn't get paid all that much, but it was my impression that pay increased quickly. If senior pilots aren't making good money, it would seem they are underpaid.

    June 5, 2012 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  13. tuffyturf

    Growing up, my friends dad who was a captain was jobless when Pam Am went under... so he went to work in Sri Lanka.. He ended up leaving his wife and children and married some little Sri Lankan beauty.. I heard that he was stoned to death for breaking some religious hectic.. but who knows if that is true.. but he never came back.. Is going to work in a third world country worth $100K.. I think not, watch locked up abroad about the Nurse who goes to Saudi Arabia to work... all lies, and when you get there they take your passport and you are stuck in a cesspool and who cares if you are making $100K a year, when you no longer have freedom..

    June 5, 2012 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  14. cdonohoe

    tuffyturf, I guess that depends on the country to which you're moving and what companies you're working with. Your examples are extreme, but they are a fair warning to naive people.

    "Don't abandon your family" may be other good advice that you're unintentionally giving. :-)

    June 5, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. MannyHM

    I wonder if simulator training and testing includes co-pilot and navigator participation also. Flying a plane is teamwork and the team includes airplane maintenance.

    June 5, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
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