Is Indentured Servitude the answer to the world wide pilot shortage?

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Apparently some operators believe it is. Take Rex Air in Australia for example: 5K up front and nonrefundable will get you a 100k loan (25K you will pay separately) an Australian commercial/instrument rating and a job as a pilot in just 32 weeks.

Yes you too can go from your Mum’s basement to flying passengers in 8 months.

The catch? There’s always a catch, 7 years of what I consider indentured servitude. Yes you will be paid minus your loan payment and even a 10K bonus to pay off the loan for 6 years (100-60=40+25=65). but if you leave, the rate goes up and you owe a lot. As I read it the student will be paying $9,285.71 a year in principle alone. On commuter pilot wages, living in one of the most expensive places in the world.

Pilot Cadet Loan
The Pilot Cadet Loan is a low interest loan for $100,000 of the course fees. All successful
Cadets will receive the loan but to qualify for the low interest, they must spend at least 7
continuous years employed in the Rex Group. For each year of continuous employment
with Rex, a retention bonus of $10,000 is paid at the end of the first 6 anniversaries and
applied towards the repayment of the loan.
The loan is repayable over 7 years and repayment commences with initial employment in
the Rex Group. Repayments will be done by way of salary deduction and will be on a
sliding scale geared to salary so that the fortnightly repayment represents an affordable
proportion of the estimated pilot’s salary as he/she progresses in Rex.
The remaining $25,000 of the course fees are paid for by the cadet before course

Will this draw the best candidates for the job; is it safe? I think about some of the Airline Pilots I have met and trained with: PhD s, Medical Doctors, Space Shuttle Pilots, etc. College graduates and highly experienced. Some of the best the world has to offer, are cheap tickets worth the risk of 32 week pilots?

Don’t get me wrong I used student loans to get through the University of Missouri and into the Navy Flight program. It was highly competitive with a very large wash out rate. This is a “company store” filling cockpits in 32 weeks. It took me over 2 years to get winged and then another 6 months just to learn a fleet aircraft. This IMO is lowering the bar on safety.

it is a conflict of interest because the company needs pilots and is in control of the training. But even worse they have a financial incentive to get the student through. It begs the question what happens if a student fails? What if a FO can not upgrade? What if a line pilot loses his/her medical?

Is this a good idea?

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One comment on “Is Indentured Servitude the answer to the world wide pilot shortage?
  1. Justin says:

    I think they both possibly offer options that different folks may find valuable. On one hand, the Aussie outfit will pay you for your training essentially if you stay on board for 7 years(if I am understanding their scheme correctly). On the other hand, if you go to Skywest, you still pay for all your training yourself, but have the flexibility to go where you want, when you want. Their deal with ATP is no different than what the Comair Aviation Academy offered a decade ago, with the exception of getting a seniority number in advance of being on property.

    Cathay Pacific is going the indentured servitude route as well. You can get trained by CX via a ‘loan’ that you repay over 6 years. British Airways does this as well with some differences. At least with these two airlines, you can eventually make an OK amount of money eventually.

    In all honesty, they are all crummy options. If you are getting into this job, it better not be for the money. If you are lucky and the stars align, it pays off eventually, but the neophyte needs to really have an honest conversation with themselves and truly understand the pitfalls.

    Almost 50% of the airline pilots in the US are flying in regional jets. The numbers just don’t add up. Not everyone is going to a major.