If you’re looking to revamp your career, you could do a lot worse than commercial pilot. You have a flexible schedule (working just eight days a month!), often can travel at free or reduced rates, and typically get decent retirement and benefits packages. Now, thanks to a new promotion from JetBlue, you don’t even need experience to get in.
JetBlue, the airline known for its quality customer service and free wi-fi, recently announced a new four-year pilot training program, called Gateway Select, that is open to pretty much anyone (assuming you're 23 or older). The best part? No flying experience required.
According to JetBlue, it'll be a one-of-a-kind journey that takes a competency-based approach to flying and will be cost-effective to boot (assuming the $125,000 school fee isn't an issue for the pilot-to-be…). And yes, the program will cover lodging, food and training materials. During the course of your training, you'll go through full motion simulator training, learn threat and error management, deal with multi-crew/multi-engine operations and enough other cool things to make your 17-year-old self seriously geek out. And for your home base, you'll be calling JetBlue University in Orlando, Florida and CAE Oxford Aviation Academy in Phoenix, Arizona stomping grounds when you're not soaring through the skies. As for what happens one you complete the program requirements and the FAA's required 1,500 hours of flight time? You'll become a new hire at JetBlue.
In order to be considered, you'll have to write an essay describing why you want to be a pilot, submit an application fee and wait for a slew of next steps (if you move on in the selection process) like critical thinking, spacial orientation, and hand-eye coordination tests. With only 24 slots available in the new program, we're also guessing the acceptance rate mirrors the Ivy Leagues in terms of selectivity, so you better brush up on those job interview strategies. So is this really a good idea or just an expensive ploy?
"This is JetBlue saying we're going to take the best of the best to become a pilot. If it gets people excited about thinking about flying, that’s great," says Jeff Wise, aviation journalist and author of The Plane That Wasn’t There. Besides, when's the last time you thought of the pilot rather than, say, the movie offerings on your flight? "People often seem more focused on in-flight entertainment and complaining their WiFi isn’t good enough. Come on, something miraculous is happening here and you’re 35,000 feet in the air!”
Meanwhile, Ken Krentsa, retired commercial airline pilot and airport manager in Massachusetts, is a bit more skeptical: “It sounds like a very, very sterile environment; the true learning in flying comes from actually going out there and making decisions and experiencing issues like losing your engine or hydraulics or encountering mechanical difficulties." It's like going to culinary school and then entering the rush of a kitchen during dinner service; no amount of lectures and chef instructor classes is going to prepare you for working in a real-life scenario at a restaurant. Or, as Ken puts it, "there’s a difference between being educated and having world experience. It could be like getting thrown into a kitchen and everything is on fire!"
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