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My career can’t take off (Today 13 May)

My career can’t take off

$140,000 spent on pilot’s licence but I can’t land a job with local carriers

05:55 AM May 13, 2010
Letter from James Tan

 I AM a cadet pilot who has graduated from the flying college which trains all of Singapore Airline’s pilots, be it for the main fleet, cargo division, or SilkAir. I belong to a group of about 20 Singaporeans who were willing to pay for the training course at the Singapore Flying College (a subsidiary of SIA).

This training course cost me about $140,000 to complete.

Even though no promise of a job was made, I was still willing to go through the course hoping for at least an interview for consideration for an SIA job.

But the carrier seems to prefer to take in foreign nationals (including some from Malaysia, India and Hong Kong) over the current crop of local Singaporeans, who have coughed up a large amount of cash and have graduated with a Commercial Pilot Licence – only to be bypassed by this group of foreign nationals SIA has hired with zero hours of flying experience, and provided with training from scratch.

We Singaporeans are being overlooked by SIA without so much as an interview. Most of us have to look to the low-cost carriers like Jetstar and Tiger for jobs, as these are the only airlines based out of Singapore that can take in pilots like us with few hours of flying time.

However, Jetstar has a policy of taking in retired air force pilots, which means Tiger remains our only hope of employment.

Setting our sights on jobs with overseas airlines is proving to be a major hurdle. I have sent in more than 200 applications to airlines all over the world but I’m usually rejected because I am a low-hour pilot or because the aviation authority in that country has a job protection clause in place for their pilots from their own nations. For example, Malaysian and Indonesian carriers only allow low-hours pilots provided they are citizens of those countries.

This means the majority of the Singaporean pilots who have paid for their own training are hung out to dry, since we have to vie for limited places with the foreigners for cadet pilot positions, and we are not very attractive to airlines outside Singapore due to our low hours or the jobs policies put in place by other countries’ aviation authorities.

So, why does our national carrier prefer to take in foreign cadet pilots with zero hours of flying time over their own local pilots, who have paid their dues in the local pilot training school?

Aspiring pilots in Singapore who want to pay their own way through their training should think twice. Career opportunities are very limited and the cost of training is extremely high. Could SIA comment on why local pilots who were trained at their subsidiary training school aren’t given so much as a job interview?


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7 Responses to “My career can’t take off (Today 13 May)”

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  2. Viva Democracy says:

    NS & low pay for Singaporeans; jobs and scholarships for foreigners…

  3. The Independence says:

    They just want your money and kick you aside.
    While we sweat to serve NS to protect our country, We are neglected and no more important than FT.
    It is time for aspiring SG’an to fly out of Singapore for good.

  4. Fadil says:

    This is shocking!! I didn’t know SIA was this fucked up too!! 140K for a pilot’s license…is there anymore justice is this world??

    • Kara Arslan says:

      Hi Fadil,

      I already know this fact since a long long time ago. No matter what your poly or university lecturers like to say, the aviation industry in Singapore is much much smaller than what they like you to think. It is a tightly regulated industry. The ticket to a high flying career as a pilot in Singapore goes through only one organization: SIA. Forget about trying to bypass SIA and taking flying courses outside Singapore. They are not recognized. Forget about trying to fly with Qatar or Cathay or any other carriers in the region. They don’t train pilots. They like to poach the experienced ones from SIA.

      To be selected as a pilot-trainee, you don’t need any fancy degree or diploma in any aviation-related courses. Any degree will do. In fact, the minimum requirement for a pilot-trainee is that you only need GCE ‘A’ levels. 3 of my friends are pilots and 2 of them have business degrees from SMU and 1 of them have an Arts degree. Yes, you read me right. An arts degree. No fancy pancy aviation degree. So, you might wonder how do my friends managed to get selected for interview? The answer is simple: the ability to write, the ability to dress and present themselves well during the interview, and most importantly, the ability to talk cock and sing song in front of the interviewers. For SIA, its all about image. Forget about taking the private courses that you see in the newspapers about training and preparing you for a career as a pilot. They are all bullshit. And if you apply once to SIA and get rejected, don’t bother applying again. To SIA, once a failure will always be a failure.

      I can tell you more about the myths of the aviation industry in Singapore. I have lots of friends entering the aviation industry and joining SIA full of high hopes and dreams but eventually most of them left. Only two groups of people earn very well in the aviation industry: the top managers (mostly SIA scholars) and pilots. Forget about the cabin crews and the Licence Aircraft Engineers. They have to work like dogs to earn that much. Or marry pilots loh if you are one of the female cabin crews.

      • Fadil says:

        Pls elaborate more

        Anyway, yes I know of pilot who had an Arts degree too. Guess once you’re one of their pilots or managers ur all set for a high flying career (literally and figuratively).

        But I suppose LAEs, while not as well recompensed as the pilots or managers, are still paid reasonably?

  5. Kara Arslan says:

    To James Tan,

    All is not lost: you can still be a lecturer in one of the local polys. Most of my pilot-reject friends do that.

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