by Clint White



The last decade has certainly not been kind to aviation. After the disastrous years following 9/11 and just as it seemed the industry has recovered we went through the devastating “Great Recession” of 2008. The effects are still being felt today. Many are worried with crashing oil prices, low paying jobs and and overall economic stagnation (especially of the middle class) that another recession is right around the corner.

While its hard to predict the future, it is important to us as pilots  to stay on top to these things and to adapt to the rapid changes that are coming. In the last economic downturn I personally had to completely change who I was in the industry and “reinvent” myself. It wasn't easy, it took hard work and time, but hopefully I can help others through my experience and advice….

Prior to 2008 things were going swimmingly. I was newly married, had a good job and house was making good money. Almost overnight the job disappeared, the house was worth half what I paid for it and the other two were putting tremendous stress on my marriage. I made sure that my little “pity party” was short as I needed to be responsible for my family, but frankly at the time I didn't know where to turn or start. You couldn't buy a job by the fall of 2008…

My very first idea was to adapt to new technology, especially social media… At that time Facebook was growing rapidly and Twitter and LinkedIn were quickly becoming the social media norm. I didn't cover up I was out of work and needed help, but I also didn't beg. What I did was start my first profiles online and networked with others. I also took advantage of any platform I could use to get my name out there. I was fortunate to appear at the time on CNN “30 second pitch” through Facebook which put my on national TV and also making contacts with others who found themselves out of work but looking to use social media to get themselves coverage and opportunities. I worked tirelessly on both.

There were many false starts and dead ends, but each step took me closer to finding a great new job and the ability to pivot in to new technology allowed me to expand my talents. I also started a blog on Wordpress at the time “” to gain additional exposure.

The technologies of today are expanding at an ever faster rate. Platforms like Snapchat and Instagram can allow a person (if done properly) to get additional exposure and make additional contact. These platforms are often seen as less professional and more personal, but I am finding that with the current generation there is less formality, though I have yet to see it in aviation. Also, these platforms allow you to show potential employers that you are more than just another resume.

I did what it took to make money if I wasn't flying….Despite what you may hear from the politicians, unemployment doesn’t pay well. You aren't going to make your car payment or mortgage on unemployment. One thing my father taught me is that when things get tough you need to “hustle”. That means take a job, any job that will (LEAGALLY) make you money. I've never said there is a job beneath me. I was able to find contract work to make some money on the side. Frankly, I would have even sold my blood if that what it took (which I had done once in the past). Don't be too proud to take care of yourself and your family.

These days especially we now have the “sharing economy” or “gig economy” basically the decline of full time work for more “contract” or “on demand” style work. It benefits are still to be measured but especially with services like UBER or LYFT there is now another way to make income. These platforms haven't come without their detractors, but I WISH such things had been available when I was unemployed in 2008. I would have had much less debt that I am still working through 8 years later.

Also, if you have another talent, MONETIZE IT! Can you paint, sell drawings…can you write…blog and gain an audience someone just might pay you for it. It called having multiple sources of income with the uncertainty of aviation ALWAYS have a fallback.

I learned to be flexible in life…cut your losses if it's bankrupting you…There were many difficult decisions during that time. I gained employment in two other jobs only to have both businesses fold within 6 months. My wife could only find a minimum wage job, but it was something. We even spent a short time on food stamps, but when opportunity came in 2010 we knew we needed to be flexible. That meant two things…go to where the work was (In Miami for us) and…cut our losses. Our house was a tremendous source of stress and I was never going to get back what I paid for it. We made the difficult decision to “short sale” the house, but it was the smartest move we ever made as we were able to downscale our life in Miami. We have NEVER looked back.

Realize Aviation is Changing…..Drones, driverless cars…driverless planes? Perhaps not for a while, but there is a tremendous amount of momentum to remove the human element from much of transportation and that means the pilot, perhaps single pilot airlines in the future. There are already single pilot business jets. What it means for you the pilot is that while I believe flying is STILL A CAREER. You MUST be flexible, LEARN ANOTHER SKILL. Learn how to code, or use a drone. One piece of advice is learn how to sell. I just don't see a future with a robot salesperson in most industries. The more skills you have the less likely you will find yourself out of work in the next downturn. We no longer live in a “one-job” one skill world. You need to be more “well rounded”.  Things can and do change quickly. I've lived it! Embrace it.

Economies rise and fall as do careers sometimes. It's how we adapt to adversity that determines our success for failure.

How have you been able to adapt since that last downturn? Do you think another is on its way? We would love to hear your comments.