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Education, training and job prospects continue to trend upwards in several key aviation and aerospace sectors

By David Carr

Thinking about landing a well paying job in a high-tech industry? Consider a career in aviation and aerospace. Canada is one of the world’s leading aerospace nations. According to the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC), Canada’s aerospace manufacturing sector is ranked fifth among the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, and first in terms of relative importance to the manufacturing economy.
In addition, Canada has a strong air transport industry, including the award-winning Air Canada, one of the world’s 20 largest airlines, busy international airports such as Toronto’s Pearson and Vancouver International – both ranked in the global top 50 – and a thriving business aviation sector.
Aviation and aerospace is a diverse industry with a common challenge: from the cockpit to research and development (R&D), to the shop floor, the industry needs to constantly replenish skills to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive global environment.
What does this mean to the student considering a career in aviation? As Wings Careers in Aviation 2014 reports:
  • The North American airline industry will need 69,000 new pilots by 2030, or 3,450 per year, including approximately 350 new pilots per year
  • in Canada.
  • Flight school may no longer be enough to secure a job flying, and should be linked with a college degree or university diploma.
  • More than two-thirds of the total aerospace industry is qualified as skilled labour. The average salary for all employees in aerospace manufacturing is about $63,000, while the average across all manufacturing sectors is $51,000.
  • There are opportunities across the country, including design, assembly and integration of aircraft and engines in central Canada; parts manufacturing in Atlantic Canada; and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) in the west.

According to Transport Canada, there are more than 800 on-demand aviation service providers in Canada. The AIAC estimates that more than 400 aerospace firms employ more than 80,000 Canadians. This adds up to strong demand for hundreds of thousands of skilled professionals to keep aircraft flying and maintain Canada’s position as a lead manufacturer and exporter of airplanes, aero engines, landing gear, avionics and flight simulators, and as a top provider of higher-end and more sophisticated
MRO services.
Wings Careers in Aviation 2014, is your one-stop resource to launching a rewarding career in aviation. It contains brief descriptions of several leading aviation and aerospace sectors, as well as valuable information on education and training. The listings are intended as an introductory snapshot of the types of flight schools, and college and university courses, that are available; they do not reflect every option out there. More information can be found on the Wings Careers in Aviation micro site (
In addition to the 2014 Careers in Aviation supplement, Wings and Helicopters magazines will be following up on last year’s successful 2013 Careers in Aviation Expo in Toronto, with three career expos in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.


Flying high: strategies when picking a flight school

Canada has many excellent flight schools with different specialties for both fixed-wing and rotary-wing pilots. Picking the right school, however, can be intimidating, especially with little or no aviation experience. Novices can be excused for thinking they are flying blind. There is no association of accredited flight schools in Canada, and Transport Canada does not rank individual schools. So, where to begin? As anybody who has spent time in a cockpit will attest, aviation is a checklist driven industry. That is also a good starting point when selecting a school. Write down your aviation goals. If considering a career with a major airline, for example, you may want to look at flight schools with links to colleges that offer diploma programs. Students who prefer a career flying in Canada’s North or up the British Columbia coast will want to look at schools that specialize in bush and floatplane flying.
Once your career path has been set, begin talking to as many professionals as you can in your preferred field. Ask about how they entered the industry and what schools offer the best training. As last year’s Careers in Aviation Expo in Toronto illustrated, there is no shortage of industry professionals who love what they do and will take the time to talk about it.
The flight school listings in Wings Careers in Aviation 2014 offer a snapshot of schools across Canada and some of their advantages and aircraft. They represent just a small sampling of what’s out there, however, and are meant to give you an idea of what’s in the market. More options can be found at Please consider all of your requirements and options before making the decision that’s right for you.
Industry associations such as the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC), Canadian Business Aviation Association (CBAA) and Helicopter Association of Canada (HAC) are also excellent resources for information on education, training and job prospects.
Once your list of schools has been made, visit as many as possible. Arrive with questions for the instructors, insist on looking at the equipment and make certain you learn more about the school by talking with students. There are several things to consider when visiting or researching a flight school:

  • Training aircraft available: Ideally, you are looking at a school that has one training aircraft for every four or five full-time students, although that ratio changes with part-time students.
  • Maintenance: Training aircraft clock a lot of airtime and are often put through tough manoeuvres. Maintenance is an important consideration for both safety and scheduling.
  • Financing: Learning to fly is expensive. Ask if a school offers financing or has links with financial institutions that offer loans for flight training.

Most flight schools in Canada are cost competitive but the final cost will depend on what you want to get out of your training. Aircraft rental and instructor time, for example, is typically based on when the airplane is running and not just in the air. Some flight schools may charge for specific instructors.
There are approaches to minimizing costs. Most schools allow students to “pay as you go” and one option to lower costs is to pay for “blocks” of instructor and aircraft rental time in advance. Many schools also offer simulator training to build up skills, which can be a very attractive option that avoids the constant cost of renting a training aircraft.
Be careful that your eye on the bottom line does not shortchange your career prospects. For example, at helicopter school some students choose to learn on piston machines only to reduce costs, but given that the bulk of Canada’s helicopter fleet is turbine-powered, that is a career-limiting strategy.
Finally, avoid a common mistake of forgetting to factor in transport, accommodation and meals when assessing the cost of learning how to fly.

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