When you think about a career as a pilot, you probably picture a more traditional role, such as a commercial airline pilot or a certified flight instructor. The most exotic pilot job that people think of tends to be someone flying banners along the beach advertising the all-you-can-eat special at the local seafood joint. While all of these are certainly good jobs, especially with the current shortage of commercial airline pilots, you may end up pursuing a different career path in aviation than you first envisioned. The following is not an exhaustive list of options for a career in flying, but they are our favorites in the “most unusual” category. In no particular order, here are some aviation careers that take a different flight path.
- Weatherman with Wings – Have you always wanted to be a professional storm chaser? It’s a blustery job, but someone’s got to do it! Are you one of those awesome pilots who frequently shares PIREPs with ATC? If so, this may be a career path for you. If your plane is fitted with special weather detection devices, you’re already transmitting detailed weather information. However, a more specialized pilot career is that of “Hurricane Hunter” with the U.S. Air Force. These pilots have been flying into the face of the storm since 1944.
- Souls on Board – When filing a flight plan, have you ever wondered why you are asked to provide the number of “souls” on board instead of the number of people? The answer may surprise you, but it’s fairly obvious. In that rare event there is a plane crash, rescuers will want to know how many people were alive upon boarding, and therefore, how many people they need to look for. And if your aviation career includes that of transporting corpses, you already knew this answer. Yes, there are careers in flying freight and cargo of all types, including transporting the remains of the deceased back to their homes and families for burial. It is certainly an unusual career, but one that is deeply appreciated by families.
- Skywriter – Do you have a way with words? Well, even if you don’t, you can hone your flying skills (and your penmanship) by writing everything from “Look, Mom! I’m flying!” to “Will you marry me?” That’s right, highly skilled pilots have been skywriting for over a century, and you, too, can spell out these smoke signals for advertisers, romantics, or people who prefer really large print! This is a pilot career that requires a high level of maneuvering, so you’ll need to have logged a lot of hours in the cockpit. There is no autocorrect or spellcheck in the sky, so make sure your final draft is sky-ready!
- Crop Dusting – If you’ve seen Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller North by Northwest, you’ll never forget the famous scene showing Cary Grant chased by a crop duster. Go, Cary! In this career, we’re fairly certain you’ll never chase a famous movie star, but you will provide a tremendous agricultural service. In fact, these pilots are no longer called “crop dusters,” but are now known as “ag pilots” or “aerial applicators.” Like commercial airline pilots, ag pilots are in high demand.
- Bird’s-eye View – Pilots already have the best view from their “offices” (cockpits), so why not share that view with others! Yes, drones and radio-controlled devices are becoming more common for some types of aerial photography, and you’ll notice more and more aerial views in real estate advertisements these days. However, aerial photography pilots don’t have to worry about job security. Aerial photography is needed for a wide range of industries, such as cartography, environmental research, advertising, and even movie production. Say cheese!
These are our five favorite pilot jobs that fall into the “most unusual” category, but there is always something new to consider. We will help you achieve your dream of becoming a pilot. Then it’s up to you to choose which specific pilot career you want.