If they didn’t tell you in flight school as you studied for your pilot's license, you certainly learn it pretty quick after you get into the airline industry that the pilot's license is only the beginning of a lifelong of learning and growing in a field that is always changing. So even after you get your career as a pilot launched and are making a living in the trade, there are always ways you can be working every day to keep up with what is going on not only in aviation generally but with your local airline industry and what is going on even within your own company.
It is for this reason that the best thing you can do for your career as well as for your day in and day out ability to stay on top of the game at the local level is become part of the tightly knit group of other pilots in your area. Pilots are a very unique breed of people and the experiences you have in the pilots seat of an airplane are unlike any other profession there is. So its natural you will won't to be together because you are a community of people who are the only ones that have that common experience.
Networking with other pilots gives you benefits that really cannot be quantified. And you really don’t go about this task in an organized fashion. You do so around the airport in the lounge as you encounter other pilots and you share details about the flying conditions that day or other important things pilots need to know. Not only is that valuable at the time but it can pay off long term. If something important develops during the day, you can find out about that before it affects your flight. Problems with the runway, with the tower or other issues that could dramatically affect your flight fly through a network of pilots far before any official notification.
Your network of pilots will become a network of friendships that can provide a support group one for the other in the case of emergencies. You will learn each others flight schedules and if one pilot cannot perform, there is someone that can step up and handle that flight. The network of pilots can also be self correcting. If one pilot needs some help getting back on top of his game, you and the other of your support group can pull him aside and talk him through he rough patch. That may even mean supporting each other during personal crisis or to get into a 12 step program. But this kind of support means you don’t have to let any pilot just fall out of the program if you are watching out for each other and helping each other when help is needed.
There are other levels of networking that you can tap into as a member of the aviation community that you may not have thought of before. Even though we think of the FAA as that big governmental agency in the sky, this agency is staffed by people who have a vested interest in taking care of pilots and making sure everybody lives up to some standards to the industry is safe and profitable. There are local members of the FAA who would like nothing more than to know every single pilot better to find out how the agency can serve your needs. You may not know this but the FAA holds meetings every other week that are classes for pilots just like you to help you stay up to date with your education and to answer any questions that may have come up about the industry and the FAAs relationship to it. The FAA offers free training and publications all focused exclusively on the aviation industry that you can take advantage of just for the asking. So include the local FAA representatives in your network of professional associations. It will pay you well to tap this huge government resource.
But don’t limit your networking just to these two groups. Get to know the mechanics that take care of the airplanes your lives depend on. You would even do well to stay current with what is going on with the flight instructors who are training new pilots as they are often more up to date on the industry than old pros like you.
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