Timothy Short loves to fly and dreams of being a pilot since he was a child.
It is considered by many to be a glamorous and exciting job, flying to beautiful places with a big salary.
But like many other qualified pilots, he is no longer in the aviation industry, which now faces a very different reality after the devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The pilots have been made redundant or have had their hours reduced, while there are few new opportunities.
Plus, training costs a lot of money – and the newly qualified pilots told BBC Radio 4 You and yours program, they are now heavily in debt, unemployed.
“There’s an urban myth that every pilot’s moms and dads are multi-millionaires,” says Timothy.
His training cost over £ 70,000 but he has been hit twice by industry turmoil.
First, his employer Flybe went into liquidation in 2020. Then, just as he changed jobs for British Airways, flights were stranded by the global pandemic and work dried up.
Timothy took out loans to pay for his training and is now paying back £ 800 per month.
According to a survey conducted in January of this year, by aviation publisher FlightGlobal and Goose Recruitment, only 43% of pilots worldwide still fly for a living.
Things have gotten so bad that the industry is advising future pilots to consider another profession.
Phil Flowers of the Independent Pilots Association (IPA) says, “I wouldn’t advise anyone to be a pilot. Frankly, don’t.
“We estimate that the overall reduction in the number of pilots in the UK is currently between 15 and 20%. In short, there has probably been a loss of around 5,000 pilots.”
Timothy says that, contrary to popular belief, pilots don’t make a lot of money when they qualify. He says it’s because of the rise of low-cost airlines that pay lower wages.
“Most first officers make less than £ 40,000 a year. For Flybe, I was making less than £ 30,000 when I started and a maximum of £ 45,000 a year,” he says.
There is also a myth that pilots charge airlines for their training. In fact, many pilots pay for their training themselves, with loans and help from families. It is common for parents of interns to remortgage their homes and take out loans to pay for qualifications.
The pilots say the Pilots Together aviation charity helped them as they struggled during the pandemic. The association helped Timothy find a new job as a train driver.
Katy Lee is a pilot and administrator of Pilots Together. She says her flight schedule has halved: “Actually, I fly maybe once a month. None of us are totally convinced that we’ll have a job in six months.”
Katy advises young people who want to become pilots that there is no future in aviation at the moment.
She advises not to spend tens of thousands of pounds on education and licensing fees, especially if it means your parents are remortgaging their house to pay for it.
IPA’s Mr Flowers says it’s hard to put a precise number on the devastation the pandemic has wrought on the aviation industry.
However, he adds: “If we assume that the figure of 20% of pilot job losses translates into similar financial losses, then the economic loss is around £ 10.4 billion, the tax loss of £ 1.74 billion and the total loss of aviation jobs is currently 200,000 jobs. “