As we continue to discuss and experience first-hand, the predicted Global Pilot Shortage is upon us and expected to get worse before it gets better. At the same time, Air Travel the world over is increasing steadily.
One of the advantages of this global pilot shortage is an increase in the number of lucrative overseas contracts for experienced pilots, usually Captains, with a corresponding increase in tax free pay.
For the adventurous type, contract positions overseas can be wonderful opportunities to experience new cultures, meet new people, operate brand new airplanes into new airports, and even upgauge your aircraft type - for example an experienced Boeing B737NG Captain can in certain cases secure a position as a B787 or B777 Wide-body Captain and likewise, an experienced Airbus A320 Captain can often qualify for lucrative A330 or A350 Captain postings.
But first ...one must jump through all of the hoops.
And today we want to discuss the all-important 'Medical Hoop'.
In your home country, you may have no difficulty keeping your Aviation Medical each year. However - Aviation Authorities in other countries often have much more strict and intensive Initial Aviation Medical testing requirements, and contract jobs in China, South East Asia, and the Middle East can demand greater medical scrutiny. A Contract Job Medical is like nothing you have ever experienced - taking an entire day or even two days of thorough medical testing and examination.
On the day of the medical, expect the unexpected. For example, in addition to the regular Aviation Medical checks such as vision and hearing tests, the Chinese Aviation Medical includes ultrasound scans of all vital organs, MRI brain scan, as well as an inspection of your entire body for skin lesions, moles, scars, etc - requiring explanations for all marks and blemishes found, including possible medical records to back them up. Full blood work will be done, as well as BMI and Cholesterol Levels. They also conduct a deep squat test. What is a deep squat test? During the inspection of your skin (naked by the way) candidates are asked to squat a number of times with feet in different positions, designed to test functional mobility. Do some practice feet-together naked-squats at home. How low can you go? It is harder than it you think.
In the grand scheme of things, all of this testing means:
The Contract Job Medical is much more than a medical. It is an Insurance Policy for the Airline. The authorities want to probe you and test you in everyway possible to ensure you are fit to fly, healthy, and low-risk in the years to come. In essence, these high-paying airlines are looking for extremely healthy pilots with low chance of skin cancer, low BMI if possible, no pre-existing conditions, and healthy cholesterol levels.
Ask around. You will soon learn that most unsuccessful candidates fail at the medical stage.
So our advice to you is to plan ahead. Maximize your health - do yoga (try out some yoga) to improve flexibility, workout, eat well and lower cholesterol, keep your weight down to keep your BMI in an acceptable range, and get enough sleep (if you can with your roster!!)
Many will argue ... 'well that has nothing to do with how I fly the airplane'.
These pilots are unfotunately missing the point. And this is critically important: It is not about your fitness to fly that particular day. It is more about the airline trying to keep its risk low in terms of who they hire. The airlines are looking at you 'two plus years ahead' and deciding at that point in time whether or not you are worth the risk. The healthiest candidates happen to be the lowest risk candidates - and therefore highly sought after.
Interestingly - this level of testing is only done at the initial medical, introducing you to their system in a way. Once hired, and flying the line, you will return to what many consider to be 'Normal Medicals'. That is the good news. The not-so-good news is during the medical, you receive little to no feedback on how it is all going from their side.
There are many benefits to taking a lucrative job overseas. If interested, definitely think ahead and plan ahead for this Initial Hire Medical Testing. Ace this first medical and you basically ace the interview.