3 Lessons Learned from a Career in Aviation

With the hope hindsight can become foresight for younger Flight Department personnel, experienced Aviation Director Andre Fodor shares three vital pieces of Business Aviation career advice he would tell his younger self...

Andre Fodor  |  27th May 2024
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    Andre Fodor
    Andre Fodor

    With a focused approach on global excellence and creativity, Andre Fodor has managed flight operations...

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    Three decades into my career in private aviation, I still get a kick when a new assignment pops up on my smartphone bringing with it fresh trip planning and logistics challenges.

    I know I’m not the only one. Only recently, a friend I met twenty years ago while flying charter called to say he’d been assigned a trip to the Galápagos Islands. We spent the next hour discussing routings, the over-water and fuel considerations, the required decontamination, and even the care needed to avoid the sea lions while walking about town!

    Together, we savored the planning and the adventure.

    The onset of the Covid pandemic was the first time I even considered that one day I would retire from a career that I love.

    The lockdown provided an opportunity to spend time with my family circle. That time showed me I could have interests beyond aviation and taught me when the day comes that I do finally hang up my flying goggles, there is plenty else to do.

    But in the meantime I’m thankful there is still plenty of fun to be had making a living in the skies first! I have yet to tire of it.

    As life takes the twists and turns which outline our careers as professional pilots, hindsight offers insights that could otherwise have made our journeys smoother, or even more rewarding.

    With that in mind, following is some advice I would offer if I could go back and speak to my younger self. As a budding private pilot I was eager to embark and develop on this exhilarating career path. The following is written with those in a similar position in mind. It is my hope that my hindsight can provide you with foresight to thrive in your own flying careers.

    Professional Pilots Must Learn and Adapt Continuously

    Aviation, and especially Business Aviation, is a kaleidoscope of innovation and evolving technology.

    Flying my 1946 Ercoupe under busy Class B airspace, with my iPad displaying weather and nearby ADS-B traffic I once found myself wondering how I’d managed to instruct for nearly 2,000 hours without the technology I now had at my disposal.

    The thought highlighted that if we are to thrive and take full advantage of our evolving airspace, we must develop mindsets of perpetual learning, renewing of skills, and adaptability.

    On another occasion, while discussing the purchase of an older single engine aircraft, the young mechanic doing the pre-purchase inspection reported that the cockpit was ‘old and obsolete’.

    This was because he didn’t know how to set the VOR and Localizer on such old avionics. While for him, it was all obsolete, sitting in the cockpit all I could see were familiar instruments – those which I had used for decades.

    The takeaway was that as we progress and chart our professional course in the Flight Department, it becomes paramount to stay abreast of industry developments, advancements, regulatory and emerging trends. Don’t allow yourself to become obsolete!

    The first thing I would urge my younger self to do is develop a hunger for knowledge. Seek opportunities for professional development. Learn, and allow yourself to be mentored. Acquire new skills, qualifications and specialized training programs.

    Adaptability is essential for Business Aviation professionals to navigate the ever-changing technical advancements, airspace upgrades, economic fluctuations and more. Whether you’re mastering the intricacies of new aircraft models, honing skills in aviation management, or delving into the nuances of safety protocols, every new lesson learnt enriches your expertise and opens doors to new opportunities.

    Be resilient and flexible to approach challenges with greater confidence and agility, turning obstacles into opportunities for growth.

    Professional Pilots Need Their Networks

    The world is getting smaller. Increasingly interconnected, professional success in private flying often hinges on the strength of the relationships you forge with colleagues and the wider industry.

    Networking has played a pivotal role in shaping my career and opening doors to new opportunities. It has been vital to invest time and effort in building a robust professional network.

    Whether you network through attending industry conferences, join aviation associations (and actively participate), or engage in online forums, these are all invaluable to expanding your circle of contacts.

    Perhaps something our past selves could remind our present selves is that in this increasingly online world, don’t forget face-to-face interactions are essential to career progression. Networking requires in-person contact, helping to deepen the relationships you establish based on mutual interests, respect and trust.

    Professional Pilots Need to Prioritize Work-Life Balance

    With the challenge of building a successful career and the demands of a fast-paced Flight Department, it is too easy to overlook the importance of a healthy life balance. There have been times I’ve needed to better understand when I was neglecting my own wellbeing to the unintended detriment of my professional performance.

    In the past I’ve made choices based on my career growth with no thought for the impact on family life. While there are occasions when work will need to come first (we must all work to live), it’s important to involve those your decisions will impact in your choices.

    How would I package that advice to my younger self? Strive to be holistic in your decision-making.

    Strike balance between career aspirations and personal pursuits. After all, a healthy personal life will ultimately reflect in your job performance. Be ambitious and focused on career progression, but don’t neglect time for hobbies, family, mental and physical health. A well-balanced life fosters resilience and sustains long-term success.

    In Summary...

    I have made many mistakes along my career path, but I’ve used the experiences to learn and – I believe – become a better leader.

    My younger self, if wiser, could have championed initiatives promoting mindfulness, stress management, and work-life integration, but I just didn’t know any better back then. How about you? Will you continue to learn from your own mistakes, or seek out experienced industry mentors to learn from faster?

    Stay positive, hopeful and take the long view. Don’t get involved in workplace politics or rumor mills. There are many opportunities in aviation, and our careers are long. I am sure my younger self would do it all over again!

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