The TPN Mission: Paying It Forward!
The aviation world is a diverse and wild rollercoaster; pilots hail from all over the globe and come from every walk of life. When we started The Pilot Network 11 years ago-on Facebook, in this new thing called ‘Groups’-trying to figure out how to ask for letters of recommendation to fly for a pretty purple cargo outfit, we didn’t realize the scope of the industry we worked within. In recent years the aviation industry has witnessed a boom in knowledge sharing across the spectrum of all pilots and welcomed those from underrepresented backgrounds and nontraditional career trajectories. Now more than ever, pilots need a foundational network to connect with other industry professionals. An even more critical is for us seasoned veterans to educate those following in our footsteps to tightly weave their network in order to insulate our amazing profession from those who would alter it for the worse.
Back in 2012, The Pilot Network had no formal mission other than trying to get some former military bubbas together in order to solve the hiring riddle at the aforementioned cargo carrier. TPN has grown from that little endeavor on social media to over 30,000+ pilots. The mission of TPN is to foster a community that whole heartedly believes in the idea of ‘paying it forward’, no matter who you are or how you got involved in aviation. We want the largest array of pilots to seek out the Network, benefit from it, and then pay it forward for the next generation. A broad and diverse group of like-minded, professional aviators make us so much stronger, safer, and effective.
In some round table discussions at ‘TPN HQ’ and testimonials from member pilots over the years, one thing seems to stand out about aviation as opposed to many other career fields; the barrier to entry is unique. Information dissemination and communication about the ‘how to get started’ question stops many before they even start. Most of us know that there are, essentially, two paths to get involved in professional aviation; attend a civilian flight school or commission in the military. In a very brief summation, the first way is usually quite pricey and requires a certain set of sacrifices to succeed. The second method is far more financially forgiving (even rewarding if done correctly) with a far different set of challenges and requirements not everyone is capable of achieving. No matter which path a pilot takes to achieve the ultimate goal of earning a living doing what others pay to do, that barrier ‘how do I…’ still exists and needs eradicating.
Although the data is quite clear on who, demographically, fills up the two front seats in commercial aviation (and the military for that matter…and the single seaters too…you are not forgotten!), it seems as though there is an underlying tie that binds. For every child that looks skyward, sees the majesty of flight, and confidently states ‘I am gonna be a pilot’, there are countless others who believe that achieving that goal is an impossibility. We can discuss all sorts of reasons why, but the main thing comes down to exposure and mentorship. As individuals, as well as The Pilot Network at large, it only feels right and natural to make things ‘better than you found it’. It was not long ago when a young, active duty Air Force Captain would have a difficult time researching anything about airline pilot life. The options were limited and skewed. Now, that same Captain is awash in far more information than they can process. It is our mission, as a Network, to help that individual along in their journey. By paying it forward we raise the bar for all of us. We can grow this profession and protect our future in it as the final checkpoint that makes aviation safe and accessible to all.
As the number of TPN members has grown, the staff has grown too. This has increased our outreach to all pilots, future-present-past, to help them with that barrier of exposure. After a pilot earns their wings or gets that coveted ‘last job’, there is still so much more that will happen along the way. Financial, personal, emotional, and professional hurdles and opportunities are the only guarantee in the pilot life. We are uniquely positioned to share our experiences with former colleagues and old friends to grow our industry. It doesn’t stop there; we can reach much farther as a collective and expose those underrepresented demographics to a world that only lived within their dreams. The crown jewel of TPN occurs every April, where pilots have the opportunity to connect in real life and real time at TPNx. This is our premier networking conference for aviation professionals, from all backgrounds and from anywhere on the globe. Half job fair, half networking event and all hangar party, TPNx is a chance for all pilots to take control of their career and aviation lifestyle trajectory. The nature of in-person, real time, and social interaction is just not paralleled on a screen.
Through the growth of TPN’s ecosystem, opportunities arose to align with many fantastic organizations who are agents for cohesion and fervently believe in paying it forward as well. We at The Pilot Network are proud to call Women in Aviation (WAI), the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP), the Latin Pilot Association (LPA), the Professional Asian Pilots Association (PAPA), Pre-Flight Aviation Camp and many other wonderful organizations fellow agents in overcoming the barriers we as pilots face in all facets of our career. We were truly thrilled to host them at TPNx and look forward to many more opportunities to grow this great vocation of professional aviation. Please click on the links below to learn more about their individual missions, get involved with them, or share with a fellow pilot.
As a Network, we want to thank each of these organizations for what they do for our collective pilot community. Whether it is educational campaigns, scholarships for those in need, mentorship, or one of the many other mission sets they have at their disposal, our connection allows us to support pilots from underrepresented groups to achieve their ultimate goal and help our aviation community flourish. Diverse perspectives and experiences result in innovative solutions that benefit everyone, and a more welcoming industry inspires future generations to pursue aviation careers.
If ‘Paying it Forward’ sounds like your thing, then become part of this mission, there are several ways you can get involved with TPN. Please reach out to us firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.