Non-flying Careers in the Aviation Industry
AVJobs Featured

Non-flying Careers in the Aviation Industry

DALLAS — There are many exciting career opportunities in the aviation sector. Although there are many ways to earn a living through flying, there are also a wide variety of diverse and rewarding non-flying careers that are worth exploring.

Today, we’re highlighting a few aviation career paths that don’t involve flying.


Airport Operations Specialists

Airports go way beyond runways and aircraft. They are key regional economic drivers and employ tens of thousands of people in everything from marketing to commercial management positions.

Along with typical business functions, airports also offer aviation-related positions. The most recognized and dynamic would be that of the airport operations specialists. The responsibilities of this position can vary depending on the size of an airport; however, the core responsibilities remain the same.

Operations specialists are tasked with ensuring the safe and secure operation of the airfield. Responsibilities can include airfield inspections, airfield maintenance, and snow clearing. The latter involves operating heavy equipment in mostly whiteout conditions.

Depending on the size of the airport, operations specialists may also be involved in wildlife management, fuel bulk plant operations, as well as responding to security/emergency threats. The role of an operations specialist is ever-changing and has almost unlimited potential.

Air traffic control tower at KDEN. Photo: Michael Rodeback/Airways

Air Traffic Controllers

Known as the “eyes of the sky”, air traffic controllers hold one of the most coveted jobs in the aviation industry. Controllers are very highly trained professionals and masters of their craft. Without them, large airports would plunge into chaos.

Training for an air traffic controller can take up to two years, depending on the country and position. In Canada, NAV Canada employs all air traffic service positions in the country. Canadian air traffic controllers can work anywhere in the country, plus they earn a respectable salary.

Air traffic controllers are trained for a specific position or unit. Controllers can specialize in local area control (tower, ground, etc.) as well as radar control (terminal and center). Controllers can control airports with varying levels and types of traffic, anything from flight schools to more general aviation-oriented airports all the way to large international airports.

Despite the high salary and prestige, the job of an air traffic controller is consistently ranked one of the most stressful jobs on the planet. Lives of thousands of people and millions of dollars worth of aircraft rest in their hands. The question is, is the risk worth the reward for some people?

Ground crew servicing aircraft. Photo: Adrian Nowakowski

Ramp Agents

These two jobs are the bread and butter of any airline operation at an airport. Passengers cannot be checked in, bags cannot be loaded, and even flights cannot be boarded without them. A ramp agent’s or customer service agent’s job can be extremely stressful at times.

Ramp agents are the “boots on the ground” when it comes to aircraft ground operations. A ramp agent’s tasks include baggage loading and unloading, marshaling, and even using a tug to push the aircraft off the gate.

On-time performance can depend on the ramp agents, which is a challenge they are willing to accept.

Photo: Miami International Airport

Customer Service Agents

While the ramp agents service the aircraft airside, customer service agents are taking care of the passengers. From check-in to boarding, customer service agents are tasked with customer care all throughout the process.

The majority of ramp agents and customer service agents are hired by the airlines themselves. However, it is becoming more common for airlines to hire third-party companies to handle these services on their behalf.

Companies such as Menzies Aviation, Swissport, and Airport Terminal Services do just this.

Airport firefighting requires special engines and equipment. Photo: Michal Mendyk/Airways

Emergency Response Team

Aircraft emergencies are rare. Still, having a rapid emergency response force on airport property is vital.

Airport firefighters are highly trained professionals, as aircraft fires are a beast of their own. Aircraft fuel is highly flammable, and with potentially hundreds of lives to save, that is where the complexity of aircraft rescue firefighting is truly shown.

Airport fire rescue goes beyond just aircraft, however. Just like a regular fire department, airport fire services are responsible for responding to any emergency on airport property. Medical emergencies, fire alarm activations, and vehicle accidents are all incidents the typical airport fire service responds to on a daily basis.

A Cleveland Hopkins International Airport Police officer patrols the airport perimeter in a Chevy Tahoe Police Cruiser. Photo: Aeroplanepics0112, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Airport Police Officer

Airport police units are security police agents assigned to perform law enforcement functions at airports. They provide a wide range of law enforcement duties and responsibilities including patrol, investigation, traffic flow management, and control and response to airport emergencies.

Just like in any city or town, airport law enforcement plays an integral role in safeguarding the general public. Major airport hubs have their own airport police service, whose officers are responsible for safeguarding the public from any threat, as well as acting as a crime deterrent.

Airport Police departments serve the entire airport campus, including patrolling the highways surrounding the airport, parking ramps, terminal buildings, roadways, and curbside areas.

They also have mutual aid agreements with other local police departments and are active in the communities surrounding the airport.

Emirates Aviation University. Photo: Emirates Group

Flight Dispatchers

A position in airline operations is the perfect job for anyone who is good at quick thinking and problem-solving. A variety of names, including ‘flight dispatcher’, ‘airline dispatcher’, or ‘flight operations officer’, encompass this hard-working group of flight dispatchers working in airline SOCCs (system operations control centers).

Airline dispatchers have an interesting and rewarding career. They are primarily responsible for flight planning and flight following. However, they can be involved with load planning as well.

When planning flight paths, flight dispatchers take into account aircraft performance and loading, en route winds, thunderstorm and turbulence forecasts, airspace restrictions, and airport conditions. Additionally, dispatchers offer a flight-tracking service and inform pilots when conditions change. They typically work in the airline’s operations center.

In the United States and Canada, the flight dispatcher shares legal responsibility with the commander of the aircraft (joint responsibility dispatch system).

Photo: TSA

Aviation Security Personnel

Often one of the most annoying parts of commercial air travel, airport security screening is the first line of defense against terrorism. Since 9/11, airport security has become a focal point for aviation authorities across the globe.

Security screeners are often employed by federal agencies. For Canada, it is the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA). For the US, it is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and for the UK, it is the Department of Transport. These agencies provide more or less the same service as per the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) guidelines.

Airport security screeners are mostly tasked with staffing the X-ray and metal detector machines at the security checkpoint. Additionally, and depending on the location, airport security screeners can also be involved in responding to security threats throughout the airport and ensuring the efficiency of security checkpoints.

Photo: American Airlines

Aircraft Maintenance Engineers

Keeping aircraft flying in optimal condition is a number one priority for any airline. This is where highly qualified aircraft maintenance engineers (AMEs) come in. They are responsible for the maintenance of all aircraft structures and electronics.

Aeronautical engineers commonly work with other technicians, designers, and mechanics to plan and develop aircraft and aircraft components.

Aircraft Maintenance Engineers can specialize their craft in specific parts of an airplane, such as avionics, engines, airframes, and even upholstery and trimmings.

Furthermore, AME trade courses can last anywhere from 19 months to 32 months, depending on the country of residence where the training takes place, so if you are interested in a technical and active career, aviation engineering and aircraft maintenance can be suitable options to consider.

Are there other important non-flying aviation jobs we missed? Be sure to leave your comments on our social media channels.

Featured Image: American Airlines

Joshua is an aviation student majoring in airline and airport management. A student pilot who loves being in the air, Joshua has hands-on experience working with airport authorities and fixed-base operators. He also enjoys traveling to new airports and trying out new airlines. Based in Canada.

You cannot copy content of this page