Wanted: Commercial jet airline pilots. No experience necessary. But you have only 12 days to apply.

That's literally the pitch right now for aspiring pilots who'd like to work for Ireland's Aer Lingus, flying as an entry-level first officer aboard Airbus A320 and A321 LR NEO aircraft.

It's an unusual program, one that could offer a pathway to a well-compensated career, where the cost of training can otherwise be prohibitive. Sign up, get accepted, train for 14 months--and then take the controls.

Here's the history of the program and the details--and, if you're interested in becoming a pilot for a famous airline or know someone who might be--the link for the initial application.

(If you do know someone who might be interested, keep in mind, the deadline to apply this year is May 13.)


Aer Lingus has been doing similar kinds of "we'll train you" recruitment drives and mentorship programs for decades, but this year's announcement comes in the midst of a worldwide pilot shortage that actually forced a small, regional U.S. airline to shut down recently.

And it's coming right after a Southwest Airlines captain landed a crippled Boeing 737 in Philadelphia last month. People credited her cool under pressure to her prior experience as one of the first female fighter pilots in the U.S. Navy.

Of course, most of today's airline pilots don't come from the military. Fortunately, it's unlikely you'll ever have to get into a dogfight with a Russian MiG while behind the controls of an Airbus or a Boeing 737.

As some non-military veteran pilots who contacted me after the Southwest story pointed out, you can learn everything you need to know about flying a commercial airliner from--no surprise--actually learning on a commercial airliner.


Obviously, they're not just going to put you in the cockpit and send you off to transport passengers. It all starts with a 14-month training program at an independent flight training school, selected and paid for by the airline.

Complete that, and you get a Multi Pilot's Commercial License, followed by 12 more weeks of training in Dublin on the A320. After that, you take the controls in the right-hand seat of an Aer Lingus airplane, as a pilot and first officer.

Although there may be some fine print that isn't obvious on the application site, it appears if you make it through the qualifications, you're pretty much assured a job. 


They don't say exactly what the job pays, except that it's "expected to be extremely high for a limited number of positions."

Elsewhere, Aer Lingus says they pay pilots who've been trained to fly their Airbus aircraft elsewhere an annual starting salary of 72,000 euros, which is about $86,541.

On top of that, the value of the training itself is significant. For example, JetBlue advertises a similar program to train aspiring pilots and place them as first officers with their airline--but the program charges aspiring students $125,000 to cover the training.

Here, the training is free--although, if you don't wind up working for Aer Lingus afterward for some reason, you'll have to repay the cost of the course. Also, "Aer Lingus will provide a small allowance during the course."

That sounds like it's not exactly full-time first officer pay, but it is something.


The soft qualifications are a little vague. They say they want people who are "technically-minded, mature, responsible, and committed to succeed."

You also have to be over 18, fluent in English, and have the right to live and work in the European Union. That last point might be a sticking point for Americans, so this is the time to figure out if one of your grandparents was born in Ireland, Italy, Poland, or Spain--or even if one of your great-grandparents was born in Hungary. 

Currently, Aer Lingus flies throughout Europe and to the United States and Canada. I can imagine that with no seniority you'd start your career doing the overnight back and forth between Dublin and Düsseldorf. But hey, North Rhine-Westphalia is beautiful this time of year.


The "fully sponsored and mentored Future Pilot Training Programme" starts this fall, but initial applications must be received by May 13 at 17.00 GMT, according to the program's website, which is also where you'll find the application. 

That's 5 p.m. to you and me. Better get used to those European timetables.