Delta Air Lines is expected to furlough almost 1,950 pilots in October as the industry struggles to recover from the virus-induced downturn. Some pilots, not necessarily ones from Delta, who see the writing on the wall, are mulling over the idea of an occupation switch.
CNN spoke with airline pilot Michelle Bishop, who is anticipating pilots like herself will be laid off in the coming months, has explored other options:
"I'm just trying to fly as much as I can, while I can, because I love it," Bishop said, who has been an airline pilot for two decades, is now considering becoming a drone pilot.
Bishop, along with 2,000 other pilots, and 1,500 members of the general public, have signed up to become drone pilots for Connecticut-based startup Aquiline Drones.
Think of Aquiline as the Uber or Lyft for drone pilots. Customers log into an Aquiline smartphone app for drone services. The app matches the customer with the closet pilot to conduct a wide array of services, including aerial footage for weddings, real estate listings, and property surveying.
Bishop, including thousands of other pilots and non-pilots, will start Aquiline's licensing program, called "Flight to the Future" on September 01.
Airline pilots receive a cheaper rate for the Aquiline's licensing program than non-pilots.
The program is a six-eight week virtual course that will train folks in becoming drone pilots and familiarize themselves with Aquiline's backend systems. Once the students pass the Aquiline course and the Federal Aviation Administration's test, each drone pilot will be given an LLC, an option to finance a $4,000 drone, and insurance.
"I actually know zero about drones," Bishop said. "But if I was going to have to stop flying, I wanted the opportunity to learn something new."
Pilots are expected to earn a minimum of $300 per job, at a $150 per hour rate. CNN said:
"The business model comes straight from ridesharing business' playbook, and it's a model that's hailed by gig economy proponents as one that offers workers flexible hours and a "be your own boss" ethos. But it's also a model that comes with some drawbacks for workers: Independent contractors are not guaranteed affordable health insurance, paid time off, or any of the other benefits offered to full-time workers."
Bishop plans to start classes next week, though she said she's also interested in becoming a realtor.
With the travel and tourism industry busted, the airline industry in collapse, and carriers grounding fleets for the next couple of years - will airline pilots like Bishop, who are slated to be furloughed, transition to become drone pilots?