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-Beyond the Cockpit-
Rewarding Aviation Careers Beyond Being a Pilot

Aviation is a big and exciting industry with many cool jobs besides being a pilot. While pilots are often in the spotlight, many other important roles help keep the skies safe and the airports running smoothly. From government jobs with the FAA to positions with commercial airlines and support companies, there's a lot you can do in aviation.

The national airspace system needs many different workers. The FAA and other government agencies support aviation, and commercial airlines have lots of non-flying jobs that are just as important. There are ground handlers, fixed-base operators, and air traffic controllers who help manage flights and keep everything on track. The FAA technical operations team fixes navigational aids across the country, ensuring planes can navigate safely.

Airports also need a variety of workers to operate efficiently. There are jobs in airport management, planning and development, finance, administration, business development, environmental impact, and facilities management. These roles help make sure airports run smoothly and serve passengers and airlines effectively.

Aviation offers great career opportunities for everyone, whether you're just starting out or thinking about a second career after being a pilot. The industry is always growing and changing, providing many exciting and rewarding paths for anyone interested in the world of flight.


Welcome to "Beyond the Cockpit," where we explore exciting and rewarding aviation careers beyond being a pilot. Discover the diverse roles that keep the aviation industry running smoothly, from air traffic control and airport operations to FAA technical operations and ground handling. Whether you're just starting out or considering a second career, aviation offers endless opportunities to soar. 

Look below for a breakdown to what other aviation opportunities are available!

Federal Government  Aviation Careers

Explore a variety of exciting and impactful careers within the federal government that support the aviation industry.


These roles ensure the safety, efficiency, and advancement of aviation in the United States.


Whether you're interested in managing air traffic, inspecting safety standards at an airport, airline, general aviation pilots, aircraft mechanics, or developing new aviation technologies, there's a federal aviation career for you.

  • Air Traffic Controller (FAA): Manage the safe and efficient movement of aircraft in the skies and on the ground.

  • Aviation Safety Inspector (FAA) (CalTrans): Ensure compliance with aviation regulations and safety standards at airports and other aviation related infrastructure.

  • FAA Technical Operations Specialist (FAA): Maintain and repair navigational aids and other critical infrastructure across the US national airspace system. 

  • Transportation Security Officer (TSA): Protect the traveling public by screening passengers and baggage. TSA also inspects airports, airlines, and cargo facilities at airports to enforce compliance the transportations security regulations (TSRs).

  • U.S Customs and (CBP): Protect the traveling public by screening passengers and baggage.

  • Aviation Research Engineer (NASA): Although NASA is known for its incredible aerospace industry projects, they also have a strong presence in the aviation industry. Aviation specific Engineers work on aviation projects, including human factors research, aviation safety reporting system (ASRS), air traffic management, and emerging technologies like EVTOL (Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing) and TFDM (Terminal Flight Data Manager).

  • Aviation Environmental Specialist (EPA): Address environmental impacts related to aviation activities (Airlines, Airports, and Maintenance Facilities) and infrastructure.

  • Aviation Weather Meteorologist (NOAA): Provide weather information and forecasts crucial for aviation operations.

  • Aviation Standards Inspector at District Offices (FAA): Oversee the certification and operational standards of pilots (general aviation operations and commercial service operations), aircraft, airports, and aviation service providers.

Airport Management & Operations

Airport management and operations encompass a diverse array of roles that ensure the efficient and effective functioning of airports. These careers involve overseeing day-to-day activities, planning for future development, and ensuring compliance with regulations to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for passengers and staff. Airports are like small cities, where almost any job you find int he city there is a job like that at the airport. Here are some key examples of careers in airport management and operations:

  • Airport Manager/Director: Oversee all airport operations, including staffing, budgeting, and compliance with regulations.

  • Airport Operations Specialist (Part 139 or General Aviation Airport Compliance): Coordinate daily airport activities, manage emergency response, and ensure compliance with FAA Part 139 regulations, or general aviation airport specific advisory circulars which govern airport certification and operations.

  • Airport Planner: Develop long-term plans for airport growth and infrastructure improvements.

  • Finance and Administration Manager: Manage airport finances, budgets, and administrative functions.

  • Business Development Manager: Identify and pursue opportunities for airport growth, including new airline partnerships and commercial ventures.

  • Environmental Impact Specialist: Monitor and mitigate the environmental impacts of airport operations and development projects.

  • Fire Department: The airport fire department is equipped and trained to handle aircraft emergencies, fires, and other hazardous situations. They play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of everyone at the airport.

  • Airport Police: The airport police provide law enforcement and security services. They handle everything from routine patrols and security checks to emergency response and crime prevention.

  • Facilities Manager: Oversee the maintenance and improvement of airport facilities, ensuring they are safe and operational.

  • Terminal Manager: Manage terminal operations, including passenger services, security, and tenant relations.

  • Customer Service Manager: Ensure a positive experience for passengers by overseeing customer service initiatives and handling complaints.

  • Airport Safety Officer: Develop and implement safety protocols to ensure the well-being of passengers and staff.

  • Planning, Design, and Construction Manager: Lead airport development projects, including runway expansions, terminal redesigns, and new facility construction.

  • Facility maintenance and infrastructure specialists:  Maintenance Teams including electricians, plumbers, painters, landscapers, sheet metal shop workers, steamfitters, and pavement repair personnel, and much more ensure that all airport and airfield facilities operate smoothly and efficiently."

  • Aviation Security Analyst (TSR 1542 Compliance): Ensure airport security measures comply with Transportation Security Regulations (TSR) 1542, develop security protocols, and analyze security operations.

These roles are essential for keeping airports running smoothly and ensuring they can meet the needs of travelers and the aviation industry.

Aviation Service Providers

Aviation service providers play a crucial role in ensuring the smooth operation of airports and the broader aviation industry. These companies and contractors offer a wide range of services that support various aspects of airport and airline operations, from construction and maintenance to wildlife management and engineering. Here are some key examples of aviation service provider careers:

  • Ground Handler: Manage the loading and unloading of aircraft, baggage handling, and aircraft marshaling.

  • Aircraft Maintenance Technician: Perform inspections, repairs, and maintenance on aircraft to ensure safety and compliance.

  • Airport Construction Manager: Oversee airport construction projects, including runways, terminals, and other infrastructure.

  • Wildlife Management Specialist: Implement strategies to manage and reduce wildlife hazards at airports.

  • Airport Engineer: Design, develop, and maintain airport facilities and infrastructure.

  • Fixed-Base Operator (FBO) Staff: Provide a range of services to private and general aviation aircraft, including fueling, hangar space, and concierge services.

  • Aviation Security Consultant: Develop and implement security protocols to protect airport facilities and passengers.

  • Ground Support Equipment Technician: Maintain and repair equipment used to service aircraft on the ground, such as tugs, refuelers, and de-icing trucks.

  • Aviation Environmental Consultant: Advise on environmental best practices and compliance for airport operations and development projects.

  • Catering Services Coordinator: Ensure the timely and efficient delivery of in-flight meals and catering services for airlines.

Airline Operations (Part 121, Part 135, and Cargo)

Airline operations involve a wide range of roles that ensure the smooth, safe, and efficient functioning of airline services. These careers include managing daily activities, planning for future development, and ensuring compliance with regulations. Here are some key examples of careers in airline operations:

Part 121 Operators (Major Airlines and Cargo Airlines)

Part 121 operators include major airlines that operate scheduled passenger and cargo flights. Careers in this sector focus on managing large-scale operations and providing exceptional service.

  • Airline Operations Manager: Oversee daily airline operations, including flight scheduling, crew management, and regulatory compliance.

  • Flight Dispatcher: Coordinate flight plans, monitor weather conditions, and communicate with pilots to ensure safe and efficient flight operations.

  • Customer Service Manager: Ensure a positive experience for passengers by overseeing check-in, boarding, and handling customer inquiries and complaints.

  • Maintenance Manager: Manage aircraft maintenance schedules and ensure all maintenance activities comply with safety regulations.

  • Revenue Management Analyst: Optimize ticket pricing and inventory to maximize airline revenue.

  • Inflight Services Manager: Oversee the quality of inflight services, including catering, entertainment, and passenger comfort.

  • Network Planner: Develop and manage airline route networks to maximize operational efficiency and market coverage.

  • Safety Manager: Implement and monitor safety protocols to ensure the well-being of passengers and crew.

Cargo Airlines (Also Part 121 Operators)

Cargo airlines focus on transporting goods and freight. Careers in this sector involve ensuring the timely and secure movement of cargo.

  • Cargo Operations Manager: Oversee cargo handling operations, including loading, unloading, and logistics management.

  • Loadmaster: Ensure cargo is properly loaded, secured, and balanced to maintain aircraft safety and performance.

  • Logistics Coordinator: Manage the logistics of cargo shipments, including tracking, scheduling, and coordinating with ground transportation.

  • Customs Compliance Specialist: Ensure all cargo shipments comply with international customs regulations and procedures.

  • Warehouse Manager: Oversee the storage, handling, and processing of cargo in airline warehouses.

  • Freight Forwarding Agent: Coordinate the shipment of goods on behalf of clients, including documentation and transportation arrangements.

Part 135 Operators (Charter and Regional Airlines)

Part 135 operators include charter and regional airlines that offer on-demand services and operate smaller aircraft. Careers in this sector involve more personalized and flexible operations.

  • Charter Operations Manager: Oversee the scheduling and coordination of charter flights, ensuring customer requirements are met.

  • Regional Operations Coordinator: Manage flight operations for regional routes, including crew scheduling and resource allocation.

  • Customer Experience Specialist: Provide personalized service to charter clients, ensuring a high level of customer satisfaction.

  • Fleet Manager: Oversee the maintenance and operational readiness of the aircraft fleet, ensuring compliance with safety regulations.

  • Flight Coordinator: Plan and manage flight logistics, including routing, fuel planning, and ground services coordination.

  • Sales and Marketing Manager: Develop strategies to attract new clients and expand the market presence of the airline's charter services.

These roles are vital for ensuring the success and efficiency of airline operations, whether for major airlines, cargo carriers, or charter and regional operators. Each position contributes to the overall goal of providing safe, reliable, and high-quality air transportation services.

Aviation Maintenance

Aviation maintenance is a critical field that ensures aircraft are safe and reliable for flight. There are various careers in aviation maintenance, each with specific roles and responsibilities. Here are some key examples of careers in aviation maintenance:

  1. Aircraft Maintenance Technician (AMT):

    • Perform routine inspections, maintenance, and repairs on aircraft. AMTs ensure that all parts of the aircraft, from the engine to the avionics, are functioning correctly and meet safety standards.

  2. Avionics Technician:

    • Specialize in the maintenance and repair of an aircraft's electronic systems, including navigation, communication, and flight control systems. Avionics technicians ensure these critical systems operate flawlessly.

  3. Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) Mechanic:

    • Certified to work on all parts of an aircraft, including the airframe (the body of the aircraft) and the powerplant (the engines). A&P mechanics perform detailed inspections and complex repairs, ensuring overall aircraft safety and performance.

  4. Inspection Authorization (IA) Mechanic:

    • Hold a higher level of certification that allows them to perform and sign off on major repairs and alterations, as well as conduct annual inspections. IA mechanics play a key role in ensuring long-term aircraft safety and compliance with regulations.

  5. Maintenance Planner:

    • Develop and oversee maintenance schedules and plans for aircraft. Maintenance planners ensure that all maintenance activities are performed on time and that resources are efficiently allocated.

  6. Maintenance Manager:

    • Oversee the maintenance department within an aviation organization. Maintenance managers ensure that all maintenance activities are completed safely, on time, and within budget. They also manage maintenance staff and coordinate with other departments.

  7. Quality Control Inspector:

    • Ensure that all maintenance work complies with industry standards and regulations. Quality control inspectors conduct detailed inspections and audits to maintain high safety and quality standards in aviation maintenance.

  8. Repair Technician:

    • Specialize in repairing specific parts or systems of an aircraft, such as engines, hydraulic systems, or landing gear. Repair technicians often work in specialized repair stations or facilities.

These careers in aviation maintenance are essential to the safety and efficiency of the aviation industry. They offer opportunities for hands-on work, problem-solving, and contributing to the overall safety of air travel.

About Me

My name is Michelle Tripp

I'm an aviation enthusiast and a San Jose State Aviation Graduate that works in Airport Operations at the San Francisco International Airport.

Reach out if you'd like to learn more about non-flying aviation career options!

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