Rick Heaton

Captain Rick Heaton, General Manager Flight Operations &
Chief Pilot, Network Aviation

Captain Rick Heaton has 40 years experience in the aviation industry across wide and varied roles that cover Corporate (VIP), Training and High Capacity Air Transport Operations.

He is currently the General Manager Flight Operations and Chief Pilot for Network Aviation which is the regional operation for the Qantas Group in Western Australia.

Captain Heaton has spent the last 22 years in a variety of management and training roles, including Head of Flight Operations and Chief Pilot for both low a high capacity carriers.

His career has seen him in Chief Pilot roles across the three major carriers in Australia, Qantas Group (Network Aviation), Alliance Airlines and the Virgin Group (Tigerair).

Before this, Captain Heaton recognises his time working with Aeromil Australia who offered him the opportunity to develop in Chief Pilot and management roles.

He has considerable experience as a Chief Pilot in organisations that have achieved significant growth trajectories both pre and post Covid.

During his career, as a Post Holder and Accountable Manager, he has had oversight  and responsibility for human resource recruitment campaigns to assure the ambitious growth of several carriers in somewhat challenging operational environments.

The exposure to the challenges of recruitment across a range of operational environments (including Covid) has fostered a passion for exploring what recruitment in the aviation industry may look like, post Covid.

Airline Recruitment in a Post Covid World

Over the last 40 years, the aviation industry has seen an almost involuntary and inevitable cycle of growth and decline, which to a large extent, has mirrored the economic growth of the major GDP’s at a global level.

Many of us have lived and worked through several of these cycles.

Through these cycles, we have seen what is an almost a comical approach by airline operators across the globe, of recruiting madly to the day of retrenchment and retrenching madly, to the day of recruitment.

That is in no way, a criticism of the management of airlines.

It is almost a statement of fact, and a validation, that this (Air Transport Operations) more than any other global industry, is so volatile, so fluent, that forward planning and strategy, meld almost inextricably.

This is particularly relevant, in respect to tactical decisions on crew numbers and recruitment requirements.

This presentation will consider not only the challenges that face airlines in the recruitment of pilots post pandemic, but also those difficulties in attracting candidates to essential no flying roles, to an industry that may no longer be as attractive or dare we say ‘glamorous’ to potential entrants and recruits.

The world wide shortage of pilots and operational personnel that was starting to ‘bite’ pre pandemic will undoubtable re emerge.

The likelihood of a ‘V’ shaped recovery is high. Emerging middle classes will drive air travel requirements post pandemic.

How as an industry, will we cope,  and what strategies can we employ, to attract and retain quality employees that will assure the industry’s ability to remain safe, relevant and efficient, now and into the foreseeable future?