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Virgin seeks low-hour pilots to crew new 737 MAXs

written by Hannah Dowling | August 9, 2022

New Virgin 737 MAX order resized
An artist’s impression of a Boeing 737 MAX 10 in Virgin Australia livery. (Virgin Australia)

Virgin Australia is on the lookout for new first officers to crew its growing fleet of Boeing 737s, including the 737 MAX 8 and MAX 10, with the “lowest minimum” flight-hour requirements seen in recent times for narrow-body aircraft.

It comes as the industry navigates a global shortage of qualified pilots, that has resulted in Australian pilots taking up roles overseas, as air travel markets abroad open up quicker than Australia’s domestic market.

According to a recruitment advertisement, the airline is taking on non-type rated pilots with a minimum requirement of 500 total command flight hours on any fixed-wing aircraft, and a minimum of 200 hours command on a multi-engined aircraft, alongside all other standard license and medical requirements.

These experience-related requirements fall far below those of startup budget airline Bonza, which was also recently recruiting for pilots on its fleet of 737 MAX jets.

At that time, Bonza sought out applicants with at least 3,000 total flight hours, and recent experience on a Boeing 737. Notably, as a startup, Bonza has fewer resources at hand than Virgin, and will face higher regulatory scrutiny, making its pilot requirements naturally higher.


According to Kirsty Ferguson, founder of aviation recruitment firm Pinstripe Solutions, Virgin’s advert marks the “lowest minimums we have seen for narrow-body operations”, and clears the way for local charter pilots and flight instructors to make their way into a commercial airline in Australia.

Further, Ferguson said that given the fact that endorsements and experience on the 737 MAX are “not common”, Virgin’s stance is a “forward thinking move”.

“An opportunity that stands on its own for non type rated pilots is VA’s 737 Max recruitment drive. With the lowest minimums we have seen for narrow body operations this has to be attractive,” she said.

Sweetening the deal, Virgin’s new pilots can opt for part-time rosters equivalent 50 or 75 per cent of full-time equivalent hours, while all pilots, including full-timers, are guaranteed at least 12 days off per month.

The job advertisement stated that roles are currently on offer at bases around the country, with progression opportunities to move into checking and training positions.

The news comes as Virgin nears the delivery of its first MAX jets.

Virgin was the first Australian airline to place an order for the next-generation Boeing 737 MAX before the jet’s controversial grounding and the COVID-19 pandemic. Most recently, the airline has said it expects to take delivery of its first MAXs in early 2023.

It also marks the latest initiative in Virgin’s ongoing recruitment drive, as it continues to navigate out of the aftermath of the  pandemic and the administration process.

Prior to exiting voluntary administration in November 2020, the airline anticipated its fleet would stand at a total of 58 aircraft. Virgin most recently announced it had expanded its 737 MAX order by four, which would take its new total fleet size to 88 upon delivery.

“Virgin Australia is currently recruiting for hundreds of roles across the business within our Cabin Crew, Pit Crew and Guest Services teams, as well as exciting opportunities in our corporate offices across Australia,” a Virgin Australia spokesperson told Australian Aviation.

“We are united by our ambition to be the most loved airline in Australia and we know our people are at the heart of our success.”

The airline currently has 29 737 MAX jets on order, a mix of the smaller MAX 8 variant and larger MAX 10. Deliveries of the smaller variant are expected to begin from as early as February 2023.

Meanwhile, the first 737 MAX was delivered to an Australian airline last month, with startup Bonza taking delivery of VH-UJT.

Bonza is still in the process of securing its Air Operators Certificate, with the process expected to be soon wrapped up in light of the delivery of its first aircraft — a key step in the AOC process.

The new airline intends to launch its first flights across its network of 17 destinations in “late September”.

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Comments (11)

  • Rocket


    Considering the history of this aircraft, why would they look for low hours pilots?? Surely, you’d want someone as experienced as possible to counteract any funny stuff from the software.

  • chris


    In the United States you need at least 1500 hours total flying experience to be a co pilot on an airliner. This FAA minimum requirement was born out of the tragedy of an ATR accident in Buffalo NY…

    • Paul


      It’s was a Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 not an ATR.

  • phil


    one slight clank with that – Max-10’s .. Bong haven’t decided whether to build that airframe – yet

  • Meepa C


    Recruiting while cutting pay and conditions… where will the industry go to next, maybe body snatching off the street?
    It’s high time that the airlines in Australia start paying the appropriate wages and have adequate time off, to keep the pilots they have!

  • Nuf Nuf


    The chickens have come home to roost. Executive pay continues to rise to obscene levels, yet our basic pay scales for rank and file workers as a proportion of the corporate profit is falling off a cliff. You (airline execs and CEO’s in general) treat workers with almost disdain, don’t be surprised when they leave.

    Australian pilots offered employment overseas simply with a phone interview, why wouldn’t they go. Feedback from abroad is “they feel appreciated”, a concept yet to seed in Australia.

    Integrity and a genuine interest in furthering the lot of the workers have long since gone, replaced by ego driven ladder clingers.

  • James Bergman


    That of course means present F/o upgrade to Capt ,?hope they at least experenced ?

  • Tony p


    No boeing max flying for me, so sorry, my air travels will only be with Qantas and Jetstar.

    • Vannus


      Couldn’t agree more, Tony p.

      We won’t be the only ones’ never boarding the Boeing 737-800MAX.
      I don’t care how many ‘assurances’ that come, or from whom they’re coming, the jet has proven itself unreliable, in the extreme.

      Plenty of other options’ available in this Country for the air traveller, which are much safer.

  • Hello! How can a pilot apply for a job?

  • Kyle Mallari


    Hello! Where can I send my resume?

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