Being An Airline Pilot

If you are reading this, I’m guessing at one time or another you have given some thought to becoming an Airline Pilot.  Perhaps you are considering spending some real money for college and flight training.  I mean, what’s not to love right?  That swanky cool looking uniform with the rank insignia that commands respect from anyone who dares look at you, traveling all over the world exploring new cities, your pick of the hot flight attendants each night, and of course that fat paycheck.

I really hate being the bearer of bad news, but unlike the 60′s and 70′s, its none of this at all.  What I’m going to give you here is a dosage of the truth.  Some is good, some is bad, but whatever it is, you can count on it being true.  You need this information before you get into this career field.  You need to know what I am going to tell you.  You are quite possibly about to plunk down $100k for a big mistake.  It’s also quite possible that mom was right all along and you should consider being a doctor instead.  You might be the right fit for the airlines, but then again you might not be and it’s better to find out now than later.  What you need to be is honest with yourself on how the things you read here apply to you.  What I am going to tell you here, no other authority will.  Flight Schools and Colleges are in the business of making money by taking your cash, they don’t want you to know anything about the downsides of being an Airline Pilot (or any other profession for that matter), that’s for you to figure out later when you are bankrupt and can’t discharge those school loans because they are government backed.  They are the last people who are going to give you objective advice.  Same goes for all the magazines you have been reading.  Every single one of them has ads for schools that will somehow fast track you right to the airlines.  Magazines get paid by flight schools and colleges to publish this stuff.

For some of you, this is going to be painful to read if you really have your heart set on doing this.  Many of you are going to read this and then read peoples comments who have gone before you who are agreeing with me, but you might still proceed forward, somehow the experience is going to be different for you right?  That is only because you are in love with the illusion of the airline pilot job and what you have seen on TV and in movies, not the real job with 14 hour duty days, stinky underwear, ramped divorce, kids who don’t remember who you are, missed holidays and birthdays, and cheap hotels with stains on the blankets and bed bug infestations.  You’ve never experienced disillusionment before.  And I did say job not career as you will find out.

Over time, things change and people change, what is important to you today as a single 20 something year old person may not be at all what is important to you in a few years when you are ready for a spouse and children.  If you can only take one thing away from this entire website it should be this- Don’t get trapped with no way out.  Don’t get your 4 year degree in Aviation, get it in IT or Business, or Marketing – anything but aviation!  Something with some teeth in the real working world and something that you can fall back on.  Even if this site turns out to be BS/non-applicable for you, you can’t stop your airline from going out of business or the inevitable furlough, it will happen to you, it happens to all pilots, its not if but when.  Or a strike.  We are dealing with an industry operating on a 5% profit margin, an industry that places chapter 11 bankruptcy filings in their long term planning strategy every 10 years to axe contracts, stock, and debt.  At some point you will be out of work for a period of time against your will wondering what the hell happened saying to yourself “this can’t be happening to me (again), am I going to have to start over at the bottom of the seniority list again?”  Do you know how many airline pilots I know that would leave flying if only they knew how to do something else?

If you don’t follow the above advice, your skills and experience outside of aviation will be enough to land a job at McDonald’s as a manager, but they won’t hire you because they will think you are over qualified when you are not.

Today’s vocabulary lesson – Disillusionment

“A feeling that arises from the discovery that something is not what it was anticipated to be, commonly held to be stronger than disappointment especially when a belief central to one’s identity is shown to be false.”

Still Interested?  Let’s get on with it then.  Chapter 1 – The Pilot Shortage

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