Moderators: richierich, ua900, PanAm_DC10, hOMSaR

Topic Author
Posts: 57
Joined: Sun Jan 09, 2022 6:40 pm

Life as a Pilot

Sun Jun 26, 2022 3:54 am

Hi All,
I am currently a teenager who has been fascinated with Aviation since I was a young child. As I am wrapping up high school and trying figure out what comes next, a career as a Pilot has been one that I have been quite interested in recently and I would love to hear from anyone who has experience working in any part of the Aviation sector on things that don’t often get talked about when people are learning more about what life and work is really like. I am specifically interested in hearing more about things such as the pros and cons of various aviation programs, the real world ROI of flight school (as I am aware that it can be quite expensive), and even airline specific topics like what some airlines are superior in (scheduling flexibility, pay, and career development) vs others.
Looking forward to hearing more!
Thank you!!
User avatar
Posts: 21135
Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2004 9:54 pm

Re: Life as a Pilot

Sun Jun 26, 2022 8:52 am


I made a post some years ago, which I am pasting in full below. Hopefully, it is not too dated. All my "opinion".

The main thing to think about if you're contemplating a career as a pilot is lifestyle. For me, not working nine-to-five is a big plus. I don't like regular hours. The downside is that I often work holidays, nights, and weekends. Have a serious think if this sort of non-routine routine is something you are ok with.

Another wrinkle is that you'll need to study for something your entire career, whether it be an upgrade, an type change, or just the next sim session.

Finally, think about the fact that you're always one failed medical away from an abrupt end to your flying career.

You will always:
- Have a gripe with management.
- Complain about your roster.
- Think that your life is epic despite all that. Living the dream, baby!!!

If you have flying in your heart, it's all worth it.

Aviation - Pilot training tips.
First thing to do: Get a first class aviation medical. You don’t want to go through all the education and then find out you have a medical issue that precludes you from getting a first class medical. In Hong Kong you can get both USA and HK medicals simultaneously from Dr. Oliver at Island Health in Discovery Bay.

Second thing: Take a couple of introductory lessons. While flying a little Cessna or Piper is far removed from flying an airliner, it does give you a good idea of what aviation is like. You’ll also be spending 250-1000 hours in small planes, then tens of thousands of hours in a cockpit, so you better not hate it!

Four options for getting from zero to airliners in order of decreasing desirability and increasing cost.
- Get into a cadet program that takes you from zero. Cathay, BA and several other airlines offer this. Places are few and competition is fierce but trying doesn’t hurt. Check airline websites.
- Go to a good "mom and pop" school. A good one will give you better basic flying skills and more personalized instruction than many “big name” programs. You have to “drive” your education yourself but a good school will make resources available if you put in the work. Zero to CPL is a US $50000-60000 exercise including housing. More on this below.
- Go to an integrated school like Pan Am academy. While it is tempting for the lower hours requirements and the (often just perceived) structure, it typically costs more and takes longer than a mom and pop school. Many integrated schools also have a bad reputations as “pilot mills”.
- Go to a university with an aviation program such as Embry-Riddle. If you want/need to get a degree anyway (you probably do), this is an option. However it is much more expensive than just getting a degree somewhere else and flying at a normal school. Don't waste your money or time. On that note, don’t get a degree in “aviation management” or the like. It is a useless subject if you don’t become a pilot. “Traditional” degrees like engineering (even aero engineering), law or economics are much more help if you can’t make aviation work, or even as a management pilot.

A good mom and pop school will get you from zero to CPL Multi in 13-16 weeks. CFI and CFI(I) is an extra 4 weeks or so. This is blazing fast and means flying every day plus studying while you’re on the ground. You can also do things in stages but I highly recommend flying in intense blocks of a few days or weeks at a time rather than spreading it out by flying once or twice a week for a few years. Retention is much greater that way and total money/time spend tends to be lower. If you fly every day you’ll spend much less time revising at the beginning of each lesson. Engine on means the money is flowing out of your wallet.

I went to SunState Aviation in Kissimmee. A great school with well-maintained planes (not very common among flight schools) and a commitment to excellence coupled with a relaxed atmosphere. They are experts at “full immersion training”. Work hard here and they’ll make it happen. If you perform well and work hard at SunState, you have a decent chance of getting hired as an instructor by the school when you are done (though there may be visa issues). You’ll make very little as an instructor but it is a great way to get paid to build hours while you wait for a job opportunity to turn up. (Note that this is all based on my experience in 2012 and things may have changed.)

Once you have your first license or Commercial and you want/need to do your ATPL exams, I recommend Bristol Groundschool in the UK. Fantastic program. Very hard work but the pass rate is very high.

Additional notes:
- Go to a school with good weather! In Florida, for example, you very seldom lose days due to weather. This is not the case in, say, Michigan. If you're doing an intensive program with 7 days a week in the air, you don't want to lose days.
- Study your theory before you start (e.g. King/Cessna online course), and keep studying all the way through. Even if you fly 4-5 hours a day that still means a lot of hours to study. Use them. If you do zero to multi CPL you’ll have to do three written exams and four oral exams in less than four months.
- Never, ever, make enemies in aviation. You never know where people end up and how they might influence your possibilities of getting a job.
- At all times be helpful, cheerful and hardworking. Show initiative and a positive attitude. Take criticism gracefully and work hard to improve. Learn from your mistakes. Be humble and patient. Cultivate contacts. There are lots of pilots who want jobs and flying skills are not a big enough differentiator between candidates. Airlines hire the good flyers, but more importantly they hire people who can work with other people, who work hard at excelling, and who are pleasant to hang out with in a tiny cockpit for hours on end.

Some books you can (and should) read. Having read the introductory books will help a lot when you actually start flying. You can get all on Amazon but some are available for free online (I have linked to those).
Introductory to be read before starting flying.
- Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge. ... _handbook/
- Airplane Flying Handbook. ... _handbook/
- Stick and Rudder – Wolfgang Langewiesche. Written in 1944, it is still valid today for basic flying maneuvers.
Intermediate to be read before starting instrument work.
- Instrument Procedures Handbook. ... _handbook/
- Instrument Flying Handbook. ... /aviation/
Intermediate to be read before you start multi-engine flying.
- Transition to Twins – David Robson
Advanced for when you have done the instrument license, and as an introduction to airliner flying.
- Handling the Big Jets – D.P. Davies. A 50-year old classic and a tough nut to crack but if you understand it you will understand high speed aerodynamics and jet engines.
- Fly the Wing – Jim Webb & William Walker.
- Flying the Big Jets – Stanley Stewart. Not that “advanced” but a good introduction to airliner operations.
Bonus book.
- Fate is the Hunter – Ernest Gann. This memoir of flying the 30s, 40s and 50s is a must read for every prospective pilot.
Posts: 295
Joined: Fri Sep 04, 2020 9:31 pm

Re: Life as a Pilot

Sun Jun 26, 2022 12:55 pm

I will take a slightly different spin than Starlionblue did, after all, varied opinions are what one needs to make good decisions.

Your question is along the lines of "how long is a piece of string?"

There was one route to becoming a pilot that was missing. That route was via the military, which is the route I followed.

I am retired now and have been completely retired for about 2 years. I did work for a ME airline as an SFI/SFE for about 3 years after I gave up flying the line.

As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a pilot. With that in mind, I pretty much did everything I could to accomplish that goal. I got my PPL when I was 16, went to College/University on an AFROTC scholarship, got an Aeronautical Engineering degree and went to Air Force Pilot training. I spent just over 10 years on active duty and another 10 years in the ANG. Got hired back in the early 80s by a major airline and as they say in the movies, the rest is history!
Would I do it again that way, in a minute I would? I have two sons who are 30 and 35 and I am extremely glad they didn't go into aviation. I can't tell you how much the life of a pilot has changed in the 40 years I have been involved. Generally speaking, the changes have not been for the better. I am sure you can talk to X number of pilots and get X numbers of opinions. Deregulation brought a very sharp knife to contracts and working conditions. And, in my personal opinion, safety took a back seat. Things such as fatigue, crewrest, training and many other "soft" issues were and still are perceived as obstacles to a "productive" pilot. Everyone has an opinion of unions and I hate to think what commercial flying would be like if ALPA was not in existence. Regardless of what the general population thinks, ALPA's primary focus is SAFETY! You will, if you pursue a commercial career, have to decide for yourself what you think of unions.

If you decide to go the civilian route, be prepared to have a very different life. There is no such thing as weekends or holidays, if you're junior, get used to working all the big holidays such as Christmas and New Year. You'll learn to travel on holiday as a non-rev during off-peak seasons. And, if you do go the civilian route, be prepared to carry a large amount of debt to service for a number of years. Or, get used to indentured servitude if you go the cadet route. But, I have had the same thing said about going the military route. I didn't view it that way, but I can see how someone could look at it that way.

I can honestly say I never woke up not looking forward to going to work. If it was a 12-day trip or a turn, a simulator (giving and receiving) didn't make any difference. I was getting paid to do something I loved to do. It wasn't a vocation it was an avocation.

Hope my perspective helps.
Posts: 2298
Joined: Mon Sep 24, 2001 6:44 am

Re: Life as a Pilot

Sun Jun 26, 2022 4:25 pm

It depends on where you are and where you have the right to work

The path to becoming a pilot is different from the US to Canada to Europe or Australia.

Becoming an pilot is within the reach of anyone if you put effort into it.
Posts: 142
Joined: Sun Apr 13, 2014 10:58 pm

Re: Life as a Pilot

Fri Jul 08, 2022 8:21 pm

Check out He is a pilot with WN. Gives a good idea of day to day life

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Francoflier, kalvado and 8 guests

Popular Searches On

Top Photos of Last:   24 Hours  •  48 Hours  •  7 Days  •  30 Days  •  180 Days  •  365 Days  •  All Time

Military Aircraft Every type from fighters to helicopters from air forces around the globe

Classic Airliners Props and jets from the good old days

Flight Decks Views from inside the cockpit

Aircraft Cabins Passenger cabin shots showing seat arrangements as well as cargo aircraft interior

Cargo Aircraft Pictures of great freighter aircraft

Government Aircraft Aircraft flying government officials

Helicopters Our large helicopter section. Both military and civil versions

Blimps / Airships Everything from the Goodyear blimp to the Zeppelin

Night Photos Beautiful shots taken while the sun is below the horizon

Accidents Accident, incident and crash related photos

Air to Air Photos taken by airborne photographers of airborne aircraft

Special Paint Schemes Aircraft painted in beautiful and original liveries

Airport Overviews Airport overviews from the air or ground

Tails and Winglets Tail and Winglet closeups with beautiful airline logos