This is a guest post from my amigo, Captain Steve, who is a loyal member of the BootsnAll Travel Network. He has been a pilot for sometime and is WAY better qualified than I am to tell you what you need to do to get in the biz.
Ah, the life of a professional airline pilot – anyone who’s seen the movie “Catch Me If You Can” knows it’s a life of ease and glamour, right? Yes, it can be that way, but as with most things, the reality is a usually bit different.
The road from beginner to professional pilot is comparable to the road medical students take to become fully licensed physicians. It can take from four to ten years to gain the necessary advanced pilot licenses and sufficient flight experience to qualify for the top-tier jobs as a pilot for a major airline. These pilots enjoy an average of 15 or more days off per month, they can travel worldwide for free or for a few hundred dollars at most, and the salary is at worse middle class, and at best rises decently into six figures. Competition for these top jobs is, naturally, always very fierce.
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But major airlines aren’t the only jobs available to prospective pilots. There are many good and interesting jobs available in corporate aviation, as well as in more niche areas. You can fly seaplanes in Alaska or the Caribbean, patrol power transmission lines for an electric company, fly a fire-fighting plane low over forest fires, or fly air ambulance helicopters for a hospital. The U.S. Government also employs many pilots in civilian roles. If you think about it a bit, aviation touches almost every aspect of daily life, and no matter which job a pilot has, the view from the “office” is one of the best in the world.
Initial training is available at any local airport, or via a number of schools that specialize in aviation training. Some of the accelerated programs train you full-time for six months to a year and then guarantee you an interview, but not a job, at a regional airline. The airline industry is cyclical and fickle. It can be impossible to get a good job one year, then the next year airlines can’t find enough qualified pilots. You need to be prepared for a wild ride in this career.
For further information contact your local airport or pick up a copy of AOPA Pilot, Flying, or Flight Training magazines.
Thanks for the help, Steve!