Is a pilots life hectic?
A Day in the Life of an Airline/Military Pilot
I have been flying for my airline for nearly seven years and am also the battalion Aviation Mission Survival Officer for a National Guard Air Assault Battalion. This requires a lot of balance between the two schedules.
My typical day starts the night before any given trip. I look at my schedule to note where I’m going and do a quick recon of the weather. This helps me pack appropriately for the overnights. I’ve been caught one too many times in a snowstorm with flip-flops and board shorts—thank goodness for meal delivery apps!
I usually like to bid for four-day trips. As a mid-level captain in my base, my trips generally start between 6 and 7 a.m. We are required to report 45 minutes before departure; I prefer showing up to the employee parking lot about 75 minutes before departure, which allows time for any delays going through security, a stop by the crew room to check-in, and perhaps a cup of coffee, if the line isn’t too long.
My airline is expanding at a rapid rate, and I don’t recognize many of the flight attendants who congregate in the crew room. They are required to come together for a quick brief for themselves. If timed right, I can catch the crew for my upcoming flight to make small talk before heading to the gate to officially begin our trip.
Once at the gate, I introduce myself to the gate agent working my flight. I ask if there are any issues or pertinent information for the flight, and they let me down the jetbridge to the aircraft. Once onboard, this is typically where the entire crew is introduced the first time. Often the flight attendants are from another base and have flown a leg already. As pilots, we don’t typically fly with the same flight attendants for the entire duration of the four-day pairing, or even the day, if we have multiple legs.
Also for today’s flight, I’m doing a line check on a captain. We are required to observe captains on a normal line flight once a year in addition to other check rides. Training pairings are set up just a little different than a “normal” pairing. If I am conducting a line check, I’ll observe the captain while they brief the crew. I’m a fly on the wall, for the most part.
A major part of the airline industry is efficiency; the aircraft doesn’t make money while at the gate. It is not until it starts to move that the company makes money. For this reason, and additionally the large capacity of seats we have onboard (182 for an A320), there is a finely tuned orchestra of activity: cleaners, fuelers, caterers, etc.
It is imperative to conduct a thorough preflight, not only of the aircraft but the paperwork and maintenance logbook as well. If a maintenance irregularity arises, it can often be taken care of while the passengers are boarding to prevent unnecessary delays. The captain has the final authority on the safety of the flight. Our all-Airbus fleet is young, and there aren’t many maintenance items to be taken care of. The passengers are boarded, and the final paperwork is in order. Today we close the door and push back on time.
Chicago O’Hare is very intimidating the first several times you fly in, as it is one of the busiest airports in the world—both in terms of passenger counts and airplane operations. The radio is constantly busy as aircraft are arriving at the same time as others are departing.
Initially, we need to permission to push back into the ally with a ramp controller. They are charged with the coordination of aircraft and equipment within the gate area. In the wintertime, this is where we deice, and delays can perpetuate due to longer times in the ramp area. Thankfully, today is a beautiful, sunny spring morning, and we can push. After the ground crew permits us to start the engines and pushes us to the appropriate point in the ally, we can switch to “metering”—a frequency that does exactly that. O’Hare is so busy that they want to sequence aircraft along the taxiways as efficiently as possible. It is through metering we can then get a number in line, to begin taxiing. Depending on the volume of traffic at the airport, we can elect to taxi out on a single engine, which helps to save fuel. Metering has us switch over to Ground Control. Unlike many airports around the world, we don’t contact Ground Control, they contact us. Many, many times they give us an abbreviated taxi clearance such as “Airline 123, follow the Airline 737 left to right to Runway 22L.” So, we do just that.
At this point, O’Hare is no different than any other airport. We taxi out to the runway, get in line for takeoff, and slip the surly bonds of earth. I have been flying for 23 years, and I still get excited every time we take off. If I didn’t, balancing my work/life schedule would be much more difficult. Sitting in the jumpseat observing the crew conduct a normal flight provides me a second to admire the skyline of Chicago. It never ceases to amaze me. As we level off at our cruising altitude, we continue to fly the aircraft and monitor the flight path and aircraft systems.
I have flown with the first officer before and know that he has a classic aircraft. While I don’t know the captain, we begin to make small talk around general aviation flying. Remember that we don’t always know each other before arriving for the first flight. This is often a good opportunity to find common ground on shared hobbies or to learn new things. I once had a first officer who raised worms to sell to fishermen. I thought that was pretty cool, since it was a unique small business that he ran on the side.
Our arrival into Myrtle Beach, S.C., was uneventful, and I signed off the captain with another successful line check. My pairing isn’t built with as much efficiency in mind. I have roughly four hours of until I deadhead on the next flight, and I use the time to catch up on other matters.
As a military aviator in the Army National Guard, I have the same flight time requirements as my active-duty brethren. As a battalion staff officer, I am required to fly 30 hours every six months. This is further broken down to various hours utilizing night vision goggles, instrument flying, and a simulator. The adage “one weekend a month, two weeks a year” doesn’t come close to the time needed to fulfill these requirements or the associated responsibilities as a staff officer. Our unit has an inspection coming up in the summer months, which requires me to ensure that we have a presentable product for the inspectors upon their arrival.
I initially enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps 17 years ago. After serving five years on active duty, I transferred to the Army National Guard to fly the UH60 Blackhawk. I plan to complete 20 years of service to take advantage of the military health and retirement benefits. To do this, I must balance a civilian career and the requirements of my military career—all in addition to home life with my family. One of the great things about airline life is all the time off . . . so they say! Every month when I get my airline’s schedule, I’m happy to see I get the days off I bid for. It’s then quickly filled with guard flying to stay current and proficient in the helicopter. This translates to about four to five true “off” days scattered throughout the month.
One thing that helps keep the family life balanced is bringing my wife on trips with me. She has spent the night and day with me in New York City. My schedule allowed for an early morning arrival into La Guardia only to depart early the next day back to Chicago and be done for the trip. Our crew hotel is in uptown Manhattan. We wandered around for a few hours and by sheer luck ran into my battalion commander and his wife. He is also an airline pilot, and he made a mini-vacation with his wife doing the same thing. We met at a diner for lunch, then parted ways. That evening, my wife and I went to a comedy club and had ice cream in Central Park. While we paid for our own entertainment, my employer had paid for the travel and hotel and even gave me per diem during my time away. I’d be hard-pressed to find a better job with these benefits.
Often, I will finish a four-day trip at a late hour, arriving home around midnight, then turn around the next day to fly the helicopter in the afternoon and into the evening to fly under goggles, arriving home around midnight again.
The Department of Labor enforces an act that protects U.S. military members serving in the Guard or Reserve. In a nutshell, it requires employers to let employees serve required commitments. The guard serves the community where they are stationed, and my unit is responsible for wildfire response, search and rescue of lost individuals, and support of law enforcement during domestic disturbances. Additionally, the National Guard was called upon to provide a multitude of support throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Many of my cohorts run satellite collection and testing locations, supplementing local health-care centers. They staffed polling stations during the election year as typical poll workers were unable.
We hope you enjoyed this insight into what a typical day in the life of an Airline/Military pilot can be. If you have any questions, please contact ALPA’s Education Committee.
Student pilot lifestyle: what it’s like being a student pilot
At Aviation Job Search we recently spoke to Craig Walchester, a student pilot who kindly shared his path to becoming a student pilot, what his schedule is like and careers advice for aspiring aviation professionals.
Why did you pursue a career in the aviation industry?
My passion for aviation began at a very early age when my father would regularly take me to the Manchester Airport viewing area, so I guess I owe my enthusiasm for aviation to him. As I grew older, I joined the air cadets but due to my parents’ work commitments meant getting to the venue was very difficult and sadly after only several weeks, had to stop.
Fast forward a further 8 years to the age of 21, my newlywed wife purchased me a 1 hour flight experience, as a gift. This took place at Donair Flying Club, East Midlands Airport. This was the very first time I got to take control of a “real’’ aircraft, which was the 1984 Piper Warrior PA-28 161, G-BPRY. I was hooked!
Can you detail the path you have taken?
To date, I have followed the modular training route. I first gained my Private Pilots Licence (PPL SEP) in 2012. Due to starting a family at around the same time, the flying had to intermittently stop once acquiring the license, due to my financial circumstances. However, I was fortunate enough to be able to revalidate my SEP privileges in 2018.
I obtained a class 1 medical certificate before proceeding further, this I felt was crucial before committing to any further training. At this point, I would strongly advise anyone embarking on this journey to discuss any medical history, illnesses, or disorders with an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) as they may render you unable to obtain the needed certificate which would be needed to allow you to utilise the privileges on the various licenses, etc.
Having successfully obtained the desired class 1 medical certificate, I soon completed the Night Rating training. This only took about 1 week, working it in with my busy work schedule, and coupled with the good weather experienced at the time, all went accordingly. Seeing the sights including my own home at night from above was spectacular and an unforgettable experience!
In summary, the N.R. was fun and it was incredible to see the transformation between night and day-flying. The ground becomes an intricate network of streetlights and vast expanses of dark openness between towns and cities of what are usually large green fields.
I began the ATPL Theory training by May 2018, again on a modular basis with CATS Aviation Training, this took me just over 2 years from start to finish, which included multiple exam cancellations due to the Covid pandemic. This extended the course duration by about 4 months. I must stress at this point, that the ATPL theory course was by far the hardest thing I have had to achieve, please don’t underestimate it!
Ensure that you can spare a minimum of 10 hours per week in the early stages and double this as you get nearer to exams. Everyone learns at different paces and only you can determine what your limits are. By the exam stage, I was averaging 14 hour days of intense study. Interestingly, in comparison, at the start I struggled to cope with just 2 hours a day, things do get better!
Due to the mentioned cancellations of ATPL theory examinations, I missed my initial slot which had been allocated to me by Central Flight Training, based at Tatenhill airfield. I should have commenced further training on the 26th of May 2020. This meant that I then had to wait in turn until July 2021 until I could start the Multi-Engine Piston aircraft training (MEP), using a 1979 Beechcraft Duchess 76, G-BXXT.
The first time I got to take control of G-XT, I recall having the biggest smile on my face as we passed 500ft AGL. For the 1st time in what felt like in forever, things were now on the right track, the ATPL theory out of the way and now thundering through the sky in a twin-engine aircraft. Life’s good!
Having completed the MEP course, I moved straight onto the Competency Based Instrument Rating (CBIR) using the same twin-engine aircraft. During this time, I spent approximately 26 hours in an FNPT2 (CAA approved fixed base simulator), before starting training in the actual aircraft (G-BXXT), which enables the student to practice the I.R. procedures at a fraction of the cost.
In my case, I was taught how to deal with more complex procedures like you would find around London, which proved challenging but very rewarding once achieved.
On writing this, I am currently just over halfway through this training and once completed shall be completing the Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL), again straight after, and intend on remaining with CFT. who have been fantastic throughout.
What is your schedule like as a student pilot?
As a student pilot life can be very hectic. For myself, as a sole trader running my own business find it difficult on occasion, but it is critical to find a ‘’work-life balance” as one without the other usually results in a poor performance in the aircraft as your state of mind is affected; tried and tested! This I have come to learn, understand, and respect.
We are all human! Making a mistake is all a process of learning, as a student of 35 years of age, I can safely say that all the knowledge I possess to date has derived from some success but mostly because of many failures. The most important factor is to not allow these failures to overwhelm you, use them to your advantage and learn or adjust whatever it may be that you are doing or trying to achieve; so that in the end you succeed!
On a typical training day, I wake up at around 06:00 to check weather charts for the day, this helps me to make an informed decision as to what to expect. Sometimes the flights are simply canceled; sometimes even in the space between leaving home and arriving at the airport/airfield, the weather can hamper your intended plans.
Be prepared for disappointment as the weather is a force which should not be reckoned with, sadly there are a significant number of cases regarding ‘controlled flight into terrain’. Certainly, do not ever feel pressured when making your decision, to fly or not to fly. As the Captain of an aircraft in P1 capacity (Pilot in command) it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of you, your passengers, and those on the ground.
On days where the flight doesn’t go ahead, could be weather or even mechanically related; on these occasions, I make the most of being able to revise past ATPL theory papers or learn the material needed for any upcoming sections to the training currently being undertaken. Always aim to be as resourceful as possible with the time you have!
Can you share what it training costs financially?
To date, PPL, Night Rating, ATPL Theory, Hour Building, MEP, CBIR has cost somewhere in the region of £30,800, and anticipate a further £25,000 until I am ready to apply to an airline.
This will constitute finishing the CBIR, CPL, UPRT (Upset Prevention & Recovery Training), and APS-MCC (Airline Pilots Standards Multi-Crew Co-operation Training)
How do you manage the effects on your mental health of intensive training?
It is important to make time for yourself. As mentioned, in my case, the ‘’work-life” balance is critical, and aviation has to fit somewhere in between to maximise the potential, one key area of focus being cockpit management.
I think anyone who tries to run a business, support a family whilst embarking on such a mission, and try their best to achieve a high standard would be lying if they said at no point, they didn’t feel it was all too much. It is tough.
It does get easier; you just have to constantly tweak your lifestyle and schedules and eventually it all fits together like a puzzle. If you can learn to manage everything outside of flying, you will undoubtedly notice a significant improvement in your wellbeing which in turn reflects tenfold in the aviate!
How long will it take you to complete the training?
I had hoped to be complete by the end of 2021, but of late I have had several setbacks mainly due to weather conditions preventing me from flying. I now predict to complete somewhere around March/April 2022, that would be ideal.
What 3 tips would you give to an aspiring pilot?
1. If possible, get all your funds ready beforehand. This will undoubtedly be beneficial in the long run.
2. Stay focused. It is too easy to allow yourself to be drawn in by the vast expenses and when you are up in the sky burning substantial amounts of money, the absolute last thing you should be thinking is “if I mess this up, I’ve got to do it again!” I find that a brief intense workout before the start of the training day helps to focus the mind substantially.
3. When choosing a training provider, look well into what suits you best, (including your family as in my case). You do not need to spend hundreds of thousands to obtain the required licenses to get the flight deck of an airline (A vast array of other commercial pilot roles available too!) This has been proven many times over.
For me, the modular route worked best as I could still earn money by carrying out my day job and train alongside. In general, it is also the cheapest option but usually takes longer. The Integrated route, usually being more expensive precludes you from working but is a great way to train and is usually quicker. The biggest drawback which this route presents is the financial aspect.
Is A Pilot Job Stressful?
Plenty of young adults and teenagers consider an aviation job for their future careers. This is due to the great features that the pilot job offers.
Being a Pilot is a Great Career
Every job has its pros and cons. However, a pilot job is worth the hard work. This is due to the many, exciting events that take place throughout your career. From the beautiful sceneries you glance at constantly to the amount of new people from different cultures that you encounter, and last but not least, the high salary of the job.
Is Being a Pilot Stressful?
Now to answer the most important question of this article: “is it stressful to have an avaiation job?” The simple answer is no, the flying profession offers many benefits that other professions would not get you. This eliminates plenty of stressful events from happening in your life. Perhaps one thing pilots tend to think is a little stressful is the idea of flying an entire plane full of many other people. This can be stressful if you think about it negatively, however, your only problem at this point is not trusting in your abilities and aircraft enough. Along with your experience, which you’ll acquire after getting plenty of licenses such as: private pilot license (PPL) and commercial pilot license (CPL), you need to trust in your aircraft. This means that you need to realize that a lot of what a pilot used to do back in the day is all automated nowadays. This ensures the plane’s safety and gives you enough time to relax and enjoy your flight. Another thing is that the flight profession is often unpredictable. Which is why being a pilot is perfect for those who wish to challenge day-to-day routine and instead are looking for a career which is constantly changing and improving. Most importantly, both takeoff and landing require the most energy when flying an aircraft. Otherwise, it’s smooth sailing. The only things you need to do in between is to watch the monitors and make sure that the autopilot is on track. When it comes to health awareness, pilots are required to go through medical certification every couple of years. This also includes mental health. Many airlines are starting to implment peer-support programs. This is because airlines have started to feel a sense of responsiblity when it comes to the pilots’ mental and physical health. The aviation industry might be one of the few that actively learns from past mistakes and works to correct them.
How Do Pilots Take Care of Their Health?
It’s common knowledge that pilot jobs need you to be healthy: both mentally and phsyically. Which is why pilots have developed many ways to take care of themselves throughout the years.
Planning Ahead for Sleep and Food
Since a pilot’s job is unpredictable in nature, pilots tend to schedule their tasks as much as possible. No matter how small a task can be, such as eating their meals, getting enough sleep or simply just relaxing. Scheduling is key for pilots. This way, pilots know that they’re prioritizing their own health above all else, no matter how busy they get.
Eating as Healthy as Possible
Even if you’re just having a meal on the go, you need to make it at least a little bit on the healthier side. It’s a well-known fact that pilots are busy, however, you should never be too busy to eat healthy food. Some of the shorter flights don’t include meals in them, in this case, some pilots just grab the easiest snack such as pretzels or peanuts. But in order for you to excel as a pilot, you need to take better care of your meals. When you’re grabbing food before your flight, try to go for things like salads or fruits. Such foods are healthy, can be carried around with no hassle, and are still delicious even when eaten cold.
Avoid Any External Stress
In order to avoid accumulating stress from your aviation job and day-to-day life alike, you can try to go out of your way to avoid things and activities that stress you out. An easy example of this is looking through your phone before you go to bed. This is due to multiple reasons; perhaps the most important reason for this is the possibility of coming across sad or infuriating news before you go to sleep. You could also find unopened emails worrisome before going to bed. Lastly, you could get anxious or restless simply from the light emitted from your phone. It could also make your eyes dry, which would result in stress the next morning.
Being well-organized also helps you avoid stress as it helps you avoid common mistakes. For example: packing your bag in the same way you always pack it helps you find your belongings more easily, therefore, avoiding unnecessary stress and wasting time.
Relaxing and Exercising
After getting your pilot job, you’ll find yourself in plenty of unkown countries and cities. This is your que to enjoy yourself and explore new places! If you’re in a safe part of the city, make sure you spend some time walking around and enjoying the scenery from the ground. Walking is great when you don’t want to stress yourself more by working out. This is because walking, for as little as thirty minutes, reduces the risk of developing high blood pressure. Having such routine to take care of your mind and body isn’t selfish, it’s simply making sure that you’re capable of taking care of your aircraft and of those who are depending on you.
How Do Pilots Overcome Stress?
From an outsider’s prespective, you might think that having an aviation job is stressful and taxing. This is because you don’t know the tips and tricks that pilots develop in order to make their jobs tremendously easier.
Taking Care of Their Bodies
Every job needs physical strength, whether you’re saving people from burning buildings or you’re sitting at a desk for eight hours straight. Regardless, you need to take care of yourself physically. Aviation jobs are no exception to this rule. This is because pilots travel all around the world regularly. Visiting new places is a wonderful experience that is not available to many. However, you need to take care of your body and exercise a lot in order to be able to fully enjoy your traveling.
Meeting challenges as a pilot is part of the fun. It’s one of the reasons why aviation jobs are thrilling and exciting. For the majority of your time during your job, you’re going to need to make quick decisions midair. Usually, such decisions aren’t fatal and making the wrong decision won’t be the cause of a serious accident. However, as a pilot, you need to practice decisiveness in order to make the trip as safe and relaxing as possible.
When it comes to the flying profession, flexibility is a key point in having a stress-free career. This is mainly due to the consant changes in schedule and the need to always be prepared for whatever comes your way, like cancellations or re-scheduling of certian flights. Sometimes you might have your vacation extended, or your hours increased. This could be a bit overwhelming if you’re stuck to an inflexible routine. As you probably already know, aviation jobs don’t have a lot of routine, so you need to roll with the punches in order to ensure yourself a happy, relaxing career.
Is Being a Pilot a Good Option?
Every career in the world has positive and negative aspects. Here, we’re going to go more in depth as to why the flying profession is a great career path for you!
The High Salary
It’s no secret that being a pilot is a well-paying job. This is due to multiple reasons such as the high demand for new pilot, getting a pay increase as you gain more experience as well as being paid by the hour. As a pilot you’re guaranteed to have a high salary, not to mention other benefits. For example, you get health insurance.
Many people dream of getting a job as a pilot in order to enjoy the adventure. For pilots, every day is a new, thrilling experience in the cockpit. Starting the engines and gazing upon the beautiful sunset is a feeling you’ll never forget.
Travelling The World
Your job is to transfer passengers from one point to another, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy travelling yourself. Being a pilot will allow you to travel from one country to another freely and without stress. And even if you don’t have any flights, pilots are allowed easy access to cheaper tickets all the time! So, to sum up the past few paraghraps: no, a pilot’s job is not at all stressful, especially if you learn how to make the best of it without worrying or overworking yourself.