INTERVIEW: Pilot confess that becoming a pilot is like “playing poker”!

It’s not a secret anymore that in the current economic situation, finding a pilot job is difficult. Once type rated and in the routine of a hired pilot, the life is not always a dream like many of you might think.

We have contacted an airline pilot (Brad, 26 yo., First Officer, from France)  to have his point of view regarding his job and the pilot job in general, the problems he is facing today and the different risks young pilots have to take in order to achieve their dream.

When did you decide to become a professional pilot?
Well, when I was very young (7-8), I was going to the edge of the runways at Paris CDG airport to see the airplanes departing & landing. I enjoyed it so much but I was too young to realize that I wanted to do the same. My decision was taken when I was 13, my family and I went to Africa for holidays and in the aircraft on the way to get there I told my mom that I wanted to be a pilot! For sure, she didn’t realize it would happen…

For how long have you been a pilot?
I work as a first officer for a cargo airline since 3 years now but I started flying gliders when I was 15 years old (South of France).

Is it hard to get a job as a commercial pilot today and is it a competitive field to work in?
It is hard, indeed! In the US you have to fly at least 1.500 hours and get your ATP before considering applying for a first officer position on a small turbo-prop aircraft.
In Europe, you can find a job on a jet like the Boeing 737 with 200-300 flight hours. But there are thousands of pilot unemployed so, only a few percent get a job. I was very lucky to get a job and I often say: “it is like playing poker!“. Considering the cost of the training, the jobs available on the market, I would not do it again if I had to. Why I did it then? I wanted to, it was my dream, but what a risky one! I was maybe too young to realize this at 19 years old!

Do employers care much about which school you graduated from or is it just certain certificates that matter?
Taking into consideration my friends employed and myself, I would say that you have better chances to get a job when trained in a well know flight school.
In Europe, flight school also offer the choice between “modular training” or “integrated training”. Modular training takes longer giving the opportunity to work on the side. Integrated, it is a full time training which is quicker, more expensive.
I got the impression that airlines likes popular flight schools and integrated training.

Many commercial airlines require new pilots to have a specific amounts of flight hours on their record to be eligible to apply for employment, how did you collect your flight hours as a new pilot and what is your best tips to a future pilot how to assemble these hours?
I didn’t read all the questions before starting to answer them. but a partial answer to the question is in the answer of the question 3 above.
In Europe, some airlines requires a minimum of 200-300 flight hours. I had 250 hours when I finished my pilot training so I entered the criteria for some airlines including the airline I fly for today. If I had to increase my experience (flight hours) I would become a flight instructor, invite my friends for a few discovery flights, do some para drops and simply invest my money into flight hours to reach the airline requirements. That is how it is nowadays, even after your flight training, you might have to pay more and more.

Has the profession as a pilot changed since you become a professional pilot? If so, in which way?
It is too early for me to answer this question. Since I work as a pilot there was no major change. The only thing that will change this summer is that we will not use paper charts anymore but PDF charts on iPad. Less paper, lighter, quicker. I would say that we are all going to computerize systems.

Have you ever regretted that you’d become a pilot?
Well, yes for some reasons. Since becoming a pilot was my main goal for years, I was so focused on becoming a pilot that I forget to ask myself some questions. The first thing I forget to think about is “family”! I am away from home up to 7 days in a row and this is not easy for me and my wife. We are slowly thinking about having a baby but it will require a lot of organisation since I will not always be at home.
This is the main problem and it happens a lot that I want to be at home when I am at work.
It is the same when you expect to receive a box from the post office or when you have to pay your bills on time. You need to be at home to do it unless you take the bills with you at work…
So, there are a lot of things which are not so easy when you are a pilot. Also when a family member is sick, you cannot always get home unless it is extremely serious.
Same when it is the birthdays or events, you need to ask days off (maximum 3 x 1 day off per month) 2 months in advance and you are not sure that it will be approved!

How does the profession as a pilot affect your social life?
Again, partial answer above. You really need to think head to plan your social life. Otherwise, you get trouble with the girl you live with and sometimes also with your friends that consider you so much that if you are not there at the right time, they start to be kind of “sad” or thinking “he doesn’t care”.
It needs a lot of energy. Thanks to Skype, emails and internet!

What advice would you give to someone who is about to enter this career path?
Well the job is really nice, but you have to like it… If you do, then you have the feeling to get paid to do something you like and it is very pleasant. So if you would like to be a pilot, go head but think about another possibility if you don’t find a job first. Also think about the money you will need to invest and don’t put yourself in a bad financial situation. If you don’t have the money, stay at your parents house and start working asap to save 80-90% of your monthly income. Do this 2, 3, 4 years and then start your pilot training. If you are above 30, be extremely careful since younger pilots will be available on the market with the same experience.

By becoming a pilot, did you achieve your dream?
Do I really need to answer this question? Yes, I reached my dream! Beyond all the negative things you might have read above, there is also plenty of positive points. You travel from one country to another, you can be at the sun when it is snowing at home, or the opposite 🙂 ! You fly an aircraft which is so powerful and so expensive that you really feel the responsibilities! You never stop learning and the people you fly with is so professional! I am proud every single time I jump in the aircraft and I didn’t speak about the feeling when you fly the aircraft since it is impossible to describe it!

Do you think becoming a pilot is financially not without risks?
We are waiting for your reactions regarding this interview! Tell us what you think by writing a comment bellow!

Comments (1)
  1. Pierre Aubert May 28, 2014

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