Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Oh, The Life of a Pilot

On Saturday night an old roommate of Darcy's from college paid us a visit. After studying math at Cal Poly she headed to Florida for flight school, and is now a pilot for for a small airline. She does most of her flying in California and along the US west coast. Her schedule had her stopped for the night in San Jose, so we made her dinner and did a lot of catching up.

I found myself very curious in the life and career path of a pilot, and also what it takes to become one. Flying has always fascinated me, and I'd love to learn to fly a plane someday. However, if you want to fly a plane there are two options, be a pilot or be really rich. Unfortunately, I am neither. Will I ever fly a plane? I sure hope so.

So this is what I found out... Becoming a pilot takes from 1.5 to 2 years for training, and roughly $60,000. However, she said once you become a pilot, finding a job is fairly easy since pilots are always in such demand.

Then, there are the pros and cons associated with the pilot lifestyle:

- 15 days off per month, including some weekdays when golf courses aren't crowded or as expensive
- Get to fly a plane for a living
- Good money, especially as you become more tenured and get in with a bigger airline
- Free flights for you and your family
- Get to see the country/world

- Four, four-day trips a month, so lots of hotels, and time away from the family.
- Work weekends so schedule wouldn't line up with friends and family who work during regular business hours.
- Scheduling seniority is earned over time, so initially schedule would be the undesirable shifts.
- Airline Industry constantly battling for profitability, which effects job security and opportunity to make a lot of money, even though tenured pilots are paid fairly well.

As a married man who hopes to eventually start a family, I don't think being a pilot would be the best lifestyle choice for me. Not being home half of the year would be a hard way to raise kids. What if I missed the first steps? Or the big game?

However, if I was single, I think being a pilot would be a lot of fun. You could suffer through the low seniority and lower paying early years without concerns of what was missing you and what you were missing back home, and could enjoy all the other perks of the job mentioned above.

She told us one more thing that is pretty interesting. Pilots are paid by the hour from the time the plane door closes until it opens at the jetway of the destination. This is why many pilots would rather make us passengers wait in the runway than at the jetway. So next time you feel you are unnecessarily waiting in a plane out on the runway, it may just be so that the pilot can pocket a little more coin!

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