Posted by Jeffrey on October 30th, 2012
No radio. No headsets. No earplugs. No Class B, C, or D airspace (that I knew of). Open cockpit. 3000 feet MSL, maybe 4000 feet. I don’t remember. No Mom taking out life insurance. A grass strip and we were flying. Me in front, and him behind me. Maybe six instruments in front of me…and a stick. The wing was above me and big, big round wheels below me…and the Ohio landscape as far as I could see. We didn’t talk. The only words I remember, “Take the stick and fly it.” Really? So I did. “Move it around,” he says. So I do. Left. Right. Back. Forward. Whoa! Yes, my future was set. Yes, I loved airplanes.
Fast forward almost 40 years. Now I’m a captain at a regional airline. Checklists! Procedures! Cockpit Voice Recorders! Flight Data Recorders! FOQA (Flight Operations Quality Assurance). Semi-annual physical. Annual line checks and simulator training. I would say that as a professional pilot, my Piper Cub days are over.
But is that a bad thing?
As I look back this was my future as far back as I can remember…or at least since I was eight years old, I guess it is always what I wanted.
Now I’m responsible for passengers, bags, a million dollar airplane and following procedures because you never know who is listening. Not much time for “joy rides,” it’s a job.
Again, is that a bad thing?
What about you?
If you are reading this, somehow you found this website because you were interested in aviation or flying commercially or becoming an airline pilot.
If it was becoming an airline pilot, well…I’ve got news for you. I believe you are on the very cusp of an exciting time in aviation.
Stick with me on this.
Aviation isn’t very old and neither is commercial aviation.
In 1901, the Wright brothers make the first heavier than air flight.
In 1914, World War I begins. Aviation starts to play a deciding factor in its outcome.
In 1939, World War II begins. Aviation dominates the war.
Somewhere in there, around 1930, commercial aviation begins.
Fast forward to 2012. In a mere 80 years, we have gone from zero aviation to airplanes that can stay aloft for over 12 hours at a time and travel incredible distances and carry hundreds of people and thousands of pounds of cargo and fuel.
We have seen seen the Boeing 707, Boeing 727 come and go and we have seen airlines come and go (Braniff, TWA, Pan American, Northwest., Continental). We see the emergence low cost carriers like SouthWest and JetBlue. Most recently, United and Continental merged and American Airlines is in bankruptcy. The landscape changes…and then it changes again.
We see military pilots leave the military and move seamlessly into high-paying airline jobs. Then it shifts. The military shrinks and pilots are coming from general aviation backgrounds.
Kids are paying huge amounts of money to universities to get useless “aviation” degrees, promising lucrative careers in aviation, getting them jobs at regional airlines, and empty promises of getting to a major airline and “living the airline” dream of the 1960-80′s.
Boom! September 11, 2001, the straw that broke the back of a troubled economy and much more.
Airlines cutback flights. Furloughs everywhere. (I still hate that word “furlough”!). Hirings froze. Pensions disappeared and pilot contracts were dissolved with a pen by a judge. Upgrades disappeared. Gas prices rose. Everyone tried to make sense of the new reality…but no one wanted to believe it. Including me…so I hung on to my aviation/airline dream.
As time passed, everything eased a bit or forgotten or ignored. People started flying again. Airlines started hiring again. Airlines did their best with the gas prices and labor costs. But it never returned to the early days of aviation.
But I believe things are changing…yet again!
You still here? Good, because if you are interested in being an airline pilot and flying for a living, the next ten years are yours because again we are at a monumental point in aviation.
Here are some of the factors and facts that are influencing aviation:
- The pilots that stuck around till 65 are going to retire this year, which means there is going to be gigantic need for pilots. American Airlines says it is going to need 2500 pilots to cover it’s growth into international travel.
- Fewer and fewer people are going into aviation because the amount of money that it costs to become a pilot is cost prohibitive, meaning the amount of money that you put into your education/flying will take 20 years to recover.
- Regional airline pay for new hire pilots is at or near the poverty level. (How are you going to repay loans with that kind of pay?)
So all this is good news for the aspiring pilot. Why? Because I believe the majors are going to start hiring again, upgrades to captain are going to start again at 2006 levels, and pilot salaries are going to jump.
It comes back to the macro model of supply and demand. (I’m not an economist, so I could have that all wrong.)
But how I see it, in the near future there aren’t going to be nearly enough pilots. And at current pay scale levels who can blame potential pilots from not wanting to become pilots? So with that said, regional airlines are going to have to up their pay in order to entice potential pilots into becoming pilots. The costs of becoming a pilot are going to have to come down (i.e., training costs and universities). Upgrades at regional airlines are going to have to happen faster because the major airlines are going to need first officers to fill the vacating senior pilot corps and as soon as pilots reach that coveted 1000 pilot-in-command (PIC) minimums, they are going to jump ship and go onto heavy metal and higher paying salaries.
So basically, if you want to become a pilot you can do one of two things: 1) wait and see what happens and miss being at the front of the hiring/upgrade pool, or 2) get you flying hours and education in order and get to the front and ride the wave. Check out Dream Pilot Jobs to get to the front of the line.
It’s your choice!
Could I be completely wrong on this? Oh hell, sure I can…but I don’t think I am.
Aviation and commercial aviation is still at it’s infancy. Look back at the time-line above. What we saw in the past is just a phase, a learning period. Who is to say what has happened in the past will happen in the future. Unions and pilots that made up the rules in the past had nothing to guide them. They made up the rules as they went along and yet again, the rules are changing. You either have to be brave enough to press forward and take advantage of this new wave, this new paradigm or risk showing up too late.
I wouldn’t blame you for showing up late though. I’ve been late to many things like the housing market and stocks. But for me, I stuck with aviation and it is starting to pay off and I think it will continue to pay off. I stayed with it when others said I shouldn’t. This is one of those time when you either need to get into aviation or move on.
To Your Aviation Success!