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How to become an airline pilot

September 18, 2009

Here’s some advice if you’re interested in a career as an airline pilot…

I remember when I was 4 or 5, both my brother and I wanted to be farmers – like all little boys, we wanted to drive those big tractors. Then for reasons I don’t recall I changed my mind and wanted to be a train engineer. I was convinced I found my calling. But then the train engineers union held a protracted strike when I was maybe 6 or 7, so I started to think, what else could I do that involves operating a big machine and lots of switches? Hey… I could be a pilot !!!

For the rest of my childhood and adolescence, I was convinced, nothing could change my mind: I would be an airline pilot. Only, I’m not. So here is some essential advice on how to start a career as an airline pilot:

Do the exact opposite of everything I’ve done in the past 20 years or so šŸ˜‰

Here’s some highlights:

  • Timing. I learned to fly in 1991, right after the demise of Eastern Air Lines and Pan Am.
  • Skip college, my superior flying skill was all I needed.
  • If there are no airline jobs, just start your own air cargo business.

I could go on…

Funny thing is, I’m happy doing what I do now, and I’ve had a lot of great experiences along the way. As the story of my life has gone, I may end up flying for an airline when I least expect it, and that would be okay too – but I don’t miss it now.

At the end of the day, it was silly of me to think about a career as an airline pilot without having a college degree or military pilot experience, although I did go back to college many years later and for entirely different reasons. But if you want to be an airline pilot, those 2 things completely take precedence over anything else: military flight experience and a college degree. And let things come to you, if you’re like me and picked the worst time in history to get into flying, just stick with it, fly as an instructor or contract pilot and eventually the industry will pick up. Waiting a few years seemed like eternity when I was younger, now my concept of time has changed entirely.

Finally, many airline pilots I’ve met over the years didn’t seem to enjoy their jobs all that well, so don’t forget to enjoy what you’re doing. Even though I thought I was just biding my time to an airline career, in my case the journey turned out to be better than the intended destination šŸ™‚

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