The dream of becoming a pilot is a great one, as it’s a very unique career path. However, a lot of people have numerous misconceptions about the experience of a pilot.
This drives them to have very unrealistic expectations of the job and it causes negative reactions when they encounter the realities.
The mind-boggling statistics of aviation schools helps elaborate this.
Research showed that 50% to 70% of future pilots in the United States drop-out of aviation schools. This makes it the discipline with the highest dropout rate. Why does this happen?
There are numerous reasons this could be happening, such as lack of funds to complete training or receiving poor instructions from flight instructors, etc.
But one that stands out is that this happens because the process is not what people expect.
Most people with the ambition of becoming a pilot have the view that it will open them up to glamorous life and all they need to do is just sit and press a few buttons in a cockpit.
How terribly wrong could that be?
Being a pilot is a rigorous job that requires determination and focus in order to achieve success. Flying a plane is a lot of work both in training and in practice.
So, expecting to breeze right through training and start flying to exotic destinations, while earning millions of dollars for working just 3 times a month is quite hilarious.
This is what breaks most students; the realities are simply different from their expectations.
Furthermore, there is a huge shortage of pilots globally as a result of pilots reaching the required retirement age and no qualified replacements due to these dropouts.
Above is a chart that shows this huge demand globally, with Asia, Europe and North America taking the lead.
Before we go further and see the wrong reasons for wanting to become a pilot, let’s have a look at some general facts about being a pilot:
- 1 GENERAL FACTS ABOUT PILOTS
- 2 WRONG REASONS FOR WANTING TO BECOME A PILOT
- 3 CONCLUSION
GENERAL FACTS ABOUT PILOTS
Pilots Do Not Earn as Much as You’d Expect
So you thought that becoming a pilot would enlist you into the lifestyle of the rich and famous?
Well, to burst the bubble, it won’t.
As a matter of fact, when you start out as a pilot you’d most likely not be making much.
So yes, you will be transporting hundreds of people a day for an average salary at best.
As a Reserve Pilot, There is no Guarantee
When working as a pilot, you could be “on reserve.”
This means that you’ll sit around the airport for most or all of your day, hoping for a senior pilot to call in sick, in order for you to fly. How’s that for glamorous?
In fact, there are days you’ll sit at the airport for more than 10 hours, pace back and forth between terminals, try to catch as much sleep as you can and have to eat at the same eatery throughout the day.
When a more senior college is off for a week, you then get to fly for some days.
Expect Very Hectic Schedules
This is a huge reality you’ll have to come to terms with if you intend to become a pilot.
As a pilot, you will most likely be on duty for 20 to 23 days of a month and have just a few days to yourself or family.
What’s more, your commute time to see your family or have time to yourself is a part of your off days.
So you will end up using either a day or two out of the limited time you have to get back to your family.
Seniority is the Order of the Day
Every aspect of the airline industry is hinged on seniority. A pilot having less flight experience but a longer duration at a company will always have a higher priority than one who just has experience.
It doesn’t make sense, but that’s how it works.
It is best practice to stick to one job and grow as most companies give your work duration with them greater preference than your time in the air.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s have a look at the wrong reasons for wanting to be a pilot.
WRONG REASONS FOR WANTING TO BECOME A PILOT
1. Love for Traveling
A lot of people think that because they love traveling, they should become pilots but that is a very wrong reason to make a career choice in piloting.
Piloting is not the only profession that entails moving from place to place. In fact, it isn’t like most people think.
A lot of people think that pilots travel around the world constantly so they will have time to go sightseeing and explore new cultures and meet new people.
Well, sorry to disappoint you but that’s far from it.
Do pilots travel around the world?
But they do not have the luxury or time to go on an adventure as most people think.
Most often when they arrive at a destination they have just a few hours to rest before taking off again to another destination so there is actually little or no time left to explore the city.
Most often, pilots prefer to get a hotel and sleep before the time for the extra flight arrives.
Asides not having time to explore, there is also another reason why your love for traveling isn’t enough for you to choose to be a pilot.
Most times when you travel and you enjoy the view and the adventure chances are that you are not the one driving yourself.
The traveling experience is fun when you are the passenger, that way you will be relaxed and have enough time on your hands to fake in the beautiful sights around.
But if you are the one driving the car or flying the plane it’s a different ball game.
Pilots travel all the time, yes, but they are not passengers they are the ones conveying the passengers, they have to fly the plane and constantly check that everything is working fine.
The pilot duties while flying take away most of the fun.
While the passenger has enough time to observe the beautiful sky and the amazing view in the air the pilot can’t shift all his focus to enjoying the beautiful view always because he has to be alert to make sure nothing goes wrong.
At the end of the flight, the pilot is usually so fatigued that all he thinks about is how to dive into bed and sleep.
That doesn’t sound so fun full does it?
Having a flare for traveling is not considered to be a good reason to become a pilot in aviation companies.
In fact, when you go for a test or an exam it is advisable not to mention that as a reason for wanting to become a Pilot because it could get you disqualified.
If you love traveling and exploring new places then you should most likely become a tourist rather than being a Pilot.
2. Good Pay
A lot of people make the mistake of choosing a career based on the salary being paid to people in the profession. When making a career choice, money shouldn’t be a determining factor.
In as much as we all want a good life, money shouldn’t dictate to you what to do and what not to do with your life.
Putting money ahead of every other thing is the reason why we have a lot of people engaging in fraudulent means of making money.
There is something about loving money that corrupts the mind and takes away the fun of the career.
In the transport and aviation sector, pilots have the highest salary. Take a look at the chart below.
Despite being the best paid in the sector they don’t have the highest pay on earth.
A survey carried out in 2017 showed that the median annual wage of flight engineers, copilot, and pilots in 2017 was $137,330 with the highest ten percent earning above $208,000 and the lowest ten percent earning below $68,230.
The same report showed that commercial pilots had a median annual salary of $78,480 as of May 2017. Below is a graph showing the median salary of pilots.
These figures look good but you can attest to the fact that they really are not the highest annual wages you have seen or heard of.
There are many other professions that pay more than what pilots earn.
In fact, if the risks and dangers associated with being a pilot should be put into consideration, they should be paid a lot more than they are currently being paid.
If you look at it from the angle of the risks being taken and the dangers a pilot is constantly exposed to, one may be tempted to say that pilots are being underpaid.
Apart from the risks they are exposed to, the cost of training to be a pilot is very expensive.
The starting salary of most pilots is barely enough to sustain them.
After the training fee is paid there is little or nothing left out of the salary to cater for other personal needs such as family expenses and paying off loans.
You will have to be really patient and work for a long time before being promoted to a position that your salary will be sufficient for you.
Take your eyes off the fat salary of some senior captains; what you should ask yourself is how long it took them to get to the level where they earn that much.
If you are thinking of being a pilot because you want to have a fat bank account, then you should think twice because it will take a lot of time and patience to have fat extra cash as a pilot.
At the start, if you are not financially disciplined you may end up spending more than you earn because of the heavy financial cost of training.
Don’t become a pilot because you want to be paid well, you’ll be in for a rude shock because the fattest of salaries are not in the aviation sector.
3. Family Tradition
Some people can be easily influenced and tend to choose a career path based on their environment and the prevalent profession in the area they grew up in.
There are many people that didn’t actually get to discover what actually they wanted to do because their passion was drowned in the prevailing norm of society.
A very disastrous thing to do is to make a career choice based on someone else’s passion at the expense of your own.
You must have heard or read of people that were born into a family known for a particular occupation, for example, plumbing and virtually all the children had to become plumbers.
If you want to find satisfaction in what you do and to put in your best, you must not allow your career path to be dictated by any other person but you. Be the captain of your ship.
You may wonder what I’m on about, well there are people that want to become pilots because virtually every male in their family tree was or is a pilot hence they feel they have an obligation to the family to become a pilot too.
There are certain family traditions that should be upheld but choosing a career because everyone in the family is doing it doesn’t make sense.
In 2010, people were asked why they wanted to become pilots, one of them answered and said that he is from an aviation family and went further to say that his uncles, father, and grandfather were pilots and if he chose not to be a pilot he would be breaking the family tradition and isolating himself from the rest of the family.
That’s a very wrong motive.
Nowhere did he say anything about his personal disposition towards piloting all he said was about his family.
It’s a great thing to come from a family of pilots but your uncles and grandfather won’t be the ones to fly the plane when the time comes for you to become a pilot, they won’t be there with you to share the burden of the rigorous training.
You need a personal passion and zeal for it.
Piloting isn’t a job that can be run on borrowed passion.
It’s not wrong to be motivated and inspired by family and loved ones but ensure that you don’t relegate your passion to the background and pursue a different one.
To be a pilot you need all the zeal, excitement and passion that you can have because when the going gets tough that is what will keep you going.
If you try to become a pilot based on fulfilling family tradition and not wanting to be the odd one out, then chances are that you may eventually drop out of the training process.
This is because you will come to terms with reality and realize that it isn’t just about your family, it’s a hundred percent about you, your passion and your will power.
4. The Luxurious Lifestyle
For some people, the reason why they dream about being pilots every night is because of the perceived luxurious life that pilots live and the beautiful appearance of pilots.
Well, it’s a known fact that pilots have one of the most fashionable and good looking uniforms and exude an aura of luxury when they walk past you in the airport.
Not only are the uniforms fashionable and beautiful, but they are also free of charge.
But there is more to being a pilot than wearing fashionable clothes.
If piloting was all about wearing fashionable clothes then pilots won’t be pilots they will be models on the runway.
Besides it isn’t the fashionable uniform that flies the plane it is the pilot.
A good uniform is useless where there is no knowledge of how to fly.
When faced with a harsh condition you need more than a good dress sense to pull through.
Apart from the gorgeous uniforms pilots are also entitled to free meals while flying and while in hotels.
A lot of people assume that pilots sleep in very luxurious hotels and have access to all kinds of luxury when they travel.
Well, the truth is pilots also sleep in regular cheap hotels.
Besides, there is more to being a pilot than the perceived luxurious lifestyle.
Yes, they have the opportunity to sleep in beautiful hotels sometimes — but they are also denied days and months of sleep on their own bed at home.
Due to the busy flying schedule pilots rarely have time to visit and sleep at home except when they are on leave.
They don’t have the standard days or weekends off, this is because most of their time is spent at work.
They miss spending quality time with their families and most often they miss out on family activities such as a birthday or anniversary celebration and also holidays.
They may have the money to live luxurious lives and enjoy themselves but the truth is they rarely have time for any of that. They don’t have the freedom to attend occasions or to change their working days to go for a vacation or a trip with their family.
The beauty of having money is to be able to spend it the way you want, the time you want and with people, you want to spend it with.
This is one luxury that pilots don’t have.
No matter how cozy the bed in the luxurious hotel they sleep in is, they still yearn for their bed in their home sweet home.
If you want to become a pilot because you want to live a life of luxury and glam them you should have a rethink because there will be very little time for that.
There is a certain type of respect that pilots command when they walk which could probably be due to the majestic way in which they carry themselves.
Most often, people want this type of respect and consider starting a career in the aviation sector.
This is totally wrong.
If you want to become a pilot because you want to feed your ego with respect then you should have a rethink.
Yes, a lot of people admire and speak kindly to pilots but that isn’t a substantial reason for wanting to become one.
If respect from the world around you is a determining factor for choosing a career then you are going to have a hard time picking one because it is not only pilots that are respected.
There are many other professions out there that command respect from society.
One thing people don’t know about pilots is that they seldom get positive feedback.
They do not have access to rewards and promotions that other corporate jobs have.
If you want to become a pilot because of the respect, chances are that you are someone that likes being constantly commended and applauded for a job well done.
Sorry to burst your bubbles, but pilots don’t have any of that they do not get salary raise because they flew a plane well.
They are expected to do a perfect job whenever they fly so they don’t get paid or praised for that because it is more of an obligation than a choice.
On the other hand, they could lose their job for not flying well.
Outsiders may think that pilots enjoy a lot of accolades in their profession but the truth is there is barely any of that.
All they do is to fly and go back home when necessary asides that, nothing else matters to the bosses.
Whatever respect or fame they have may be from outsiders may just be borne out of admiration for their appearance, other than that, pilots are sometimes considered to be glorified taxi drivers.
All they do is to “chauffeur” people around the world.
6. The Adrenaline Rush and Excitement of Flying a Plane
A lot of people are guilty of this.
While excitement and fascination with planes especially from a young age has been what made a lot of pilots identify their passion for flying, for other people it’s just a temporary obsession that won’t stand the test of time.
Flying an airplane looks like fun. If you live close to an airport you will most likely be thrilled to see something as big as an airplane flying in the air.
A lot of action movies also make flying an airplane look very adventurous and fun-filled.
Well flying an airplane is fun but your quest for an adrenaline rush shouldn’t push you to become a Pilot because there is more to it.
Apart from the excitement that comes from flying an airplane and the beautiful view in the air, a lot of work still has to be done by the pilot.
Most pilots can attest to the fact that after the first few flights the adrenaline rush wears off and flying becomes more of a job that needs to be done than a crazy fun adventure.
A lot of effort has to be put in by the pilot to make the airplane take off and to keep it in the air.
Flying a plane is serious business because any little mistake could cause the loss of many lives including yours.
Piloting is not about impulse or adrenalin rush it is about meticulous and calculative actions.
If you enjoy constant adrenaline rush from excitement then you should consider doing certain things like car racing, zip lining, skydiving etc. but definitely not piloting.
You can’t throw caution to the air while flying an airplane, yes the view is exciting but you can’t get carried away by it you need to constantly be at alert.
The excitement can be easily short-lived if conditions change while flying.
You can be enjoying the beautiful view one minute and the next minute there is trouble and you will be filled with fear and dread of uncertainty as to whether or not the airplane will crash.
In addition, a lot of people do not know that certain health factors should be considered before wanting to be a pilot.
You may enjoy seeing a plane flying but if you have altitude sickness or phobia for heights you cannot fly a plane.
Sadly a lot of people realize this during training and have to drop out.
Seeing and watching someone else fly is different from flying it by yourself and it takes a lot for an airplane to fly and land successfully and excitement and adrenaline rush plays little or no role in that success.
7. A Cozy and Beautiful Work Environment
The pilot spends most of his work time in the cockpit.
The cockpit isn’t the coziest of places. In fact, most offices have more space and room to move about than the cockpit.
For certain people, they choose to become pilots because the work environment of the pilot is perceived to be very beautiful and cozy.
If that’s the only reason why you want to be a pilot then you are in for a rise shock.
When the pilot is flying in the plane, he stays in the cockpit and has to be at alert pushing throttle, pressing buttons, putting on switches and doing a lot of things.
The copilot also stays in the cockpit with the pilot and there won’t be enough space left, therefore the cockpit can be a bit cramped.
It also is usually very busy especially when the weather is bad or there is turbulence in the air.
The tension in the cockpit during such times is more than that in the passenger’s section.
Aside from the cockpit, the cabin for the pilot is quite small; the beds are small and not as comfortable as the ones at home.
Even when the pilot is not flying the airplane, the work environment is still quite stressful due to the fact that there are other airplanes from the same company in the air and whatever affects a flight may affect the entire company.
There is also constant tension that could arise from the instability of the aviation sector that could lead to the loss of jobs any time.
Pilots also have to undergo constant training and be monitored regularly by the FAA.
The fear of failing the test or the training always put them under pressure while on duty.
The only time the pilot can shut out all these worries is when he is off duty. So you see, it isn’t as cozy and comfortable as you think it.
If you are in search of comfort, then you should probably check another industry but definitely not the aviation industry.
Well, there you have it. Being a pilot isn’t about a celebrity lifestyle or that of glamour. It’s about dogged dedication and work, as well as having a passion for flying.
Let’s face it, if you do not have a passion for flying you’d be a miserable a pilot.
The first thing you need to ensure is that you have a passion for the job, and you’re ready to spend the required time needed to grow as a pilot.
Being a pilot is a magnificent career but having the wrong expectations can ruin the whole experience and probably make you one of the 50% to 70% dropouts who didn’t make it through.