Flying careers are a fickle mistress

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airlinerFlying careers are a fickle mistress
Two pro pilots meet for the first time and inevitably they will quiz each other on how they came to be in their current role.

It’s fascinating that it would even be worthy of discussion and yet this tradition is repeated everyday in two-man cockpits across the globe. You would think that all professional pilots all followed similar paths, thus there would be no tale to tell.

The fact is professional pilots came to their current gig from an almost infinite number of ways.


professional pilotThe reason that happens says much about our industry. The career path of a professional pilot is 10% skill and 90% luck. I will evoke a Thomas Jefferson quote here about the harder I work, the more luck I have, but that only works to a point.
You could be Steve Canyon and if your timing is off, your career could resemble the stock market.

Mitigation strategies:
Some of these may be cliché, but it doesn’t matter because they are correct

  • Work hard(er)
  • Be the best you can be
  • Network extensively
  • Seize opportunities
  • Don’t crap on people below you on your way up
  • Be tenacious
  • Don’t get frustrated

I have friends who have literally camped out outside a Chief Pilot’s office to get a job.

flying for a living

There are rumors of a massive pilot shortage; oh that again? Only this time Congress has tipped the scales with their knee-jerk 1500 hour rule-making. This will certainly change the dynamics, just like the age 65 rule will. All these things will have an affect, but the jury is still out on if this will make pilot careers better or worse.

It’s an extremely cyclical and fickle industry…

The good news is all indications are that we are coming out of a trough and those coming up the ranks should be in a great position to capitalize on the next up-swing.

If you talk to existing airline pilots, especially First Officers, and you get a lot of sour grapes. You should listen and go in eyes-wide-open, but as a friend and South West Captain once  told me, “don’t let another pilot that’s disgruntled tell you how YOU feel.”

No matter what, if you truly love it, you should chase your dreams and don’t let anyone talk you out of it.

Happy Hunting

by Brent

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