We are taking a poll on aviation careers both past and present. The beauty of any aviation career in the industry is that there is no wrong answer and no wrong opinion. The whole idea is to share your life's experiences as commercial pilot, flight attendants, even air traffic controller. Any background or education that want to share is also helpful. Even the college you went to and the education in aviation job related jobs are helpful here. The idea is to pass down the knowledge from one generation to the next. There is a sore need for this, especially as older airline pilots start to retire and move on to the next chapter in their life, that input is lost in the aviation community. Here it can live on to inspire even spur you into a direction that you might not have felt you understood. Feel free to add to the conversation.
B757 Captain, Hours: 25,000+
I don’t know if I would use the word charmed but I would have to say that it went fairly smooth. I always had a flying job in the aviation industry and was always able to plot my course after I graduated college and flight training. I was always a planner and figured out who I wanted to fly for and make it happen. I think I was in the fortunate part of aviation where the hiring graph was moving upward. There was lots of commercial pilots being hired and lots of them retiring. This was back when then the retirement age was 60 and I think that made a big difference. I went from being a flight instructor to flying twin Cessna’s and then moved to a commuter airline(regional). I would note that the times were a bit different back then since we had to fly airplanes without radar with very long duty days. Commercial pilots were hungry for flight time back then and if you were not willing to work hard for the flight time, someone else would. There was always someone ready to take your spot so that kept you motivated. Even the regional flying had long days, I remember many of the trips had ten legs and fourteen hours of duty time. Today most airline pilots would moan and groan and probably refuse to do it. Back then we just had to embrace the suck. For me once you had the minimums you could go to the next level of aviation, and was I was able too. If you want to call that charmed, then I guess that is fine.
MD-80 Captain, Hours: 18,161
When I got ready to move to a major airline, I was fortunate to go with my number one choice and get through. Back then the hiring process was really intense. It started out with a sim ride (usually in something no one has ever flown). My interview time started at 0600 and at 0615 I was in the sim. There was no time to marvel at the fact that this was a 727, and that it was unbelievably cool to be there, it was time to shine. Interviews were so competitive back then, no one shared information, it was each man for himself. You did not know anyone, so it was kind of a lonely interview process.
If you passed the sim ride they would put your name on a list and at the end of the day you would find out if you made the cut and were able to move on in the interview process. The following day was an interview with a bunch of pilots that asked pilot questions. After that was an interview with HR. All in all from what I am hearing things are not as intense as they were when I went through, however I could be wrong. That is my experience. I just think it was harder back when I went through. Type rating oral exams were so ridiculous, you almost had to know how to build the plane. However, I think back and feel accomplished so I guess I am blessed.
F28 FO, Hours: 3,022
I think the question really depends on what time era you were in. In a upwards trending market where everyone is hiring and forward progress is made, it’s great. In a downward trending market where management is not liked and moral is super low, it’s a bit more challenging to be optimistic. Timing is everything. Getting hired at the right time is everything, even the difference of a couple of months can make a big difference. I would not call my career charmed, it was a struggle.
B767-300ER F/O Hours: 4,688
I never had a moment in my aviation career where I did not have a flying job. So I would say yes.
Mesa Captain Hours: I lost track...
I worked at a regional airline when pilot hiring was super slow. I knew of some guys that were able to do the regional thing and be in and out inside of two years. My tenure took 8 years so I feel like maybe it was not that charmed. I had a lot of hours by the time I made my goal.
Airbus 320 Captain, Hours: 17,646
We had a class at the airline called the captains charm school, does that count?
Midwest Express MD-88 Hours: 15,400
I met my wife while working at a small airline, she was a flight attendant. She told me that she did not date pilots so I had to really work hard to get her to agree to a date. I ended up marrying her so I think that counts as a pretty good victory.
B747 F/O Hours: 6,500
I don’t know if my career was charmed or not, I would guess you would have to ask my family. But this question reminded me of a story from when I was an instructor. An older gentleman in his 70’s came into the FBO who had lost his instructor half way through his instrument rating. He said, “listen, you want to fly with me.” I was intrigued to know why, and he said that the reason why I wanted to fly with him was because he was going to die in bed. He then proceeded to tell a story about Vietnam and how his platoon was hiding in a hut when the enemy threw a grenade into it from the window. It exploded and everyone was killed except him. He walked out without a scratch. You can’t argue with that so I cleared my schedule.
B727 Flight Engineer, B737 F/O B747 F/O, B777 F/O, B777 Captain Hours 33,000
I spent a lot of time in class, it seems like I moved around in and out of airplanes as contracts changed and pilots moved around. I did enjoy the Boeing aircraft, so I would say that part was charmed. They make some fine equipment and the avionics are amazing. I really loved that part. I did not find the travel part if the aviation industry charmed. It quickly wore off staying in hotels on the road for years and years. I had a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering which when I look back is total overkill. I should have studied airport management which I feel would have made me more marketable to move up in airline management.
A350 Captain Hours: I stopped keeping track
I feel like I had a successful career. Some people call that charmed, I was never furloughed and always had a job as a pilot. It got a little rough in the late 80's but the industry made it through. I remember transitioning to all glass avionics and how challenging that was. Of course that is more or less standard now a days and the younger pilots don't quite understand the training we had back in the day and how it was different.
B737 Captain Hours 19,000
I started out in operations which is an odd way to start an aviation career. But I like the fact that there was more to understand as far as the big picture. I think it was a good career option to go into the flight side of aviation industry since my pay structure was not as limited. I would recommend any aviation job if you like airplanes and the systems in which they operate. I am still fascinated by it.
Emb120 Captain, Federal Aviation Administration Hours 12,065
I was involved with flying when it was a struggle to get a job and when the Gulf war hit, flying jobs were hard to come by. I eventually transitioned to the federal aviation administration because government jobs were so stable and paid decent. I don't regret the move, I just wish I could fly more since I do miss that aspect.
Chief Pilot and Airport Management Hours 9800
I started out in a small 135 operation and worked my way to chief pilot. I stayed there for a very long time and then our company moved into and more or less developed a small airport in which I was a key player in airport management. I really did not want to go to the airlines so this allowed me to be home every night and I call that a huge win. I think "charmed" is what you are looking for, but I really love the smaller aviation community.
Flight Instructor, Aircraft Maintenance and Small Business
I started my aviation career as a flight instructor while working for a small flight school in California. During the slow months we did some maintenance under supervision and I grew to love the business end of that field. Later on after many years I developed and opened my own operation where we did some charters, instruction and aircraft maintenance. I feel very accomplished and healthier.
Part 135 Cargo Hours: 11515 and going
I started out flight instructing like most pilots to build up my time while I considered my career options. All my friends were going to the airlines and I listened to all the pros and cons that they gave me. I even consider air traffic controllers point of view and looked into what their aviation careers provided. I landed a cargo job which is not glamorous but incredibly stable. I get the hours I want and can focus on my family and still get to fly as a pilot. Winning!
Piper Navajo, Hours: 3,358
I come from three generations of pilots with a wide variety of aviation careers. I started out thinking I wanted to go into aerospace engineering, but changed my mind when I got my commercial rating. That degree did not do much for my aviation career goals so I switched gears and totally focused on getting my ratings during a college sabbatical. I met a girl who became a flight attendant and now I am back at finishing my college degree and shooting for an airline slot. I think my journey is charmed, or at least guided by someone or something, depending on what you believe. I enjoy being a pilot and I love going to the airport even on my day off.
B767 Major Airline Hours 22,687
I worked my way to up a chief pilots slot at a major airline. Not "the" chief" but a base chief pilot (I wont say what airline here) I started out as a flight engineer which was a great job to start with the majors. If I could have spent my entire career there I would have been very satisfied, it was super fun. The aviation industry can be super brutal at the same time, I think the timing of it all determines that. Aviation for me is a dream job and I would not change one step in my journey.
CFII, MEI Hours 13,508
I am a flight instructor, I choose to stay in that realm because I love the purity of taking someone with some desire and turning them into an accomplished pilot. There is not a huge salary in it. I have had to move around a few times to find a busy flight school so that I would have a good supply of students to work with. More students means more salary, which is the goal when you have a family. Its a good career, I like the business part of it, the management of time, schedule and aircraft is a good education in itself. There are better flying careers that pay more but I really am enjoying the place that I am in. It does not feel like a rat race and I feel like I bring a good product to my students.
Regional Airline Captain, Hours: 4500
I started thinking in high school that I wanted to be an air traffic controller then changed my mind when a friend took me for a ride in his plane. I knew I was going to make aviation my career that day as a pilot. Right now we are in a boom with a massive pilot shortage, so I feel like my career at this point is charmed. I am in demand and I get a lot of cold calls from places looking to hire which kind of blows my mind. I am not sure which direction I will end up in aviation, probably a move to the major airlines since there is so many choices.
B737 F/O Hours 12,258
I feel stuck. I am employed at a major airline but my seniority is the middle of the pack. Quality of life is just "ok" I am not satisfied. Things are changing fast now, but they have not in the past. Given the choice of staying home or going to work, I would rather stay home. Like I said, I am in a weird place.
B747 Captain Freight Hours: 15,456
My dream job was to become a pilot. My mom wanted me to become an engineer but I had to convince her that the sky was calling! She thought being a pilot was going to be dangerous but I schooled her on the facts and she finally agreed. I started on the 747 as an engineer and worked my way up with a freight company. I could go to the major airlines but I really love the opportunities with freight and the flying I really like. You can be a senior captain with a smaller less salary paying airline while everyone else runs after the majors. I am now on the 777, I call that a huge win and I still have 25 years left in my career. I feel like I am living the dream.
Air Traffic Controller, Private Pilot Hours 124
I made the choice to go into air traffic because of my time constraint and my finances. It seemed like a good idea to transition to it since I was getting out of the military and joining the ranks of air traffic controllers was pretty easy. I do enjoy interacting with the airlines and I am satisfied that I did not push myself to run after flying jets. I got my private certificate and that gives me my flying fun.
Airbus 320 First Officer Hours 6500
I made it to the airlines in the hiring boom and I finally checked off my last goal in my aviation career. I feel really good about that. I was able to get all my ratings through ATP and I feel like my aviation career was fast tracked compared to a lot of other pilots I talked too. I skipped college, it seemed fruitless to take all this silly classes that don't relate to anything in aviation. Its going to be a few years before I upgrade, but I do feel like I am successful. Getting here was a challenge to come up with the money to finance all of the instruction. I wish it were a little bit cheaper but I am sure it will be worth it in the end.
B717 Captain, Retired, Hours: unknown
I had a good aviation career, I did a lot of things, flew a lot of airplanes and got to see a lot of really neat places. Its hard work, don't let anyone tell you that it is not. If you are going to be in aviation you are going to have to get used to having a weird sleep schedule. There are a lot of early mornings and red eyes over the years but I would not trade any of it.
A300 Captain, Hours 29,303
My aviation career has been quite the ride. I was able to do a little bit of everything from aviation education, flight training, aircraft delivery, and of course line flying at my base airport. I think I saw somewhere that someone wanted to be an engineer and ended up in a different direction. That was my path, being an engineer seemed to be missing something and I never looked back when I took my first ride in a Cessna 152. I ended my career in an Airbus 300 which is a widebody freight aircraft. It is really fun and I am glad that I never transitioned to passenger flying. There is a phrase that boxes do not complain and its true. Freight flying is really unique since there is much more than flying the backside of the clock. There were lots of opportunities to fly during the day and see all sorts of destinations. I am very happy with my aviation career choice and would do it again if I could.
Airbus 321 Captain, Hours 17,984
My aviation career was definitely charmed. I feel blessed to be able to fly airplanes for so long without any accidents or incidents. I went to school like most pilots, got a degree and worked for a national airline in the US. I am very fortunate to also teach in the training center and help new hire students learn the art of the Airbus. I feel like its important to give back and try to give a positive attitude environment in the simulator. I think I went through too many stressful situations over the years and felt completely wiped out after training. When you can take an active part in changing a paradigm is when I feel the most successful. Moving up in your aviation career does not have to be a loath some task like it has been in the past. I remember my 727 oral was like 3 hours long and I felt like any minute the guy was going to hand me a wrench and ask me to take something apart. I am so glad aviation is growing past all that now and that we are focusing on what's really important. If I were to give some advice, and I know that is not really a part of this article, it would be to find some way to give back. Be a part of someone else's story, make a difference.
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