Hello my Aviator,
time flies! My blog is now online for already one year. It has been an exciting journey to share my adventures, tips and travels with you. At an early stage, I noticed that you are interested in more than just cool photos and videos on my Instagram. Therefore I launched www.pilotpatrick.com. The biggest motivation is you, my Aviators. I am not only an inspiration for you but also you are an inspiration for me. To celebrate the anniversary of my blog I will give away an original A380 model of Airbus. Additionally, I will answer the most common questions. On top, I will bust some myths about pilots and aviation in general.
Oh! You are only the First Officer. When will you fly the plane?
I love to hear this statement. Imagine all First Officers would not be allowed to fly. How are they supposed to become a captain one day without having the experiences of flying an aircraft? Before each flight, the decision is made which duties each pilot has. This is split apart in Pilot flying (PF) and Pilot not flying (PNF). PNF means to do the radio communication and to support the PF in his task of flying. The responsibility has the commander at all times even when the first officer is operating the aircraft. The first officer is allowed to take off and land the aircraft like the captain from the beginning on. Restrictions apply when the weather is marginal or other circumstances like special airports require the commander to fly.
Can travel the world for free as a pilot!
I wish I could! In my past seven years as a pilot, I paid for all my flight tickets the regular price. So far I never had the privilege of staff traveling. It would be great to have the possibility to book ID tickets. This way I would be even more spontaneous to travel to new places. The fare is much cheaper than the regular ticket price. For example, a flight in Business class from Germany to New York (round trip) would only be around 500€. The tickets are only standby so there is the risk of not getting a seat, but on the other hand, they grant you great flexibility.
As a pilot, I have to commute to my home base and the location of the aircraft a lot. Especially during my time as a private jet pilot, I traveled with airlines a lot. For those flights, I am wearing my uniform as well. Most of the time I can use the fast track at security checks or I get free drinks and food on board. I even have been upgraded to Business Class several times. Aviation is like a big family and crews help each other out and make traveling as much as comfortable as possible.
You are a pilot. You must have good eyes!
Contrary to popular belief, you can fly commercial aircraft wearing glasses or contact lenses, as long as your vision is correctable to 20/20. For the initial Medical class examination, you have to meet a lot of different requirements. In case you are wearing glasses, they need to be in the cockpit and you also need a to bring a spare one. Each year you have to revalidate your examination and proof that your vision is unchanged.
Pilots earn a fortune! What do you do with all that money!
Pilots make a fortune and for their job, they get paid too much. This is not correct! Especially the first years as a first officer are not paid well. For example, I started as a private jet pilot and for a full-time contract, my wage was 2,800€ a month. I would not consider this a fortune! A big benefit of being a pilot is the extra allowances. I get paid extra for being a way from my home base. Some of the surcharges are tax-free, so it helps to boost the net salary. Just so you know in Germany you have to pay about 50% tax on your salary.
Over the last years, a lot of airlines practiced some kind of loan „dumping“. To be able to offer cheaper flight tickets and to be more competitive they save on the costs of staff. There has been an oversupply of pilots for a long time and that is why companies reduced the salary of their crews. They even developed a „pay to fly” models, which means that the pilot pays for his work and not the employer the employee. I also know about a pilot of a big German charter company, who still lives at home with her parents because she can not afford moving out. With the upgrade to a captain, the world can look different. Most of the times the salary is almost doubled.
Do aircraft have a horn?
I alway thought they do not have a horn but they actually do. But this horn is not used to alert other aircraft, it is used to inform the ground crew that the cockpit asks for communication. In the Airbus this button is called „Mechanic call“. Once the engines are operating you will not be able to hear this horn anymore. The private jet I used to fly did not have this feature.
What do you do during a long flight?
My longest flight so far was from Teneriffa to London. We had a strong headwind and the aircraft was heavy. The flight was almost 5 hours and this is about the maximum the Citation XLS can do. This flight felt like an eternity because there is not much space in the cockpit. Honestly, I do not know what pilots do when they fly 10 hours straight. On short flights below one hour, you are busy from the beginning to the end of the flight. In cruise flight, the workload is really low. The auto pilot flies the aircraft and the crew monitors the systems. The PNF (Pilot Flying) fills out the flight plan and does fuel checks. The PF (Pilot Flying) checks the weather en route and of the destination. Besides such tasks, I fill out my pilot log book, eat, drink read and take some short snaps for you.
What do your three golden stripes mean?
The stripes state the rank of a crew member. Three stripes are for first officer and four for captains. At some airlines, first officers also fly with two stripes to indicate their junior status. There is no difference between gold and silver!
How did you become a pilot and how much did the training costs?
At the European flight academy, formerly called Intercockpit, I became a flight student in 2008. I chose an integrated route which is a full-time course othat takes a student from complete beginner to a position of becoming a pilot at an airline. The course was really intensive at there was not much free time in between practical and theoretical flight training. The training facility organized everything for you and provided you with a monthly schedule. The theoretical phases were quite enduring, which made the practical flight phases even more exciting.
The ground courses took place in Frankfurt and my flight training in Florida and in Croatia. Even though the time was quite stressful and paired with a lot of pressure, I had one of my best times in my life. Already after 18 months, I completed the training. Like everything in aviation, flight training is expensive too. In total, I paid 64,000€ to the flight school. (This did not include housing transport administration fees at the authorities) In case you are interested in an extended version of how I became a pilot, I suggest to read my series on this blog.
Do pilots sleep during flight?
The simple answer is yes. Certainly not on all flights. In pilot terms, sleeping is called controlled rest, which is taken in the operating seat. Of course only one pilot at the time. This procedure has been proven to improve safety because it improves alertness. The idea behind is that a pilot gets a sleep up to 30 minutes like a power nap and to be more fit afterwards!
Do aircraft have a key like a car?
Smaller aircraft do big once do not. The Citation XLS+ has a regular lock and I had a key for every aircraft in the company. You probably think that those were super fancy for a 12,000,000€ private jet. It actually looks like a simple key of a locker. The major reason why smaller aircraft or business jet has a lock is that you could enter the aircraft from the ground without any aids. On a big airliner, the picture looks different since the door is so high up that it is sufficient to remove the stairs to guarantee that no unauthorized personnel gets access.
To celebrate the first anniversary of my blog, I am giving away an Airbus A380 model in the size of 1:400.
To have the chance to win the model you need to:
- Be a follower either on my Instagram/ Facebook
- Subscribe with your email to the newsletter of my blog below
- Leave a comment below with the questions which is aviation, travel or lifestyle related. I will answer your questions in a later blog post.
I am looking forward to sharing my adventures as a pilot. Good luck and happy landings!
Your Pilot Patrick