Hello my Aviator,
I am now working ten years in the aviation industry. Exactly one decade ago, I signed the contract with the flight school to become a commercial pilot. I take this anniversary as an occasion to recap my time as a first officer. Being a pilot is still a dream job for me. On my social media everything might look perfect, but this job also downsides, which I will reveal in this blog post.
But let’s start with the aspect which annoys me the most of being a pilot. Security checks. As a private jet pilot, I had the privilege to skip security controls at many destinations. But now I have to pass security every time without any exception.
At the airport the Paris security they treat pilots like a potential terrorist.
This is so ridiculous when you take in to account that all crew members have a valid background check. Recently they wanted to see my turmeric powder in my food bag. They checked it for liquids?! In front of the security staff, I had to taste the spice to proof this it is not an explosive. You can take it only with humor!
After I graduated high school I started right away preparing for the assessment to become a flight student for Lufthansa. I failed the first step of the selection process. One reason for that was my nervosity at that time.
Back then I was really sad about this but now I see it from a whole new perspective and I am actually happy that I failed the test.
I took the more difficult way to become a pilot. The flight training was self-funded, which made me put even more effort into it. I had to find a job after graduating. It was also tough to start my aviation career as a first officer on a Private Jet. The „Lufthansa way“ would have been the easy way but would definitely not made the person and pilot I am today.
Pros: You have the time of your life with lots of studying and flying.
Cons: No job guarantee with a self-funded training. It is high risk to take of not getting a job.
It is not an easy and inexpensive path to obtain the license to fly commercial airplanes. But in the end, it is „only“ a license and not an occupational education nor a degree. Health restrictions could cause that you are not able to fly, thus you can not pursue your profession. As a back up I got a loss of license. This insurance costs me 150€ a month and pays in case I am not able to fly anymore.
Cons: If you lose your medical you lose your license and you cannot fly anymore. In case you did not study you are left without any education.
Pros: You are in control of a powerful machine
Aviation is a volatile business with great ups and downs. As an employee, you are dependent on the profitability of your airline. If an airline cannot cope with a crisis or suffers from bad management (airberlin) pilots are not needed anymore.
Cons: You are only needed as long there are flights and aircraft. This profession is highly specialized you can only fly aircraft and you are type rated on one special aircraft.
Pros: No office day is the same. You can enjoy the good reputation of being a pilot and you get paid to fly.
The days of making a fortune as a pilot are over. A good availability of pilots on the market causes that working conditions and salary to drop. Especially as copilot, the current time is not easy. My net salary was around 2800€ when I started in 2010. Luckily, I did not have to pay for my flight training, because my parents took care of it. Imagine if have to pay back the costs of the license (70.000€) plus the type rating costs (20.000€) it would take ages and would not leave any money left to save.
Salary is not the same and highly depends on the company you work for. In the meantime, I earn as much as a captain does at my last employer. I paid back my costs for my type rating and I don’t have any debts.
Pros: The captain salary enables you to have a good life. Some of the perks your salary are tax-free, which increases your net salary significantly.
Cons: Pilot salaries differ greatly. Even „Pay to fly models“ exist where pilots have to pay the airline to fly. You have to invest a lot and work hard to boost your income.
Social life and free time
Do you have a social life? I have been getting asked this question many times. Of course, I do like everyone else.
But it requires good organization and planning to see friends and family.
I often have free time during the week when the majority has to work and has no time. But one part what I like most about my job, I do not take work home with me.
Pros: I have more than ten off days in a month. (German law requires a minimum of eight) Sometimes it is even half of the month that I am not flying. Between duty days I can at least enjoy four off days in a row without taking leave. In which kind of job do you have this?
Cons: You are not home. About half of the month I am not at home, so I can not attend all family and friends events. It is not possible to attend weekly courses (like a language course)
Watch my YouTube video about my off days at home in Berlin. Please subscribe.
The past 10 years I have been to hundreds of different locations in Europe, North Africa and Russia. As a private jet and as an airline pilot I am having layovers outside of my home base. The time I get to spend at one destination ranges from minimum rest (10 hours) up to two days. As a private jet pilot, the destinations were varying all the time and I really liked that I got to choose the crew hotel myself. You can imagine that I did not stay in the worst place. 😉
Pros: I have a fixed flight schedule and I know how much time I have at one destination. I can really use my rest time to do activities.
Cons: The network is limited so I get to stay in the same destination more often. A good example for this is Sevilla. It is almost my second home. After a while, this can become less exciting.
The pilot profession has probably the most irregular working hours. Aviation does not know weekends or public holidays. Some days you only have one flight the other day maybe three flights and instead of four hours duty 11 hours. Fortunately, I do not have to cope with jet lag, since I am flying within Europe. As a private jet pilot, I mostly flew during the day since VIPs do not like to get up early. But now I am flying also at night, which is a lot of stress for your body and you have to fight against fatigue.
Pros: I like the irregular working hours. I do not have to get up at the same time every day. Some flying days are long some are short. The work remains on board and when I have off I have off.
Cons: Due to the irregular working hours I have to take good care of my body. That is why I have a healthy diet and do regular body exercises to stay fit.
Becoming a pilot means you become part of a big family. Crews all share the same passion and a safe flight requires the crew to work in a team in a small environment. I think that is why you won’t find this energy and enthusiasm in other jobs. Crews take care of each other and support each other. The well being of each crew member ensures the safety of each flight.
Pros: Colleagues can become friends. To share the flight experience and to spend the layover together is double the fun.
Cons: During work, I am not staying at a nice location with my beloved once. It still remains work. Every crew member has their own daily routine so it happens that you only spend time together in the cockpit and the rest of the time everyone does their own thing.
I recently completed a total of 3000 flight hours. One aspect I really love about my job is that you are constantly learning and improving your skills. Aviation requires you to be up to date about new procedures and regulations. Even after flying an aircraft for thousands of hours you will find out something new about it.
With the first day of your first officer career, you start your training to become a captain one day.
Before I left the business aviation one and a half years ago, my former employer told me that I will become a captain in one year. Switching companies implied that I have to build up my seniority again. I fulfilled the requirement of 1500 flight hours to become a captain, but I still require flight hours within the new company. It also depends on their demand. Earliest time for me to become a captain is in about 1,5 years.
What would I have done differently?
I would have done everything exactly the same, except one point. Before starting with the flight training I would have studied to get a degree or at least study in parallel to the flight school. I am trying to study business administration alongside with the job and my social media, but currently, there is no time left for that.
As a pilot, I am experiencing so many of awe-inspiring moments that I am left with no choice but to fly! This dream jobs also has downsides. But which job doesn’t? The pros are vastly superior otherwise I would not continue to fly.
Which downside would you like the least?
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Your Pilot Patrick