process of becoming a captain

12 Years Being a Pilot: Pros And Cons Of a Dream Job

Dear my Aviator,

I’m m now working for 12 years in the aviation industry and it is even over 14 years ago that I signed the contract with my former flight school to become a commercial pilot. I take this anniversary as an occasion to recap my time as a pilot. Even though my time as a pilot had a lot of ups and downs it is still a dream job for me. On my social media, everything might look perfect, but this job also has its downsides. Are you ready for the pros and cons of being a pilot?

But let’s start with a little aspect that annoys me about being a pilot. Security checks. As a private jet pilot, I had the privilege to skip security controls at many destinations. But as a commercial pilot you have to pass security like any other passenger with only a few exceptions.

Paris security staff treat pilots like a potential terrorist.

This is so ridiculous when you take into account that all crew members have a valid background check. Once they wanted to see my turmeric powder in my food bag. They tried to check it for liquid?! In the end, had to taste the spice in front of the security staff to prove that it is not an explosive. A waste of time and nerves but I decided to take it with humour from now on.

Flight school 👨🏼‍🏫

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 due to my extreme nervosity at that time.

Back then I was really sad about this but now I see it from a whole different perspective and I am actually happy that I failed the test.

I definitely took a more difficult way to become a pilot. The flight training was self-funded, which made me put so much effort into it so I would for sure succeed. There was no job guarantee after graduating from flight school. It was 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 not have made me the person and pilot I am today.

PRO: You have the time of your life with lots of studying and flying.

CON: No job guarantee with a self-funded training. There is a high risk of not getting a job and the waiting time can be extremely long. 

Pilot Licence 🎟

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 your inability to fly, thus you can not pursue your profession further. At least not in an actual cockpit. As a little back up I got a loss of license insurance which is a must for every pilot.

CON: 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. With a contract, the airline pays for your training and keeps all ratings valid. In case of unemployment, you have to take care of it yourself which can get extremely costly. 

PRO: You fly yourself and you are in control of powerful machines. 

Salary 💸

The days of making a fortune as a pilot are over. A good availability of pilots on the market causes that working conditions and salaries to drop as it happens at moment due to the pandemic. Especially as a first pilot, the current time is not easy. My net salary was around 2800€ when I started in 2010. Luckily, I did not have to take a loan for the training, because my parents supported me. 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.

The salary depends highly on which company you fly for, where you are based, which aircraft type you fly and how well you negotiate your salary.

There are a few pilot jobs out there in which you can make really good money. Especially in the business aviation on a private jet flying for an owner, you can easily earn 20,000€ as captain but those jobs are extremely rare and do not give you a lot of security.

PRO: A captain’s salary enables you to have a good life. But it is usually a long way to the left seat. 

CON: 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. When switching companies you lose your seniority or might even fly as first officer again. 

Job security 🦠

Aviation is a volatile business with great ups and downs. The pandemic has shown us how volatile. From one to the other day several ten thousand pilots got unemployed. You are dependent on the profitability of your airline. If an airline cannot cope with a crisis or suffers from bad management pilots are not needed anymore.

PRO: No office day is the same and you do not take any left work home. You can enjoy the good reputation of being a pilot and you get paid to look out of the window. 

CON: 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.

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.

You often have free time during the week when the majority of the people has to work and has no time. But one aspect I exceptionally like about the job is that you do not take any work home.

PRO: 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 working. 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?

CON: You are not home. About half of the month you are not at home, so you will not be able to attend all family and friend events. It is not possible to attend weekly classes regularly like language or dancing classes. 

Layovers 🗺

In the past 12 years I have been to hundreds of different locations in Europe, North Africa, Middle East 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. The destinations were varying all the time as a private jet pilot. I really liked the fact that I got to choose the crew hotel myself. You can imagine that I did not stay in the worst places. 😉

PRO: 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. (airline pilot)

CON: When the network is limited you get to stay at the same destination more often. (airline pilot)

Working hours ⏰

The pilot job has probably one of the most irregular working hours. Aviation does not know weekends or public holidays. There are some days you only have one flight and there are others you have up to five legs. Instead of four duty hours up to 16. Fortunately, I did not have to deal with jet lag, since I have been flying mostly within Europe. As a private jet pilot, I flew primarily during the day since VIPs do not like to get up early. As an airline pilot, I also got to fly at night, which is a lot of stress for your body and you have to fight against fatigue.

PRO: 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.

CON: 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.

Crew life 🥳

Becoming a pilot means you become part of a big family. Crews all share the same passion which connects everyone easily. To guarantee 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. Nevertheless, there is a lack of diversity in aviation.

Especially in the cockpit, you will not find many members of the LGBTQ community.

I have met great, open-minded, and modern thinking pilots. Most of them belonged to the younger generation. Unfortunately, there is still a huge percentage of pilots that are not tolerant and have an old fashioned mindset when it comes to sexuality.

PRO: Colleagues can become friends. To share the flight experience and to spend the layover together is double the fun.

CON: 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. 

Upgrade 👨🏼‍✈️

One aspect I really love about my job is that you constantly need to learn to be the best pilot possible. Whether it is to improve your flying skills or to review system related knowledge. Aviation requires you to be up to date on 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.

PRO: You never stop learning as a pilot. That is a really nice fact which makes this job so interesting.

CON: Switching companies means you lose your seniority. So you usually have to fly as first officer again even though you flew as captain before. Becoming a captain can take up to 10 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 studied in parallel to the flight school. Keep this in mind when deciding to become a commercial pilot.

Which downside would you like the least? Please let me in a comment below and do not forget to like this blog post. 

Happy landings!

Your Pilot Patrick


lack of diversity in the cockpit

Why is there a lack of diversity in the cockpit?

Dear Aviator,

do you still remember the good old days in aviation before the novel coronavirus hit us? It was a booming industry with a constantly increasing demand for air travel, new jets with the most modern technology that could fly to the furthest destinations, and business class which could have been first class. Airlines were bracing for a severe pilot shortage. For now, this problem is solved but for the long term, it will arise again but why? The lack of diversity in the cockpit could be the reason.

Check out my YouTube channel PilotPatrick for more exciting videos about my trips around the world!

Thank you, Corona

Covid-19 came around the corner and destroyed aviation in a second. In one second the demand for pilots was gone. Even worse bankruptcy, lower demand, smaller fleets, low liquidity have been causing a lot of pilots to lose their jobs already.

I think it will take about two years until we are back at the same level as before Corona. We can expect during this period to be very low, with almost no demand for pilots. Step by step the demand will rise again. Let’s hope it will only be a very long low before aviation takes off again to the same level. In case no other factor will torpedo the business, the 2019 Boeing Pilot & Technician Outlook projects that 804,000 new civil aviation pilots are required to maintain the world fleet over the next 20 years.

Why do airlines have to brace for a pilot shortage?

There are many reasons for the anticipated pilot shortage. It is a mix of increasing regulation, growing demand for air travel, fleet growth, and an aging workforce. Pilots have to stop flying commercially latest with the age of 65. But there’s one cause that also offers a solution:

The industry has long struggled to recruit women, people of color, and members of other marginalized groups.

The lack of diversity in the cockpit

In 2008 I started my training to become a pilot. At the time I already noticed the lack of diversity in aviation. Back then the flight school was called Intercockpit, which is now the European Flight Academy, a subsidiary of Lufthansa Aviation Training. My course consisted of 25 men and only one woman!

During one of my first lessons with the DA20, my flight instructor looked at me and said:

“Patrick, you have to know: Women and black people have no place in the cockpit!”.

At that moment I was more busy concentrating on the approach than thinking about his discriminating statement.

The lack of diversity continued with my first pilot job. It was a small charter company with business jets in Berlin. The fleet consisted of about 10 jets and only white men were working in the cockpit. Not one single woman in the cockpit only in the cabin.  My second private jet employer had a fleet that was double the size and had at least two women flying.

I found that women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community were significantly underrepresented, this did not change when I switched to a big german airline in 2016. Less then 3% of the flight crew were women and I have not seen a black colleague. After flying for 6 years, it was the first time I flew with a female captain.

Current statistics

These are really no exceptions. Statistics prove my numbers. A review of the latest Civil Airmen Statistics indicates that a little over 4% of Airline Transport Certificate holders – the required certification to fly for a major carrier – are women. No major U.S. carrier hired a female pilot until 1973.

The situation is even worse for African Americans, who were not hired to pilot a commercial airplane until the 1960s. Things changed only because of a six-year battle against Continental Airlines waged by Marlon Green, who filed a discrimination complaint against the carrier. In 1963, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in his favor, paving the way for the first black pilot, David Ellsworth Harris, whom American Airlines hired in 1964. Green would follow suit at Continental in 1965.

Often their mere presence has been used to symbolize progress in diversifying the industry. (source: the conversation)

diversity in aviation

Helen Richey was the first female commercial pilot in 1934.

diversity in aviation

Captain David Harris was the first African American Airline commercial pilot hired by a major US airline in 1964 and was the first to be promoted to Captain.

Why is there a lack of diversity in the cockpit?

I have met great, open-minded, and modern thinking pilots. Most of them belonged to the younger generation. Unfortunately, there is still a huge percentage of pilots that are not tolerant and have a mindset like my flight instructor in Zadar.

To understand the roots of the issue: He was over 60 at that time. At the beginning of his aviation career he probably never flew with a single woman or an open LGBTQ member. When he became a captain, the WHO still considered being homosexual as a sickness. The authority gap in the cockpit was immense which was later found to deteriorate safety.

It is also a perception problem, where women are not seen as authoritative enough for positions like a captain of an aircraft.

The white male dominance

I had to experience a lot of sexist behavior against women. Pilots used their white male dominance in this job to feel superior. I had to listen to so many bad jokes about women and other minority groups. in the cockpit. I was getting sick of it and I had a hard time keeping calm because I feared when I would speak up a good atmosphere in the cockpit would infringe safety.

It is like a bowl of tomato soup. You put only a little bit too much salt in it is over-salted. The same applies to the behavior, beliefs, and attitude of some pilots. This has caused the cultures in aviation not to be very inclusive.

This domination of white men paired with known intolerance probably intimidates minor groups from pursuing a career in aviation.

Another barrier for those who lack resources and support. The cost of flight training can range from US$50,000 to upwards of $100,000.

What could lead to more acceptance?

In the end, corona could aggravate the pilot shortage problem in the future even more. The demand will eventually come back to an extreme high. But then we most probably experience an even greater lack of pilots, because of uncertainty during the crisis fewer people started their training to become a pilot.

I believe a stronger focus on attracting a diverse workforce and embracing a more inclusive culture is pivotal to ensuring there are enough pilots as we return back to the skies.

It is terrifying to see that some pilots believe that they are superior just because of their profession and believe that they are “flying gods”. I have been accused of disenfranchising the job because I have shown that I have feelings and that it is ok to be “colorful” on social media.

The new generation of pilots will help to lose the old stigmata and outdated bodies of thought.

Positive mind. Positive life. Happy landings.

The latest happenings inspired me to talk about this important topic: the lack of diversity in the cockpit. Please do not forget to like the post and leave me a comment below. What will help to reach more acceptance in the cockpit?

Your PilotPatrick


travel blogger equipment

What's inside my blogger suitcase? All my equipment, gadgets and tips

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Advertisement/Anzeige

Dear Aviator,

you know already what is inside my pilot bag! As my blogger career developed you became curious to find out what equipment I use to create my engaging travel and aviation content. “How did you take this photo? "This is epic. What gadget to use here?” These have been your questions. For the first time, I will reveal my travel blogger equipment. 

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What's inside my blogger suitcase?

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Are you ready for an upgrade of your photos and videos? Maybe you are a blogger, you strive to be one or you just want to create epic content for yourself, you need more than just a camera. So whether you have an audience you want to engage and surprise or you just want to create epic memories for your personal use then there is no way around special equipment and gadgets. Watch my new video on my YouTube channel to have the chance to win a brand new luxury carry on luggage by Carl Friedirk. When you want to get it now use Code: PP15 for a great deal on the Carl Friedrik Carry On!

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Check out my YouTube channel PilotPatrick for more exciting videos about my trips around the world!

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Be a Smart Packer

When I go on my private travels I always take hand luggage to have my equipment accessible during the flight and as you might know power  banks and batteries are not in checked-in luggage. Additionally the equipment is expensive and I don’t want to risk getting lost or stolen.

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Carry on luggage by Carl Fridrik

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My travel Blogger Equipment

One of my most favorite articles is "What's inside my pilot suitcase?" Now it is time to reveal the content of my blogger suitcase as well.  I am blogging now for over four years and I have been constantly working on improving my photos and videos I have been sharing with you. It is a never ending process to get better and better. On one side creativity is key but you also need the technical gear that supports you to realize your ideas.

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Panasonic Lumix G9 with external microphone

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Which camera?

The best camera is the one you are carrying with you!  

In my early beginning (2016) I just used my phone to cremate my content but I was never really happy with the quality and I am still not really convinced that a smartphone camera can keep up with a DSLM or DSLR camera despite all the improvements. 

I invested in a Sony compact camera, Sony RX100 VII, which is extremely versatile. With a flip screen, 4K videos +, fast autofocus, it is the perfect beginner blogging and vlogging camera. I still use this model as a backup camera and for occasions when I do not want to carry my main camera. I primarily use the Panasonic LUMIX G9 (DSLM) which is great for videos and photos as well. 4K resolution, fantastic video stabilisation, external microphone and a flip screen. Photo wise it convinces with exchangeable lenses, 6k resolution, fast autofocus and you can connect your smartphone with an app to shoot yourself.

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Sony compact camera

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My Current Camera Gear

Instagram posts: Panasonic LUMIX G9*

Blog photos: Panasonic LUMIX G9

Vlog: Panasonic Lumix G9 / Sony RX100 VII*

Instagram Stories / TikTok: Smartphone

 

Action camera: GoPro Hero*  

360-degrees Camera: Insta360 ONE X*

A 360-degree camera is the next generation of action cameras. This camera with two lenses allows you to record content in 360 degrees. The photos and videos you can shoot are just epic and you can make everyone jealous.

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360 degrees camera

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Light 

The correct lightning makes the photo! You might have the perfect motive but the light is not optimal. I use a lamp for interior shooting like in hotel rooms, spas, aircraft and whenever it is too dark. For stories and selfies you want frontal light on your face. In case daylight is not sufficient I can recommend an inexpensive selfie light.

My light gear

 GVM LED cameralight* is portable, runs on batteries and it is dimmable

Criacr Selfie light* with 36 Leds to clip to your smartphone

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Light set up

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Tripods are a must

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Tripods And Selfie Sticks

I could not imagine a blogger life without them anymore. Think about how many times you wanted to record yourself or where not able to put your camera that way to capture the frame. Tripods are the answer.

My Tripod Gear

Adjustable legs tripod: Joby GP3-BHEN Gorillapod* for uneven surfaces 

Mini tripod: Manfrotto mini tripod* works for all devices and it can be used as a handheld as well. Most of the time it connected to my smartphone so I can quickly record a scene on my travels. It is also perfect to record steady time lapse videos and with its extendable legs you can use heavier dives as well. 

Extendable selfie stick:AuyKoo Selfie Stick*  and telescope pole

✈ Tripod with Clamp: Smatree  Jaws Flex*

Smartphone clamp: Manfrotto clip* that connects a smartphone with a tripod

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Tripod with clamp and adjustable legs

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Manfrotto mini tripod

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Telescope selfie stick for e.g. an action camera

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All You Need Is Power

Back as a flight student my POF teacher (principle of flight) always said: “All you need is speed to make something fly!” Same applies to shooting content but here in this case you need power. Make sure you take a fully charged power bar and spare cables to have your cameras always ready to be used. 

My Power Set Up

Power outlet adapter to charge up to four USB devices: SPLAKS USB 4-Port*

Power Banks of different size: Anker PowerCores*

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Always make sure that your devices are charged

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Powerbanks

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Advanced Equipment

Underwater dome

This gadget is a must for shootings underwater. It is a simple plastic in which you can mount your GoPro (I am sure it exists for different cameras as well) You are able to capture above and below the water line in one image. The dome is not expansive and your audience will be curious how you did it. It requires a little bit practice to get everything in frame. In case you do not want to invest in a dome. Take two photos. One above the waterline and one below. The effect is the same but not as good as with the dome.

✈ My gear: Telesin Dome Port* 

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Underwarter dome

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Drone

Expansive but almost a must for any travel blogger and aviation geek. 

It definitely need a lot of practices. Besides flying the drone you need to know how to record footage correctly so a video is in one flow. 

Nowadays they have become so advanced that it is almost impossible to crash them but you need to know where  you are allowed to fly them and the regulations. Before a trip make sure which special drone laws apply and if you are even allowed to fly. Don’t do it like me: flying around the Hollywood sign and then crashing it in the bush. 

✈ Advanced level: DJI Mavic Pro 2*

✈ Beginner level: DJI Mavic Mini*

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Drone

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Positive mind. Positive life. Happy landings.

I hope you find my article helpful and you can use my tips to upgrade your photos and videos in the future. Please do not forget to like the post and leave me a comment below which travel blogger equipment you would like to try out. 

Your PilotPatrick

FOLLOW ME:

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* = Affiliatelinks/Werbelinks

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top 10 instagrammable spots in New York City

TOP 10 instagrammable spots in New York City

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Anzeige / Advertisement

Dear Aviator, 

it has been a while since my trip to the city that never sleeps. Instead of a straight forward travel blog post, I share with you my "TOP 10 Instagrammable spots in New York City". At a destinations I am constantly chasing for spots to create enganging content for you. This definitely looks a lot easier than it really is. Stick to my TOP 10 and you will get automatically a great overivew of the city and some nice shots for you feed. Pack your camera (not only your phone) and some good walking shoes, because I walked over 40 km in six days. 

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Times Square, a must-see in NYC at night, but very crowded

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Spectacular street canyons, but extremely busy and hard to take Insta shots

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1- The Vessel

New in town. The Vessel, an architectural artwork, which is unique and extravagant. Built to plans by the British designer Thomas Heatherwick, the elaborate honeycomb-like structure rises 16 stories (45 m) and consists of 154 flights of stairs and 2,500 steps. The Vessel is the main feature of the 5-acre (2.0 ha) Hudson Yards Public Square, which comprosmises a mall with lots of shoppping opportunities. It's worth a visit since the entrance is for free (check the website prior) and you can take some etravagent photos.

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The Vessel

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2- The Envue Hotel

Not quite in New York City, but only a 10 min ferry ride across the Hudson river. The Envue Hotel, which belongs to the Autography Collection of Marriott, offers unobstructed views of the New York City skyline. I stayed in one of their spacious and contemporary executive suites with a spectacular balcony (Instagram spot deluxe). You not necessarily have to stay at this 5-star hotel, to enjoy the view. As non hotel guest, you could have dinner at the at the NoHu restaurant or enjoy views from their rooftop terrace.

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Envue hotel lobby and bar

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Relaxing in the Envue Hotel

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Envue Hotel with ferry station in front

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3- Intrepid Air Museum

A must for every avgeek, is a visit at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. The museum showcases the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, the cruise missile submarine USS Growler, a Concorde SST, a Lockheed A-12 and the Space Shuttle Enterprise. (just to mention some highlights of the exhibition). I visited the museum by night for the TPG awards hosted by The Points Guy. It is an award show which honors excellence in travel, loyalty programs and credit cards. Make sure to get a shot with the Concorde or on top of the aircraft carrier.

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The Intrepid Air Museum

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At the TPG Awards 2019

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On the red carpet at thr TPG Awards

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4- Neigborhood SoHo

Strolling around the SoHo neighborhood feels like you are straight in a smovie set of one of your favorite blockbusters. You can go shopping in boutiques, have a coffe, healthy food and take lots of typical "Newyork-style" photos with escape latters on the brick fasades.

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SoHo neighborhood

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Check out my YouTube channel PilotPatrick for more exciting videos about my trips around the world!

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5- The Oculus

Finally! Like the new Berlin airport (still not open) it took a bit longer and costed more money until the Oculus opened. The $4 billion Oculus station house, designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, consists of white ribs that interlock high above the ground. Inside you find the transportation hub and a mall. The building has been praised for its design and its "instagramability". From the outside it los like that the construction has wings.

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The Oculus gave me wings

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The 9/11 memorial next to the Oculus

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6- Helicopter flight

Not an inexpensive experience, but worth if you want to see New York City from high above. Once in the air you can really spot the massive size of the city. I departed from the heliport in Lower Manhatten and went on a scenic flight for about 20 mins with Heli NY. In case this is not thrilling enough, you can go on a flight with the passengers open and you can lean out of the helicopter during the flight (only departing from New Jersey. That's definitely the Instagram photo of NYC.

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7- The Lexington

Stay where the stars have stayed! The Lexington Hotel was built in 1929 and is showcasing the design, architecture and style of that iconic period. Once home for many famous people like Marilyn Monroe, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and PilotPatrick ;).  I stayed in the Arthur Godfried Suite, he used to be a well-known TV and radio braodcaster. He was an Aviator as well. So this suite was a perfect match. You don't necessarily have to sleep at the Lexington, you book one of their theme suites for an event as well.

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The Lexington Hotel in Midtown

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8- Central Park

The world famous park. In the winter is it not that beautiful, but nevertheless it is worth to take a stroll through the park or go ice skating. It is a nice Instagram spot, since you can take photos away from the crowds. In the middel of  the souther end of the park is an elevation formed by rocks. This location makes a nice scenery since high tall buildings rise in the background.

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Southern End of Central Park

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9- cloudM rooftop

You don't need to spend a fortune to get access to a rooftop in Manhattan. Just by coincidence, I discovered the the cloudM rooftop in Soho. It is not a skyscraper, but you still have an unobstructed of lower Manhatten and Midtown Manhatten from an outside and inside area. Alternatively, you can now visit the Observatory at the One World Center, the Rockefeller Center or the Empire State Building. Either way, you spend a minimum of  35 $ per entrance.

 

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cloudM rooftop bar

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View from the cloudM rooftop bar

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Manhatten Bridge View Point

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10- Brooklyn and Manhatten Birdge

Probably the most Instagrammed location in entire New York City. Take a walk via the bridge starting from Lower Manhatten all the way to the other side to Brooklyn. The photo motives are endless and you definitely will see other who do it for the "Gram". My destination after the Brooklyn Bridge was the Manhatten Bridge Point of View. I have seen this location so many times on Instagram, but I was quite disappointed since it was really crowded. People were really rude and did not want to move out of your frame. So I walked to the Main Street Park granting a view of the Brooklyn bridge and the skyline in the back. Please always respect others when they are taking shots like you would expect it from others.

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Manhatten Bridge View Point

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Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn

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What would have been your favorite location in NYC? Let me know in a comment below and don’t forget to like my blog about the "TOP 10 Instagrammable spots in New York City"

Safe travels and happy landings!

Your PilotPatrick

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differences between Captain and First Officer

What are the differences between Captain and First Officer?

Dear Aviator,

you cannot imagine how bad I feel that I have neglected my blog for a while. Lately my travels kept me very busy, therefore my productivity went doen. This fact and the packing are the two things I dislike most about traveling.  

Are you ready for another aviation related blog post? You probably have  questioned yourself what is really the difference between a captain and first officer. How many times have I heard people saying: "Ah you are the captain now, so you are finally allowed to fly the airplane!" In this blog post I will share with you the four major differences between Captain and First Officer.

 

Appearance

Age is not an indicator of whether a pilot is a Captain or First Officer. I have flown with First Officers who were almost double my age. Have a look at the number of stripes of the pilot uniform.  Three stripes stand for First Officer and four for Captain. In genral, the higher the number of stripes, the higher is the rank.

Sometimes you might spot two stripes on a pilot uniform. This is a Junior First Officer who is either still in training or has not reached a certain hours flown. You might have also seen  three stripes with a really thick one. This stands for a Senior First Officer. This pilot is very expereicend  and he/she can fly from the left seat during cruise flight when the captain is taking a break on long-range flight for exampl. Speaking about the seat position. The Captain is seated in the left side whereas the First Officer in the right. These positions must not be interchanged. However, Captains can receive a right seat check out (additional training required) which allows them to fly from the left as well.

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Check out my YouTube channel PilotPatrick for more exciting videos about my trips around the world!

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Duties

How many times have I heard people say: "Ah you are the Captain, so you are finally the real pilot!" What was I before an unreal or fake pilot?! Both crew members regardless of their rank can be called pilots.

This might surprise you: Captains fly their aieplane as much as First Officers. Before each flight the crew decides how is PF (pilot Flying) or PNF (Pilot not flying or pilot monitoring). The PF controls the plane, performs the take-off, controls the autopilot in cruise flight and does the landing. The PNF fills the flight log, communicates with air traffic control (ATC) and supports the PF. Usually, I leave the choice to my First Officers which role they would like to perform. The answer is always the same when the weather is bad or it is getting late: I prefer to do the next flight ;-)

There are cases where the Captain determines that he or she wants to fly due to weather or other special reasons. Addtionally, the there are some circumstances  in which the First Officer is not allowed to fly. (more in detail at a later point)

So why doesn't the Captain fly the whole time?

  • Fatigue is better distributed if both pilots fly.
  • First Officers gain experience they will need as captains.
  • Flying is not always the best use of the Captain's experience, training and time. In cases of abnormal issues such as a system malfunction, it may be better for the Captain not to be tied up flying. That way he/she  can concentrate and coordinate the appropriate actions.

The major difference is that the captain always has the responsibility. From the time the Captain boards the plane until he/she leaves the plane again (no matter who is flying!!!), the Captain is responsible for the flight and is in command of it. The First officer is the second in command.

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Operational Procedures

The commercial operation of an aeroplane requires a high level of standarization. Guidelines, regulations, limitations and procdues on how to operate an aircraft are written in the opertional manuals. This grants a high level of safety and allows a new crew composition to fly with each other since they follow the prescibed operational procedures.

It is the job of the Captain to taxi the aircraft on ground due to the fact that the tiller (steering wheel of the nose gear) is mounted only on one side of the cockpit. The Airbus A300-600 has also a tiller on the First Officer side. This feautre does not automatically grant the First Officer to taxi as well. Most airlines follow a philosophy that it should be only the Captain taxing since he/she is responsible of the aircraft. An outdated philosophy since one day the First Officer becomes a Captain without any practice taxing.

Coming back to the cases in which the First Officer is NOT allowed to fly:

  • Takeoffs below 400m runway visual range (RVR).
  • CAT 2/3. when the weather is below CAT1 which means in most cases an RVR of less than 550m with a decision height of 200m.

To sum it up: Everytime it gets more challenging it the Captains task to fly , because he/she is trained to operate in low visibilty (LOVIS) and usually has more expierence.

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Money

The topic that everyone is most curious about. Moneywise there is a big difference in the salary of a Captain and a First Officer. To have the entire responsibility for a multi-million Euro jet, the lives of the passengers and the rest of the crew, a Captain gets paid extra. A safe flight depends on the ultimate judgement and decision making of the Captain. As a general rule you can say that a Captain makes about 50% more than a First officer. So if a First Officer makes about 60,000€ a captain makes at least 90,000 €. It can be also more than double or even more than that if company affliliation is a longer or when a Captain has additional tasks and responsibilites (eg. instructor).

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Which question about aviation would you like to have answered next? Let me know in a comment below and don’t forget to like my blog about the differences between Captain and First Officer. 

Safe travels and happy landings!

Your PilotPatrick

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KLM Business Class review

KLM Business Class Review: Dreamliner to Rio

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Dear Aviator,

my last vacation took me to a destination which has been on my bucket list for a long time: Rio de Janeiro. Originally I had planned to go there February, but then my Captain Upgrade got in the way so I had to postpone it. This blog post will not deal with Rio, but about the flight that took me there. In my KLM Business Class review, I will share my flight experience on board of a Dreamliner. What can you expect? Additionally, you will be able to win a special souvenir of the flight.

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The Dreamliner

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How I book my flights

"You are a pilot you fly for free", "You have access to standby tickets", "ID-90 flying is great". Those are comments I have great below my postings on Instagram. I'm sorry, but all statements are not correct. All my flights are firmly booked and paid full price. I never had the opportunity to fly intercontinental for a fraction of the normal ticket price.

How do I manage to fly Business Class?

Whenever I can I book Business Class tickets on flights which last more than 6 hours. I either pay full price or I have enough miles to go on a reward flight. The price-quality ratio has to be acceptable. When tickets are overpriced in Business Class I book a travel class below (Premium Economy or Economy) and then I try to upgrade with miles or cash. Like I did on my flight to Miami in Eurowings "Biz Class".

I was lucky when I booked the flight to Rio. I knew I have a vacation for 12 days, so I opened up the world map of Google flight search. Selected the time period and my favored travel class. I was browsing through numerous destinations until Rio de Janeiro popped up with 1,800 € round trip for one person in Business Class. I immediately booked the flight. Normally you pay double this price, so it was a really good deal.

 

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Do not miss any of my videos and subscribe to my YouTube channel PilotPatrick

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Three flight highlights

First highlight: So far I only knew KLM from short range flights, so it was the first time for me to fly with them long-range. Second highlight: I was excited to fly with a Boeing 787, also called Dreamliner, for the first time. Third Highlight: I flew in the new World Business Class, which has an interesting cabin layout.

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Berlin - Rio de Janeiro

KL 1822 Boeing B737-700

09:05 Berlin (TXL)

10:35 Amsterdam (AMS)

 

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KL 0705 Boeing B787-900

12:45 Amsterdsm (AMS)

19:35 Rio de Janerio (GIG)

total travel time: 15:35 hours

 

 

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Crown Lounge at Schipol Airport

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Champagne above the clouds

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The lounge

KLM recently opened up a new lounge called "Crown lounge 52" in the international departure area of Schipol airport. The lounge is huge and not yet fully opened. I had a hard time finding it. Navigation signs at the airport were not clear and a lounge briefing of the airline was missing.

The lounge expands over two floors with different areas, it even features an outside terrace, a cinema, and several outlets. In case you find the catering not tasty enough (like I did) you can visit the a la carte restaurant within the lounge (not complimentary).

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This is aviation porn

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lie flat seat

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The seat

The seat surprised me the most on this flight! When I had a look at some photos of the seat, it seemed to be quite narrow. The entire Business Class is in the font section of the B787-9 and comprises only 30 seats in total.

Oh wow! That was my first impression after boarding the aircraft. The color selection, the arrangement, and the design were well chosen. Everything is there where you needed it and the designers took special care of every detail. For example, you have a mirror in your small cabinet.

You kind of have to slide into your seat, but once seated it feels more spacious than I thought.  The seats are angled to the flight direction and surrounded by a cube, which makes every seat private. Especially the window seats are fantastic since you don't have to move your head to look out of the window. On top, the seat transforms into a fully flat bed. I am 1,85 cm and it was really comfortable

Highlights:

  • all seats have direct aisle access
  • a lot of privacy as a seat and bed
  • comfortable sleeping position
  • all buttons and controls are easily accessible
  • the armrest can be lowered to increase the sleeping surface
  • wide footrest for the bed function
  • big personal TV which can be stowed 

 

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Watch the full Business Class review on YouTube

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The catering

KLM would not win any prizes for its catering departing Schipol airport. On the 11 hours, flight lunch was served after takeoff. In between light snacks were offered and prior to landing, you could have a small dinner. The desserts were the best part of the catering: refreshing ice cream and a chocolate muffin with liquid chocolate inside.

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Healthy starter

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I did not want to show the nasty main dish too clearly

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Specials of the Dreamliner

The B787 was not always a Dreamliner, it moreover started as a nightmare. Boeing had to fix several problems after the aircraft has started its line operation in 2011. It is one of the most advanced and modern airliners in the world. It not only generates less noise overall, but CO2 emission is reduced by 20-25% and fuel consumption by 20% as well. The aircraft leaves a smaller environmental footprint without lowering passenger comfort. Quite the contrary is the fact. Passengers windows are bigger, the cabin altitude is reduced and the cabin humidity is increased, which makes you feel better when you arrive.

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Mood lighting on board of the B787

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Fails on the flight

Nothing too tremendous, but still not acceptable when paying a lot of money for a ticket.

  • Wifi on board was broken. The airline blamed the satellite.
  • The espresso machine was broken and the coffee was nasty
  • Corners of the seats were not spotless

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Nap time!

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Give away!

At the end of the flight, every passenger in the Business Class receives a souvenir. It is a miniature Delft house, which is famous in the Netherlands. I received so many messages from my Aviators, who want one of those houses since it is impossible to buy them. So I decided to give away one house, an amenity kit and a personal note to TWO Aviators

To join the giveaway

  1. Like this post (heart symbol)
  2. Leave me a comment below this article mentioning “I would like to fly to (destination) inspired by www.pilotpatrick.com"
  3. REPEAT the previous step on my YouTube video!

I will randomly choose two winners on the 23rd of June 2019. Good luck!

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GIVEAWAY!

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Safe travels and happy landings!

Your PilotPatrick

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process of becoming a flight a captain

Moving to the left seat - Captain Upgrade Part 3

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Advertisement/Anzeige

Dear Aviator,

welcome on board of a new chapter. This is now your Captain speaking! After three months of training, the Upgrade to Commander course is completed. It was an intense time with lots of studying, challenging simulator sessions and first flights in the left seat. In the last two parts of my blog series, I already gave you insights into the process of becoming a flight Captain. In this last part, I will share with you the ultimate steps which were necessary to receive 4 stripes. In the end, you have the chance to win a pilot shirt with my 3 stripes. 

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The new Huawei P30 Pro

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What has happened so far?

Make sure to read the other two parts of this blog series to fully understand the process of becoming a captain.

Part 1: Written application and simulator assessment

Part 2: Upgrade to Commander ground course and simulator training

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Do not miss any of my videos and subscribe to my YouTube channel PilotPatrick

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Line training

After completing the simulator flight on the left seat, the next step was the line training also called supervision. This training takes place on board the real Airbus A300 during the regular line operation. Instead of flying with a First Officer, a training Captain was there to supervise me. The initial phase was to get familiar with the new position, which means the training captain guided, corrected and led me where necessary. He did all his First Officer tasks automatically and supported me in my tasks as well. But after a few flights, the leadership phase was due to strengthening my non-technical skills. All decisions were made by myself and he expected me to treat him like a "normal" First Officer. I had to lead the crew, give orders and to delegate tasks.

Main objectives during this phase:

  • Building up the confidence to fly from the left seat
  • Familiarise with the tasks of a Captain
  • Discussing the duties of the commander
  • Reviewing technical knowledge and operational procedures
  • Simulating CAT III (low visibility) approaches
  • Building up non-technical competency (leadership and decision making)

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last days wearing 3 stripes

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Paris Le Bourget airport

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Struggles on the first flight

Not everything flew smoothly at the beginning: I definitely had my struggles during my first flights. Now I smirk about it but when I was a trainee I was a little bit frustrated. The picture outside of the cockpit, especially during the approach and landing phase is different from the left seat. That's why I had difficulties finding the centerline of the runway. So I was unintentionally a little offset of the centerline. But the aim is to land exactly on the centerline, so to have enough margin left and right in case of gusts or failures pushing you to one side.  After four landings I finally found the centerline again :-)

In general, it feels different to fly from the left seat. Now all the buttons are on the other side. I had the impression I was seated now in a completely new cockpit. For takeoffs and landings, you use your left hand to steer (yoke) and your right hand to control the thrust. As First Officer, it was 8 years vice versa. The first few landings were a little bit harder and bouncy, but I was able to familiarize myself quickly and to get the right feeling again.

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First flights from the left seat

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Final check

The line training consisted of 25 flights in total. Even though it was a checking environment and I had to overcome some hurdles, I enjoyed it a lot. The training Captains passed on a lot of tips and prepared me well to fly soon with a First Officer.

The entire Upgrade to Commander Course ended with an evaluation flight, to check if I am ready for my initial line check as a Captain.

On the 25th of April 2019, the time has come for the last check to prove my knowledge, skills, and Captaincy on two flights. The specialty here: It was the first time flying with a First Officer. The check Captain was seated on the jumpseat in the cockpit to observe us. Everything flew smoothly and I was asked some theoretical questions during the flight; about fuel management and policies for example. After landing, the check captain, who is the Chief flight instructor of the airline, congratulated me for passing the check flight. He said it was a really good performance. I was the happiest person on earth.

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What will change now?

I will still fly the same routes and land at the same destinations but now I am the boss on board. One of my fellow Captain colleagues described the job quite well:

You are now like the diector of an orchestra. You are delegating and setting the tone.

Besides leading the crew, you have to manage all processes that happen with the aircraft including the communication with the ground crews. You have to keep the time insight to guarantee an on-time departure. You have to look like an eagle on top of the aircraft to observe and to assess the current situation. The so-called situational awareness. The decisions I have to make shall guarantee a safe, economical and efficient flight. It shall also be the best decision for the company as well. As you can see a lot of responsibility but I am looking forward to this new chapter on the left seat.

I am happy about one aspect particularly; it is not the increase in salary :-) Moreover, I am looking forward to passing on my knowledge and experience to new First Officers. Additionally, I will be in charge of the atmosphere in the cockpit. You know which vibes that will be!

 

 

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GIVE AWAY!

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Captain giveaway

So many of you joined my first give away to win my epaulets. That's why I decided to give away a second set of 3 stripes to one of my Aviators. Additionally this time, I will include a pilot shirt (I will buy it in your size) and a personal note.

To join the giveaway

  1. Like this post (heart symbol)
  2. Leave me a comment below this article mentioning "I want to be your copilot #CaptainPatrick" and let me know your shirt size
  3. REPEAT the previous step on today's post on Instagram post!!!

I will randomly choose a winner 12th of May 2019. Good luck!

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GIVE AWAY!

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Subscribe to my newsletter, if you want to receive a message from me when I posted a new blog, video or event!

3 easy steps to subscribe:

  • Save me as contact: +49 152 52651846
  • Open your Whatsapp
  • Send me the code “Takeoff”

Safe travels and happy landings!

Your PilotPatrick

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should you become a pilot

Should you become a pilot and is it a good time for it?

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Dear Aviator,

first of all thanks for following my request to send me your questions. It was difficult to make an appropriate selection out of thousands of questions for my FAQ video on YouTube. One question, in particular, was asked several times: Should I become a pilot and is it a good time for it? I thought I give you a more extensive answer to help you in the process of finding the right decision for your future. Be prepared for unadorned truth. 

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The dream of flying is as old as mankind itself. But the possibility for everyone on earth to fly like an eagle through the skies is only a few decades old. Aviation, as we know it from today, is still in its initial phase when considering that the desire to fly freely has always excited. Thanks to great legends and pioneers who made aviation to what it is today. We can feel quite fortunate that live in a time, in which the job as a pilot exists.

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The aviation is a moving, but also a really volatile industry with lots of ups and downs. As quick as aviation develops and changes over the years, the pilot job as altered as well. We still fly aircraft, but nowadays with a high level of automation, under economic pressure, an increasing number of regulations and a sky which does not seem so free anymore. I would not say that the job lost its glamor over the years, but it is a different glamor and not all jobs have it.

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Would I become a pilot again?

Yes! Yes and Yes. In a recent Instagram post, I stated that you should choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life. For me, it is still the best job in the world and it does not feel like work for me (most of the time). Of course, the job brings long also negative aspects. It can be indeed tough, unglamorous and hard work. But in the end, it counts that all negative aspects fade behind all the positive sides of the job. More about the pros and cons here.

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In case you are interested to get more questions about aviation, travel, and lifestyle watch my latest video "FAQ" on YouTube. Do not miss any of my future videos and subscribe to my YouTube channel PilotPatrick

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What would I have done differently?

I definitely chose the harder way to become a pilot. The entire flight training (about 70,000€) was self-funded and it did not have any guarantee after finishing my training to get a position in the cockpit. This was quite risky because you never know how the demand for pilots will look like when you complete your training. Within two years of training, it can happen a lot in the aviation industry. In my case, I was lucky to start flying as a First Officer on a private jet, but I know about other graduates who did not find a job right away. If I were you I would try to get into a cadet program of an airline, so you do not put yourself into financial risk.

Have a plan B

I would advise that you go to college to further your education and possibly gain a degree. This would enable you to seek further employment, even in the airline industry. Especially in aviation, a plan B is essential since you depend on your license.

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Why you should NOT become a pilot?

Good salary, layovers, free flights, job security. Those are probably aspects why you would like to become a pilot. But the opposite applies. As I mentioned before the pilot job has changed and the conditions in the airline industry have deteriorated tremendously. In the competition with low-cost airlines, major carriers had to reduce costs in all departments including the salary of aircrews. But the requirements and the complexity of the job has not decreased.

The days that you spend one week of a layover in the Caribbean are also over. In case you have a layover than it is the minimum time required at the destination before your next flights. Especially low coast airlines always return to the home base to save money. For me, the pilot job is linked to traveling and layovers. That is why I could not imagine sleeping every night at home. Even though I work in the aviation industry I do not have the privilege or benefit to fly discounted or even for free. As the high number of bankruptcies of airlines in the European market has shown, job security is not given

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Is it a good time to become a pilot?

How can I say it is still a dream job after listing all the negative aspects, which make this job less appealing. I did not want to discourage you, but rather tell you the truth about the current situation. Fact is that it more and more depends on the airline you are flying for! The working conditions vary tremendously. There are still fantastic cockpit positions out there, may it be with a business jet company or a big airline. The demand for pilots is extremely high at the moment. According to Boeing, there is a requirement of 790,000 pilots in the next 20 years. In case we are not facing a crisis in the world of aviation the shortage of pilots will grow. The reason for this shortage is the job has become less appealing to new candidates. But a shortage is also a good sign because then the aviation industry has to act and airlines have to improve their working conditions to attract new pilots. It is utterly important to stop the ideational and material depreciation of the pilot job because this can in return infringe flight safety.

 

Outlook

International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that the air traffic will have doubled with the next years. The long term trend of the demand for aircrews exists. We as passengers, customers, and staff of the aviation industry have the power to change and shape it for the future.

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Become a pilot if you have the passion and fascination for aviation. It is important to know about the negative as well as the positives when considering being a pilot. Downsides exist in every branch. But with one huge difference, you become part of a world full of energy and enthusiasm which is hard to find in any other jobs.

Subscribe to my WhatsApp newsletter, if you want to receive a message from me when I posted a new blog, video or event!

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Safe travels and happy landings!

Your PilotPatrick

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how to become a captain

Moving to the left seat - Captain Upgrade Part 2

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Dear Aviator,

I am able to share some good, but also some bad news with you! The good news is that I passed another important step in becoming a captain, but the bad news is that I don't know when my next flight will be! How can that be? In this second part of how I become a captain, I inform you about all the steps it requires and I give you insights about my training. At the end of this article, I have a little, but special give away for you. 

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What has happened so far

  1. In September 2018 I applied as captain with my airline
  2. My application was reviewed and accepted
  3. In November 2018 I passed the assessment in the simulator

Depending on the demand and if I am expandable from the flight operation,  my training to become a captain would start. In the meantime, I continued flying as First Officer on the A300. The last flight on the right side came earlier than expected. Already on the 31st of January 2019, it was my last flight, which took me to sunny Tel Aviv. I recapped my time as First Officer which were 8 years in total and I could not believe that a new era would start soon. Check out part one if you want to find out more about the requirements and the selection process.

 

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Do not miss any of my videos and subscribe to my YouTube channel PilotPatrick

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Upgrade to Commander course

Beginning of February the UTC (upgrade to commander) training started. The first part was a ground course which lasted one week. From this point onwards I was not allowed to fly as First Officer anymore by regulation.

This ground course took place with six other colleagues who were also in the process of becoming a captain. I thought I would be one of the youngest among them, but two other colleagues of mine were even younger than me.

Topics which were covered in the ground course:

  • Laws and regulations
  • Responsibility
  • Performance
  • CRM
  • Low visibility procedures

As a commander, I will be responsible for the aircraft, the crew, the passengers and the cargo on board. When operating the aircraft I have to consider all laws, regulations, and procedures. CRM (Crew resource management) plays also an important role in the safe operation. CRM is a set of training procedures for use in environments where human error can have devastating effects such it is the fact in aviation. It is used primarily for improving air safety, CRM focuses on interpersonal communicationleadership, and decision making in the cockpit. Human error is still the greatest factor for accidents in aviation.

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Not the A300 simulator but a A320 in Berlin

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One of my biggest goals is to become a captain at the age of 30 and as it looks right now it will most probably happen

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Simulator Training

After a free weekend, the training continued in the simulator. I prepared my self as good as possible because I wanted to show my training captain and myself that I am the right candidate for the left seat.

The simulator sessions took place in Berlin which was convenient for me since I could stay at home. The training consisted of six missions and a final check. Each session focused on a different subject. One session was primarily to train the procedures for engine fires and failures. Another session was to practice the low visibility procedures and flight control malfunctions. All had in common to improve the non-technical skills from the left seat. Non-technical means: the flight management, prioritizing tasks, decision making and the communication with the crew. In the beginning, I had to get used to fly the aircraft from the left seat. This was a little awkward because buttons and levers were now on the other side. It was a little bit like driving the car from the right seat.

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Studying hard

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A lot of flight maneuvers and SOPs (standard operating procedures) were new to me on the Captain's seat. Like the rejected take off and the engine fire with evacuation on the ground.

Up to the speed of V1 (Decision speed), the captain decides with the call "STOP" to aboard the takeoff. After this speed, the takeoff has to be continued because with a higher ground speed the runway would not be long enough to brake the aircraft anymore.

In case of an engine fire on the ground, two checklists have to be read in a structured and coordinated way. In the end, it is the captain's decision to evacuate the aircraft or not.

One duty session lasts six hours in total. One hour briefing before, four hours flying and one-hour debriefing. The simulator was intense with all the emergencies and abnormals, but it was still a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it.

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QRH (Quick reference handbook) Engine Fire and Evacuation checklist

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Check flight and ATPL skill test

End of February I had my simulator check flight which was combined with an ATPL skill test. As a commander, you need the ATPL license (Airline Transport Pilot license). To hold this license you need a CPL (Commercial Pilot License) with ATPL theory credit and a minimum of 1500 flight hours.

During my check flight in the simulator, it was the first time that I flew with a First officer, who was new on the fleet. This was the first time I really could demonstrate my role as commander because the simulator sessions before were flown with a captain aspirant with a lot of experience.

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Simulator check passed

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What's next?

Waiting time is next. Currently, I am waiting on my new license the ATPL, which will be issued by the authority. Once I receive it I will continue flying, but then as Captain. Not yet with four stripes, since the training continues on board of the real aircraft. The first 25 sectors/flights will be under the supervision of line training captain, who is seated on the right.

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Special giveaway

Soon I do not need my three stripes anymore. That is why I will pass the epaulets on to one of my Aviators with a personal note. They accompanied me for a long time, but now it is time for them to follow someone else journey. Maybe you are becoming a pilot and need them or you just want them as a lucky charm.

To join the giveaway

  1. Like this post (heart symbol)
  2. Leave me a comment below this article mentioning #PPstripes and answer: What is in your opinion the most important characteristic of a captain?
  3. Watch the full YouTube video in this article
  4. Like the video and leave a comment mentioning #PPstripes

I will randomly choose a winner 24th of March 2019. Good luck!

Stay tuned for part three!

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Giving away my 3 stripes!

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Subscribe to my newsletter, if you want to receive a message from me when I posted a new blog, video or event!

3 easy steps to subscribe:

  • Add me as contact: +49 152 52651846
  • Open your Whatsapp
  • Send me the code “Takeoff”

Safe travels and happy landings!

Your PilotPatrick

FOLLOW ME:

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how to become a captain

Moving to the left seat - Captain upgrade Part 1

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Dear Aviator,

happy new year to you! I wish you all the best and many happy landings in 2019. The new year started with amazing news for me. At the end of last year, I already informed you that I applied for a captain position on the A300. The application process took several months and ended successfully with an assessment in the simulator. In this blog post, I want to give you some background information and insights into the application process and how to become a captain.  

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Do not miss any of my videos and subscribe to my YouTube channel PilotPatrick

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How to become a captain?

To become a captain of a commercial jet does not happen from one to another day. It takes several years after finishing flight school before you will able to move to the left seat. Your flight experience plays the most important role, on the way, you also have to pass countless simulator checks, type ratings, skill tests.

Additionally you not only need to meet the legal requirements, but you also have to prove yourself within in the company. You need to have the right attitude and personality for this position.

Read my blog series how I became a pilot for more information about my career path!

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How long does it take to become a captain?

This depends on the airline and the individual. To become captain of a commercial aircraft, you must have logged at least 1,500 flight hours and hold a full Air Transport Pilots Licence (ATPL). However, in reality, most airlines require a minimum of 3,000 hours before considering any pilots for promotion. Before I left the Business Aviation I had around 2400 flight hours and my previous employer already considered promoting me on a private jet. With the age of 27, this sounded pretty compelling, but I was looking for a different occupational challenge.

Requirements

When I joined my current employer two years ago, I have never thought that I will be promoted that quickly. At the moment of the job advertisement, I  met exactly the requirements for the upgrade, (only a few flight hours were missing, which I have by now) In my mind I always had the goal to become a captain with the age of 30. When I switched airlines I thought this will not be possible anymore, but it seems like that I am mistaken.

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Job advertisement of the airline

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Application Form

Like applying for a new job at a different company, I had to apply internally to the position of the commander. At first, I had to check if I meet all the requirements. The next step was to fill out the application form in which I had to mention why I want this position and why I would be a suitable candidate. Find my answers below. Additionally, I had to list my current flight hours.

All applications of the first officers were reviewed by the company. Training captains and the management were interviewed if I would be a suitable candidate.

I received positive feedback so the first step in becoming a captain was passed. 

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Commander assessment

The next step was an assessment in a full flight simulator. During an hour flight in the simulator, I was given a scenario with different malfunctions. Two instructor captains, one seated in the back operating the simulator and one seated in the captain position did the assessment with me. The check was primarily not to assess my flying skills, moreover to observe my flight management skills and my decision-making process. The whole flight I was pilot flying (PF) from the right seat and the captain to the left supported me but did not help me to find any solutions.

I was pretty nervous and really excited, but also really happy that I have this great opportunity. Once in the simulator, I was rather relaxed and I was looking forward to proving my skills and knowledge.

Additionally, I was asked a few questions to the operational procedure and technical aspects of the airplane. I went back home without any result and mixed feelings. The good news arrived in the new year!

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What will change?

I will still fly the airplane as before, but from the left seat with four stripes. As a commander, I will be responsible for the safe operation and the safety for all crew members, passengers and cargo on board as soon I arrive on board until I leave the aircraft at the end of the flight. So even when my colleague messes up something I will be the one who will be blamed for it. Flying means teamwork and finding solutions together, but in the end, it is the captain who orders and makes the final decision.

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Next steps

Passing the application process and the assessment in the simulator does not mean that I will start my next duty as a captain. The tough part lays now ahead of me. The upgrade course will start in a few weeks and will comprise a ground school, simulator sessions, the line training, and several checks. I will keep you updated!

Please cross your fingers that everything will fly smoothly.

 

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Safe travels and happy landings!

Your PilotPatrick

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