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From the Eye of the Cockpit

Airplane cockpit
Photo by William Topa

The life of a pilot seems very dazzling. To fly all around the world and get paid for it—doesn’t that sound like a dream come true? There are definite pros and cons of flying for a career. A plethora of benefits and setbacks will await pilots. The life of a pilot doesn’t always feel as glamorous as Top Gun makes it appear!

The Benefits                        

One of the main benefits of being a pilot is, essentially, free airfare. As a pilot, you literally get paid to fly to innumerable destinations, so you don’t need to pay for plane tickets. Additionally, depending on which airline you work for, you will most likely receive some sort of discount for your immediate family members.

Pilots climb the ladder of status with hours. Your position and pay are determined by how many hours you have flown. Pilots, especially those with lots of hours, get paid a high salary. It is estimated that most pilots make six figures.

The Downsides

Because flights can be very long, pilots are required to work long hours. The Federal Aviation Administration places a cap of eight duty hours on them, so they have their required resting time. With all the lives of passengers in their hands, they must be alert and awake.

Pilots do not usually have regimented schedules. The days and hours they work vary all the time. They could be away from home for a while working, and then be home for a while. If you do not work well with unpredictable schedules, then being a pilot is the wrong career choice for you.

Personal Travel

Traveling is not the same as flying. When you are working as a pilot, you don’t get to sit around and relax. Pilots don’t get to read books or watch movies when they fly—they are on the clock! By the time they land, they could be very tired and not have time or energy to see the places they travel to. Many airlines have deals with hotel companies, so pilots can go to crash for the night in one nearby. Pilots can request longer time in specific areas, but they tend to jump from place to place quickly.

As for traveling off the clock, pilots do get good discounts on flights. Depending on the airline they work for and how far in advance they schedule the tickets, they could fly for free. Some pilots can get tickets on standby, meaning if there is an open seat on a flight, it’s theirs. They are also able to sit in the jumpseat, which is an extra seat in the cockpit. Many pilots feel a noticeable difference when flying for work and flying for vacation.

Although being a pilot is a career where you get to travel, pilots may not get to see their destinations for very long. After all, traveling is work for them! But, pilots do get more opportunity than most to see the world.