A Pilot's View
Becoming a pilot is a real noble profession. Who would turn down an office at 37,000 feet looking amongst billowing clouds and planet Earth? I dreamed about this feeling every since I was barely able to talk and now that I am here the feeling of satisfaction cannot be described. The journey however was not what I had expected. Don't get me wrong the end result is truly awesome but for some the journey may not be what is expected of a professional. Before we get into the meat of the article I want to clear a common stereotype of all pilots alike. You don't need to be a genius to be a pilot. Yes the notion that we pilots are smart is a great feeling but I don't want future aviators to be turned away from flying because they don't understand all of Newton’s laws and their grades in high school are below what schools like to call "average." All you need is passion. If you all you want in the world is to fly then you will, but here are some warnings for your journey.
The first step would be to go to your local flying club or school and sign up for a FAM flight (FAM = Familiarization). To sum up a FAM flight for those who are not aware, a FAM flight is basically where a flight instructor takes you through the process of getting an airplane from the ground to the air. From the paperwork to the walk around the FAM flight usually lasts approximately one hour. The best part of the FAM flight is when the instructor lets you take control and give you the basic introduction to flight. I know when I was an instructor I let the individual take-off! So if you’re lucky this may happen to you. If after your FAM flight experience you are still eager to become a pilot then you will now need to purchase a bible. No not the bible you are thinking of but a pilot's bible is a book called: “From the Ground Up." I recommend reading this book back to front as this is honestly everything a pilot will need to know. Next you will need to decide how you will spend your life's savings. I wish I was joking but let’s face it aviation is an expensive industry. You basically have two routes- 1. Get all your licenses and ratings through your local flight school or 2. Get all your licenses and ratings from an aviation university or college. I will link recommended schools in Canada.
In terms of cost, a university or college program will be the more expensive option. How much you ask...well I would budget between 65 to 75,000 dollars. No I didn't add too many zeros. The big advantage though to a university/ college program is the guarantee that within "x" amount of months providing you pass all the required exams you will have everything you need to be a pilot plus a degree or diploma. Now I could go on for hours and hours about the advantages and disadvantages of both but that will be saved for another article. In the mean time I would recommend going with the university/ college program to accelerate the process and ensure all the required licenses and ratings are completed.
Now once you have graduated with your shiny new commercial Multi IFR license you now how to look for a pilot job, right? Wrong. You may have the qualifications of a pilot; however, what you lack is experience or what we like to say in aviation "hours." Now hear me out. Once again you are faced with two options. One, going back to your local flight school and getting an instructor rating to become a flight instructor. This is a great way of adding hours as you are able to log PIC time (PIC = Pilot in Command), which is valuable experience when applying to the big airlines down the road. Two, you head up north and get a job working for an airline that breeds their pilots from within. So this means working out in -45 wind-chill while cleaning out lavatories and loading hundreds and hundreds of pounds by yourself for two years before they may let you get the chance to fly one of their machines. The big disadvantage of the second option besides the working conditions is the fact that the company has the ultimate decision to whether you will fly or not.
Now if you’re still onboard with this whole being a pilot concept then you will be happy to know that this is the best part. After accumulating hours you now finally have the ability to pick and choose where you want to go. For most this comes down to life style. You either want to live where you want but will be away from home or you move somewhere but are home every night. Now with regards to pay...well I would say you will have to wait atleast ten years from the time you started this process before you are able to say you can comfortably earn enough money to maybe start a family or purchase a house, this was my case. Ultimately if you want to be a pilot you will become one, I am just giving you an idea of what to expect. As a good friend of my says: “On wards and Upwards.”