The life of a pilot

If you are one of those who as a child watched the planes in the sky and dreamed of being able to fly someday, we explain below what the life of a pilot is like and what it entails to work as a pilot.

First of all, you should know that being a pilot is not only a profession, but a real passion. Few professions exist with such a strong vocational component.

The profession of pilot is well regarded, both socially and economically, but reaching that desired goal requires effort and dedication.

The pilot’s life is perhaps not as you imagine it; it is busy, hectic, irregular, … regardless of the aviation sector you work in; regular passenger airlines, air cargo, aerial work, corporate aviation… what is certain is that, if you expect a sedentary and monotonous job, with fixed schedules and permanent residence in the same place, this is not your job!

Pilots enjoy working in an “office” with the best view imaginable. Even the wealthiest Wall Street financiers have an office with panoramic views as impressive as those enjoyed by an airline pilot from his cockpit.  Endless mountain ranges, incredible landscapes, seas and oceans… And everything passes before his eyes at jet speed. It is not uncommon for pilots -especially those who fly short or medium-haul scheduled flights, and those who fly cargo planes- to lose track of where they are in the world, even though they are perfectly aware of the starting and finishing points of each “jump” (this is the name given to the routes in aeronautical jargon) that they are going to make or have made during the course of the day. A day that may have started very early in the morning with the “signing” of the flight, that is to say, with the arrival at the operations office of the base airport of all the members that will make up the crew that day.

Demand for professional pilots

Nevertheless, the demand for professional airline pilots is growing. One of the world’s largest aircraft manufacturers, Boeing, stated in its latest market report that around 800,000 new pilots will be needed worldwide between now and 2036.

In terms of employment, pilots, like any other professional, are subject to regulations that determine the maximum number of working hours per month. A year may not exceed 900 accumulated hours of activity. These hours are distributed, depending on the type of routes – short haul is not the same as long haul – determining the days of activity, the days of “imaginary” (availability without assigned flight to cover eventual absences), and days off.  In other words, if, for example, the maximum number of flight hours allowed by law is completed in 15 days, the rest of the month would be free.

In practice, this does not usually happen, since it is mandatory by law to establish rest periods between working days, but it does allow for holidays or vacations outside the patterns established for most employees, and for more vacation time in general.

Salaries in general within the range that we could qualify as “high”, especially for those who accumulate more experience, and the possibility of being able to travel on vacation with discounts on airline tickets and hotels, both for the pilot himself and for his entire family, are two of the great attractions of the profession, although not the only and most important ones.

But… in the life of a pilot you also have to sacrifice a lot of things.

As in all jobs, being a pilot is not without its sacrifices. Regardless of the segment in which you work – passenger transport, cargo, corporate, aerial work, etc… – the exercise of the profession is often not exactly a “bed of roses”. Getting up early, getting up at 4 a.m. because the flight that takes off at 7:30 a.m. is scheduled for 5:30 a.m., especially if the weather is bad, or taking off at 9 p.m. for an eight-hour flight (with crew change, of course, during the flight) is not a pleasure for anyone who is not in love with his or her profession.

The pilot’s private life changes radically as soon as he starts working as a professional pilot. The hours that used to be free to be with loved ones and friends, now become working hours; endless days, many of them consecutive days, with no possibility of returning home because they are in another country, or even on another continent, often become part of everyday life. To be able to combine the life of a pilot both personally and professionally can be hard, if there is not a minimum vocation and a supportive family environment, first and foremost. Being able to work in the office with the best views in the world, in a profession that is well regarded and well paid, has a price that is well worth paying to make a dream come true.