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Commercial Pilot Working Conditions- Questions

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First off, allow me to apologize if this is in the wrong forum; times two if these questions have been asked a million times. I tried searching the forums, but didn't find exactly what I was looking for.

I'm a fairly recent graduate of high school (2011) and am contemplating my future, with regards to a career in particular. The aviation industry has always held an allure to me, and becoming a pilot is something that I view myself doing. I have a few questions pertaining to the working conditions and lifestyle of pilots, commerical in particular.

My goal in flying would be to pilot large aircraft, for a large airline, making large amounts of money. I fully realize that this would be the result of decades of hard work, and that flying large aircraft is hardly an entry-level role.

1.) How exactly do pilots "know" when they are going to work? What kind of notice do they recieve? I understand that many large North American airlines are unionized (pilots at least). This would mean that seniority is the main method of governance with regard to 'who-works-what & where', correct? Since airlines are obviously 24/7 operations, do pilots remain on single assignments for long periods of time? Say your home 'terminal' was Calgary. Would you repeadtedly fly from Calgary to Toronto? Or would you be making a different trip each time you went to work?

2.) How is fatique managed? In the world of trains, locomotive engineers work incredibly unpredictable schedules. You may go to work at 06:00 one day, 21:00 the next, 01:30 the next, and so on. This obviously creates problems as the body never has time to adapt to one set routine. Do airlines operate differently? I would suspect that fatique is taken more seriously in the commerical aviation business as thousands of lives are on the line every day, unlike a freight railway.

3.) How is the money? I understand that compensation should not be the only driving factor behind someone's career choice, but let us be realistic. Money is important. I've heard of pilots barely making enough to survive when working for smaller airlines. Is this common?

4.) What about hiring prospects? This is obviously very subjective and depends much upon connections and networking, and (as much as I hate to say it) luck, but is there any general hiring patterns that the airlines follow? Based upon current growth, would I be wasting my time spending thousands for flight school if my goals are to become a first officer or captain of a major airline?

5.) What about education? What kids of college/university programs are pertinent to the duty of a pilot? I'm guessing Mechanical Engineering or anything physics related. What else?

That should be it for now.

Thank you kindly and I appreciate any input!

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!. You just tell them when you want to work and that's all there is to it.

2. Different hours are not a problem, they don't call it "dozing for dollars" for nothing.

3. You will have money coming out your ears. The problem is you will have flight attendants chasing after you all the time

and if you're not strong willed this is going to wind up costing you big time. (think three/four divorces minimum)

4. Are you good at video games? That's all thats really needed. These modern aircraft pretty much fly themselves, you're just

along for the ride.

That should be it for now.

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Guest rozar s'macco

I disagree. The OP sounds like the type of intelligent, considered person that should be naturally attracted to a demanding career like airline pilot. Problem is, the internet now exists and they are able to conduct research before making the choice. Kid the industry is probably almost nothing like what you think it is.

1. Airlines issue flight crew schedules monthly. Pairings, trips of of 1-6 days in length where you are "paired" with another pilot, are intended to be constructed to maximize your productivity. Productivity in the airline business means flying hours. When the aircraft is not flying, it is not generating revenue, same goes for pilots. The days of the 3-day layover are long, long gone. 12-16 hrs at an airport hotel is the new norm, then back on duty for more flying.

2. Airlines would have you fly all day and night if the law didn't prevent it. Little to no effort is made at proactively managing fatigue in terms of roster patterns at Canadian airlines, and the law in Canada does not require adherence to "science-based" flight and duty time restrictions as it does elsewhere. Flight crews are left to manage fatigue tactically, sleeping on the flight deck if necessary.

3. Money has peaked. Despite the worldwide shortage of pilots, compensation is not increasing and though mid-level pilots at large airlines (45 yrs of age, say) make more than the average office drone or school teacher of equivalent age, the time spent on probation at a large airline, working at a regional, at a small charter, flying floats, or instructing sets you back significantly in terms of career earnings in comparison. Expect to earn $10,000-$20,000 per year for 2-3 years, then $20,000-$30,000 for 2-3 years, then $30,000-$40,000 for 2-3 years, and then depending on your willingness to relocate, experience, and luck, you may start to earn $50,000+ after that. Salaries of $100,000 or more take approximately 15 years to achieve, and $200,000 more like 20-25 years. Only pilots within a few years of retirement make more than that these days. It is a long, long road and failure, bad luck, cheaters, liars, and thieves await you around every corner.

4. Hiring prospects are good. Once your decision is made and you apply yourself and are WILLING TO RELOCATE, typically northwards, you will find work. Low pay, long hours and dangerous, but work nonetheless. After that who knows.

5. Science, engineering, or of course aviation college itself (Seneca, Sault, others). Not specifically required these days, most airlines require something post secondary, also highly recommended from a whole-life perspective or as a potential fallback plan.

It can be a rewarding career although less so in terms of money these days. It is also terribly insecure and continues to change rapidly. Moving, even across the world to find work is becoming the norm. However the challenge, hardships, and low odds of success make for a camaraderie amongst fellow pilots similar to that of police, fire, and military personnel. The satisfaction of completing a challenging flight successfully is tangible. Good luck with your decision.

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Everyone I know who let themselves be talked out of a flying career because it was "iffy" regretted it later on.

A pilot friend of ours, now retired, advised his son not to pursue flying. His son got a degree in engineering, and was hired right out of university into a 6 figure job. After a couple of years he quit and got a job as a flight instructor.

On the other side of the coin, one of my son's friends was in the third year of a 4 year business degree when a family friend took him up for a ride in his airplane. He told me that after that flight he couldn't eat or sleep for days. He ended up abandoning the business degree and starting over at aviation college. He is happily employed as a pilot now.

My advice to Fudrucker, (if you really are a high school grad, and not a journalist on a fishing expedition) would be to go to a flying school and take a fam flight. If it's something you really want to do for a living, be prepared to work hard, and keep your financial expectations realistic, ie, don't do it for the money.

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If it's something you really want to do for a living, be prepared to work hard, and keep your financial expectations realistic, ie, don't do it for the money.

Sage advice that should be considered before deciding on any vocation. Anything else is just putting in time and usually unsatisfying.

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Flying is not a career choice. It is a career that chooses you. For most of the people out there flying is something they love to do. Its a passion. thats why so many are so upset at the state of this industry now. Years ago it was a spectacular job. You got to play with multi million dollar toys and get paid for it. you got to see the world not just airports and hotel rooms.

It is a vocation that has inspired some to great heights but recently it has driven many to great depths. The airline pilot of the next decade will be merely a bus driver with wings. It is a very sad state indeed.

When I joined the industry some 25 years ago I was at the very beginning of a downward spiral but we didn't know that so we had fun.

I went for a ride with a good friend of mine in a Cherokee 180 one Saturday morning. WE flew up the Bruce peninsula in Ontario. He wanted to find some places to Rock Climb. We were not far off the tree tops then out over the water an back over the treetops. It was beautiful. The next day I started Ground school and 5 day later I had my first solo. I never persued my Commercial license but do have a multi rating (and a couple of hours in a CAT D Jet Sim) I enjoyed the peaceful part of flying too much to ruin it with work. Since I lost my medical I have taken to two wheels whic is as close to flying as you can get without leaving the ground.

If you have the passion... Go for it .

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