“Science, Freedom, Beauty, Adventure… aviation offers it all!” (Charles A. Lindberg)
“Please help me!” writes Emily Redmond. “I am currently undertaking my private pilots licence with the intentions of hopefully becoming an airline pilot in future.” “I am just wondering if you could possibly take a short amount of time to give me some tips with regards to flying and the best approach for me. I have read Richard’s book “QF32” and it has inspired me even more to continue with a career in something I am so passionate about.”
Thanks for your question Emily. I receive hundreds of similar requests. It’s hard to respond personally, so I will give generic answers to suit the many perspectives. Here are my thoughts about possible Aviation Pathways for Aspiring Pilots:
- Aviation Pathways
- Training Options
- Employment Options
- Career Development
- Alternate Career
- Aviation Industry
- Life Plan
Please post your questions at the end of this blog. I will attempt to answer each type of question. I will update this page with answers to future questions. So I recommend that you revisit this page occasionally to find new and updated information. Select “FOLLOW THIS BLOG” at the top right of this page to receive updates
For fun, I will include italicised quotes from “THE LANCET” dated the 28 September 1918. The report is headed “The Essential Characteristics of Successful and Unsuccessful Aviators” by T. S. RIPPON (Captain RAMC, attached RAF) and E. G. MANUEL (Lieutenant RAF) (Thanks to Robert Wilson, Editor Flight Safety Australia, CASA for the research)
1. Aviation Pathways
There are many pathways to taking up a career in Aviation. Careers exist for pilots, engineers, technicians, air traffic controllers researchers and journalists.
The best pathway for any person is one that suits the applicants interests, passions, skills, physical fitness, and financial capability. Aspiring Aviators need the same Situation Awareness to plan their careers that professional pilots use when flying. My definition of Situation Awareness is knowing:
- Where you were
- Where you are, and
- Where you will be
2.1 Mental Constraints
“there are old pilots and bold pilots, but there are no old bold pilots” (E. Hamilton Lee)
You must remain in perfect mental health to be an effective pilot. This leading edge industry is flooded with threats, where the survivors live by Neil Armstong’s mantra:
“Expect the Unexpected”
Pilots are the most expert managers of risk. Pilots identify, classify and negotiate risk as part of their daily functions. The best pilots (risk managers) are those who possess the mental aptitude to appreciate threats, then develop skills and discipline to manage the risks. Don’t panic, for even though maturity often comes later in life, aviation’s wiser professionals and experts have always given back to train and mentor the young.
Personal traits expected on joining include:
- Passion (the Why)
- Core ethics (values and beliefs)
- Determination, drive, aspiration
- Independence of thought
- Thirst for unlimited knowledge
- Pride, dignity, respect & empathy for others
THE LANCET – 1918: …..[the successful pilot] possesses resolution, initiative, presence of mind, sense of humour, judgment; is alert, cheerful, optimistic, happy-go-lucky, generally a good fellow, and frequently lacking in imagination. ..
THE LANCET – 1918: …. [He] possess in a very high degree a fund of animal spirits and excessive vitality.
Personal traits you will be expected to acquire throughout your career include:
- Confidence, courage and persistence tempered by modesty and even vulnerability
- Decision analysis
- Teamwork, communication and leadership
2.2 Pilot Licences
The world’s aviation authorities are currently harmonising with ICAO’s range of Pilot Licences. For example, the new Australian licences include:
- Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL): >= 16 years old, > 25 hrs (20 dual, 5 solo), Fly within <= 25nm from aerodrome
- Private Pilot Licence (PPL): >= 17 years old. 35 hrs experience
- Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL): >= 18 years old
- Multicrew Pilots Licence (MPL)
- Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) >= 21 years old, 1500 hrs (for fixed wing). Must undertake Multicrew Co-operation course, and flight test.
The airlines will most likely require a CPL as a pre-requisite for employment
2.3 Financial Constraints
You will need about USD$150,000 to pay for flying training and flying hours to obtain a Commercial Pilot’s licence. If you cannot finance this training then you must search for less costly entry options via:
- Airline Cadet Courses (if available)
2.4 Education Constraints
Plan to graduate the final year at school with Mathematics and Physics subjects. The best airlines and defence forces generally require these skills, although they will give more significance to your personal attitudes, beliefs and behaviour than to raw education scores.
Technology is always changing and improving, so you will have to study for your entire life if you wish to fly professionally. Pilots undertake training courses and frequent check flights. In my case I am re-certified seven times every year:
- 4 x simulator check flights (4 hours each)
- 1 x day of emergency procedures training
- 1 x Route Check (QF32 was my 2010 route check)
- Aviation Medical Certificate
2.5 Physical Constraints
All pilots must possess a current medical certificate to be able to fly.
The medical requirements vary with the pilot’s age and type of licence.
You will need very good hearing, correctable eyesight and above average spatial and hand-eye coordination.
If in doubt, visit an aviation certified medical examiner before you commit to any training to determine your medical ability to fly.
You must know the many personal, physical and educational requirements to join the military if this is your preferred pathway. The military recruit relatively few pilots so it is not surprising that they employ only the most healthy and physically capable candidates.
THE LANCET – 1918: The successful aviator has always the attributes of a sportsman. As a schoolboy he takes part in all forms of athletics and usually played for the school in one game at least. After leaving school he still keeps it up, and probably goes in for other kinds of sport-hunting, shooting, fishing, rowing, golfing, motoring etc.
You must remain physically fit for your entire career. If you partake in risky activities such as road cycling, rock climbing or toboggan racing then ensure that you have a backup career available in the event that you become injured and unable to retain a medical aviation certificate.
THE LANCET – 1918: We found that the best type of pilot was seldom drawn from a sedentary occupation, that those who had lived a sheltered life were not so good as those who had roughed it. ….
3. Training Options
3.1 Initial Career Assessment
I recommend a few hours of flying instruction or private flying (with a friend) as part of your initial research before you commit to a career in aviation.
The theory of maths, science, Bernoulli’s theorem, and the fun and thrills of of high speed flight are different to the physical realities of oil soaked engines, pre-flighting engines on cold winter mornings, and the first time when all senses overload during practice emergencies.
3.2 Private Flying
Private flying is an excellent method to gain broad skills in diverse areas though often these operations are conducted with unknown governance, culture, training and standards. If you wish to join the military, then limit the amount of private flying first, as the military generally want to take you before you have acquired “other” skills.
3.3 Cadet Course
Cadet Courses are an excellent way to learn to fly for minimal costs, though you might have to repay training costs if you leave before a bonding period expires.
Cadet Courses may have a pre-requisite of no flying experience, or up to 240 hours (Multi-crew Pilot Licence) or 1,500 hours (FAA) flying hours experience.
Whilst the Cadet Course provides the flying required to obtain a licence, cadets often miss out on flying in diverse environments and experiencing the “challenging events” that give confidence, case harden the skills and bullet proofs the character.
To view these thoughts from another perspective, Friedrich Nietzsche‘s famous quotation:
“That which does not kill us makes us stronger”
infers that pilots who develop their skills from diverse and challenging flying backgrounds will probably become more resilient than those who experience a stress-free and risk free passage. (Malcolm Gladwell’s book “David and Goliath” extends these thoughts.)
I recommend that pilots gain tertiary trained skills.
Universities impart knowledge. Knowledge will help you get a job. Knowledge begets confidence. Knowledge is power. Knowledge will help you adapt. Knowledge will help you survive.
Universities provide focussed courses (Science, Engineering ..) for the technically inclined, and Aviation Studies courses for those who wish to bracket most aviation studies.
Aviation Studies courses normally include physical flying lessons. They also include a broad range of aviation subjects (safety, leadership, law, crew resource management, performance, aerodynamics …. ) that cover the breadth of knowledge that is needed to gain entry to any airline sector.
Universities also teach you how to think effectively and be better leaders. Clear thinkers make better decisions. Making better decisions builds self-confidence. Self confidence helps us to make the tough and courageous decisions.
It’s best to undertake a university courses;
- straight after school (when it’s easier to study),
- during a downturn in the industry (when there is less employment), and
- when working regular flying rosters (studying in your hotel room!)
THE LANCET – 1918: The [successful] fighting scout is usually the enthusiastic youngster, keen on flying, full of what one might call the “joy of life,” possessing an average intelligence, but knowing little or nothing of the details of his machine or engine; he has little or no imagination, no sense of responsibility, keen sense of humour, able to think and act quickly, and endowed to a high degree with the aforementioned quality, “hands.” He very seldom takes his work seriously, but looks upon “strafing the lines” as a great game.
THE LANCET – 1918: …. The authors, however, desire to express their definite conviction that the less the fighting scout pilot knows about his machine from a mechanical point of view the better.
4. Employment Options
Your focus after gaining your initial licences is to improve your employment prospects. Use your time constructively:
- Improve your knowledge.
- Grab every opportunity to fly.
- Use spare time to study and gain more advanced licences.
- I suggest that it is not in your best interests to spend time in other aviation trades (cabin attendant, ground ops or customer service) at the expense of gaining flying experience.
Do NOT join the Military (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) to learn to fly for no charge, for this most remarkable flying comes at a great lifestyle cost.
Chuck Yeager on Twitter: (Chuck was the first pilot to exceed the speed of sound (Mach 1))
Reader asks Chuck: “Isn’t flying expensive to learn for a profession?”
Chuck Yeager answers: “Uncle Sam will pay to teach you, if you’re willing to bleed a little!”
The military job is a way of life: discipline, military history, physical and mental stress, constant study and deployment where and when the military decides. Your flying training only starts when you acquire the other skills.
The RAAF invested about 1.5 million dollars in the 1970s for my RAAF Academy and pilot training courses, so I had to spend at least eleven years in the force. Today the costs exceed five million dollars and the bonding period has increased to about 14 years!
THE LANCET – 1918: …. Flying Overseas: There is certainly a cumulative strain on the pilot, greater than any other form of aviation. Duties overseas consist of: (1) artillery observation; (2) offensive and defensive patrols; (3) trench strafing; (4) night bombing; (5) day bombing ; (6) long reconnaissance and photography.
THE LANCET – 1918: …. One of the greatest strains on the pilot’s nerves is when he sees one of his friends go down in flames, or, after arriving at the mess, he learns that so-and-so is missing. When this occurs with monotonous regularity it is very hard for the pilot to maintain his mental equilibrium. There is no branch of the service where losses are more keenly felt.
4.2. International Airlines
The best international airlines only recruit well trained and experienced pilots. The airlines do not teach you to fly, they simply show you their standard operating procedures and convert you to their aircraft.
The aircraft, pay and conditions are superior, but you will be employed to ultimately be a captain and the highest flying and leadership standards are expected.
You will need about 1,500 / 3,000 military/civil hours respectively.
The international airlines generally employ pilots with jet experience from the military, and turbo prop and jet airlines.
4.3. Regional (Domestic) Airlines
The regional airlines live in the middle of the pilot “food chain”. These airlines operate on razor thin margins, so all costs are trimmed to provide the legal minimum requirements.
You might be able to join these airlines with the minimum of 240 flying hours (Multicrew Pilot Licence) or 1,500 hours (FAA). Be prepared to pay for your training costs if you leave the company before your bonding period is repaid.
The need for regional flying is growing. For the regional aIrlines in Australia from 1985 – 2008: (RAAA conference Sep11)
- The number of regional airports has reduced down from 268 to 138
- The number of airlines has reduced from 53 down to 27
- BUT the number of passengers has increased from 1 million up to 6 million
4.4. Tourist Industry / Outback / Crop Dusters
4.4.1 Tourist Industry
I suggest that for other than retired pilots, that the tourist industry be planned as a brief “means to an end” to acquire flying hours on your journey to a jet airline.
Flying in the tourist industry is one of the best ways to build up your hours prior to joining an airline though the repetitive nature of the flying limits your full potential. 1,000 hours flying the same 1 hour sector produces less learning experiences than 300 flights with random routes and destinations.
4.4.2 Outback Flying
“That which does not kill us makes us stronger” (Friedrich Nietzsche)
Ryan Bullock asks: “I currently have an option to fly in the Northern Territory (NT) of Australia for a year and also for a cadet-ship with a regional airline. Which should I pick”.
Ryan, I would accept the offer to fly in the NT then take the cadet-ship with the regional. The exciting outback experience will provide a great foundation for any commercial airline position. I also think that early in a pilot’s career, that time is best spent laying a broad range of core skills and experience than to just acquire seniority in an airline.
I recommend all pilots early their career take up opportunities to fly in the sparsely populated areas the world (Australia, Alaska, Canada, New Guinea, South America ….). Imagine this (brief) sojourn similar to a medical internship – the pay and working conditions might be poor, but you will gain immeasurable experience, confidence and resilience whilst also having fun learning the basic practicalities of flight, navigation and performance, all without the distractions that come with congested skies and over-controlling management.
Outback pilots quickly acquire the maturity and many of the basis hands-on flight skills necessary to start a flying career. You will gain responsible and be able to appreciate and manage the diverse threats and stresses such as navigation, weather, cold/hot temperatures, poor aircraft performance, aircraft mechanics, poor airfields and sometimes troublesome passengers.
Many of our most valuable life-lessons are learned from challenging experiences, and those who have seen more will be more armor-plated to anticipate and manage future risks. You will probably inadvertently scare yourself a few times and learn to appreciate the benefit of not skimping on your fuel orders and weight and balance limitations. You will also probably come to appreciate the technical complexities and risks of low flying. More importantly thought, you will start to appreciate your skills and limitations and become aware of when it is prudent to stand with the birds on the ground rather than to launch into the unknown and into potentially dangerous weather conditions.
4.4.3 Crop Dusting
I recommend avoiding Crop Dusting and other low level high performance flying jobs. Except for military and helicopter flight, it’s almost always safer to he higher than lower in the air. Crop Dusting pilots work in an almost exclusive environment of severe risks and stresses: limiting performance, time, dust, visibility, wires, fatigue. So save the Crop Dusting career until you have thousands of hours experience and the maturity to know your aircraft’s and your body’s limitations – your friends and family will thank you for this decision!
5. Career Development
Pilots are more personally responsible now for their personal and career development than at any time in the past.
Aviation has irrevocably changed with the arrival of low value add airlines in our flat globalized world.
Airlines are financially more challenged now than ever before. One analyst put it succinctly: “the yields are asymptoting to zero!”. The world’s airlines were expected to return a $3 billion profit in 2012 on $631 billion in revenues. That’s a razor-thin 0.5 per cent margin.” (IATA Jul12) This low margin means that the airlines now have little profit remaining after paying dividends to stakeholders to allocate for mentoring pilots and their careers.
You are the master of your destiny. There are no fairy god mothers who will mentor you and guide you through your career. However, great things happen when preparation meets opportunity. So if you are to remain resilient as a pilot in aviation, then you must take charge of you own career:
- study assiduously for your entire career,
- read and cross reference every possible aviation book,
- learn from every crash and near miss,
- socialise with the other pilots when away from home base – don’t retreat to your room to play computer games.
- join the Royal Aeronautical Society and the Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators.
- don’t use paper. Build then continually update your personal Knowledge Management (KM) system which is your repository and cross-reference for your aviation knowledge. (100% of my aviation knowledge is stored in a structured PC based knowledge management tool that is hyper-linked, indexed and constantly updated.) I will write more about KM in later articles.
- be confident flying your aircraft, Be unafraid of your aircraft. Wear it like a glove.
- maintain your hands-on flying skills! Don’t fall into the trap of believing that hands-on flying skills are not needed in new highly automated aircraft, for your job is to guarantee the safety of your passengers whether your aircraft is stalled, inverted, spinning or on fire (QF32 p 102). (Proof: Of the 4269 fatalities from commercial jets between 2003-2012, 39% (1648) were due to Loss of Control In-flight and 18% (765) during landing! (Boeing Summary August 2013))
THE LANCET – 1918: The skilful pilot appears to anticipate” bumps.” He is invariably a graceful flyer, never unconsciously throws an undue strain on the machine, just as a good riding man will never make a horse’s mouth bleed.
Knowledge, training and experience gives you confidence and courage to face the risks, make the best decisions and hopefully in the worst case survive the events that you had never trained for nor expected.
6. Alternate Career
Security is a swear word! You will never find security in aviation and it’s an illusion for those who think that they have it.
You will become personally resilient when you have mitigated for a loss of your aviation career. As part of your risk analysis and being prepared for the unexpected, I believe that every pilot should have a plan for an alternate (secondary) career in the event that their primary career is halted due to ill health, airline retrenchments or a bad experience.
Three examples suffice:
- In 1976, my 18 year old friend found that his aviation medical was permanently cancelled after he was knocked unconscious for the second time whilst playing football. He was subsequently forced to leave the RAAF Academy!
- I started my computer company shortly after joining my Airline as I calculated that I had a 50% chance of being retrenched in event of an industry down-turn.
- Hundreds of pilots’ careers came to a quick end as a result of the 1989 Australian pilots’ dispute.
Pilots can purchase “Loss of Licence” insurance in the event that they cannot renew their Aviation Medical Certificate. However I consider the cost of this prohibitive for the return. Rather than taking Loss of Licence insurance, I recommend that when you have found your first job in an airline that you study to acquire a backup career in another profession (building, law, finance, computing …). Ideally choose an alternate career that complements aviation (ie computing, electronics, engineering ..).
7. Aviation Industry
The World’s aviation industry has been reliably doubling every 15 years (since 1972). This growth is expected to continue over the next twenty years.
The number of passenger kilometers travelled will triple between 2010 and 2050. To meet this expected demand, the number of aircraft (in service) will double (from 20k to 42k) and 1,500 aircraft must be built every year through till 2050. (Alain Garcia, Former Airbus CTO, 2014)
More pilots will be required to fly double the number of aircraft (2010-2050).
498,000 new commercial airline pilots will be needed to fly the new aircraft over the next 20 years (2013-2032) (Boeing Pilot and Technical Market Outlook):
- 114,900 – Asia Pacific (excluding China)
- 77,400 – China
- 99,700 – Europe
- 85,700 – North America
- 48,600 – Latin America
- 40,000 – Middle East
- 16,500 – Africa
- 15,200 - Commonwealth of Independent States
By 2050, six billion of the world’s 9 billion will be living in regional hubs (megalopolies or megalopoles) separated by about eight hours flying time. (Alain Garcia, Former Airbus CTO, 2014)
Expect many jet pilot jobs to surface in Asia over the next two decades. Asian opportunities will help you accrue significant jet command hours in a minimum time as part of your journey to the larger international carriers.
- 192,300 new commercial airline pilots will be needed over the next 20 years (2013-2032) (Boeing Pilot and Technical Market Outlook)
- Asia is now the largest (and fastest growing) air transport market in the world with 948m passengers, followed by North America (808m) and Europe (780·6m) (IATA 2013).
- Asia is the machine driving most of the aviation growth as an estimated 2 billion Asian (and Indian and South American) people increase in prosperity and become eligible to take low cost flights
- 30% of the industry is now based in Asia Pacific (Tony Webber, 2011)
- 45% of aircraft traffic will be in Asia Pacific region in 2050. (Alain Garcia, Former Airbus CTO, 2014)
- 45 new airports are being built in Asia over the next 5 years. (IATA Jun 2011)
- 40% of the worlds cargo market is in Asia (IATA Jun 2011)
- The worlds largest order of 234 aircraft was recently made in March 2013 by Lion Air of Indonesia, a company that formed only thirteen years ago and currently has 18,000 workers.
- Understand the benefits and opportunities offered by the ASEAN Open Skies Agreement to open up the Asian markets in 2014 for unparalleled access.
- Japan’s Low Cost aviation market has potential growth of at least 400% over the next few years as Bullet Train Passengers change to faster-cheaper low cost airlines (i.e. Jet Star Japan) (Deutsche Bank – 2013)
- Hong Kong airport’s two runways were 96% fully utilised in 2013 and will be saturated by 2016. The airport currently services 370,000 flights over the past 12 months (an average of 65 flights per hour, close to its upper cap of 68 per hour). (Norman Lo Shung (Director-General, Civil Aviation Department, Hong Kong, 2013))
- I recommend that you view Hans Rosling’s excellent presentation that expertly explains the origins of the emerging affluent China and Asia economies. Draw you own conclusions for opportunities in air travel.
- Airbus forecasts Asia-Pacific to be biggest regional market by 2032. (AGMF Sep 2013)
- 93%/99% of long haul traffic is/will be flown between 42/90 Aviation Mega Airports in 2013/2032 respectively (AGMF Sep 2013)
7.1.2 Middle East
The Middle Eastern airlines are defining aviation’s future for the next 50 years. The Gulf has established itself as a key aviation hub from the perspective of linking continents by air.
40,000 new commercial airline pilots will be needed over the next 20 years (2013-2032) (Boeing Pilot and Technical Market Outlook)
The Middle Eastern carriers (Emirates, Etihad, Qatar and Flydubai) placed a staggering US$162 billion order for aircraft at the Paris Airshow in November 2013. Emirates placed a US$99 billion order (list prices), the largest aircraft order in history for 200 aircraft comprising: 35 Boeing 777-8Xs, 115 Boeing 777-9Xs and 50 Airbus A380 aircraft. Emirates has so many aircraft on order that they will need 19 new pilots to train EVERY DAY for the next decade to meet demand.
114,900 new commercial airline pilots will be needed in Europe and the CIS over the next 20 years (2013-2032) (Boeing Pilot and Technical Market Outlook)
European aviation is also doubling about every 15 years. European air traffic controllers are expecting demand to double between 2013 & 2025-30. In an already congested airspace, controllers are transitioning to four dimensional control (latitude, longitude, altitude, time) . (Richard Deakin, CEO, NATS, presenting the RAeS Brabazon lecture, Nov 2013)
7.2. Drone, Pilot-less Aircraft
I think that there will be a sustained need for pilots well up until 2060.
The air force is already researching -flying autonomous fighter aircraft
The forecast aircraft deliveries for Boeing and Airbus aircraft shown below are all for piloted aircraft. Although Airbus is researching pilot-less aircraft, do not expect to see pilot-less large aircraft in commercial passenger operations until at least after 2030 and only after the technologies have been proven on cargo aircraft (operating in shared airspace) for many years.
7.3. Aircraft Production
The demand for and production of new aircraft is at an all time high:
- 32,100 commercial passenger jets will be delivered over the next 20 years, worth almost $2.5 trillion (Flightglobal Fleet Forecast July 2013)
- This is the busiest year in 15 for maiden flights: Airbus A350 (June 2013), Boeing 787-9 (Sep 2013) and the Bombardier CSeries (Sep 2013)
- The worlds fleet of 20,000 commercial aircraft will more than double to 42,000 aircraft by 2050 (Alain Garcia, Former Airbus CTO, 2014)
- The newest Airbus A380, Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 aircraft will probably be flying until 2060.
7.3.1. Boeing predictions – next 20 years (Jun13)
- Airlines will need 35,280 new jets worth $4.8 trillion as the world’s fleet doubles over the next 20 yrs (this is a 3.8% increase from Boeing’s prior 20-year outlook)
- Anticipates a surge in Asia-Pacific travel that will keep production rates at jet factories rising
- Airlines will need 24,670 single-aisle jets worth $2.29 trillion at list prices, up from 23,240 forecast last year
- Trend is for less or flat demand compared with previous forecasts for larger or smaller acft
7.3.2. Airbus forecasts
29,226 new aircraft required (US$4.4 trillion) up until 2032 (next 20 yrs):
- 20,242 single isle
- 7,273 twin isle
- 1,711 very large aircraft
29,226 new aircraft up until 2032 (next 20 yrs):
- 10,409 to replace older aircraft
- 18,817 for growth
20,000 new helicopters up until 2033 (Tom Enders, 13 Dec 2013)
8. Life Plan
Though I am not qualified to advise others about how to plan their lives, I list some of my thoughts below in case they might help others. My observations have been gleaned from discussions with pilots throughout their lives, noting the types of plans that succeeded, and those that did not succeed.
I think that there are four keys to happiness:
- good health,
- meaningful work/purpose, and
When you acquire these keys, you will find the comfort a that comes from leading a full and rewarding life. You will also have the confidence to ride through life’s vicissitudes of successes and failures.
8.1 Good Health
Pilots start their careers with good health. So you must strive to remain healthy not just for your career’s benefit, but also for your happiness and personal well-being. Keep fit, establish a healthy diet, and socialise.
THE LANCET – 1918: When they have finished flying for the day their favourite amusements are theatres, music (chiefly rag-time), cards, and dancing, and it appears necessary for the well-being of the average pilot that he should indulge in a really riotous evening at least once or twice a month.
Every person needs dignity and respect. You must however act respectfully to be respected.
Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King & Mahatma Gandhi understood the “WHY” that underpinned their core values and beliefs, maintained their dignity, put others first, and as a result, peacefully changed the world.
To respect the person you see in the mirror:
- Work hard and don’t be afraid to fail. Indeed welcome failure for the lessons and wisdom that it provides. Accept the hard realities in life, even unfairness. When life is not going your way, avoid focusing inwards and harnessing anger and regret. Instead, keep your morale and ambitions high, look ahead, work hard and continually challenge yourself. Perceive what others see as obstacles as motivators that power and direct your persistence.
- Honesty is the simplest path to self-respect.
- Be kind to, and find good in yourself and others. Take yourself out of the center for you do not matter! It’s what you can do for others (particularly the disadvantaged) that counts, not what others can do for you!
8.3 Meaningful Work/Purpose
Meaningful work/purpose consists of:
- doing every day what you love and excel at,
- getting encouragement and support to develop your skills, and
- being respected for your action and opinions.
For parents of future aviators, the most important thing you can do is to encourage you children to discover their own passions, then to enable your children to pursue their passions. Don’t spoon feed them, rather help them clarify their thoughts, develop plans, then be a catalyst to help them help themselves. (See also Motivating our Youngest Generation)
For the aviators reading this, your task is to get your aviation licences, flying experience and with these requisites gain access to a satisfying aviation job. Your mission throughout is to maintain your motivation to excel:
- “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” (Confucius)
- “Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.” (Farrah Gray)
- “Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” (Les Brown)
- Never procrastinate. “Do it now!” “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now”, and
- “Equilibrium is the precursor to death!”
- Please read my later blog “Torches“
Work with your “heroes” instead of starting out alone. You have insufficient time and resources in aviation to learn everything from your own mistakes. You’ll gain knowledge and experience quickly as an “apprentice” in a successful team. Indeed joining a passionate and successful company and doing what you really want to do in your life might be even more rewarding than continuing with a Master or Ph.D degree.
You must act respectably if you want to be respected:
- Act like a CEO, because that’s what you are in your aircraft – not a back office employee.
- Be present. Meet, greet and talk to your passengers – don’t hide behind the flight deck door. Empathise with the crew and passengers, ensuring that their interests are at the center of all your thoughts and actions (the WHY).
- Be happy, fun and positive! You control the attitude that you project. Indeed, the Captain sets the atmosphere for the passengers and crew on every flight! Make your attitude an award winning and world famous attitude that welcomes others and “makes their day”.
- Be honest. Tell passengers the truth (full and open disclosure) and be prepared to give a personal guarantee.
- Always expect and plan for the unexpected – that’s what your passengers expect! Never admit to being bored in an aircraft because others will think that you are not thinking about and preparing for the unexpected. Would you like hearing brain surgeons telling you that they get bored during their surgeries?
- Be confident but modest (even vulnerable) for you never know it all. Indeed the minute that you think you know everything is the second before you do something really stupid.
The essence of life is to love and to be loved.
For junior aviators, I recommend that you wait until your aviation career is kick-started before you do get “hitched”.
The pilot’s life opens up exciting opportunities to travel and to meet many remarkable people. But your career path requires great sacrifices (financial, mental and physical) before the good positions become available. You might need to position to remote areas or to Asia and the Middle East to gain flying experience (hours).
It is a special person who can happily settle into the life of the pilot’s spouse. So as a fledgling pilot, take your time, socialise outside aviation and find the best person who you love, is confident and independent.
It is essential that your partner grows and develops independently as you grow and develop, and that he/she is able and happy to support any children at home alone whilst you travel abroad.
For when you are married, I forecast that your priorities will/should change. Where your career was priority one in your early years, your career now shifts down into second place as your family responsibilities increase.
My wonderful wife Coral had clear priorities. When our children were about ten years old. A friend asked Coral what her priorities were in life. Coral’s answer surprised him:
- my husband,
- my children, then
Coral reasoned that if she looked after me, that two parents would do a better job of raising our children that one parent. She also understood that she would be left at home with “just her husband” as company when the children grew up and left home.THE LANCET – 1918: The majority of successful pilots are un-married, and our own observations tend to show that marriage is a definite handicap owing to the increased sense of responsibility. If a man marries after he has flown several hundred hours, and flying has become automatic, marriage may not apparently affect him for some time. In some cases it may even make him steadier and more careful, but sooner or later it will in most cases have a definitely , deteriorating effect. THE LANCET – 1918: The unmarried man (faced with the possibility of crashing whilst doing his first solo) in most cases dismisses the thought or takes the risk in the same way as a horse-rider puts his mount at a fence in strange country. The married man has the knowledge of what death may mean to his wife and family, and, moreover, has the opportunity in many cases of discussing it with his wife and manufacturing in his own home a condition of nervousness which eventually becomes so great that he confesses to his instructor that he has completely lost his nerve.
I have saved this subject for last, because it is the subject that least motivates me.
My career aspirations have never been motivated by money. I have observed that those who are obsessed with money never achieve a healthy perspective of “how much is enough”. They continually grasp for more, compare their wealth to others, and so are ultimately never content.
I have worked hard throughout my entire career, thrown security to the wind and taken every opportunity that was within my grasp.
I have found that the skills that I have acquired along my journey have value and are appreciated in many industries. From passion, commitment and perseverance comes skill, and from skill comes rewards.
This is my career and I would not trade it for any desk job!
Where from Here?
Emily Redmond, thank you for your question (at the top of this article). I hope that I have helped to answer some of your queries.
Never give up on your dreams, for the rewards are commensurate with the risks and opportunities you take as your career progresses. Fulfilling careers await for those who are brave enough to find them and and who rise to the challenges.
Security is both a swear word and an illusion. Where and what you end up flying depends upon what opportunities you seize along your passionate journey.
Aviation is not an easy career choice. You’ll have to learn and research for every day of your career, face the mental challenge of continual re-certification and physical challenges of working extreme hours and perhaps sometimes in extremely risky locations.
There is a piloting job waiting for every person who has the health, intelligence, drive, and commitment to forge their way into this leading edge, high tech, high risk career. The graphs in Section Seven suggest that the aviation industry will continue to double every 15 years .
Discuss the topics I have listed here with other pilots. Ask opinions from retired pilots who have successfully navigated a lifetime of aviation’s challenges. For these old and wise pilots are the true heroes, with memories laced with nuggets of wisdom gleaned from occasional errors in judgement and experiences surviving fate’s unexpected and unthinkable events. These mentors deserve your highest respect, for they are the world’s best risk experts who worked day-in, day-out in the most leading edge, high tech and risky industry and protected their passengers from harm.
If I have had good foresight and luck in my career, it is only because I have been standing on the shoulders of these past aviation giants.
If you could be so fortunate …..
My final mentoring support comes from the last paragraph in Jim Collins great book on Level 5 Leadership, entitled “Good to Great”:
“When all these pieces [from “Good to Great”] come together, not only does your work move towards greatness, but so does your life. For in the end it’s impossible to have a great life without having a meaningful life. And it’s very hard to have a meaningful life without meaningful work. Perhaps then, you might gain that rare tranquility that comes from knowing that you’ve had a hand in creating something of intrinsic excellence that makes a contribution. Indeed you might also gain that deepest of all satisfactions knowing that your short time here on earth has been well spent and that it mattered”.
My very best wishes to you as you embark on your safe, happy and fulfilling career. It won’t be easy – but I promise fun and rewards and that you will matter!
Be strong, and shine!
I recommend you also view:
- My later blog: “Torches“
- David Learmount’s excellent blog detailing how to enter into an aviation career. (David and I clearly think alike!)
- Motivating our Youngest Generation
- Giving Back – Code Cadets
- Royal Aeronautical Society – Career Flightpath Magazine 2013
- The Golden Circle
Please write a comment below if you have any corrections for this page, or suggestions to help our future generations of pilots.
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