Don’t marry an airline pilot

In fact, don’t become one. Unless…

Anyone who wants to become a commercial pilot needs good health, certain aptitudes, considerable determination, and access to a lot of money for training.

But it’s by no means all he/she needs. Pilots must have a gypsy soul to survive. That may not be new, but it’s particularly true right now as the downturn bites.

Ideally, pilots should have no family ties beyond mum and dad. If they acquire a family en route, every member of it has to be incredibly tolerant of the pilot’s chosen lifestyle.

Why the need for a gypsy soul? Well, for new young hours-builders, it helps to be prepared to go wherever in the world somebody will hire you as a bush pilot or night mail flyer. Your employer will pay you survival wages to do it. Small US operators have been known to charge the pilot for the privilege of working.

For the very young and unattached, bush/agricultural/night mail flying sounds exciting, but if you’ve just borrowed $100,000 from your mom and pop to train to CPL on the premise that you’ll soon start paying them back, the stress can wreck the experience.

You are condemned to seek a relatively dull but steady airline job as soon as you can get one because your soul is owned by a bank.

Being a happy gypsy also helps when the economic downturn dumps you on the scrapheap with a load of other pilots. Along with all the others, you begin scanning the world’s websites for jobs – prepared to go anywhere.

At times like this the airlines – bless their cotton socks – will charge you several thousand dollars for a simulator selection ride and the privilege of being inteviewed, followed by the $20,000 – $30,000 cost of a type rating if you need one. Heaven help your family life/love life.

The new multi-crew pilot licence (MPL), under which pilots train from scratch for a job in the right hand seat of a particular aircraft type with a particular airline, looked as if it had the potential to stablise training arrangements for the student pilots and deliver SOP-ready, type-rated pilots at a rate the partner airline had chosen.

But this also turns out to have been a mirage. The world’s first nine MPLs were dumped during cutbacks at Sterling on the good old last-in, first-out basis. It’s worse for them, because the MPL qualifies them only to fly as part of a crew, not as a single pilot in command, so they can’t go for night freighting or bush flying in Cessna Caravans and the like unless they convert to the old CPL. More dollars please.

For what to do instead of flying for the airlines, read the next blog.

And now … there’s a Part 2 to this story…

22 Responses to Don’t marry an airline pilot

  1. John Hoyte 20 August, 2008 at 3:47 pm #

    Good summary of a pilots life.

    What about the ‘not that old’ pilots of 26 & 40 who feel permanently fatigued, increasing poor memory but can’t work out what’s wrong with themselves? They eventually stop flying (as is their duty) but never realise the cause of their demise as the industry refuses to share with them the best kept secret in aviation. It actually stops you from working it out.

    It is toxic poisoning from the air that they breathe.

    Don’t expect any help, as officially, it doesn’t even exist….

    Familiar? Find out, before it gets you too.

  2. Pilot 25 August, 2008 at 9:03 am #

    A lot of bullshit in this article.
    Some facts are true but if you don’t accepted it won’t happen.

  3. nbw 27 August, 2008 at 6:43 pm #

    To my mind, the fault lies with the ridiculously low cost of flying now demanded by the public. Aviation has always been expensive, in part because of the safety/technology requirements, and in the past these costs have been passed on in ticket prices.
    Today, the ‘Ryanair’ effect means that the public demands to fly in new aircraft for £2. Costs that were previously inherent in airlines – mainly training costs – are now passed on to the new pilot. Any new entrant must expect debts of at least £70000, reduced salary or no salary at all, no pension, recurrent training costs (base checks) whilst trying to take out a mortgage and start a family. It can’t be done, and the current world problems are focusing only on high fuel costs.
    Anyone trying to start out now as a pilot really disqualifies themselves on grounds of insanity.

  4. Ryan 2 September, 2008 at 6:59 pm #

    Woah! $20-30K for a type rating? What are you getting, your Space Shuttle license? I wouldn’t pay more than $7K for a Boeing 737 type rating, but yes, that doesn’t even guarantee you a job at Southwest with a fresh one in hand after a successful interview. Borrowing $100K from mom and dad? Why? There are so many other options not even considered here, one of them being the military. You can even pick up a Master’s degree that they will pay for.

    Anyway, times have changed, yes. I too have considered changing my profession. But then again I do have a wonderful family, am actually stable and love my job. How many people love their jobs anymore?


  5. Blu Yonder 13 September, 2008 at 4:55 pm #

    Unfortunatelly I cannot agree with this article. In today;s world where the bottom line is most important we speak of “The company” as if it where an animate entity. Higher Management have bestowed titles and salaries upon themselves which does not reflect their responsabilities. When was the last time a banckrupt company CEO got investigated? When was the last pilot investigated for an incident?

    In this light I must say that things are not the way they used to be in every profession. All the top people have the majority of wealth and the new entries have to climb up the ladder. I am sorry but most professions have a mobility factor,but saying it’s a gypsy lifestyle is a bit far fetched. If anything layovers have reduced to minimum legal. Which arline let’s it’s crew idle for a week at some destination?

    I can only speak for myself as regards being an airline pilot. I love every minute of it. I have an other degree and when I look at my ex-collegues I feel I made the right decision to persue my dream. I still have my ups and downs, but anyone who thinks he will find a perfect job or life will be disillusioned and needs to smell the coffee.I am also happily married. When my wife read this article she laughed and found so many examples of worse professions in every aspect you point out.

    I am very sorry but I take offence to read such an article, trying to dicourage aspiring pilots is something I am totally against. It will not always be a bed of roses but if you really want it, do it!

  6. Ryan 15 September, 2008 at 2:40 am #

    …or you could stick it out and reap the rewards as I have. There is nothing wrong with becoming an airline pilot, in just 3 short years at this airline I work for I have gone from second officer to captain.. I make a lot of money and love my job.

    figure it out for yourself.

  7. David Learmount 15 September, 2008 at 9:51 am #

    But are you married? ; )

    Nobody’s knocking the job. It’s running a family life at the same time that’s difficult.

  8. Blu Yonder 15 September, 2008 at 2:13 pm #

    Mr. Learmount, you hurriedly asked Ryan if he is married, but didn’t take some time to read my post it seems. Personally I find that it is up to you if you have a good family life or not.
    Straight answer. Yes, I am very happily married, I live a very comfortable life and enjoy the lifestyle together with my family. At the moment, touch wood I have no complaints! I am a Captain on a small to medium haul jet with a national carrier.
    It seems you are knocking the job, in my opinion the article is OTT. Sorry.

  9. dee 6 March, 2009 at 3:17 am #

    Speaking of Air Quality in an airplane…
    Doesnt OSHA have any control of this ?

    My entire family gets sick just about every time we fly.

    NASTY NASTY air in the cabin…not to mention the lavs.

    Unless of course the flight attendants have stocked up on LUSH Bath products….lol


  10. Andrew 28 May, 2009 at 7:37 am #

    umm you only focused on the negatives…and speak for urself if ur job is crappy.

  11. David Learmount 29 May, 2009 at 9:50 am #

    I loved the job, but my family didn’t. I got paid while I trained, but most don’t. I think you’ve missed the point.

  12. steve 13 June, 2009 at 4:45 pm #

    on the contrary, the only way to achieve airline pilot status is to be married, letting her flip the bill for everything until you “make it” –defined by many of you as 60k in the left seat of an RJ.– She still makes more than you do (ha, ha).

  13. marion 19 June, 2009 at 6:37 pm #

    I am sure he is gay!

  14. Erik 24 June, 2009 at 8:01 pm #

    I am a pilot for a european carier. We only fly 600 hrs on average per year but I fly the 747 and I am usually in a hotel room or fatigued at home. Initially it was great in my 20′s but now I am 40, have a wife and 3 children and I wished I had a job with regular hours. On top, I see many colleauges with broken marriages because life in hotels with a crew is great when you’re single but not good when you’re married. I have seen good guys make mistakes that they regretted years after. Think hard and deep. The money and status is great, but it’s not all that is important in life.

  15. Mike 14 August, 2009 at 12:33 pm #

    This is an old article, but I want to comment anyway. As an airline pilot myself, I have to agree with David here. I was ‘lucky’ in that I went straight to the airlines from flying school. Having said that, the job is certainly very dull and the glamour, even on long haul is non existant. Is it worth the huge costs of getting the license? No way.

  16. knoet 1 January, 2010 at 11:58 am #

    What a buch of bull
    Flying for over 25 years, now capt on a 777
    still love it and so does my wife

  17. Annetta Veeser 25 March, 2010 at 5:45 pm #

    Nice job! GA è anche la mia più grande guadagno. Tuttavia, non è un altro. grazie! molto utile blog !

  18. ellen 11 March, 2011 at 11:13 am #

    Hi, well I am a young lady of 21 years dreaming day and night to become an airline pilot.Currently am desperately seeking for some fund to pursue my dream career.But after reading these comments i felt so discouraged and am hoping you were exaggerating the whole picture of pilots lifestyles.

  19. Betty 16 September, 2011 at 5:44 am #

    Those who knock pilots are usually pilot wannabees who just didn’t have the brains and guts to make it into the right/left seat of a major airline.

    My pilot loves his job. It took him many years to make it to a major. The attainment of one’s life goal is satisfying, and parlays itself into a good pilot/partner relationship.

  20. Pilot Salary 29 September, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    I spent 15 years in General aviation earning ridiculously low salaries. For the last 10 years however I have worked as a contract Captain on a wide body flying international routes. The job is great, the pay is fantastic and my family and I benefit greatly from this.

    I believe a flying job is like anything else in life, it’s your choice to either love it or hate it. Ultimately it’s up to you to see the positives and make the most of it. Personally I don’t regret any of the hard work and low salaries it took to get me to where I am today.

  21. helena 6 November, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

    my husband is an air pilot. at this moment I’m home alone with our 2yo twin boys. I never thought the divorce, because I love him, but I’d prefer him to be at home more time than he does. I’ ll see him in 8 days. It’s very difficult. I know he loves his job, he loves us, he really loves us, but I suffer, even I don’t speak…I don’t know if some day he will regret of being a pilot and I don’t want this to happen. But he loses many things, he won’t see his children growing up, he won’t live a normal life. I hope he will never regret it.I have studies that allow me work wherever I want to, but he doesn’t let me work. He earns a lot of money, but this doesn’t count for me. I’d prefer washing dishes in a restaurant but having him beside me

  22. Selene 9 November, 2012 at 10:28 pm #

    Honestly a pilot seems to be a glorified trucker. always being gone, working weird hours, being gone from your family life/ love life. Honestly the only way I could do it would be if I was single and had no love interests. I would feel terrible not being able to watch my nieces and nephews grow like I have had the opportunity to do. How ever pilots are in demand I was on and could help but notice all the job listings for them. I would recommend anyone looking for any short of job to at least take a look at the site. Who knows it could take you to your dream job.