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How fulfilling is the airline route??

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How fulfilling is the airline route??

Old 9th Nov 2012, 14:09
  #1 (permalink)  
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How fulfilling is the airline route??

I went through training and met all the young spotty kids during ATPL's hellbent on getting straight in to 'an Airbus' and wonder what the draw is? Is it simply to get the only flying job that also pays the bills and mortgage? I've been hanging around in GA with a career that pays better than I could ever expect as a FO for an airline, happy to fly anything interesting for whoever I'm qualified to do so. GA flying must surely be more fulfilling with all the demands and challenge at all times placed directly on you. Can't help feeling that by the time I could be a captain and earn better than an average salary the 'the office with the best view in the world' would have started to feel a bit familiar. I must be wrong as I still listen to the conveyor belt of new hopefuls ever wanting to get into an airline asap and read the constant recycling of similar threads on here, however, any comment or debate from those with experience on the inside would be appreciated and possibly educate others.
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Old 9th Nov 2012, 14:27
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I have been flying commercial airliners for nearly 14 years. That is what I set out to do and still enjoy it. I flew light aircraft to qualify for my ATPL licence and always looked at it as a "passport" to get to where I am today.

For me, it was all I ever wanted to do. Going on holiday I looked forward to the flight more than the holiday itself. Used to drive my dad mad, he took his family on holiday and I would be making comment such as "cannot wait til we fly back home". I enjoyed just looking out of the window, gazing at the huge wing and RB211 engine that was holding us aloft......

Now I understand some people enjoy flying light aircraft and really flying the aircraft....but there are plenty of pilots (me included) that enjoy being sat in the LHS (or RHS) of commercial airliners, operating the aircraft through its sophisticated autopilot. I would mind too much if I never flew in a light aircraft again!

There is a huge difference between flying light aircraft for pleasure and flying professionally for an airline...I just prefer airline flying!
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Old 9th Nov 2012, 16:32
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Good for you DSB!

If you're being paid well and enjoy the variety and challenge I'd definitely stick with it!

Like anything, airline flying is, at one point, a new and exciting challenge. It still has it's moments, mostly when things break or other problems arise. I still get huge satisfaction from a job well done and there are days when I can't believe I'm being paid to do it. I am the quintessential flying nerd and consumed everything 'flying' before and during training. I was VERY forunate in that I started flying a twinjet pretty soon after getting my licence.

Only 5 years in, having benefited from a good variety of flying across Europe, north Africa, across the pond to Canada and across the Pacific, to a good variety of (variously equipped!) airports, I do have moments, if I'm being completely honest with myself, when I question whether airline flying can sustain me for a career (I'm in my early 30s). I'm not being all doom and gloom or the one that slipped through, got a job, and doesn't actually have the passion for it. I'm a very positive person, always aim to see the best in things and still love all things aerospace BUT...

The industry is tough. After a few years, the rose-tinted goggles clear a bit and you see things you didn't before. I used to care about how much hand-flying I'd got in that day, how slick my descent and approach was, what aircraft I flew, it's systems/technology and how well I knew it, etc. I still care about some of these but top of the list? Days off. Holidays. Pay. Rosters. Weekends off. There has to be a balance between home and work life and it's hard on an airline schedule, especially when you get in to a relationship, want a family, etc.

I yearn to fly, properly FLY, a plane. Maybe even test one. I want to get involved in projects and other things on top of plying the friendly skies between A and B! I want more of an intellectual challenge sometimes. I want variety. I think I want some adventure too!

I am still an FO and have only flown for one company (that said, it is a 'good' company with lots of variety flying-wise) so I do bear in mind that there are still new challenges/changes on the horizon in the airline world and, in the grand scheme of things, I am very new to the industry. I also bear in mind that there are people a lot more worse off than me. I've got command, new companies and new aircraft waiting for me at some point no doubt BUT...

I think half the problem is that's it's stopped being a passion and is now what everyone else does (and complains about) - a job! A very specific job which pays well i.e. one that is hard to leave or branch out of.

I had a beer with a mate who I trained with a couple of days ago - he has flown for two companies (his current being, probably, the UK holy grail in most wannabes eyes) and asked me whether, knowing what I do now, I would go in to the industry again? I told him I wasn't sure I would. He told me he definitely wouldn't. According to a recent BALPA survey, the vast majority of pilots are very proud of what they do BUT...

They wouldn't recommend the career to their children or friends.

Ultimately, like everything, it really is, and must be, what you make of it.

If you do well in the airline industry and get promoted in a good company and make some good investment or property choices then maybe you'll be able to go part-time and fly something fun on weekend adventures!

Bit of a ramble but just a few, off-the-cuff, thoughts! Will keep an eye on this thread with interest...

Edited to say - if you can dig out the parable about the pilot who constantly strove for the next big thing, from Cessna to bizjet, to airliner, to space shuttle orbiter and then full circle, it's worth a read

Last edited by bucket_and_spade; 9th Nov 2012 at 16:43.
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Old 9th Nov 2012, 16:50
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I can't imagine what it must feel like when the passion wears off...
For me it's in my blood, I've done other things in the industry but always missed what I am doing now and can't live without it.

Even though my future looks bad at present, fly only to two destinations and I don't particularly want to be where I am now, I still love to go to work and have the best office the world.

I do have to keep telling myself that ' the grass ain't always greener on the other side!' There's always this little voice in the back of my mind...
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Old 9th Nov 2012, 17:02
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Not worn off John21UK, just toned down a bit!

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Old 9th Nov 2012, 17:18
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Nearly lost my "Mojo" passing 23000 hours - but all is well now..........

I'm going to by a microlight
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Old 9th Nov 2012, 17:22
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An interesting post and great to hear from people who still love/like the job.

I think T&Cs are deteriorating in most, if not all, industries. I have heard the statistic about pilots not recommending the job to their kids but having had similar conversations with lawyers, doctors and investment bankers etc, I often get the same response (please note I am not trying to ignite a "who's worse off now" debate).

In general, my friends who fly for a living are the happiest bunch of chaps I know.

For reference, I used to be a doctor (switched careers - not to flying - yet) but left a few years ago. Morale was low and getting lower. Bean counters were tightening the screws:
- they took the bed out of our on-call room as they said we shouldn't be sleeping at night, even if there was nothing to do, because we were shift based but would then expect us to work over the next day if an emergency surgery overran
- they paid a nurse a handsome overtime fee to follow me around as the surgeon on call at night to monitor my activity to see if they could consolidate the doctors on call at night who cover different specialties - she usually parked herself in the A&E staff room eating their tea and biscuits while I saw patients
Since I've left I've had countless requests for advice on how to transition to something else from old colleagues/bosses etc who want to get out of medicine.
The problem with some careers is that people who dont enjoy them (and wouldn't under any conditions) stick around and complain vs. leaving and trying something else.
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Old 9th Nov 2012, 19:14
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Only done it commercially for 5 years but it's still as exciting now as it was day one. In fact I enjoy it more as my experience increases, I feel more involved and more comfortable making decisions. The responsibility of being an airline pilot is great, there aren't many jobs that have a give you a similar amount of responsibility and have people trust you with their lives. I think it's good the fact that it's a tough career to get into. I feel for those who have been unlucky with timing and am not relating to the recession etc, however I think it's good that the training involved is generally intense and very hard work, it prevents those who aren't all that interested from applying (as does the price).

I also enjoy flying the aircraft. For all the non-believers out there I'm not one, I do feel like I'm flying the aircraft even though it's fly-by-wire. It's far more complex than my previous Piper however when I take the autopilot to be totally honest I can't see the difference between me hand-flying the Airbus and hand-flying the Piper (I know many will disagree!).
Love my job, don't enjoy getting up at 3am but when I think about the fact that I'm getting up at 3am to fly it makes it a whole lot easier.

I appreciate I have been fortunate in that I got a job straight out of training with one of Europe's largest airlines however I'd be just as happy doing it in another company - PROVIDED I wasn't being ripped of with a type rating and got paid decently to do the job that certainly warrants the pay it has in some (albeit few now) airlines.

Last edited by wheelie my boeing; 9th Nov 2012 at 19:15.
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Old 9th Nov 2012, 20:29
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This is an interesting thread and has the makings of a very educational and useful one.
The aviation industry as you know, uniquely has a broad spectrum of personnel from a variety of industries.
I come from a Maths and business development background which I combine with some charter flying to give me some variety.

It would be fantastic to hear of other professions you good people have come from/still do , or may even go back to at a later date? (and what were/are the good and not so good aspects of your non-flying positions).
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Old 10th Nov 2012, 08:17
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GA is great if you have a decent career on the side. If I was a GP earning 4m a month, I'd buy an extra and forget the airlines.GA only pays well if you have a good biz jet rating, but it's a very uncertain world.

Having been made redundant twice, I'm afraid the dream has tarnished a bit, not much, just a bit. I still like all things flying but I'm realistic - this is a profession, hence I am in it for professional remuneration .

There is a point I have seen alot of the the young FOs reach after about 2 years, when the Rose glasses slip and they realise that , for alot of the time, this is ' boring'. I don't know what they expected, but day to day this is not hand flying, this is operating an airliner ( don't want to restart that debate).

Personally I enjoy the view and being reasonably paid whilst attractive ladies serve me tea and coffee, flying a C310 into a short strip surrounded by hills may be ' real' flying but don't overlook how much more dangerous that would be. Having reached the age of 40 I'll leave that to the young thrusters.
Old 10th Nov 2012, 10:44
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Satisfaction level?

It is nowhere near as satisfying as having a darn good clear out in the morning.

The bean counters have ensured the job is just that. A job. At best.

Often just a contract now. No benefits, or security.

Very sad how quickly it's gone to pot.
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Old 10th Nov 2012, 10:59
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Yes, it does depend I believe largely on who your employer is.

I have flown full service, legacy carrier and low cost. Believe me life is a lot less happy being a bus driver as opposed to being a respected airline pilot.

After a while in any job the novelty wears off. I feel having been in the industry for fast approaching twenty years I have pretty much done and seen everything I want to see.

Part-time for me as soon as possible. If I won the lottery I could easily walk away. GA flying would be a welcome past-time; As and when I want to as opposed to being a slave to the rostering department.

As stated in a previous post, life is far more important.

I work to live.

Many young people still live to work.
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Old 10th Nov 2012, 12:54
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"Respected Airline Pilot" Now thats an Oxymoron is it not!!!
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Old 10th Nov 2012, 13:20
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I think for your average airline pilot who as been in the job for a few years it all comes down to a couple of things

1.Who you work for
2.The type of contract you have
3.Where you are based

Unfortunately one or a combination of these working against you can ruin the appeal that the job once held. Lots of people have sacrificed a hell of a lot to follow a dream but quickly realise that is wasn't really worth it. It isn't and never will be the career that it once was or the career that a lot of people outside of aviation misinterpret it to be.

Last edited by Callsign Kilo; 10th Nov 2012 at 13:23.
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Old 10th Nov 2012, 13:41
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Man Flex; interesting then why you would leave a legacy carrier where you were a 'respected airline pilot' to be a 'bus driver' in low cost where you are less happy?

Much of life is what you make it. I've been in this industry for twice as long as you and I still love it. Granted it's not the same as it was 20 yrs ago but the world isn't. We do work more hours but in many ways it's much easier now and more people have access to flying as a career; like it or not part of the qualification is ability to pay. Disappointingly many of the youngsters I fly with, who have been in the job less than a couple of years, do not particularly appear to enjoy it. I wonder why they are so disinterested and disillusioned? Did they have the wrong impression of what it is like to be an airline pilot or are they perhaps influenced to some extent by the continual moaning they hear from their peers? It all boils down to your approach to the job; whatever that may be. Like anything what you put in is what you'll get out.
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Old 10th Nov 2012, 15:24
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Callsign Kilo has nailed it. It doesn't really matter what job you do and to a certain degree, how much you are paid. What really matters is how you are treated by your employer, your colleagues, your customers and the system around you. When you are treated with respect by all around you feel as if you have a worthwhile job.

The appearance of a job starts to tarnish as soon as price and only price moves in. For example, what is the value of Ryanair's goodwill? On their balance sheet there's probably a number, but it's probably worthless. It's customers care little for the brand and would desert it in an instant if they believed they could buy cheaper elsewhere. Would they wear a Ryanair T-shirt for free? I'd also suggest that its employees would zip off as soon as a better offer arises. And does the pig eat his own swill? No. He flies First Class on British Airways and Aer Lingus.

But returning to our starting point, I love my job and the people I work with. But given similar terms, I'd love (and probably prefer) to zip about the place in smaller planes as it is a lot more fun and very satisfying. Unfortunately in this part of the world GA is not a big enough entity to be able offer many employees the terms and conditions enjoyed by airline personnel.
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Old 10th Nov 2012, 15:30
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I could not imagine leaving medicine to fly an aeroplane. Having said that I have known several who have done just that, however most of them still practice either as a part time thing or as CAA AME's. I still remember one particular chap who wandered round the crewroom wearing 4 bars on his shirt and a stethoscope around his neck as he did a quick class1 renewal before flying.

My dad was a doctor. He had a good career and now enjoys a pension far in excess of anything I will ever get. He still does the odd bit of consulting inbetween what seems to be permanent holidays. Once I reach 65 that's it. Can't afford to retire so Ill be doing whatever required (B + Q?) to keep body and soul together.

My "career" has featured redundancy (4 times) and always being at the wrong end of the list as a result. Very good chance as retiring as an FO. Watched all my peers gain command/training whilst being stuck on the sidelines. I enjoy the job and like the company I work for but if I had inherited my fathers brains rather than just his temper, I would have followed him into medicine.

Son has decided to follow another profession daughter will do likewise. I put no pressure on either but am very glad they will not be sucked into the aviation business. Apart from anything else, the price of oil over the next 15 years will probably see most airlines off. Missed the golden age but at least it will see me out. Would not want to be starting out now and feel very badly for anyone who is depending on this to pay the bills for the next 30-40 years.

Only one real bit of advice. Have a plan B. Chances are you will need it.
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Old 10th Nov 2012, 20:13
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Turn up on time, do your job and help your mate.

Let's not over complicate things, if you want fulfilment you might be looking in the wrong place.

Good luck!

Ps, best job I ever had except for Gliding, QFI, Aerobatics etc.

Last edited by Fredairstair; 10th Nov 2012 at 20:20.
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Old 10th Nov 2012, 21:17
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zeddb, it's an odd career isn't it.
Only here can you work your way up, gain experience, ratings and even promotion only to change company (willingly or not) and start right at the bottom again.
Can you imagine a Dr with 20 years experience starting again as a junior or intern?
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Old 11th Nov 2012, 09:35
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John Smith,

If you are going to retrain, you want something that will be in need whatever the economic circumstances.

I have thought about this and I reckon one of the following in no particular order,

Doctor, Lawyer, accountant, CEO of a blue chip, politician.

For the less academic/ non masons

Undertakers, hairdressers, plumbers/electricians/trades

I have never known any of the above be out of work for long, be short of cash or to pay tax at the same rate the rest of us mugs do. They can also carry on part time as long as they want. I would have included teachers and nurses but all the ones I know are under massive stress and want to quit ASAP.

Another alternative, followed by some in our profession is to write a best selling book.

In the last resort, marry someone very rich who finds pot bellies, no conversation outside flying or aircraft and sleep deficit attractive qualities in a partner.

The day I retire, I have vowed to never again set foot inside an airport or aircraft.

Not that I will be able to afford to anyhow. Fries with that madam?
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