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Lessons learned- pilot

Lessons learned- pilot



Lessons learned as a pilot

Lessons learned as a pilot



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    Lessons learned- pilot Lessons learned- pilot Document Transcript

    • Lessons Learned as a Pilot<br />My undergraduate major was Aeronautical Science, where I flew many hours and met and learned a lot from fellow pilots. While I never actually worked in the industry, these are some of the lessons I have learned.<br />1. Flying is expensive. Anyone who has ever rented a plane know the incredible costs associated with flight. At my university, matters were made worse in that I had a full ride scholarship that paid for all of my tuition and fees, but flight rentals weren't a part of that deal. Even though I didn't accrue any debt from college tuition in my 5 years there, I accumulated $15,000 in flight rental and flight instruction costs.You pay the plane rentals by the hour, which for a small Cessna 172, usually ranges from $70-150 per hour. You also have to pay for the flight instructor who also charges in hourly rate. In addition, to fly you need to purchase headsets, a flight calculator, maps, operation manuals, operating procedure manuals, NOTEMS, flashlights, and other assorted flying items which end up costing a bundle. The worst part is that some of the documents have to be updated constantly. Flight charts, for example, have to be replaced every 6 months.In addition to those costs, to keep your first class pilot license (the best, least restrictive kind), you need to get a physical every 6 months which is also costly. Flying is a pretty expensive field.2. Night flying is an experience like no other. Short of extreme sports, you've never truly lived until you've gone night flying in a small aircraft on your own. The exhilaration from taking off into the dark sky leaving everything behind is crazy. Some of the scariest moments in flying can happen at night, as well. For example, as I took my flight training near the ocean, guidelines state to use stars as reference points when you're flying at night (in addition to your flight instruments). Well, as I was headed towards the ocean, I was following a star and heading towards it to keep my heading. It wasn't until a bit that my instructor pointed out I was in fact following a lighted boat, not a star. In the direction I was heading, I was going on a steep decline towards the ocean, and I couldn't even tell!Everything is so peaceful at night. You may have caught a glimpse of it if you've ever flown at night on a commercial aircraft, but it's just not the same. Truly being alone in a plane, controlling everything yourself, seeing the light patterns the cities make down below (or lack thereof) are really quite a sight to behold. You really get this feeling of peace, where nothing else really matters in the world. I suggest that everyone try that at least once in their lives.<br />3. You have to really want to be a pilot to be a pilot. To become a pilot, you have to fly. A lot. I stopped flying for two reasons: the cost of flying and the lack of proper motivation to keep going. Granted, if I had at least one of those two obstacles removed, I would have continued getting my licenses.The fact of the matter is, flying is a commitment to be able to do it often enough to improve. Some people are naturals at flying planes, some aren't. Unfortunately, I'm part of the "slower" group, in that it takes me a bit longer to grasp the concepts of flying with the actual implementation of it. I also tend to get flight sick, but that tends to go away after a while. Gum helps.I know of many pilots who start on their flight lessons to get their pilots license, only to quit halfway through with thousands of dollars wasted because they don't want to do it anymore. If you don't have a passion for flying and want to try it as a hobby, I suggest you find a less expensive hobby. If after the first two or three flights you aren't really feeling it, then stop, because it won't get better. Obviously, this is more a guideline than an actual rule, but a guideline I've learned from my own experiences and those of a lot of students I've worked with. Flying becomes more expensive as you get your private license, instrument license, etc.4. There are tons of flight licenses and ratings you can get. For those who do want to fly, whether as a career or a hobby, there are many options available to you. The most basic is the private pilot license, which you can gain after a minimum of 40 hours of flight time. After that, your choices vary. You can get ratings for single engine planes, like the instrument rating to be able to fly through clouds, or the commercial rating to be able to fly for companies. You can also get those ratings for multi-engine planes which perform much faster than single engine planes.For those who want to teach flying, you can be certified as a flight instructor for those types of planes, or if you just want to have fun, you can get your "high performance" rating (for complex planes), or even your glider rating to fly gliders. There are many more ratings and licenses which I haven't even looked into, like for acrobatic pilots and pilots of aircraft with tail wheels. Again, each of these licenses and ratings up the cost of flying, so make sure to have a plan on where you want to take your flight training before you start.5. Apparently, there is an ongoing rivalry between pilots and engineers. This one is from my observation at universities that have both aviation programs and aerospace engineering programs that tend to work together. Engineers see pilots as "stupid airheads that take joke courses and impress people with their flashy displays", whereas pilots see engineers as "nerdy bookworms that put too much focus on theory and don't know how to enjoy what they're creating."The rivalries are never really all that serious, but it does create certain stereotypes about each group and occasionally tends to divide them up. Professors even take the rivalry into account. One of my professors said that while one of his best friends is an engineer, he will never fly something he knows his friend built. Also, my fiance is an aerospace engineer, so that divide has caused many jokes in our relationship about our rivalries.<br />6. Testing for pilots is a rigorous, time-consuming process. Obviously, when you're going to test to fly planes that can potentially be carrying from 1-500 people, you can be sure that it won't be easy. First and foremost, before you can even qualify to test, you have to accumulate lots of flight hours in many different categories. In addition to regular flying on a beautiful, sunny day, you have to gain experience flying "instrument hours", where you fly using only the instruments in your plane without looking outside the cockpit at all (yes, it's very scary at first). You also have to have a certain number of hours flying at night, enough hours flying solo (without your instructor present), and enough hours logging cross-countries of varying distances. Once you complete all these requirements, you have to go through a review process with an official to make sure that you have indeed met the required hours. NOW you're ready to take the test. At least the first part.There are different types of flight training programs, some more rigorous and some less. I was on a flight 142 plan, which is the most rigorous type you'll find, so some of these requirements may not apply in the less rigorous programs. Well anyway, there are 3 tests you have to pass: the written, the oral, and then the flight. The written test is just that: a test you take on a computer that asks you all sorts of questions, and you have to get at least an 80% to pass. Since I went to a university for my flight training, I took a course that prepared me for it and that test was our final exam.The oral is next. You basically meet with a flight instructor for anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours and he/she pretty much tests you on EVERYTHING YOU SHOULD HAVE LEARNED BY NOW. Seriously, the instructor will ask you questions about anything flight-related (weather facts, flight physics, aircraft maintenance, FAA rules, etc.), and by the end of that oral, they have to decide whether you know enough to pass.If you do pass that portion, then you get to do the actual flying test, called a checkride. An instructor sits with you doing all sorts of maneuvers you've been practicing. It is pretty nerve-racking, but it is all worth it at the end. So, if you ever fear flying planes, just know that the pilots are VERY well-trained to handle all sorts of things. Which also brings me to my next point.<br />7. Airline pilots differ greatly from small-plane pilots. Getting to fly in the airlines is no easy task. To even qualify to fly in the airlines, not only do you have to have a whole mess of licenses and ratings (private, commercial (single and multi), instrument, ATP certificate, etc.), but you have to have accumulated AT LEAST 1,500 hours of flying. Consider how one hour of flying can cost on average about $100 (and that's being conservative), now multiply that by 1,500. As you can see, this can put anyone in the red very fast. One solution many pilots make is to become flight instructors, where they get to build hours for free, since students end up paying for that flight time. Even though the minimum hours is 1,500, to actually be competitive for a job, profession pilots recommend you have at least 3,000 hours before you apply to the big airlines. And once you actually do get hired, you have to pass a rigorous medical exam often (including vision exams), to keep your license and your job.Once you become an airline pilot, however, things get remarkably better from there. While take-off and landings are primarily pilot-initiated, the rest of the flight is pretty automated. Pilots I've known actually complain that the biggest problem with 14 hour international flight is fighting the boredom of being in those planes. Autopilot pretty much takes care of everything a pilot has to do, with only occasional glances required to make sure everything is working properly. Benefits are also pretty nice, with some of the country' best benefit packages (including health, life, and accident insurance), lots of vacation time, free flight tickets for you and your family, and nifty bonuses.It's a tough road to become an airline pilot, but once you're there, it's very well worth it.<br />8. Flying in a plane is safe, honestly. In addition to all the experience pilots receive before they are allowed to fly so many passengers in commercial airliners, pilots also receive extensive training recovering from emergencies. As part of flight training, students are asked to practice performing "stalls" which involve the process of pitching a plane so high that air fails to pass smoothly through the wings, and the plane loses its lift, causing it to fall steadily towards the ground. Stalling is very easy to recover from if you know what you're doing, and that's why pilots are trained not only to recover from them, but to know what causes them.Other forms of emergency training involve pilots practicing how to recover if a plane gets into a spin, if one of the engines in a mult-engine planes go out (in fact, half the time during multi-engine flight training, you only practice with one engine on), or even if the only engine in a single-engine plane stops functioning. There are procedures and practices if the electricity in a plane goes out, if the control tower ceases to function, if carbon monoxide leaks into the aircraft, and all sorts of other potential incidents.In short, just know that if you are flying in a commercial aircraft, the pilots are rather prepared for many kinds of situations, and they have probably even fixed some issues in a plane with you in it and you not even knowing it.<br />9. Flying for the military can be hit or miss if you love to fly. Now, I'm not in the military and was never directly involved for more than one semester, so a lot of this info I've gathered from friends, professors, and my own research. If you want to fly and want to avoid the expensive costs associated with it, a lot of people fly by joining the military (most often the Air Force). if it works out for you, you get your entire flight and tuition covered, only have to serve for four years after your graduate at minimum, then you're free to do what you please (talking about ROTC, not enlisted. Don't know the requirements for enlisted).However, this itself brings a bunch of obstacles. First of all, there's no guarantee you'll be accepted into a ROTC program. The requirements are strict, and many health conditions can keep you from joining. Especially if enrollment is high (and enrollment for AF tends to be higher than the other branches in university ROTC programs). Even if you do make it in, there's no guarantee they'll pay for you. Only the top performing cadets get the full scholarship packages and stipends. Everyone else only get partial packages, or even nothing at all. And finally, the saying goes that you are very unlikely to actually fly a plane by joining the Air Force. Even if you graduate with your degree in Aeronautica Science, you'll most likely end up in a different field altogether.So the military is an option, just make sure you know what you're getting into if you choose that route. Also, if you want to work as an airline pilot after being in the military, getting all the free flight training, and serving your time, it may or may not put you at an advantage over other pilots. Granted, you'll more likely have more hours under your belt and therefore more experience. However, some airlines prefer not to hire ex-military pilots due to all their experience. The military has one way of training their pilots and the airline industry another. To get hired in the airline industry, that would mean that your employers will have to reteach you all these things that you've learned to do differently. They would just rather start from scratch with someone who's easier to mold.10.Pilots see things in their jobs. Unexplainable things. I added this one mostly for good measure and entertainment. There's no guarantee it's true, but I've seen some documentaries in a few of our aeronautical science classes, and I thought it would be interesting to share.Basically, due to the amount of time airline pilots spend in the air, they tend to occasionally see things. Call them UFOs, call them illusions, but many pilots have claimed to have seen things up in the sky. One documentary I saw (don't remember what it's called, sorry) interviewed some retired pilots who spoke of their experiences. They say that it may just be an illusion, or other aircraft off in the distance. However, what makes their experiences peculiar is that their bosses explicitly tell them to keep their experiences quiet, and to not tell anyone in the risk of facing consequences.Apparently, pilots are forced to keep quiet about whatever they see in the sky, and many of them due since they don't want to run the risk of losing their medical certificate due to hallucinations or whatnot. But the documentary documented some retired pilots who couldn't care less about the consequences. They said that some night flights had them seeing some really strange bright lights up 40,000 feet into the sky that shouldn't be there. They know what the lights from aircraft look like, and they said they are not aircraft lights. Some of them postulated that it could be high altitude military experiments or training that is strictly classified, observational devices in meteorological operations, or some even believe they have seen UFOs.<br /> <br />