Why do you want to be a professional pilot? (It matters)

Published: 04 Oct 2013 By David Learmount

If you are considering this career, a major part of the reason you want to do it must be a feeling of excitement at the prospect of making the sky your working environment. If the very concept of flying doesn’t fascinate you, you will be at such a disadvantage from the start – compared with your peers – that it would be wise to look elsewhere for a career.

Take the opening lines of aviator-poet John Gillespie Magee’s High Flight: “Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings.” If that doesn’t spark your imagination, aviation is not for you, even though you might already be aware that, in reality, professional flying is highly disciplined.

So although in your working life as a pilot you will regularly “slip the surly bonds of earth”, you are not being paid to dance the skies when you have passengers on board or have a military mission to carry out. But that shouldn’t stop you wanting to.

A few lines written by a First World War pilot who later joined the aviation insurance industry contain an essential truth about the career you are considering: “Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous, but to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect.” If the challenges implicit in that statement excite you, you are potentially good material as a pilot. If the risks associated with aviation don’t move you, you are not taking them seriously.

Meanwhile, it’s fine if the idea of travel and – eventually – a good income are a part of the attraction, but if those are your primary reasons, you will not enjoy this career.

Finally, all the advice that follows is generic. Requirements and procedures vary from country to country, but the competencies pilots must be able to demonstrate to earn a licence are specified and harmonised by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.


Read the next article about becoming a pilot, Are you suitable material as a professional pilot?
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