At a glance, a pilot’s job looks very easy.
You get into the cockpit, greet the passengers as they board your aircraft. Then you take-off, engage the autopilot and snooze off for a bit. When you are about to land in your destination, you announce what is the weather like on the ground. As passengers disembark from the aircraft, you tell them to have a nice day and that is it. Your day is over and you’re free to roam the streets of the city you just landed in.
That does indeed sound like a job that everyone could potentially do. In addition to having a job that is very easy, airlines also pay pilots a big sum of money.
However, is it really that easy like it sounds on paper? Might there be actually legitimate reasons why do airlines pay pilots one of the biggest wages out there?
There are reasons. Quite a few actually. So, let’s dig deeper and find out why pilots earn so much!
10. Pilots Physical Condition
Pilots have to be in the best physical condition. Their eyesight has to be near-perfect. Hearing loss is also a big no-no for pilots.
Altogether, the pilot needs to be very healthy. His lungs, heart, blood pressure, nervous system needs to be as healthy as possible. Pilots also have to renew their Class 1 medical certificate every 12 months. If they are over 40 years old and work in commercial aviation that needs to be done every 6 months. When a pilot is over 60 years old, no matter his activity, he needs to renew his medical license every 6 months as well.
Pilot Medical License
9. Long Training period to obtain a Commercial Pilots license
No matter which way you go about on achieving the goal of flying for commercial airlines, the road is though. You just cannot hop into the cockpit after a few hours of flying in the air or in the simulator.
The process is long. A pilot has to pass multiple (14 to be exact) exams, obtain a medical license and pass flight training. Additionally, a pilot has to have multiple ratings and courses, such as multiple engine instrument rating and an instrument rating.
And even then, pilots still need a type rating to operate an aircraft, for example, a Boeing 737.
So, the process to realize your dreams and become a pilot is definitely tough.
A Flight Simulator For Pilots To Train
8. Pilot Demand is high
Nevertheless, airlines need pilots. Constantly.
Passenger numbers are growing every year and to keep up with the demand, airlines regularly order new aircraft. That is why new pilots are constantly required by airlines and pilot shortages are nothing new to the aviation industry.
So much so, that a year ago Emirates canceled flights because they did not have enough pilots to operate them.
Even then, pilots are also retiring. Thus in addition to increasing the number of pilots, you also have to replace the ones that are leaving your company.
The crazy demand for pilots creates a very cut-throat market for pilots. That is why airlines offer pilots attractive salary packages, just so that a pilot does not join their competitors.
Pilot shortages forced Emirates to cut flights
7. A Pilots license is expensive
The matter of the fact is that it is insanely expensive to become a pilot. Getting a commercial pilots license can set you back as much as €100.000 euro, even if you try to obtain a license through various flight schools or airline academies.
Because of this reason, pilots need to know that they will be able to repay their debts once they start working for an airline. If a pilot has just acquired his pilot’s license, but he is not able to repay the loans that he needed to obtain that license, then what is the point of going into huge amounts of debt? Sure, flying is fun, but not having a ton of debt is fun as well!
Although roster options vary between airlines, the daily lives of pilots are very different from those that work a usual 9 to 5 job.
Airlines cannot guarantee that pilots won’t miss family holidays, anniversaries or any other celebrations. If a pilot has kids, he needs to be prepared mentally to handle the fact that he’s not going to be home a lot. Creating a family is very hard as well, especially if a pilot works on long-haul routes.
Airlines can also force pilots to move around countries (in Europe, for example).
The upside of this is, of course, the high wages.
A Pilot Lives A Very Unique Life
5. Mental Health
Being physically fit is important. But even more importantly, a pilot must be fit mentally as well.
Making proper decisions and thinking straight under stressful conditions might be a daily routine for someone working in the cockpit.
And if a person handles tense situations poorly, he or she might not be the best candidate to work as a pilot, as the pilots have a lot on their hands when flying a plane full of passengers. Not only a pilot might have to calm down the passengers, but his fellow crew members as well.
Chesley Sully Sullenberger. The Pilot Who Landed An Aircraft On The Hudson River
4. Aviation rules and law
Aviation is no easy matter, especially when you’re working as a commercial pilot. There are a lot of rules and procedures that you have to follow even before the flight takes off.
Pilots have to go through numerous pre-flight checks. When aircraft fly to international destinations or to other continents (as the aviation laws in Europe are standard throughout every country) aviation laws also differ. Because of this, pilots have to have a lot of theoretical knowledge in addition to their practical skills when flying the aircraft.
Even after a flight, there are a lot of forms and papers that a pilot needs to fill out.
This again comes back to the route of obtaining a commercial pilots license, making it more complex. Of course, the issue is that when you violate the law, the repercussions might be very harsh.
Pilots going through pre-flight checks
If you follow various aviation pages on Twitter or like to observe websites such as flightradar, emergencies are a daily occurrence in aviation.
Whether they are small emergencies like the lack of water for tea and coffee or serious medical emergencies, pilots have to control the situation and act quickly. Time is of an essence, especially when it is a matter of life and death.
For example, if a baby is born on board!
2. No margin for error
Every move a pilot takes requires precision. It is as if a pilot is a surgeon because the cost of a wrong move can be quite costly.
To illustrate, aircraft have a limited amount of fuel. Meaning you can waste so much fuel before it can become a very dangerous situation.
Airports and air traffic are also very tightly orchestrated objects, where any kind of anomaly can result in dire consequences. Pilots have to follow the conductor of the opera that is air traffic. Examples of aircraft colliding on the tarmac are not very rare and they definitely do happen.
Two Aircraft Crashed in Toronto Pearson Airport
1. Cost of a wrong decision
Most importantly and the thing that can cause the most stress to pilots when they are working is the cost of a single mistake.
For one thing, when an airline loses money due to human error, in the grand scheme of things that does not matter as much. However, a pilot making a mistake, whether it would be down to fatigue or lack of concentration which leads to a loss of life is much more tragic.
Sure, a pilot’s job might look casual to some, as you take-off, kick the aircraft into autopilot and just enjoy the view. Nevertheless, there are a lot of things that are going on behind the scenes that pilots do to ensure the safety and well-being of every passenger that is on an aircraft.
To sum up, do not take pilots for granted. These are very highly skilled and trained individuals that not only paid a lot of money to do the job they love but also acquired a lot of knowledge during the process.
And these are the reasons why airlines pay pilots so much.