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conura

The realities of airline flying (anecdotal and UK based).

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Hi all,

 

Just thought I'd share something some of you may (or may not!) find interesting.

 

I know that on this website a lot of simmers refer to airline pilots as if they're godlike, or somehow extra special. I see it a lot, especially in topics which discuss whether or not you could realistically fly an aircraft and bring it down. The topic generally veers towards the notion that airline pilots are somehow better normal people in some way other than simply having training!

 

Four of my good friends are airline pilots. They are all in their late twenties. One of them flies the 777-300ER for Cathay Pacific (based in Hong Kong), another friend is based in Dublin and flies the Boeing 737-800 for Ryanair, the third flies the A320 for Easyjet based in Bristol, and the fourth flies the A380 for British Airways based at Heathrow. They generally all agree that there is no special quality to being an airline pilot other than having rich parents. Being extremely talented means you can skip about 1500 hours ahead but anyone that really loves the idea of flying probably wouldn't find the idea of flying for a low budget airline particularly unappealing.

 

Of my four friends, two of them are very talented. One of them graduated with a first class degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Cambridge University and she walked straight into a job at British Airways, the second (who didn't attend university) joined the Royal Air Force and was a fast jet pilot in the Typhoon. He left and went straight to work for Cathay.

 

The other two, however, aren't the typical hyper achievers you'd imagine. Both of them had parents that paid for them to go to the USA and spend time hour building. Both of them have extremely mediocre degrees and grades, neither of them are athletic, have good eye site, or are particularly good at sport. They are just absolutely normal guys with the benefit of rich parents. The main difference between them and the other two? They have both had to take jobs with Ryanair/Easyjet to spend 1500 hours flying as first officers before they can apply to the better paid and more secure airlines. Ryanair for example, is a zero hour contract with appalling working hours. My friend has to live out of a bed and breakfast four days a week watching TV whilst he's on standby on the off chance another pilot calls in sick - he doesn't get paid for the time on standby. The limits of working hours are constantly pushed at these companies and employees are treated like checkout workers. None of them have been able to maintain a stable relationship and all of them feel it puts serious strains on their family and friendships. The days of the well respected airline pilot are well and truly over, at many airlines.

 

The idea of the jet setting pilot is also fairly misguided now. The guys that work at Easyjet and Ryanair tend never to leave the flight deck on a working day. One of them actually said he jumps at the chance of doing a walk around so he can experience the warm climate of the countries he visits. For the longer haul BA and Cathay pilots, they've both told me the jet lag is so severe that they very rarely do anything but recover in a hotel and Skype friends and family. At Cathay a pilot will generally work a 72 hour working month (of which you can generally halve as 6 hours of most flights are spent in bed) which sounds great...However they both spend 4 or 5 days recovering from jetlag after a flight, alone, and in a strange location. The fact that they change time zones so often means they never really sleep properly or actually manage to enjoy the places they visit. Both the long haul pilots said having any form of fun at a destination involves having a fun cabin crew, and 9/10 times the cabin crews also want to sleep and just contact family and friends. It is a very lonely experience.

 

In terms of a passion for flying, all of them had this early on. They loved to fly light aircraft and invested serious money in learning to do it professionally, however, and I quote "Flying a passenger jet isn't flying, it's tedious systems monitoring. The biggest challenge of the job is staying awake and getting through the monotony of staying aware of the instrumentation over long periods". I'm not going to mention the particular airline here, however one of them has told me he is now extremely unsure of his ability to actually fly a light aircraft anymore. He was extremely worried about having to hand fly an ILS approach in the sim because the mentality of everyone at the company was to leave everything on automatic, including auto land. If it requires less effort, why bother? The airline is apparently riddled with people that aren't completely up to scratch in terms of hand flying aircraft.

 

All of them have lost their passion for flying, and it's extremely hard to get them to talk about it outside of work. I think people underestimate quite how tedious the job can be, and when you add distance, jet lag, poor working conditions and the constant possibility of failing a medical it is also extremely stressful. Most of them are just normal people with the benefit of money, and like any normal people they tend to crave building a stable life and home which is fairly incompatible with being an airline pilot. All of them are considering leaving the profession for careers in London.

 

No real point to this thread, just thought I'd post it in case anyone finds it interesting. Happy to ask them questions and relay any answers too.

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Thank you for sharing this Luke . its always interesting to read about a pilots REAL LIFE . actually I have always dreamt to be a pilot but sadly my parents will never let me do that mainly cause of the reasons you mentioned above . But i think that airlines here in the middle east are very different from other european airlines like Ryan air , which you cant even compare to Emirates or Qatar . Do your friends know pilots in ME airlines if yes are they treated the same ?

cheers

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Not sure what the point of this thread is?  Tell you friends to get an office Job if they are not happy.  I know guy's flying ULR that are very happy, some doing crappy night turns to India on the A330.

 

Sorry but reading your post I see so much BS, and I have been in the industry for years.  


 

They generally all agree that there is no special quality to being an airline pilot other than having rich parents

 

 

BS unless  you are a P2F kid. And nobody wants them in this industry..

 

 


 

He was extremely worried about having to hand fly an ILS approach in the sim because the mentality of everyone at the company was to leave everything on automatic, including auto land.

 

More BS - How exactly does he get away with not doing raw data flying on his 6 monthly sim check?  And since when was doing an Autoland less demanding then hand flying? The monitoring process is even more intense!  

 

Yes company SOP encourages maximum use of automation to reduce workload. That doesn't mean engage A/P and get out your crossword. Autolands are reserved for Crew & Aircraft 90 day currency & weather minima.

 

I agree with everything regarding Fatigue.. What worries me more is this new breed of 20 something pilots of the playstation generation.   P2F kids with rich parents, all they want is  to fly the biggest shiny Jet.

 

I posted a week ago on the PMDG forum.  A good friend of mine of got his PPL at the age of 18, moved to Africa and did bush flying and taught as an instructor, he then moved to the ATR eventually getting a command in his mid 20's, flew for 10 years and now operates the A320/330 out here in the Middle east. 

 

No ######ing, he did it the way every Pilot should do it, not paying for a type rating, gaining minimum 200 hours and then complaining that his lifestyle is not glamorous.

 

One last thing, Cathay (who I am close friends with at least 9 guys that fly with them) BA and many other operators allow you to book sim time outside of your 6 monthly check to practice any form of Raw data flying. 

 

   

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Thank you for sharing this Luke . its always interesting to read about a pilots REAL LIFE . actually I have always dreamt to be a pilot but sadly my parents will never let me do that mainly cause of the reasons you mentioned above . But i think that airlines here in the middle east are very different from other european airlines like Ryan air , which you cant even compare to Emirates or Qatar . Do your friends know pilots in ME airlines if yes are they treated the same ?

cheers

Hi Fasouli, you're very welcome!

 

Unfortunately not - though the guy flying with Cathay is currently considering a move to Emirates where he'd be based in Dubai, as the pay is slightly better.

 

If I can impart anything that I've gotten from a number of friends in the industry, it's that if you love the idea of flying then a great way to do it is to get a well paid career outside of aviation (I know, more easily said than done) and then either hire light aircraft and get your IFR rating to fly on your own terms, or get like minded friends together to actually buy an aircraft as a group. Both of these are obviously expensive but that's just flying in general I think.

 

I wouldn't want to put anybody off going for airline flying but I think it's very important to consider the realities of it before spending a lot of money!

Not sure what the point of this thread is?  Tell you friends to get an office Job if they are not happy.  I know guy's flying ULR that are very happy, some doing crappy night turns to India on the A330.

 

Sorry but reading your post I see so much BS, and I have been in the industry for years.  

 

 

BS unless  you are a P2F kid. And nobody wants them in this industry..

 

 

 

More BS - How exactly does he get away with not doing raw data flying on his 6 monthly sim check?  And since when was doing an Autoland less demanding then hand flying? The monitoring process is even more intense!  

 

Yes company SOP encourages maximum use of automation to reduce workload. That doesn't mean engage A/P and get out your crossword. Autolands are reserved for Crew & Aircraft 90 day currency & weather minima.

 

I agree with everything regarding Fatigue.. What worries me more is this new breed of 20 something pilots of the playstation generation.   P2F kids with rich parents, all they want is  to fly the biggest shiny Jet.

 

I posted a week ago on the PMDG forum.  A good friend of mine of got his PPL at the age of 18, moved to Africa and did bush flying and taught as an instructor, he then moved to the ATR eventually getting a command in his mid 20's, flew for 10 years and now operates the A320/330 out here in the Middle east. 

 

No ######ing, he did it the way every Pilot should do it, not paying for a type rating, gaining minimum 200 hours and then complaining that his lifestyle is not glamorous.

 

   

 

 

Maybe some of it is ###### - how would I know? I'm simply reporting what I've been told by people at airlines and though I'd love the opportunity, unfortunately haven't ever been able to go on the flight deck in flight. Also keep in mind they are all first officers rather than captains which i'd imagine has some influence on what they actually do.

 

I'm not here to spread disinformation; I'm a Software Engineer with a cushy 9-5 job and have no agenda toward the airline industry. I just thought I'd take the opportunity to share direct accounts of life as a young pilot from Britain.

 

Regarding the auto pilot + crossword, funnily enough I've heard a lot about that sort of thing. Though the ATC chatter can be tiresome, it's fairly common for them to both sit on iPads and watch movies during cruise.

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I'm sure this industry has it all - basically like any other industry:

 

Talented pilots, not so talented pilots, passionate pilots, bored pilots, professional pilots, not so professional pilots ... (tbc.)

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Sorry I sound harsh but it really does P*** a lot of people off. Maybe they should ask their captains how they got into the RHS.  

 

Airlines like Easyjet & Ryanair love these P2F guy's, pay for your own training, minimum hours on type, hire guy's and gals that accept low wages and push out the guy's that have the real experience, as a result lower standards within the industry.  And then funnily enough once they start flying they complain!

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@Luke, we all know that airline pilot is not a glamorous job, as presented on TV. Those who entered in this industry because of great hotels, luxury destinations, lot of money, status symbol... should leave this boat. 

Do you really think that when you start to work at any big company, as a freshly graduated young man, you are going to receive better working conditions than airline pilot? That you are going to have a life? Welcome to capitalism.

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Sorry I sound harsh but it really does P*** a lot of people off. Maybe they should ask their captains how they got into the RHS.  

 

Airlines like Easyjet & Ryanair love these P2F guy's, pay for your own training, minimum hours on type, hire guy's and gals that accept low wages and push out the guy's that that have the real experience, as a result lower standards within the industry.  And then funnily enough once they start flying they complain!

Ryanair and Easyjet were actually the airlines I was referencing with regards to the sim and automation - I know at Cathay you don't even get to become a First Officer until you've flown as a "Second Officer cruise monitor" for a significant number of hours. It makes you wonder, perhaps you actually are (in theory) safer on a BA or Cathay flight than on Easyjet or Ryanair in an emergency situation?

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They generally all agree that there is no special quality to being an airline pilot other than having rich parents.

 

 

Hard work helps too. You can do quite a bit in 10 years if you really try. Getting to 250 hours in the US and getting your instructor rating is not as difficult as it sounds. Flying with people to help offset the cost, cleaning airplanes, working at an FBO, working two jobs... there are a lot of ways to get that time even without padding your logbook.

 

Being extremely talented means you can skip about 1500 hours ahead

 

Talent helps, but there is no space in your logbook for "Skip 1500, pass go and collect your ATPL". You need hours, man. I don't know if you are inferring this based on what you heard, but this simply isn't true. 

 

Of my four friends, two of them are very talented. One of them graduated with a first class degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Cambridge engineering and she walked straight into a job at British Airways..

 

...As a flight attendant. There is no getting around hours at the majors. No hiring manager is going to sign his/her name next to a pretty face with an engineering degree and no hours. If she did get this job as you claim, it was only after she reached a certain number of hours. She likely had plenty of multi engine turbine (500+ PIC). Even so, I doubt she would get on with BA. There are tons of furloughed captains that are clawing at BA's door to get a job.

 

"""the second (who didn't attend university) joined the Royal Air Force and was a fast jet pilot in the Typhoon. He left and went straight to work for Cathay."""

 

This sounds believable. 

 

"""The other two, however, aren't the typical hyper achievers you'd imagine."""

 

Most pilots aren't, just like a lot of college graduates aren't the geniuses you thought they were when you were in high school. Its about dedication and sticking to something that you started. Fill up that logbook. 

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Thank you for sharing this Luke . its always interesting to read about a pilots REAL LIFE . actually I have always dreamt to be a pilot but sadly my parents will never let me do that mainly cause of the reasons you mentioned above . But i think that airlines here in the middle east are very different from other european airlines like Ryan air , which you cant even compare to Emirates or Qatar . Do your friends know pilots in ME airlines if yes are they treated the same ?

cheers

Same here. Ever since I went in the cockpit of a BAW 747 cockpit flying out of EGLL TO KSEA as a 6 years old, all I wanted to be has been an airline pilot. But, when I finished high school, my mom was 100% against it and I listened to her advice and I am glad I did. Mainly, because of the working hours and not being with family and friends. Other than that I disagree with OP about the other reasons and I agree with Flex.

 

I have a friend who is a 777 pilot for Saudia and he tells me about how strict they are regarding pilot's training,especially, hand landings. And I don't believe BA and CX have lower standards than Saudia.

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If I can impart anything that I've gotten from a number of friends in the industry, it's that if you love the idea of flying then a great way to do it is to get a well paid career outside of aviation (I know, more easily said than done) and then either hire light aircraft and get your IFR rating to fly on your own terms, or get like minded friends together to actually buy an aircraft as a group. Both of these are obviously expensive but that's just flying in general I think.

That is exactly what im planning to do hopefully but that means that i can only start flying at the age of 30 - 40 if Im going to major in medicine for example  :unsure:

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Hard work helps too. You can do quite a bit in 10 years if you really try. Getting to 250 hours in the US and getting you instructor rating is not as difficult as it sounds. Flying with people to help offset the cost, cleaning airplanes, working at an FBO, working two jobs... there are a lot of ways to get that time even without padding your logbook.

 

 

Talent helps, but there is no space in your logbook for "Skip 1500, pass go and collect your ATPL". You need hours, man. I don't know if you are inferring this based on what you heard, but this simply isn't true. 

 

 

 

...As a flight attendant. There is no getting around hours at the majors. No hiring manager is going to sign his/her name next to a pretty face with an engineering degree and no hours. If she did get this job as you claim, it was only after she reached a certain number of hours. She likely had plenty of multi engine turbine (500+ PIC). Even so, I doubt she would get on with BA. There are tons of furloughed captains that are clawing at BA's door to get a job.

 

"""the second (who didn't attend university) joined the Royal Air Force and was a fast jet pilot in the Typhoon. He left and went straight to work for Cathay."""

 

This sounds believable. 

 

"""The other two, however, aren't the typical hyper achievers you'd imagine."""

 

Most pilots aren't, just like a lot of college graduates aren't the geniuses you thought they were when you were in high school. Its about dedication and sticking to something that you started. Fill up that logbook. 

 

 

Sorry I probably wasn't too clear on what I meant by skip ahead! The guys who were more naturally talented went straight to airlines like Cathay and BA (then underwent extensive ground training followed by becoming a second officer, not sure about the situation on BA though). For the guys at Ryanair and Easyjet, they're basically hour clocking until they hit 1500 hours at which point they can apply to the schemes at companies like BA/Cathay, Norwegian at which point they'd begin the same process that the other guys did, 1500 hours earlier. As regards the girl at BA, I believe the scheme was the 'Future Pilot Program' or something - BA lend the money to do the training then you pay it back out of your salary. She was in the university air squadron at Cambridge (CUAS) where she'd clocked 200 hours or so in a Tucano prior to applying to BA!

Same here. Ever since I went in the cockpit of a BAW 747 cockpit flying out of EGLL TO KSEA as a 6 years old, all I wanted to be has been an airline pilot. But, when I finished high school, my mom was 100% against it and I listened to her advice and I am glad I did. Mainly, because of the working hours and not being with family and friends. Other than that I disagree with OP about the other reasons and I agree with Flex.

 

I have a friend who is a 777 pilot for Saudia and he tells me about how strict they are regarding pilot's training,especially, hand landings. And I don't believe BA and CX have lower standards than Saudia.

Yup BA and Cathay certainly don't - maybe in my first post I should have been more explicit about which airlines I was referencing!

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For the guys at Ryanair and Easyjet, they're basically hour clocking until they hit 1500 hours at which point they can apply to the schemes at companies like BA/Cathay, Norwegian at which point they'd begin the same process that the other guys did, 1500 hours earlier. 

 

Really? I would have thought that the minimum for EasyJet and Ryanair would be 1500 hours, and the requirement at Cathay would be something like 3-5,000 hours.

 

Even Southwest in the US requires a surprising number of hours. 2,500 turbine time last I checked. 

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Really? I would have thought that the minimum for EasyJet and Ryanair would be 1500 hours, and the requirement at Cathay would be something like 3-5,000 hours.

 

Even Southwest in the US requires a surprising number of hours. 2,500 turbine time last I checked. 

Yup - when my friend joined Ryanair as a First Officer he had about 250 hours, none of which were in anything more than a dual prop light aircraft! In fact from the time he started learning to fly to the time he was on the flight deck it seemed like about six months. It was very quick!

 

The guy at Cathay had far more, I spoke with him last night and he'd had about 1200 hours of military experience flying, but this included a lot of formation and training that is far, far beyond what you'd expect from someone with civilian experience. Apparently Cathay are big fans of ex military pilots - he described his training in the Hawk as extremely stressful with memories of being lost (or in RAF terms temporarily unaware of location), whilst the fuel burned out quickly. I'd imagine the 1200 hours of absolutely pushing the envelope must be worth thousands of hours of, as he described, "Flying from A to B in a straight line to clock hours".

 

Some of his descriptions of converting to a civilian licence were quite funny - When he was training in New Zealand he described how he and his instructor (also ex military) would trim the aircraft for straight and level flight, then they'd both jump into the backseats and wait until the very last moment to get back to the cockpit to recover it.

 

Another story involved a miscommunication regarding stopping one of the engines to practice single engine flight, and accidently shutting down both of them. Sounded like a lot of fun.

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Guy's look up P2F (Pay to fly) You will see what we are talking about. 

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Guy's look up P2F (Pay to fly) You will see what we are talking about. 

Well, if there's no other options, I see it as legitimate.

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Well, if there's no other options, I see it as legitimate.

 

This is the problem with the industry. 

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Well, if there's no other options, I see it as legitimate.

 

The issue is not paying for a type rating. The issue is someone can go from playing Flight sim straight to the right seat of airliner because they have a big bank balance.  There's a reason most airlines don't allow it, you only see this going on with low budget airlines  because it saves money. 

 

Would you be happy knowing that the guy up front has 200 hours and bought his way to the flight deck?  Have a read of the many stories about guy's with sub par skills failing sim checks over and over but the company lets them stay because they are paying for the training.   Any other company would show them the door.

This is the problem with the industry. 

Exactly

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This is the problem with the industry. 

No, it's not a problem, it's a consequence. Real problems are much more serious.

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I think people underestimate quite how tedious the job can be, and when you add distance, jet lag, poor working conditions and the constant possibility of failing a medical it is also extremely stressful.

Lucky for me I have the simulator!  Even then the tedium is apparent.  I used to fancy being an airline pilot, not any more for me.  I still enjoy flying (simming that is) and knowing about aviation as an hobby.  However, hobby and real life career are two very different things.  Real pilots fly a route, unlike simmer who can fancy any route  :lol:

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No, it's not a problem, it's a consequence. Real problems are much more serious.

 

Have a read of this my friend, just one example. The first officer (P2F) was known for screwing up his landings in training. http://www.aaib.gov.uk/cms_resources.cfm?file=/Airbus%20A320,%20G-DHJZ%2012-08.pdf

 

assessed in a Boeing 737 simulator. 
Although he performed well in the non-flying aspects 
of the assessment, his performance in the simulator 
did not meet the required standard. However, he was 
offered a further assessment in an A320 simulator with 
a senior training captain employed by the training 
organisation. He passed this second assessment and 
was offered a place on the scheme.
 
His first training detail in the full flight simulator was 
on 10 March 2007 and, during this part of his training, 
he was taught by six different instructors. During this 
period his landing technique was a recurring theme 
of concern and relevant notes were made a number 
of times in his reports.
 
The co-pilot’s ninth training detail was scheduled as the 
Licence Skills Test (LST) for issue of the A320/321 type 
rating, but the co-pilot did not perform satisfactorily.

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The issue is not paying for a type rating. The issue is someone can go from playing Flight sim straight to the right seat of airliner because they have a big bank balance.  There's a reason most airlines don't allow it, you only see this going on with low budget airlines  because it saves money. 

 

Would you be happy knowing that the guy up front has 200 hours and bought his way to the flight deck?  Have a read of the many stories about guy's with sub par skills failing sim checks over and over but the company lets them stay because they are paying for the training.   Any other company would show them the door.

 

 

The real issue is when you get CPL + IR + MEP + MCC - you have around 200-300 hours and you can work really nothing. Remember, you're already 60-70k $ in debt, with no job. Perspective that you'll even touch an airliner or bizzjet in your career is very slim. Just look at any normal airline, 1500 jet time is about lowest you can find. Where I can build 1500 jet time if no one won't let me to fly a jet?

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I think the best and the fair way to solve this problem is to list these airlines and publish it, so passengers know and decide if the cheap tickets are worth it or not.

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What do the aviation agencies and regulatory bodies do about it? Accommodating it???   :rolleyes:

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What do the aviation agencies and regulatory bodies do about it? Accommodating it???   :rolleyes:

Nothing. If they stop such a practice, there would be no jet pilots anymore (when existing jet pilots retire).

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