Cruise during a commercial flight

There is a common thought from many people, including myself before I started flying, that once the pilots takeoff, they click the “autopilot” button, recline their seat, and relax. When I first got into aviation, I pretty quickly realized that this is not the case.

There are hundreds of things that the pilots need to do on a commercial flight, that keep them busy from start to finish. In fact, actually hand flying the plane (having the autopilot off), is the easiest thing in the flight for many pilots. In this post, I am going to highlight a few of the main things that pilots do to stay busy during a standard commercial airline flight.

The first thing that they need to do is talk to air traffic control in order to receive their clearances, and instructions. Flying on a commercial flight is not as simple as the pilots just going directly to their destination airport. During a flight, air traffic control is telling the pilots exactly what to do, and in order to maintain the safety of the flight, they must follow these instructions.

The second major thing that all pilots do on every flight is manage the systems of the airplane. This can be monitoring the engine, monitoring the hydraulics, electrical systems, pressurization, and anti-icing systems. These are all things that the pilots are constantly scanning while in the cruise portion of the flight.

Finally, the pilots are briefing their arrival. The busiest portion of the flight is the arrival into their destination airport. One of the most crucial parts of the flight is the in-depth briefing that the pilots give on the arrival and approach into their destination airport. This is especially important if there is inclement weather at their destination.

Overall, the entire flight for a commercial pilot, or any pilot for that matter, is busy. There is always something that the pilots are doing in the plane, even when you are in cruise. After all, the reason autopilot was invented was because the pilots would be overloaded if they had to hand fly the plane, and they had to manage all of the systems, briefings, and etc.

Boeing 737 Max cleared for takeoff

Back in 2017, the Boeing 737 was a new fuel efficient jet that was anticipated to take over the skies and be able to battle against Air Bus’ new fuel efficient jet. This was one of the most anticipated commercial jets in the last 15-20 years. However, a pair of deadly crashes killing over 350 people in 2018-2019, halted the use of these new Boeing commercial jets. This was a software issue in the jet that was causing these deadly crashes. Following the crashes, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded all Boeing 737 Max’s in the United States.

Yesterday, the FAA announced that the update in software that Boeing released fixed the glitch in the system, and that the planes would again be allowed to fly. Prior to the FAA grounding these planes, there had already been almost 400 delivered to Boeing’s customers, and there were 400 waiting to be delivered. Each of these 737 Max’s cost about $100 million dollars, so these were billions of dollars up in the air for both Boeing and airlines such as Southwest, and American Airlines.

With the Boeing 737 Max being cleared by the FAA once the proper repairs are made, this will help both airlines and Boeing begin to revive their businesses. Between the Coronavirus pandemic and the 737 Max crashes from 2018 and 2019, this has been a very difficult time for both parties.

While this may sound scary, it will still be months before the Boeing 737 Max can actually carry passengers again. By lifting the grounding of these planes, they can begin to train their pilots on how to use the system in case of emergency. This will take months of training for each individual pilot from each company.

Path to an Airline Transport Pilot

This post will overview the different certificates and ratings that pilots need to complete and earn before getting their airline transport pilot’s license.

The step of the process is the private pilots license. This allows pilots to fly around passengers, but they are not allowed to fly people for compensation. This typically takes students about 50-60 flight hours in order to complete. Another requirement for this license is that they pilots can only fly in visual flight conditions, prohibiting them from flying through clouds.

The second rating that needs to be earned on the path to become an airline pilot is the instrument rating. This rating is for flight with sole reference to the flight instruments, so the when the pilot cannot see outside of the airplane at all. This typically takes pilots almost another 40 hours to complete.

The third license needed is the multi engine license. This one is pretty obvious as all it is is an add-on allowing the pilot to fly planes with more than one engine. All of the training done before this are done in a single engine airplane.

Finally, the commercial pilots license. The commercial pilots license is what initially allows you to be paid for flying. Jobs with this rating are typically skydive pilot, flight instructor, or areal photographer. This allows pilots to get paid for all of the remaining hours that they need to get their airline transport license.

Finally, when you reach 1500 hours of total flight time, you can take the tests for your airline transport pilots license. This is the last “rating” aside from a type rating. This allows you to carry a large number of passengers like you would on an airline.

After the ATP license, for each new aircraft you learn to fly that’s takeoff weight is over 12,500 pounds, you need to get a type rating. A type rating certifies you to fly that specific aircraft, and that specific aircraft only, unless you add-on other type ratings, or have previous type ratings.

Aviation in wisconsin

While Wisconsin is not as popular in the aviation world as places such as Florida, or Arizona because of weather, Wisconsin is home to the largest airshow in the world. Wisconsin is home of the EAA AirVenture, which is an annual event that takes place in late July. This event takes place at Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH), in Oshkosh Wisconsin.

This event offers anything from job hunting in the aviation world, to meeting other people that share the aviation passion, or people that are there to look at the cool military planes that fly in. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the event was cancelled in 2020, however, here are some of the stats from 2019. In 2019, roughly 625,000 people attended, 10,000 airplanes from all over the world and country flew into the event, and there were roughly 2,700 show aircraft.

This is a very unique event for the state of Wisconsin. There are other airshows around the world, but none of them amount to this event. This event not only offers an amazing amount of planes for casual enthusiasts to look at, but there are hundreds of booths set up which can introduce people to taking flight lessons, or even getting career opportunities in aviation.

Even if you are not interested in a career in aviation, I encourage everyone to go to this event at least one time in their life. It is a truly unique event that is right in many of our backyards, as it is in Oshkosh Wisconsin. During this event, it is becomes the most busy airspace in the world, even over the likes of O’Hare in Chicago, or Hartfield-Jackson in Atlanta. This is a unique event that offers something for everybody to enjoy, regardless of your involvement in the aviation world.

Why you shouldn’t be afraid of turbulence

Many people have a fear of flying. I believe that for most people, it is because of all of the unknowns associated with flying. Whether it be afraid of heights, not knowing how on earth the plane stays in the air, or the fear of turbulence breaking the airplane apart in mid-air. I am here to explain why you should not be afraid of turbulence.

First of all, turbulence is something that will be encountered on almost every single flight. Turbulence is a routine thing for pilots and their crew. Turbulence can be broken up into 3 main categories, light, moderate, and severe. For most passenger airlines, pilots avoid turbulence whenever possible, but they almost always only fly through what is considered to be light turbulence. Turbulence is just like bumps on a road, or waves in a boat. The issue for most people is that, obviously, air cannot be seen. The air moves like water, it flows around the earth at different speeds and directions, which is the main cause for turbulence.

During takeoff, and landing is when the most severe turbulence is typically felt. This can be for a variety of reasons. This can be from other aircraft ‘mixing up the air’ in front of you, or this can be from thermals. Thermals are the most common. This occurs when the sun heats up the ground, which radiates heat upward, causing updrafts, thus causing turbulence.

Finally, airplanes are tested and put through rigorous examinations that stress the aircraft out far more than what turbulence would ever produce. The airplane will not fall apart in thin air because of a few bumps. Turbulence is a routine thing and will never be possible to totally avoid. Pilots take all the proper steps to assure passenger comfort, but turbulence is often times unavoidable. Although, it is not something to be afraid of!

Pilot careers within aviation

Aviation is one of those industries that, on the surface, may seem like all pilots become the same thing and do the same thing as one another. However, aviation is unique in that it has almost endless opportunities within itself. In this post, I will focus primarily on careers as a pilot in aviation, however, there are so many more careers other than being a pilot such as flight attendant, certified mechanic, chief engineer, airplane manager, or dispatcher.

In terms of being a pilot, there are four main categories that many aspiring pilots eventually fall into. These four categories are the airlines (passenger), cargo, charter, or corporate. Each of the four categories has its own unique benefits, along with their own challenges. I am going to dive into each of these to give you a better understanding of what the opportunities are truly like in the aviation industry as a pilot.

The first job and one of the most popular jobs as a pilot is to be a captain at a major airline. This could be anywhere from a domestic Southwest Airlines pilot, to an international United or Delta pilot. The airlines are some of the most competitive to get into, right along side cargo. The pay starts at around $60,000-$80,000 per year, and goes up each year of seniority that a pilot has at that company. By the end of a pilots career at a major airline, they can expect to make between $300,000-$375,000. The schedule for airlines is also a major part of why pilots sometimes do not want to choose the airlines. Often times pilots can be gone for as many as 3 nights, with 1 night home and then gone another few nights.

The second career option as a pilot is to fly for a cargo carrier such as UPS, FedEx, or Prime Air. Cargo pilots earn roughly the same as airline pilots, and typically work overnight flights. Cargo however, offers both domestic routes, and international routes. One of the most popular cargo schedules is 2-weeks on, followed by 2-weeks off. The majority of these schedules go from KLAX (Los Angeles) to PANC (Anchorage Alaska), and then disperse across Asia and into Europe. These pilots and crew members typically spend 1-2 days in each destination.

The third career as a pilot is a charter pilot. Much like an airline pilot, charter pilots fly passengers, that pay to fly privately. The pay for charter pilots is typically much less than an airline or cargo pilot, but still plenty to live comfortably on. The major bonus of a charter pilot, is that your nights spent away from home are very few compared to the other alternatives.

Finally, corporate pilot life. Corporate pilot’s are some of the most envied, however, it is not all good for corporate pilots. A job as a corporate pilot, typically means you work for one, or a small group, of very wealthy people. The pay for corporate pilots is typically very good, and the benefits they get from flying these people around don’t have a price tag on them. In addition to this, the destinations are often very nice places, that very wealthy people want to go to. On the flip side of that, the vast majority of corporate pilots are either on call almost 24/7, when their boss can call them at any point and say “hey we are going to the Bahamas tonight”, or they have rigorous times that they are gone. One corporate pilot that I know, works 45 days on, 45 days off. This can be very hard on family life, or life with a significant other.

The opportunities within each of these four categories are endless, and I could go on for pages and pages about what each of these has to offer. The point of this post was to showcase that not every pilot ends up being an airline pilot, there are hundreds of other unique ways to make a living as a pilot in todays industry.

Getting started in Aviation

Aviation is a relatively small community with many people interested, who are unsure at how to get their foot in the door. This can be a daunting task for people, specifically those of which who do not have long family history of pilots, mechanics, or flight attendants.

I personally come from a family that is not in aviation, my dad is a business owner and my mom worked briefly in the business world after college. I was always interested in getting my pilots license, but did not think it was possible to do as a career due to the time commitment, and difficulty of knowing where to start.

I have put together a list of a few things that are the first things people should do in order to get started in the aviation industry, specifically seeking to be a pilot.

The first thing to do when you are interesting in becoming a pilot is to go and hangout at the local municipal airport. Many of these airports have FBOs (Fixed Base Operators) which typically offer services such as gas, coffee, cookies, and a lounge to hang out. FBOs welcome everybody, not just pilots that fly in. Often times, during the summer, they host weekly or biweekly events that promote up to 30-60 planes to fly in for a ‘hamburger fly in’ or ‘pancake breakfast’. As I said above, aviation is a small community, with one common interest. The people that you meet at FBOs will always be willing to help, and sometimes even offer you to take a ride in their plane with them.

The second thing to help you get started in aviation is to watch YouTube videos. There is so much free content on YouTube to not only learn from, but to get an idea of what your career will be like in aviation. More specifically, there are a lot of videos revolved around flight school that give a good glimpse of what it is like to be a student pilot.

Finally, the next step is to contact a local flight school. Almost every airport has a flight school, that has a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI). Contact them and they will point you in the right direction in terms of officially starting training.

Aviation is a small community and has open arms for anyone that wants to join. A friend once told me that every person you meet in aviation, you should treat like someone that has a potential job for you. Since aviation is such a small world, you never know who that person might know, and how that could make beneficial connections for you in the future.

COVID-19 Impact on airlines

The Coronavirus pandemic has hit many different industries very hard, the aviation industry is no exception. I am currently on a professional pilot career path so I have been immersed in this world of aviation throughout the entirety of the pandemic.

I work for Wisconsin’s largest Fixed Base Operator (FBO) which handles not only airlines, but also private charter operations. The impact that COVID-19 has had on not only our company, but also many smaller companies, is undeniable. I work first hand with multiple people that were laid off, or furloughed by airlines.

One of the airlines that went bankrupt, being Trans States Airlines, was among the hardest hit. This United regional carrier was not the only one however, many of the United States major carriers are among the hardest hit. In a recent article from Flight Global, they expect as many as 11,000 pilots to be laid off from the 1st of October, through May 2021.

With the airlines still struggling, the future is looking quite grim for these large companies, as many experts say that they do not expect the industry to fully recover for a few years. The airline stimulus aid that was brought forth at the beginning of the pandemic is set to run out in the coming weeks, and this almost certainly will guarantee more layoffs for the industries pilots and flight attendants.

While the future is very unclear for the majority of the people both in the airlines, and on their way to the airlines, the news in the coming weeks and months will has the potential to save thousands of jobs, or to alter thousands of families lives for the coming future.