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.