‘Do you like being a pilot?’ A passenger actually asked me this question a month ago as we were shuttling out to the airplane from Jet Aviation in Teterboro (not my favorite FBO by the way). Assuming she was making small talk and not really wanting the real answer I gave her the ‘Oh I love it, it’s great, doesn’t feel like work to me’. While that certainly is true, the answer goes deeper than that.
You might’ve heard ‘I have aviation in my blood’ quipped by a pilot at some point. I would say that rings true for me as well. My paternal grandfather was in the Air Force, my maternal grandfather was a pilot himself owning three small aircraft during his days, and my father would have been an air force pilot if he had better eyesight (that’s not tongue in cheek, he was discharged for it). My earliest memories of aviation involve sitting in the back seat of my grandfather’s Cessna Cardinal, trips to the Museum of Flight with my dad, and of course Top Gun. I caught the bug.
I became fascinated with anything airplane related. My brother and I would build Lego airplanes and pretend dog fight. My favorite Christmas present ever was the Lego International Jetport, complete with a runway, terminal, and jet. My favorite transformers were any that would transform into airplanes.
As a pre teen I remember the game Jetfighter I think it was called. I would strap on my baseball helmet, put on my dad’s oversized sunglasses, and I became my own maverick, gunning down virtual enemy jets from my dad’s office upstairs. Adrenaline rushed through my veins while completing time sensitive missions and shooting my enemies down from their six only helped the aviation bug spread.
At this point in my life however, a career in aviation never really crossed my mind. That came as a senior in high school. I was at Best Buy and decided to finally pick up the game Flight Simulator 2000. Game over. After literally spending only a few long nights taking off from real airports, getting a realistic idea of what flying was really like, I knew I was going to be a professional pilot.
I began looking into what a pilot life was like and that only confirmed what I felt playing Flight Simulator. I had already committed to attend Colorado State University and major in Engineering and Spanish. In February of my senior year we took a trip to Utah State University where they showed me the campus and even took me up on a discovery flight in their 172. That sealed the deal. I had already fallen in love with Logan and wanted to start right then! I would begin flight training three weeks after graduation and complete my private pilot license that summer.
After returning home from my two year LDS mission in Brazil though I got a little wet feet with the career. I was skeptical of the financial commitment required to be a pilot. I really wanted to work for myself and considered a career as a dentist or accountant, something I could set up my own practice or firm.
Ten months after beginning school again, I couldn’t take it anymore (and biology kicked my trash). I went and spoke with the aviation director and advisor and changed my schedule for the next semester to once again enroll in the aviation curriculum. This was my chips in moment. I have never looked back since that day and given everything I have to aviation.
Do I love being a pilot? Absolutely I do. It’s more than a career, it’s who I am. Being a pilot is more than flying for free and making a lot of money. I don’t fly for free and I’m not the highest paid pilot. Satisfaction comes to me from achieving goals, traveling the world, solving problems, and the pure adrenaline rush I get every time I land that aircraft.
If you love achieving goals, challenging yourself, and studying hard, then it could be for you too. I’m going to toot my own horn here, and this true of all pilots; what we do isn’t easy. Not everyone can do it. The high of descending at night with no visibility outside, only to trust your instruments will guide you home is something I can’t quite put in words. It’s an almost out of body experience when you see the running rabbit (flashing white light guiding you in) and the runway lights up as you safely kiss the pavement and complete another successful mission.
My plea to all of you; find out who you are and what you really love. Then go do that. You have one life. If you’re in high school or college now and struggling like so many do to choose a career, don’t over think it. If you could do one thing and not be paid for it, what that be? Perhaps consider that as a starting point for your decision. You can do anything, just make sure it’s something you love.