What do you do for a living?
I am a Captain on an Embraer 190 for Jet Blue.
How would you describe what you do?
I safely and efficiently operate an aircraft that carries 100 passengers. I fly a schedule from point A to point B and ensure that it’s a safe flight.
What does your work entail?
The schedule entails staying proficient on aircraft systems, staying proficient on flying normal operations, practicing in simulators for abnormal emergency operations that and a good understanding of weather and forecasted weather. I average about 15 to 16 work days a month and trips vary in length from a one day to a four-day trip.
One of the cool things is the fact that you get to fly free on all airlines. So you and your family have the ability to travel and really do exciting stuff…It’s one of the coolest perks in the whole world.
So on a four-day trip, three nights would be spent at three different locations away from my base, which is JFK. My trips all start and end in JFK and kind of take you everywhere in between.
How did you get started?
I was born in aviation. My dad was in airline management for the better part of 25 years.
What do you like about being a pilot?
I like the fact that I can arrange my schedule. I can change it or rearrange to meet requirements for things I want off for whatever reasons. So, I have very good schedule flexibility.
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I like the anonymity of being a pilot. We just go to work. We don’t have a boss, no one looks over our shoulder, no one checks our work. You just go to work and you’re part of a crew. On my airplane, it’s me and a first officer, and then two flight attendants and basically, that’s who you interact with.
[I dislike] being away from home. When the wife calls and the kids are sick on day two of a four-day trip, I just have to be supportive and she knows that I’m not going to be home for two more days, and that’s just it.
We don’t have anybody calling us and seeing how we’re doing. We just fly our trips. It’s really nice. Even though I do have a boss, called a Chief Pilot. I’m not in an office where I report to a boss by any means.
What do you dislike?
Being away from home. When the wife calls and the kids are sick on day two of a four-day trip, I just have to be supportive and she knows that I’m not going to be home for two more days, and that’s just it. And when you’re a junior pilot, you have the lowest officer seniority, so you have to work holidays sometimes. So when you’re a new hire and you’re a junior in seniority you’ll miss the little things. Sometimes you miss the first day of your kid’s school and little parties.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
We’re paid hourly based on the number of flight hours. We’re paid per flight hour, and that has a minimum. The minimum pay is 70 hours a month, so if we fly between one and 70 hours, it’s the same pay.
I like the anonymity of being a pilot. We just go to work. We don’t have a boss, no one looks over our shoulder, no one checks our work. You just go to work and you’re part of a crew. On my airplane, it’s me and a first officer, and then two flight attendants and basically, that’s who you interact with. We don’t have anybody calling us and seeing how we’re doing. We just fly our trips. It’s really nice.
Then above 70, each hour’s paid at time and a half of what the original pay was. I make $84 an hour up to 70 hours, then $128 an hour past 70 hours. And a typical month has 85 hours of flying time.
How much money do you make?
I’ve been here for two years and I average about $100,000.
What education or skills are needed to do this?
Most airlines prefer a four-year degree with no set recommendation of what that degree is in. So, in other words, they don’t care what they degree is in. They just want to see that you’ve completed a four-year institution. And then the flying, of course, is the second part of that. You just have to go through the training, and the accumulation of flight time and hours, and gaining the experience.
What is most challenging about what you do?
I would say the most challenging thing is staying proficient in all of the aspects of the job, and that includes like simulator training every six months that Captains go through. It’s a constant learning environment, which requires constant dedication. You don’t just get this job and it’s like, “Okay, I got it. I’ve made it.” It’s constant learning, you’re always trying to increase your knowledge.
What is most rewarding?
It’s the best office in the world, there’s just something about it. The schedule flexibility and the ability just to see the world. Traveling is an awesome, awesome part of it.
What advice would you offer someone considering this becoming a pilot?
A couple of things. One of them is get good grades and stay out of trouble. Things in your past really come back to haunt you in the airline business, DUIs, DWIs, things like that. So, basically, stay out of trouble. My advice would be to talk to as many pilots as you can. Try to get a good working knowledge of what it entails. Really my advice would be just to do it. If you’re interested in it, then really look into it and do it because it’s an awesome job.
How much time off do you get/take?
With vacations and everything else, I work about 170 days a year. I was just home for 10 days, and then I’m on the road for four, then I’m going to be home for four, back to work for three, home for three. So, it just kind of varies.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
One of the misconceptions about airline pilots is they think the airline pilots are all rich, and it’s not true. It’s a job that takes time to really start making money. The first initial airline jobs are very low paying and that’s probably one of the biggest misconceptions. People just think the airline pilots make tons of money, and they really don’t. I guess a misconception is people think that we’re just up to flying all the time and basically we’re good monitors. The airplanes are so automated and automatic that pilots kind of just monitor to make sure that things are done.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
Mine are to maintain a very good level of health so that I can make it all the way up to the retirement age, and that’s sort of the number one goal. And to get to that age and fly safely with no accidents or any kind problems along the way. Then, as far as personal goals, I’d like to become a Chief Pilot.
What else would you like people to know about what you do?
I don’t know. One of the cool things is the fact that you get to fly free on all airlines, so you and your family. The ability to travel and really do exciting stuff is kind of made readily available to you, which is one of the coolest perks of working for the airlines. My wife can fly on American to Hawaii round trip for like $40. It’s one of the coolest perks in the whole world.