• NC Software is having a Black Friday Sale Event thru December 4th on Logbook Pro, APDL - Airline Pilot Logbook, Cirrus Elite Binders, and more. Use coupon code BF2020 at checkout to redeem 15% off your purchase. Click here to shop now.
  • NC Software is proud to announce the release of APDL - Airline Pilot Logbook version 10.0. Click here to view APDL on the Apple App store and install now.

Forbes article on pilots...

hotwing

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 1, 2002
Posts
370
Total Time
a few
Aug. 19 2010 - 3:33 pm | 4,679 views | 0 recommendations | 5 comments
In Defense of Elitists –Why Not Everybody Can (Or Should) Be A Pilot!

Posted by Paula Williams
Image via Wikipedia


A five-year-old girl visited the cockpit of a 747 during a family trip many years ago. The captain gave her a grand tour of the overwhelming display of buttons and dials.
“You can be a pilot when you grow up, if you like.” The captain said, affably.
The little girl was escorted back to their seats by a friendly flight attendant, who gave her tin wings that said “Captain” on them, and a toy plane.
Nice little story, and it actually happened. But what’s wrong with this picture?
No, it’s not that there was a kid in the cockpit. That happened all the time before the locked bulkhead after 9/11/2001.
What was wrong is what the captain said.
The truth is that not everybody can, or should, become a pilot.
Anyone holding the “anyone can” assumption is doing a great disservice to the profession, and to himself if he insists on becoming one.
I was the kind of kid that led a charmed life, and believed I COULD do anything. All the evidence pointed that way. I had fantastic parents who went to a great deal of trouble to find me fantastic teachers who told me I could do anything. And everything was easy for me. I was the kid everybody hated because I got good grades without even trying. I was a reasonably good athlete in gymnastics and martial arts, and never had to work very hard at that either.
I also did well in my professional life. My bosses thought I used magic to get people to get along with each other, and I wrote good copy and built good websites. And help was never far away if I ever needed it.
In a word, I was spoiled rotten.
And then I decided to get my private pilot rating.
“Ground school” was harder than I thought it would be. It was more precise than anything I’d ever had to learn before, and with higher stakes. I learned to calculate wind drift, fuel endurance and time to destination using an E6-B. (which is essentially two printed plastic wheels stuck together with a grommet.) I was a little flummoxed by the FAA Knowledge Exam but passed that after a little MORE study than I was expecting to have to spend.
But what really drove home my limitations was a factor called “control touch.” My husband, John, had flown helicopters in the Air Force and Army. His son James flies celebrities and executives around in a Hawker 400. My son Mickey was flying a Tomahawk before he could (legally) drive a car.
They had very little sympathy for me when my figure 8s were slanted out of proportion and had one end bigger than the other. And when my 60 degree turns were so wobbly I was making my instructor airsick. And when my short field landings were, well, not short enough. I overflew the mark more often than I hit it.
Many, many, MANY sweaty, tense and expensive hours later, (with much time and effort on the part of my instructors and long-suffering husband) I was able to master these skills well enough to relax and enjoy flying. Then came the last barrier between myself and a private pilot’s license – The Practical Exam. The Practical (or Checkride) is a flight with several standards to be met, to be completed to the satisfaction of the FAA Designated Examiner.
This particular examiner was out to get me.
He wasn’t actually out to get me, but he was one of very few people I’ve ever encountered in my charmed life who actually did not care one way or another whether I passed or failed. In fact, he would PREFER to fail me if he were not completely convinced that I was not a hazard to myself and others in the air. This is as it should be, but I found his attitude rather irritating at the time.
So, everything proceeded to go wrong.
Somehow, the weight of this particular passenger (who was almost exactly the same size as my instructor) so unbalanced the airplane that I wobbled during the 60 degree turns. This was something I’d mastered months ago. My figure 8s looked like a kindergartner had drawn them. And I bounced during the dreaded short-field landing. Even worse, after we pulled off the runway onto the apron, shut down the engine to have a “little talk” (read, “grilling” about weather conditions, proper procedures, etc.) the engine flooded and I was so focused on the checklist that I didn’t think to get the OTHER checklist (the one appropriate to starting a flooded engine.)
And worse, I was getting tired, hungry, thirsty and slow.
Now, I have always taken pride in my endurance. I was always the last to quit in a kickboxing class, I could teach a high-energy class to a roomful of jaded executives, I could produce great creative material at all hours of the day or night, and I could facilitate cantankerous meetings for marathon stretches without breaking a sweat.
But now, I was ”getting behind the airplane.” My reactions were getting slow, and I was getting worse instead of better.
I think the examiner used this as an object lesson – there was plenty of gas in the airplane, but the pilot was starting to sputter. People are only at their sharpest and most responsive for short periods at a time. Our 8+ hours of exam (including the ground review) was certainly more than I had expected. But a pilot has to plan for the unexpected.
So, I didn’t pass that day. I’m told (and I hope it wasn’t by someone trying to make me feel better) that most don’t pass on their first try.
In the United States, the birthplace of aviation, there is less than 1 pilot for every 3,000 civilians. 1
I did eventually pass the practical, (I packed granola bars and a bottle of water for the next flight, and put in a lot more hours of study) and earned my Private Pilot rating, but in the words of John Wayne, “A man has got to know his limitations.”
I’m not a professional pilot, and may never be. I’m a careful and competent private pilot, and I am pursuing an instrument rating. I have a lot more respect for the folks in the “front office” of any airplane I get into. I think the salaries and perks that came with the professional pilot’s uniform in the seventies (when I visited the cockpit as a kid) were no more than they were due.
Not everyone who could become a pilot wants to make the sacrifices.
I recently saw a tweet that said “I’m a commercial pilot but can’t afford it anymore – seeking work.” It’s not the first time I’ve seen something like that. What pilots go through these days, with news accounts of pilots with back-to-back shifts, long commutes, less-than-ideal hotels in which to rest between flights, lack of respect from passengers and crew, and on and on, is unfortunate.
I think some of this comes from the assumption that “anybody can be a pilot.” Sure, technology has eased the flying workload somewhat, but compliance with FAA, TSA, EPA and other rules and regulations have increased the compliance workload tenfold2. Nowadays, a pilot has to practically be a lawyer, an accountant, and a customer service representative as well.
All the tools and automation count for nothing when the real world doesn’t match up to the kind of variables this crazy world can throw at you. A computer would probably not have decided to land on the Hudson, as Sullenberger and Smiley did in January 2009. (“Does not compute,” the little robot would say.)
All the variables of real world flying can’t be anticipated and programmed in. Real pilots, with real brains, are still really necessary. And I, for one, am VERY glad it’s still worth it to a small number of people.
Meanwhile, I’ll be the best private pilot I can be, but otherwise will get back to my spoiled existence.
1 AOPA counted 84,866 active pilots in 2007. There are probably fewer now, given layoffs, retirements and the current economic situation. Current U.S. population is 307,006,550 at this writing
2 The FAA made 505 changes to aviation regulations in 2009 alone. Aviation professionals are required to be in compliance with all of them, no matter how recent. Many professionals resort to subscription services or software that keep them updated.
 

Kharma Police

Don't mess with Texas
Joined
Mar 16, 2004
Posts
2,099
Total Time
8000
It is simply too hard for people to learn to fly. Looks like Kit Darby's prophecy of the impending pilot shortage has come to fruition.
 

pilotyip

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 26, 2001
Posts
13,629
Total Time
14000
and we didn't think we were special, notice nothing about the college degree being the true clear indication of a professional pilot. BTW I greased in my landing in the B-17 yesterday, life is good.
 

Baze

Kama'aina
Joined
Oct 30, 2004
Posts
445
Total Time
11000+
Okay, I'm totally nit-picking something totally irrelevant to aviation, but I thought it was Clint Eastwood [as Harry Callahan] who said, "“A man has got to know his limitations.”

Oh yeah, who's this guy named Smiley who was flying with Sully?
Poor Jeff Skiles keeps getting the shaft.
 
Last edited:

pilot error

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 24, 2004
Posts
189
Total Time
>7000
and we didn't think we were special, notice nothing about the college degree being the true clear indication of a professional pilot. BTW I greased in my landing in the B-17 yesterday, life is good.

we get it. you didn't go to college. no need to point it out in every thread.
 

dashtrash

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 27, 2002
Posts
170
Total Time
10
Okay, I'm totally nit-picking something totally irrelevant to aviation, but I thought it was Clint Eastwood [as Harry Callahan] who said, "“A man has got to know his limitations.”

Oh yeah, who's this guy named Smiley who was flying with Sully?
Poor Jeff Skiles keeps getting the shaft.

Sip that Kona Coffee you elitist!
 

waveflyer

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 9, 2005
Posts
10,005
Total Time
12000
God bless her and that article- a glimpse into the life
 

Captzaahlie

My kind of FOD!
Joined
Dec 29, 2004
Posts
1,564
Total Time
18k ?
Sounds good, I'll take a cup too.
 

Baze

Kama'aina
Joined
Oct 30, 2004
Posts
445
Total Time
11000+
It _is_ good. Next time you're in Kona, look for the Pele Estate dark or medium roast coffee. You may also get some coffee from Country Samurai. I still prefer Pele Estate's coffee.
 

cynic

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 7, 2004
Posts
1,541
Total Time
> 1500
What a load of crap. Getting a private pilot's license requires the intellectual capability of maybe a 9th or 10th grader. It does require some coordination, common sense and intelligence but no more than what is required to be a nurse or something like that.

The barrier to entry is that is costs a crap ton of money and entry level jobs pay very little. In addition, if you pick the wrong airline you are screwed and have to start all over at the bottom when they go out of business.

I have a commercial and CFI. I keep thinking about getting my ATP for fun but that is another thread and let me say this. It is much easier to fly a jet and input data to an FMS than it is to write a complex computer program.

The future of aviation is... wait for it... wait for it... I can see the future....


Ticket prices are going up. The number of airlines / flights is going down. Pilot wages will stagnate right where they are now. Fewer people will be flying and corporate flying will not be making a come back any time soon either.

That's why I program computers. I get paid 100K a year. And that is in the South! I get 5 weeks of vacation and 5 weeks of sick time and I go to the gym for an hour at lunch every day.

I like flying airplanes a whole lot more but darned if I could find a job that wasn't ********************ty :)
 

Captzaahlie

My kind of FOD!
Joined
Dec 29, 2004
Posts
1,564
Total Time
18k ?
It _is_ good. Next time you're in Kona, look for the Pele Estate dark or medium roast coffee. You may also get some coffee from Country Samurai. I still prefer Pele Estate's coffee.
my inlaws brought some back , you are right it rocks....
 

Baze

Kama'aina
Joined
Oct 30, 2004
Posts
445
Total Time
11000+
Cynic,

You made some valid points in your post. But, since you chose to write this,

I have a commercial and CFI. I keep thinking about getting my ATP for fun but that is another thread and let me say this. It is much easier to fly a jet and input data to an FMS than it is to write a complex computer program.

I'm going to go pop some popcorn and get in my recliner. I predict at least 5 pages for this thread now. :)
 

pilotyip

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 26, 2001
Posts
13,629
Total Time
14000
College has nothing to do with the ability to fly an airplane

What a load of crap. Getting a private pilot's license requires the intellectual capability of maybe a 9th or 10th grader. It does require some coordination, common sense and intelligence but no more than what is required to be a nurse or something like that.:)
Back to the begining, there are many college degrees that you can get a degree from that will not challenge you beyond your supposed 9th 10th grade level. Remember WWII, the sky was filled with mostly high school grads and they did a great job.
 

Traderd

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 4, 2005
Posts
2,073
Total Time
5500
That's why I program computers. I get paid 100K a year. And that is in the South! I get 5 weeks of vacation and 5 weeks of sick time and I go to the gym for an hour at lunch every day.

I like flying airplanes a whole lot more but darned if I could find a job that wasn't ********************ty :)

Serious question. How is it your functions have not been outsourced to India or some such place? Is outsourcing a threat to your position? If not, congratulations and more power to you. Wish it were the case for a lot more US jobs.

I ask because I have some personal experience with developers in the south who have recently taken that hit.

I don't think anyone seriously considers the obtainment of a PPL to be one of life's great challenges. Recall it was a woman who wrote the article. Maybe she looks like "Aunt Bea?" (just dated myself big time with that reference)
 

cynic

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 7, 2004
Posts
1,541
Total Time
> 1500
In my case, I work for a very large university and it would be difficult to outsource the custom applications development required to process 1/2 billion in financial aid and student payment, online course registration, etc...

You really need workers on site to do that.

And yes... Coding in C++/Perl/Java/C Sharp is more complicated than putting a hold into an FMS. I'd be surprised if anyone would argue with that ;)
 

Baze

Kama'aina
Joined
Oct 30, 2004
Posts
445
Total Time
11000+
In my case, I work for a very large university and it would be difficult to outsource the custom applications development required to process 1/2 billion in financial aid and student payment, online course registration, etc...

You really need workers on site to do that.

And yes... Coding in C++/Perl/Java/C Sharp is more complicated than putting a hold into an FMS. I'd be surprised if anyone would argue with that ;)

I'm not arguing that at all. As a matter of fact, I was a software engineer before I switched careers. I absolutely hated coding & compiling and being in an office all day long, but I digress.

My point is that it takes a lot more than just punching routes & altitudes into the FMS to fly an airliner. That is, if you want to be a professional and do the job right.

As for the issue of somehow highly educated & intellectual people having no problems with taking flying lessons and earning their PPL... I was a flight instructor and my best stick and rudder student was a 17-year-old. I had a few other students who were highly educated and academically accomplished (software engineer @ Microsoft, a CPA, etc.) and these were the guys who struggled with the flying. One thing is for sure, though, they were great at hitting the books. :)
 

waveflyer

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 9, 2005
Posts
10,005
Total Time
12000
Yeah- it sounds like Cynic's tried to flame in the 1st post- but doubt anyone will take much exception to it-
I know for a fact every engineer works harder than me-
I know for a fact every construction worker WORKS harder-

but I was also a flight instructor and dabble in it now- I know for a fact that not everyone could or would choose to do my job- it's like a lesser version of the guys sitting around the tv yelling at how some pro athlete sucks- there are a lot of people who think they can do my job- and they might be right-

But doing it- day in and day out - and doing what you have to do to get my job- is a lot different than just believing you can.

And at your particular job- No one dies if you mess it up-

That only sounds dramatic until a friend and good pilot flies west- none of us that do the job are scared of that- but we're under no illusions about it either-
it's why major airline pilots give so much respect to the mil&commuter/cargo pilots coming up- bc they know what these pilots do everyday fighting for their country or their career
 
Last edited:
Top