Think of the last time you took a commercial flight. As you entered the aircraft and looked to your left into the cabin to see the pilot and co-pilot preparing to get you to your destination, have you ever considered what those pilots had to do to earn the opportunity to be your crew? Learning to fly under the rules of general aviation, that of learning to fly small aircraft, is the ONLY pathway to flying larger aircraft. Every pilot in the big jets had to learn somewhere, and that somewhere was likely a small airport with a small flight school. So for those out there who think flying small airplanes is a frivolous, expensive hobby accessible only by those with extra money and time, keep in mind that the uniformed pilots in the cabin at the front of your last commercial flight started, years ago, by learning to fly small airplanes, at a small airport. They spent thousands of dollars to get a pilot certificate, then thousands more to get an instrument rating. Then thousands more to get a commercial rating and thousands more to build time to qualify for a regional airline, where they might make about $18,000/year as a co-pilot, or first officer. The newest pilots to the commercial airlines share “flop houses”, apartments where they are itinerant residents, only there long enough to sleep and get ready for their next flights. And it all started with a young person who likely excelled in school..math, science, extra-curricular activities, and wanted a challenge that school could not only not offer them, but has a guidance counselor who likely asked, “You’re a girl, why do you want to be a pilot?” So, the next time you see a small plane flying overhead, please don’t think of a “one-percenter” enjoying his or her life at the expense of the other 99%. Understand and accept that it may be a very exceptional and dedicated young adult who wants to build a career, at their own expense, to become a professional pilot. So the next time you enter an airline and look to your left and see a young pilot or co-pilot on a commercial flight, consider how many tens of thousands of dollars they have invested into getting into that seat (after college tuition!), while you likely went onto priceline.com and found a ticket for $99 and complain that you don’t even get peanuts. Thankfully, those young pilots get you safely to your destination. Thankfully, those young pilots had a small airport at which they could begin flying those small planes.
- The above was penned by Joe Ebert