1. Uncle Sam can teach you how to fly.
Figure 15.2 Some will never experience the wonder of flying.
Lots of pilots get their start in the military. Go ahead and skip this step if joining the military is definitely not on your list of things to do in life. But if you’re comfortable with the idea, there are a lot of benefits to military service, such as an excellent flight school and lots of experience, at no monetary cost to you. There are other costs, of course, and before you sign up, you better consider them all. Talk to a recruiter and do some research on your own; results will vary when joining up with the armed forces on a whim.
2. Getting a bachelor’s degree will only help you.
Not always necessary if you’ve got the experience, but it’s generally a good thing to have. A lot of jobs didn’t used to require a college degree, but nowadays they do. Or, at the least, employers want you to have some college under your belt. If you have stellar experience as a pilot, you’re probably fine, but newbies should get themselves to school. You can study aeronautical engineering, mathematics, physics, or even English or other languages if you want to be an international pilot. These may be the most relevant subject areas, but are by no means your only choices. Your training and license to fly an aircraft are the most important pieces of your schooling.
3. Attend flight school.
To be allowed control of an aircraft, you need to know how to fly it. Who knew? There are schools all over that will teach you how to fly; just be sure to pick one that has Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval. Instructors should also be certified through this entity. You can just take lessons from an instructor and not enroll in an actual school, but you’ll need more flight experience that way. The FAA requires at least 250 hours to qualify for a license. Once you complete your flight training, you’ll have to prove that you still know what you’re doing every so often to keep your license valid. More training will be necessary for new available technology.
4. Get your license to legally fly an airplane, helicopter, etc.
Figure 15.3 If only the "future" had turned out this way, we'd all be pilots.
You must meet all requirements and pass a written and practical test to get a pilot’s license. Requirements differ between the different types of licenses, but your flight school should have covered your bases for you. You can start learning to fly at age 16, but you’ll need a minimum of 250 hours of flight experience, and passing scores on both the written and practical flight tests. There are also physical requirements to be met, so you’ll have to pass a physical exam, too. Recreational pilots have lighter requirements than professional pilots who are responsible for passengers and cargo. The more you want to do, the more you have to know. You’ll also need endorsements for privileges such as flying cross-country.
For most people, the word “pilot” probably conjures up images of tall, handsome men in uniform, striding through the airport toward big 747-type planes. You will not be that fellow or lady when you first get your license. That particular position is very competitive, and you’ll need a ton of experience before it’ll be an option. A captain with a major airline needs at least 1,500 flight hours encompassing several types of flight. So other options include instructing, taking sight-seers up for aerial views of tourist attractions, working for a private company flying cargo or employees around, crop dusting, and as a flight engineer. Flight engineers don’t actually fly the aircraft; they’re essentially an extra person on board to help monitor all those gauges and doohickeys, making for a safer flight. Seniority and experience is huge in this field, so take what you can get at first, but once you’re up there, you’ve got it made.