Career As Airline Pilot Captain  

Airline Pilot / Captain  

Nature of the Work. The Airline Pilot plans each flight with the airline's flight dispatcher and meteorologist, checking weight, fuel supply, alternate destination, weather and route. The pilot also briefs the crew, checks out takeoff procedures, ascertains that the plane is operating normally before takeoff, gets takeoff clearance from the air traffic control tower, flies the plane over the designated route, lands the plane, and at the final destination files a trip report. During the time the airline pilot is aboard the aircraft, he or she supervises the work of the crew, gives instructions, and makes all decisions.

The Captain is in command of the plane and is responsible for the safety of the aircraft, its passengers, crew and cargo. he aircraft flown may range from a twin-engine DC-3 on a 100-mile hop toa four-engine Boeing 747 jet crossing the ocean. Working Conditions. By law, an airline pilot may not fly more than 85 hours a month or 1,000 hours a year. However, the average pilot works more than 100 hours a month counting ground duties such as filing flight plans, working on reports, briefing crews and attending training classes.

The airline pilot spends most of the working day in the cockpit with additional time in the airline dispatcher's office and in training classrooms. Work schedules average sixteen days a month and usually provide for consecutive days off. Schedules for pilots employed by transcontinental and international airlines require pilots to spend some nights away from home. In these cases, hotel, transportation and meal expenses are paid by the airline. A flight requires considerable pilot concentration during takeoff and landing maneuvers. Automatic piloting devices free the pilot for other cockpit duties and lessen the strain of the job during cruising flight. The airline pilot is required to wear a uniform while on duty. Night flights are often required, especially for air cargo operations.

Where The Jobs Are. Scheduled airline flight crews are based at major terminals on their respective airline routes. These bases are found mainly in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Detroit, Newark, Atlanta, Miami, Washington, DC, Denver, Dallas and Cleveland. Flight crew job opportunities are also available with all cargo airlines and with non-scheduled and supplemental airlines that provide charter service.

Opportunities for Advancement. Promotion is regulated by seniority. When hired as a second officer, or co-pilot, the person is assigned the bottom position within the airline. As the second officer, co-pilots and pilots advance to larger aircraft, retire, resign or are removed from the list for other reasons, the newly hired pilot moves upward. All through the career with the airline, the earnings, route assignments and vacation time preferences are governed by seniority. Second officers or flight engineers may advance to co-pilot position within a year, but it usually takes from seven to twelve years to become a pilot or captain, depending on the size of the airline and rank on the seniority list. By law, pilots must retire when reaching age 60, but flight engineers can fly till the age of 65. All through the pilot's career he or she must lay the job on the line every six months at the time of a rigid physical exam. If unable to pass the physical, the pilot must stop flying.

Outlook For The Future. The outlook for career opportunities for pilots and flight engineers with the airlines is directly related to airline growth. Airline growth is usually measured by an increase in traffic; i.e., an increase in passenger-miles and an increase in ton-miles of freight. This growth, of course, is directly related to the health of the national economy. The recent recession (1979-1982) combined with airline deregulation has had a detrimental effect on airline hiring, but the future (1984-1988) looks promising.
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