Personal Checklist for Becoming a Pilot
The road to earning your pilot’s license is challenging and requires a significant commitment of both time and money. Those aspects alone can be daunting and discouraging for those who may just be toying with the idea. But then, it’s the effort and tenacity entailed that make the profession rewarding as well. If flying an aircraft for a living is the field you’ve chosen to pursue, there are a few key qualifications and job conditions that it pays to be aware of and research beforehand.
To fly, you have to be healthy. Aspiring pilots should reach out to an Aviation Medical Examiner for the appropriate medical certification to ensure they are fit to fly. For example, any pilot flying a commercial airliner is required to have a Class 1 Medical Certificate. There are other classes of medical certification which are less stringent, depending on the nature of the flying assignments such as those for commercial or private pilots, but the Class 1 Medical is the most comprehensive since airline pilots are responsible for passengers and crew alike.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has set specific guidelines for each class of medical certification and how often it has to be renewed. Standards have been established for vision, hearing, and blood pressure. For the Class 1 Medical, beginning at age 35, pilots are required to undergo an electrocardiogram which becomes an annual requirement after age 40. There are also multiple mental and physical disqualifications that are specified, including bipolar disorder, psychosis, substance abuse, epilepsy, cardiac pacemaker, and coronary heart disease. Even diabetes requiring insulin is a cause for ineligibility.
If your body has betrayed you and seemingly dashed your dreams of becoming a pilot, there are a few workarounds. There are less conventional ways to fly, such as hot air balloons or gliders. For those just looking to fly as a hobby, there are potentially more relaxed health requirements that may be worth looking into as well. It makes sense to start by talking to professionals to advise you regarding your options on becoming a pilot. Flight schools like AeroGuard have the resources and answers to help you get started. There are various flight schools you can reach out to, even in the Phoenix location.
Pros and cons
There are pros and cons to every job. When you love your job, it certainly makes the cons easier to manage, but it’s a good idea to be aware of the trickier elements of every position. Certainly, the expectation is that piloting an aircraft is difficult, and there’s always a chance you could encounter some unexpected issues in the air, whether it’s weather-related or mechanical in nature. However, that’s precisely what your intense training prepares you to handle.
What many don’t consider is what lurks outside the cockpit door. Of course, the 9/11 terrorist attacks have forever changed the complexion of flying. However, that’s an extreme example. Pilots are much more likely to have to intervene with unhappy or unruly passengers in instances where the customers may be expressing their displeasure with the airline or have become intoxicated. The pilot is responsible for the aircraft and every soul on board, and will have the final say while the plane is in the air.
There are several prerequisites to be considered before taking the leap and enrolling in flight school. However, if fitness and a willingness to both adapt to and address unpredictable situations are in your wheelhouse, it makes sense to take the next step and continue to research and follow your dream of becoming a pilot.