Updated February 28, 2017 | Infoplease Staff
TimTell us about your work -- what do you do? I'm a pilot, a DC-9 First Officer for a commercial airline . What skills are needed? Must be a licensed pilot. What was your major? I was a finance major in college. I also joined the ROTC program at my university. In my junior year I began learning to fly through a program ROTC had contracted with the local airport . How did you get started in your career? Upon graduation, I was commissioned as an officer. I was in the Air Force for 4 years active duty and 3 years in the Air Force Reserves . First I completed one year of pilot training before I earned my wings. After 3 months training I became a T-38 instructor pilot and held that position for 3 years. Later I trained for the C-5 and flew that while on reserve duty. I also worked at several commuter airlines before getting a job with a commercial airline . What experience do you need in this job? A 4-year college degree is preferred , but most important is your flight time -- between 3,000 -- 6,000 hours completed. This varies depending on the job demand. Most commercial pilots either flew in the military or for commuter airlines. Describe your "typical" workday: I usually arrive at the airport one hour prior to departure, sign in, check my mailbox for any updates on procedures, schedules, etc. I also check the bulletin board and our computer terminal for "need-to-know" information. I check the weather for the route. Then I check the gate information and plane status. Then I check in with the gate personnel for any special information, get paperwork for the flight and more weather information. I 'pre-flight' the plane by checking all systems, maintenance records, meet with flight attendants. Fly the route. I usually fly 3 or 4 legs a day and spend the night in a hotel, then fly 3 or 4 legs the next day and go home. Some trips start and end the same day, more are 2- or 3-day trips, and some are even 4- or 5-day trips. What is the hardest aspect of your job? The things I can't control -- the weather, mechanical delays. Sometimes there are a lot of details to manage (bad weather or maintenance delays, handling difficult passengers or unusual circumstances ). What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? I enjoy flying and traveling . It is a very dynamic job. Every day is different -- different people, different planes, different destinations. Also, the pay is very rewarding. An entry-level commercial airline pilot starts out at around $36 per flight hour. A senior 747 captain can earn up to $350 per flight hour. I usually average about 75 flight hours per month. I also have comprehensive benefits plus a pension. What are your suggestions for someone considering this field? I recommend going through the military ( Navy or Air Force ). You have to make about a 10-year commitment, but you get to fly some high performance planes. Plus, your training is paid for. It is possible to take the civilian route -- pay for private training, but it is pretty expensive.