Real Answers from Real Pilots

A pilot's psychology, philosophy, and humanity

Hello Everybody,
Flying jets for big, small, and personal airlines is a big responsibility. The career is very serious. But also, a pilot must enjoy his or her career with long-term commitment happiness. Unfortunately, 80% of all good and bad accidents happen because human error. Thanks to innovative technology, there are tools to help pilots make better judgement calls.
I am currently a college student attending a four-year university. There are many things that happen in college. Diversity, community, creativity, obedience, learning, law and order is what exist in today’s college society. I am a huge believer in safety in transportation, tranquility in the skies, and value for human life. Is creativity to promote safety and security welcomed in the civilian airline industry? If I were to become a pilot, will I have a daily medical examination? Is happiness, enjoyment, and having fun endorsed by the airline industry?

From,
Thomas Kim

Hello Thomas,

In addition to being a pilot I’m also a Human Factors/CRM instructor and have been for a while. You are correct that 80% of all aviation accidents are caused by human error (though I’m not certain I’d call any of them “good”?). So let’s answer your questions (as best I can as some seem somewhat nebulous).

  1. Creativity: Let me say this, if you’re asking if the topic of CRM (Crew Resource Mgmt) and Human Factors is still advancing and is there a place for creative ways to advance and promote better understanding and procedures WITHIN the training environment I’d say sure. IF however you’re asking about creativity as a pilot on the flight deck the answer is a resounding NO! All airlines have their SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) and they are to be considered “Best Practices”. While accidents still do occur, aviation is by far the safest means of transportation that exists. Decades of research have gone into how and what we do, and we as pilots have VERY clear guidance that dictates every phase of flight (including emergencies). The fact is pilots should not be getting creative on the flight deck at all. UNLESS they find themselves in a VERY unusual unique situation (think Sully) the procedures are in place and are to be strictly adhered to. In fact it’s often the lack of adherence to SOPs that lead to many of those accidents. If you find yourself in a situation where you MUST get creative that’s usually a bad day at work.

  2. Pilots require a First Class medical certificate. Depending on your age and whether you’re a Capt or FO you need to get a Medical exam annually, biannually or every 6mos tops. there’s no need for a daily exam. That would be impractical and logistically impossible. You are however required to verify that you’re “Fit to Fly” prior to every flight.

  3. ALL airlines have Mission Statements (Code of Priorities etc) for all their employees. They usually contain things like Safety, Regulatory Compliance, Passenger Comfort, and Efficiency. I’ve never seen any references to happiness, enjoyment or having fun so I’m not sure I can say the airlines “endorse” it? That said I believe all those words are incredibly subjective and the source can rarely be traced to ones employer or industry. I have what I believe is the greatest job on the planet which I enjoy tremendously, brings me much happiness and have fun doing. You can ask other pilots doing the exact same job and they’ll tell you it’s horrible and only slightly above slavery. Happiness comes from within is often a matter of perspective. Whether it’s “endorsed” or not by your employer I’d say is irrelevant.

Adam

Hey Thomas,

I agree with Adam on question #3. It is really up to you to decide if you have fun or not at your job. I personally got into this because it is the only thing I ever saw myself doing, and I love every second of it. Of course there are days that aren’t particularly exhilarating, but what job doesn’t?
I believe that every company has some level of importance for employee happiness (some obviously have higher standards than others), but you probably wont see any free yoga classes or gourmet cafeterias in the crew rooms like you have at Google/Amazon etc. (although we do have nap “pods”)

Yarden