Real Answers from Real Pilots

Questions from a current Electrical Engineering student

Hello everyone! I have been reading through this forum for a while now and figured it’s time to ask my own questions! I am currently a senior at a University in Texas (at the age of 20) nearing the end of my Electrical Engineering degree. I have always had the desire to become a pilot for a major airline, however I did not start to take it seriously until just recently. I wanted to hold off on that decision until I already had my 4 year degree (at least) so that I could focus on completing my degree in a successful manner (currently holding a high GPA). Now I have a few real concerns about entering the field that I wanted to get a better understanding of before starting down the path:

  1. My height. I am somewhere between 5’3"-5’4" and have always been concerned about not being able to be a pilot simply because of my height. I have read from some places that the height is a non-issue for people around my height but I don’t want to end up having an uncomfortable time flying during my training or during my career.

  2. Stalling. Obviously this is a feeling that a pilot would have to get used to in training, so I am trying to find out if I am making a bigger deal out of it than it is or if this could be a problem for me. I don’t know how a maneuver like stalling and roller coasters relate but I am not a fan of roller coasters because of the sudden sinking feeling that they bring (although I have handled moderate roller coasters and find most of the experience enjoyable, only the initial sensation giving me a hard time). Another thing I would like to add is that I fly a lot as a passenger in airline travel (dad works for an airline) and have experienced moderate to possibly severe turbulence during my time (over the Atlantic and the Pacific included). Turbulence has never really given me any issues, the worst situation I encountered was on a regional in the Northeast US during a severe storm that actually caused a flight attendant to fall over a row of seats (she was fine) and I didn’t find myself concerned, actually enjoyed the experience in some ways. Is this something I should be concerned with?

  3. Checkrides. As I mentioned before, I am a senior in Electrical Engineering with a high GPA and have never had any issues with test-taking abilities. I know that if I set my mind to it and put effort in I can learn the material that is being given to me and can be well prepared to do a test, however when it comes to the oral tests I am concerned with how tricky they can get and how intimidating the examiner can be. This could, again, be my mind playing tricks on me. I can’t tell if the material that is being taught is highly complicated or if it’s a matter of putting time and energy into learning the material. I know I would be dedicated to learning the material, I have never had problems learning material of any kind in the past (started University at 16 years old), but I’m just concerned about the intimidation/pressure factor of an oral exam of that length I guess. I’m also a bit concerned about the flying portion of the test, again the pressure/intimidation part, but if airline pilots are able to go through them every 6 months with their airline then it seems like it is something that is “natural” and only there to keep you sharp as a pilot.

I know I wrote a lot and any answers to any of my questions would be greatly appreciated. I’ve read responses from a few of the pilots on this forum and appreciate all of the help they give here, I know pilots love talking about what they do. I have a few questions about airline pilot life and flight schools as well, but I figured I should keep this as short as possible and focus on the main things that I have concerns with. Thanks again!

Armond,

You do have some unique questions so let’s get to them.

  1. Short answer (no pun intended), you’re fine. While you may never be a fighter pilot for the Navy the only height requirement the airlines have is that you can of course reach all the flight controls. I know quite a few pilots who barely break 5’ and they’re fine. You’ll actually be more comfy in the small aircraft you’ll be training in.

  2. First off it matters little if at all how many Frequent Flyer miles you have sitting in back has ZERO to do with sitting up front. Some people love the sensation of stalls and spins, others tolerate it but regardless its something every pilot musty get comfortable with. You need to go for an Intro flight and ask the instructor to do some stalls. Frankly I never understand how anyone can contemplate a career as a pilot having never flown and ATP actually requires it so go fly and see.

  3. Most examiners I’ve met are pretty good guys and none are out to trick you. Honestly you should be more concerned with the jeopardy of having passengers than of busting a checkride. Train and study hard. If you know your stuff you won’t have issues and you should be confident in your skills and knowledge. If you’re not you should be nervous.

Adam