Should My Kid Become An Airline Pilot?


I get asked that a lot, especially these days, as people with aircrew dreams worry about the recent implosion of the airline world. The quick answer is “yes and no.” Stay with me.

First, how old is your “kid?” Kids–high school and college–are ten to fifteen years out from being qualified for an airline job anyway. So, here’s the yes: chase that military pilot pipeline–USAF, USN, USMC, and US Army. By the time you’re ready with military flight hours and experience, the airline pendulum will be on the upswing, as it eventually must be.

Yes, military flight training is tough to get into, and, as I discovered firsthand, even harder to get successfully out of:

My flight journey, from “kid” to USAF pilot training to 35 years in the cockpits of the world’s largest airline, most as captain. Read this.

But if the “kid” is thinking of flying for an airline any time soon–think again: this most recent airline meltdown cost the jobs of anyone with less than ten years at a major airline. Anyone hoping to get hired now will have to get in line behind those currently on the street, awaiting recall to their airline job, before any “newhire” sets foot on the property.

I actually told a couple kids that. It is kinda true …

But if you’re the thirty-something considering a career change: I wouldn’t. You’ll be the last one hired and will probably never upgrade to captain, even if you do get hired, because you’ll be too old.

So, tell the kids, “Work hard in school, fight your way into military flight training–preferably with the Air National Guard or reserves–then fight your way back out. DO NOT GIVE UP–before or after. Serve your country, get the best flying experience in the most advanced, coolest jets in the world, then bide your time. The next people hired as airline pilots are kids now. This is your time: focus, dedicate yourself, and do not take no for an answer (see my story above). Be there, ready, when the airline biz recovers, redefines itself, and rebounds.

Trust me: it’s worth the wait.

5 Responses to “Should My Kid Become An Airline Pilot?”

  1. Also don’t forget about unmanned aircraft. In 15-20 years, the roles of pilots might be a lot different then they are today.

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