Pilots are Rock Stars!!

Yesterday I had the privilege of sitting in the jump seat, located in the cockpit, for a round trip domestic (not in the USA) flight. I’ve always known that pilots do a lot, and it takes a certain type of person to do this job well, with confidence, and with safety at the forefront of their minds.  Intellectually, I knew that flying a plane is complicated, but, it wasn’t until I actually witnessed pilots at work that I developed a new level of appreciation.

Pilots Working During Take-Off

Pilots Working During Take-Off

Before the passengers even begin to board the pilots are hard at work ensuring everyone’s safety.  Pilots don’t just need to know how to fly the plane, they need to know “how” and “why” it works.  Among other things they need to know are meteorology, aerodynamics, navigation, aircraft systems, weight and balance and rules and regulations.  And, even though some of these planes can land themselves, the pilots are the ones operating the plane during the most crucial phases which are take-offs and landings.

When you see the instrument panel that pilots have to monitor it’s enough to boggle the mind.  Along with monitoring the displays, there are lots of little buttons and switches that they use or check (to make sure they’re in the correct position) when they are flying the plane.  They’re doing all this while talking to ATC (Air Traffic Controller).  Talk about multi tasking and having to be on point.  It’s impressive.

Once we were airborne, there were several passengers (both adults and children, equally split) who came up to see the flight deck.  Every single one of them was spellbound by all the gadgets.  They wanted to know how the pilots kept up with them all, how could they fly the plane when they can’t see the ground, they’re in clouds at 30,000 feet, and it’s dark outside.  These people were in awe of the pilots once they saw what was behind the door to the flight deck, especially the kids.   They thought these guys were rock stars.  And, you know what?  They are!

Pilot in window

Waiting On Passengers

So, when I read about the angry public who are upset that pilots are on strike because the pilots can’t stand to take another pay cut, I get more than a little peeved.   There is a general misconception that the life of an airline pilot is glamorous and well compensated. It is far from it. Pilots are notoriously underpaid and overworked.  When most pilot gets their first job in commercial aviation, they make less than 20,000 a year.  They qualify for food stamps.  That is less than a bus driver.  And, and the bus driver doesn’t need to know anything other than how to drive the bus.  They don’t have to to understand the mechanics of how that bus works, just how to steer, press on the gas, and stop it when necessary.  When a pilot finally makes that move from his first aviation job to a major airline, he typically takes a pay cut, because now he’s back at the bottom of the seniority list.   This does not even touch on the long work days.  Pilots are maxed at 8 hours a day, but it doesn’t include the time spent on the ground, so many pilots actually end up working 10 – 12 hour days, for 4 – 5 days until they get to go home.

TV-Reality show people should not make more money than your pilot!!!  Do you want a pilot who’s stressed out about how he’s going to feed his family, the one he doesn’t see 50% of the time, when he’s flying you around?  I don’t think so.  Do you want a pilot who has to take a 2nd job to make ends meet (thereby depriving him up the needed rest to function coherently), flying the plane you’re on?  Remember that these guys are responsible for your life while your leaving on your vacation, and most of them can’t themselves afford to go on vacation.  All of those wonderful airline employee flight benefits you’ve heard about… the airlines want to cut those benefits as well. This is something to think about when you hear that pilots are striking for better working conditions.

Most pilots got into the business because they love to fly.  Or at least they did until they actually started flying for a living.  While the CEOs walk away with huge bonuses (according to AlterNet, Richard Anderson CEO of Delta Airlines, who makes 2.5 million a year, owned a home in Atlanta worth less than its mortgage. So Delta shelled out $772,000 to cover the difference when the CEO relocated).  All I know is that, without pilots, you don’t have an airline.  These guys are responsible, and care first hand  (since they’re directly affected) for the safety of the passengers.  They should be properly compensated for their hard work, fortitude, and the level of responsibility that the job of being a pilot entails.  I mean really, they have us up in a metal box at 30,000+ feet!!  I want that dude (or dudette) taken care of!  Pilots are Rock Stars and should be treated as such!

BTW:  Captain Sullenberger (the pilot who landed on the Hudson River) has a video out in which he talks about the latest changes the FAA are proposing regarding pilot work conditions, which were undoubtedly pushed by the airline industry because only they can think that pilots need to work more.  Pilot fatigue is no joke, it’s real and it’s about our safety.  Check on the video here:   Important Message From Captain Sully Sullenberger

Safe Travels!!



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About Terri Lundberg

Terri Lundberg is an American expat currently residing with her husband in Saudi Arabia, but she calls Seattle and San Diego home. She’s a travel writer, an avid photographer and is a resource and cross cultural trainer to expats relocating to Saudi Arabia. She's been to 100 destinations, 30 countries, and counting.


  1. Shirley Lewis says:

    This is truly an eye opening, I was one of those people who thought that pilots made a lot of money. Then I found out that is far from the truth, it is the CEO, who sit in their big fancy offices and goes home to their luxurious house that are pulling in the big bucks and for what. This is something that the flying public needs to know. This article needs to be publish in all the major new papers for the general public to read. When we board a plane, our lives are in the hands of the pilots, not the CEQs. I think that when the pilots goes on strike that the public should also go on strike, get on the strike line with the pilots.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. Sadly, there are many vocations passionate people undertake with little thought to their compensation.

    Thank your husband for me, I’ll remember this post when I fly again.

    • That’s so true. But, the perception is pilots make a lot of money. We all know there are key people in out society who aren’t paid appropriately, like teachers. But, thats a whole different rant. 🙂