The Path to Flying the Big Jets Commercially
We have all seen them criss crossing the sky, leaving thin, white streaks in their wake. Jet aircraft, climbing through the rarefied air of high altitudes, are a major mode of transportation throughout the world. Flying these aluminum tubes are skilled aviators that have been thoroughly trained and tested. But these men and women weren’t always at the controls of jet airplanes. At some point in their careers they were sitting behind the controls of a small, propeller driven airplane, sweating profusely as an instructor showed them how to fly. From there, the path led to different ratings and experiences and eventually to the yoke of a turbine powered airplane, complete with smiling passengers in the back.
That first flight typically consists of the basic elements of flight. An instructor will be on hand to guide, and possibly keep out of trouble, the new pilot. Both students and instructors hands will typically be on the controls at all times these first few flights. A takeoff, a few turns and some other maneuvers are all on the plate for the first few times out.
As the student pilot progresses, the instructors will usually free themselves of the controls more often, though always with a wary eye on the novice next to them. More and more, the student will find themselves at the controls of the airplane and each time confidence will build. While this seems like an experience that a pilot only goes through once, it actually repeats itself every time a pilot changes planes. The only thing that follows a pilot from day 1 to the big planes is the checklist.
From the preflight, a careful walk around the airplane checking for any overt sign of problems, damage or something out of the ordinary to the start up and taxi out, the pilot’s life is governed by checklists. These detail the sequence of what goes where, the right button to push and the actions necessary for a safe flight. Checklists will remain an important part of flying all the way through the commercial aspect of the career.
Final Steps in Commercial Air Piloting
After the pilot finishes a successful private pilots license course, it is on to flying through clouds and weather on the route to an instrument rating. This part of the training is incredibly important as weather is not always good and the ability to navigate while in clouds, with no reference to the ground, is critical for both small plane pilots and large jet operators.
From the instrument rating comes the commercial, which allows the pilot to fly for compensation. This rating is mandatory for a job in the airlines or cargo operations.
Once some experience is gained, the applications are sent in and with some luck and a good resume, the call will come from an airline for the all important interview. There, aviation questions, rules, regulations and possibly a ride in a simulator are all requisites for the interview. After it is all done and the sweat dries, it is a wait and see game until the mail comes with the big offer to come and fly for the airlines. And then, it is right back to basics again.
The newly hired pilot will find themselves back sitting next to an instructor, a large panel of blinking lights and switches in front of them and a pair of jet engines rumbling behind them. Lessons will be basically the same. Into the clouds for most of the sessions, some malfunctions, the chance to work as a crew with another pilot and onto the check-ride, which will examine the skills that a pilot should have learned and the abilities needed to fly people for a living. Upon successful completion, it is off to flying on the line, where the first flight will often be the first time the newly minted airline pilot has set foot in the real airplane. With rows of smiling passengers behind them, it is off into the wild blue yonder for a life as an airline pilot.