Real Answers from Real Pilots

Backup Plan

I’m going to start this post with a disclaimer, actually two: First I do not want nor is it my intent to bring the national vaccine debate to this forum (and if anyone tries your response will be deleted). Second I’m not trying to frighten or scare anyone off this industry. While we generally try and be positive, I feel it’s important to provide a much information as possible and feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least post what’s been a major focal point of my airline the last few months.

This week approximately 40 of our pilots will either be terminated or placed on unpaid leaves for a year. The reason they’re being disciplined is because they’ve refused to be vaccinated. Some of these pilots have been at this airline longer than many of you have been alive. They worked hard, kept themselves fit to maintain their medicals, haven’t suffered any accidents or incidents but all will still find themselves out on the street. No one ever saw this coming. Unlike virtually every other job in the country, pilots cannot move laterally. There is no national seniority list and if any want to get hired elsewhere they will be starting at the very bottom.

Again the point of my thread is not to dissuade or scare anyone away from this industry I love so much. It’s simply to impress upon you all (particularly those of you that are younger), while you may be 100% certain you don’t want to do anything else ever and are more than willing to put all your eggs in one basket, you never know what circumstances might arise we’re you’ll find yourself needing to do something else. I’m a union rep and I’ve spoken to every one of the pilots in jeopardy. Those with a backup plan (ie, side gig or business based on their degree) while not happy, will be fine. Those who aren’t, will not be and are straight up terrified.

The only safety net this job comes with is the one you create for yourself. Just something to keep in mind.




Great points and an excellent way to manage expectations for those joining us. Particularly, the younger coming to this career field need to understand that there are many uncontrollable variables, including politics, economy, industry, health, etc.

Like you said, it is not to scare anyone but to make some realities very clear. I would like to add that everyone should be prepared for those variables and realities. A back up plan is a must. Failure to prepare is preparing to fail. I hope that makes sense!

I also ask anyone in aviation to read the book, Hard Landing, by Petzinger. It should be a mandatory reading at any level in aviation.

Good luck, stay healthy,

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I’ve been furloughed twice, once in 2018 when Great Lakes shut down, and again during Covid. The second furlough made me finally admit this industry has the potential to be rather volatile during my career and made me look for a “side hustle”. When flying is going great my side hustle is just “gravy on the biscuit” as Dave Ramsey would say. If it happens again and I get furloughed a third time the side hustle will keep a roof over my family’s head and food in their belly. I couldn’t agree more with you.

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