Real Answers from Real Pilots

Stress of the Job


I’m Alex,29, and a Police Officer of 11 years. Becoming an airline pilot has been a dream of mine since I first touched the ol’ keyboard on flight sim 98.

Somewhere between then and the age of 12 my interest turned towards Law Enforcement… mainly because I was told at a young age being a pilot would only be a dream and never reality. (Well not anymore, school starts January 16th).

I’m very familar with stress, it’s a daily occurrence and well, in today’s society just part of the job. I hate leaving, for the fact that I truly care about the citizens I serve, even through the constant verbal abuse police officers face everyday.

But, on with the question…

1 What types of stress can I expect as a pilot? aside from anything going wrong with the aircraft it’s self.

2 How hard is it actually to pay off this ginormous loan starting out?

I’ve read a few topics about the average life of a pilot… early wake up hurry up and wait ect. But I’m looking for more of an insight as to daily stresses, what causes so much pilot turnover and such.

Nothing at this point will turn me away from making a 20 year dream become my reality, I just like to be prepared is all!

Looking forward to hearing from you guys, and hope none of my questions seem out of line! Thanks in advance!

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Hello Alex and Welcome,

This is a question I get asked a lot, that and don’t you get scared? I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but honestly I find flying to be the most stress-free part of my life. The stress (if any) is usually on the ground. There can be some pressure (stress) to get the flight out on time and I know guys who commute sometimes stress about trying to get to work, but once we’re airborne, that’s my “happy place”. I hope this doesn’t sound arrogant, and trust me I’m no Yeager, but pilots are highly trained to handle emergencies. In my experience, when one occurs, you follow your procedures and work as a crew to find the best solution. Actually the only thing I’ve ever found somewhat stressful are passenger emergencies (someone ill in the cabin). Obviously you never want anyone dying on your watch and as the pilot you feel responsible for the people in the back. When you’re over the Pacific and the flight attendant calls and says there’s an 80 yo woman in back who’s having chest pains and shortness of breath and you’re still 2,000nm from land there’s really not a whole lot you can do. They ask for assistance and we have medical services we contact but other than that it’s out of your hands. That I really don’t enjoy, but the mechanical stuff or bad weather? That’s when we use our training and earn our pay. Speaking of training, the sim, now THAT can be stressful :slight_smile:

Fortunately I sold my business and used that to pay off my loans but I know this topic has been covered by a few current grads and they said while it required some tightening of the belt it wasn’t terrible. You can do a little searching on the forum and see.

Again daily stresses vary from individual to individual but I think most come when you’re new on reserve and again commuting. I’ve never commuted but I have jumpseated places and when you’re trying to get somewhere and the flight starts filling up that gets stressful and that’s for pleasure when I don’t have to be there. I can only imagine doing that every week, trying to get to work is worse. Also being on short call reserve when you only have a few hours to get to the airport can cause some stress but other than that? Not sure what you’re referring to when you say so much “pilot turnover”. Most pilot movement comes from pilot’s advancing from a Regional to a Major and not much else?

Not sure what you were looking for but I think coming from law enforcement you’re blood pressure will be coming down some?


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Thanks for the response, Adam!

That’s kind of what I figured… when I took my intro flight I felt weightless in regards to stress. As opposed to adding 34 pounds of equipment to my body just to be able to go to work.

I’ve had my share of high bloodpressure on this job, and all from political pressuring. You know " Dont arrest man 1 even tho he did the same thing as man2… man 1 is so and so’s cousin" and the constant worry of not having the job because I wrote a ticket to the wrong person.

But enough of that, I am ready to move on with the next chapter of my life, and it’s very comforting to know that pilots like yourself are willing to help!