In interviewing 6 figure earners for my book, I had the chance to speak with a Captain for a major airline carrier who has been in the business for close to 30 years. Although airline pilots are union and their salaries are predetermined, after your first few years, there is definitely an opportunity to earn 6 figures, and to still have the time you have always wanted to travel the world as well. I was surprised to learn that pilots only get paid from the time the brakes are released for take off to the time when the brakes are set upon landing. Pilots are ONLY allowed to fly 1,000 hours a year. What are they spending the rest of those hours on? For this 6 figure earner, vacations and golfing were definitely at the top of his priority list.
Being a captain of a major airliner is not all fun and games though. As enjoyable as it sounds to jet set around the world, you are also 100% responsible for the lives of the people on your plane. This 6 figure earner I interviewed not only is a captain, but also spends his spare time training other pilots. As we all saw from the plane crash into the Hudson Bay earlier this year, having an experienced, well trained pilot to land the plane safely in an emergency can be priceless.
What does it take for a pilot to get hired on with a major airline? Well for one thing, it is not easy. It takes many hours of training, and flying before you can even be considered to work for a major airline. In addition, if you are not someone who comes from military background, you often have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to get all of your ratings. Today, getting your ratings can cost upward of 40-50k. The Captain I interviewed did not have his Bachelor’s Degree when he began his pursuit of becoming a pilot, but said that in today’s day and age, it would be almost impossible to become a pilot without it. He also did not have the 20/20 vision, which was required to become a fighter pilot at the time he began his flying career, but he did not let that stop him. He invested all of his time, money and energy into getting his ratings and learning how to fly.
There were many obstacles in the way of the Captain I interviewed, but with every hurdle he encountered, he became even more resolute to get his pilot’s license and become and amazing pilot. From when he was a little boy of only 6 or 7, he had always loved airplanes. He would often join his father at Miramar Airbase in San Diego, where his father worked, and stare in fascination at the planes for hours on end. His biggest obstacle, as with many things, was timing. You had to be at the right place, at the right time, with the right qualifications. It took many years of investing both time and money by the time he was finally able to get paid to fly. He learned an important lesson in perseverance during that period of his life.
By the time he was finally ready to pursue landing a job with a major airline, a recession had hit! This meant airlines were laying off, and after all that hard work, he was left with very few options. At the time, he was bartending, and began to consider giving up his lifelong dream of becoming a major airline pilot. He even considered changing his career path to becoming an air traffic controller. Despite all of the hindrances he encountered, he never gave up and chose to ride out the recession.
Finally, after years of chasing his dream, he landed a job as a commuter pilot and was paid relatively well given the times. Then, only a short time after he had accepted his commuter pilot job, an opportunity arose to work for a major airline, but it was for far less money. Regardless, he took a leap of faith and went for it. He knew that, while he may have to take a pay cut in the short term, in the long run his decision would pay off, and he was right!
Now, after over 20 years of working for one of the top airlines in the world, he gets to pick and choose where he wants to fly, when he wants to fly, and gets paid to do something he loves and has been passionate about since he was 6 years old. If you learn anything from this Captain’s story, just remember that sometimes life may seem hard, insurmountable obstacles may seem to get in your way, and recessions may happen, but if you never give up and go after your dreams, you too, can live the life you have always dreamed of!