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What are the Worst Aspects of Being a Pilot?

Two male pilot sitting in an airplane.

A pilot career is one of the most reputable and renowned career options out there. A life spent in the skies comes with plenty of beautiful views, travels, and adventures. In essence, you get to know the rest of the world in a way most people with office careers can’t.

What’s more, you get paid good money, earn prestige, and look dapper in your cool uniform while at it. That being said, even the most sensational careers have their downsides, and being a pilot is no exception. So, read on to find some of the challenges pilots deal with in their prolific careers.

Becoming A Pilot Is Expensive and Challenging

A serious male pilot inside the cockpit.

They say that to make money, you have to spend money, which is so true of being a pilot. So, before you can make bank, you’ll have to splurge on your schooling. According to ATP Flight School, becoming a pilot costs nearly $90,000 if you’re a newbie and slightly less if you already have a private pilot certificate.

Because there are also other expenses to factor in, you’ll probably need over 100K for everything. Fortunately, there are many financing options to consider for those who can’t afford to pay. However, that only means you can’t fully enjoy the first few years of your life while you’re paying off your loans.

Besides the expensive price tag, becoming a pilot is a very involved process. You have to study for several exams before getting all your pilot licenses. You also have to log in plenty of flying hours before you qualify to operate commercial aircraft.

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It’s a Great and Stressful Responsibility

A pilot inside an airplane cabin.

With a great career comes great responsibility. The weight of this responsibility can be stressful for many pilots, no matter how many flights they have under their belt. For instance, according to an article by an online paper, one pilot that was interviewed admitted that the job comes with many scary moments.

This particular pilot had over 27 years of experience at the time of the interview, and they highlighted that fuel management was one of their biggest stressors. The pilot narrates one stressful day where he couldn’t land because of air traffic control failure.

The problem was he was running out of fuel, so he couldn’t hold on for long. While he eventually managed to land, it was still a stressful time, and it’s always risky calculating how much reserve fuel you’ll need in case of similar emergencies. According to the interview, the weather can be a pilot’s best or worst friend, so pilots have to keep a sharp eye on forecasts.

Even so, the weather can be pretty unpredictable, and before you know it, you’re dealing with air turbulence which can potentially cause injuries if people are not strapped in properly.

It Can Be Extremely Unhealthy

A pilot configuring inside the cockpit and getting ready to fly.

It appears that a lot of time spent flying takes its toll on the body. There may be several reasons for this, beginning with fatigue. Most people complain about jetlag after only one long flight, so it’s easy to imagine how a pilot feels after one too many long flights.

The other thing is that flying is a sedentary job, so pilots with busy schedules may not get enough exercise to keep healthy. This may lead to complications, such as deep vein thrombosis, which results from a lack of normal blood circulation if you sit down in one place for too long. They may also not eat healthy meals, resorting instead to airport food which lacks the nutrition needed for a balanced diet.

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Generally, being a pilot can cause other health problems, such as:

  • Skin issues from exposure to UV radiation high up in the sky
  • Cataracts in the eyes from UV radiation
  • Back problems from poor posture when sitting
  • Military pilots can also suffer from hearing loss because of the high noise levels
  • A high-pressure work environment and hectic schedule can cause too much stress

You Don’t Get To Enjoy Holidays

A picture of a successful female pilot next to an airplane.

For most people, holidays mean time with family, so there’s a lot of traveling around the holidays. Unfortunately, that means pilots can’t take a break because the holiday season is the busiest and most profitable season for most airlines. So, pilots may have to spend Christmas, Easter, or Thanksgiving on the job.

In addition, while pilots do get some time off, the roster can be all over the place, meaning you might not have the flexibility to attend events, such as weddings, birthday parties, and funerals.

Also, while most people look forward to relaxing on weekends, you have to get used to life on the road. Even though you may enjoy various experiences as you fly to different places, it means you’re also missing out on meaningful and rich experiences that involve your family and friends.

It’s Impossible To Have a Healthy Family Life

Young man suffering chest pain in office.

Being a family man or woman is the hardest thing to do if you’re a pilot. After all, family is all about spending time together, being there for each other, supporting each other, and sharing life experiences. Pilots can still have families, but the time together is limited, so it can be challenging to maintain a healthy family life.

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People who prefer a simpler life and nightly dinners with the family will miss out on a lot if they choose to be a pilot.

The situation may worsen if you have kids. Indeed, you’ll be able to give them a more comfortable life because you get excellent compensation and benefits. However, you may not be there to take them to school or sports games.

This leaves the bulk of the burden of raising kids to your partner, which can cause problems. Sadly, pilots have one of the highest divorce rates. Therefore, being a pilot can seem like trading off one happiness for another.

If you ask different pilots about the downsides of their careers, this is one of the top answers. For instance, in one Reddit thread asking about the cons of being a pilot, the top answer is how the early days of a pilot’s career tend to be hectic. The person behind the account admits they became a pilot after getting married, but it ended up being one of the biggest factors behind their divorce.

The only advice they could give was to be upfront about what a pilot’s life is like in relationships so the other person knows exactly what they are getting into.

Your Career Can Be Over In An Instant

A black and white image of a pilot.

Pilots, especially those that fly commercial aircraft, are responsible for many people’s lives. Therefore, they have to be healthy mentally and physically. Otherwise, their license can quickly get revoked if this changes.

This can be devastating if you have dedicated your life and money to your career and looked forward to many years of flying. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there’s a long list of medical conditions that can disqualify one from being a pilot. The list includes Bipolar disease, epilepsy, heart replacement, psychosis, substance abuse or dependence, and more.

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Some of these illnesses can happen anytime to anyone, but if you’re a pilot that means the end of your career, forever.