The process of becoming a pilot is made up of building blocks, with each block representing a milestone that brings you closer to the goal. You start flying very small aircrafts and the first big experience is when the instructor gets out of the plane and you are up there on your own for the first time. It typically takes around 10 hours of flight training before this happens; your first solo flight.
As you approach the end of the pilot education, other milestones await. You get to fly twin engine aircrafts and navigate solely based on instruments until you finally obtain your commercial pilot license.
This gives you the right to fly with paying passengers and the opportunity to fly for a living.
The day after you receive your license can feel a bit empty. There are no more courses to take and you are no longer enrolled at a flight school. You are on your own, and you need to find a job. That is when reality kicks in. Finding your first job can be tough, but persistency is usually rewarded and even though things may seem hopeless at times, most pilots eventually find a job.
The next big step is the type rating, which is the special training you need in order to fly a larger and more complex aircraft. Those are the kind of aircrafts that most of you are familiar with from your own travels.
You get extensive training in the simulator, before you finally go on to fly the real aircraft. Afterwards you follow a line training program, flying with passengers, and this is when your career as an airline pilot really begins. This is one of the most strenuous phases after flight school, because this is when you are expected to integrate everything you have learned and show that you can handle not only the airplane, but also the other tasks associated with the operations. Though most of us also have a feeling of pride and relief during this period, because we have made it this far. We have a job and we get paid. All the hard work has finally paid off. Flying a large airplane with many passengers on board is a big responsibility, and knowing that you can handle that, makes you grow as a person.
More flying hours bring more opportunities, and one day it is your turn to sit on the left side (the captain’s seat) and take on the role as commander of the aircraft. That is the ultimate responsibility, but also a dream come true for most of us. On some of the first flights after the final release check, it can feel overwhelming. Personally, I also felt humble, but also happy and proud of reaching such a big milestone in my career. When I go to work, I am constantly aware that I am responsible for the safe operation of today’s flight because even though I have the rest of the crew to help me, the final responsibility lies with me.