Pro-Flying...Is It a Choice?

Just a little while ago I had an unexpected argument with one of my best friends. He is a 30 year-old pilot who flies Cessna 560 Citation 5s for a local charter company. What I want is for some of the more intelligent people, (i.e. JHEM, azav8r, FLYNYC, wazzu90, lieberma) to give me their take on the situation I argued earlier with my buddy.

To make a long story short, he is angry that he had his pay cut recently, which also brought up some anger that he “had” to sign a contract when he began service for this company that basically committed himself to the company for 12 months at an amount “less than I (my friend) deserve” for my respected position as a pilot. That is where I told him, “You had a choice to not sign the contract and look for work elsewhere.”

That statement prompted him to reply, “No, I didn’t have a choice”, because he would not be able to stay current if he wasn’t flying and he had mouths to feed. I can’t remember the specifics because I am not a pilot, but it was along the lines that he would not stay current if he looked for work in another field. I told him although you may not stay current, it remains ultimately his *choice * to sign the contract, accepting a less-than-satisfactory monetary compensation so that you may continue to work in the field you have chosen.

He wholeheartedly disagreed and believes because he has put in so much time and money over the years to get to his current position, he is somehow entitled to certain pay and positions. He then challenges me by saying, “If I had a choice, you tell me what choice I had.”
I said, “You can work at McDonald’s.” His response was that’s not an option because he has vested so much in aviation.

That is where the problem remains. Am I flawed in believing that you choose what you want to do in life, and you take what comes with it? Or is he wrong in not understanding that just because his situation puts him in the position that “forces” him to sign a less-than-desirable contract, does not mean he doesn’t have a choice?

Thanks for reading, I’m anxiously awaiting some opinions.

This applies not to just flying but to all jobs.

Too many people today, including this kid (yes, at my age of 52 I consider 30 to be a kid), don’t understand that they must earn their jobs. Just because they spent a lot of money training for it doesn’t mean they are entitled to a high paying job right away. Like most all of us, he needs to start at the bottom and work his way up.

He is, in other words, 100% wrong. As I said, he needs to work his way to the top. It’s like college graduates who expect to be earning 6 figures as soon as they graduate. It ain’t goin’ to happen in most cases.

You’re exactly right, but what he can’t comprehend is that just because he doesn’t have anything to fall back on other than flying, doesn’t mean he is forced into anything, even if the situation puts a figurative gun to his head!

Your friend should thank his almighty God that he still has a F***ING job in this economy, and a flying one at that! There are a couple of forum members who, I’m sorry to say, are NOT that fortunate. Damn right he has options!

  1. He can look for another flying job that pays more.
  2. He can look for another job that doesn’t involve flying.
    Oh… that’s right… he has mouths to feed…
  3. He can sign the contract and thank his boss for allowing him to keep his job.
  1. He can look for another flying job that pays more.

I told him that, to which he replied, “Obviously I would if there was one available.” See he thinks he is forced to do something just because the alternative is out of the question. I couldn’t get him to understand that it was ultimately a choice he was making.

  1. He can look for another job that doesn’t involve flying.

This is again where he seems to think he is without options. I made the argument that just because alternative work was undesirable, didn’t give him the right to label his current employer a slaveholder.

  1. He can sign the contract and thank his boss for allowing him to keep his job.

My point exactly! It’s hard enough having an argument with a good friend, even harder when they are completely lost.

Thanks for the comments NeedleNose.

Hell, I fly airplanes just to get chics… :wink:

As I have said before…Professional flying is one of the most highly regulated, knowledge and training intensive, unforgiving, occupations out there. Also it’s rather under appreciated…until of course something like US 1549 happens. And commensurately one of the most underpaid. It takes a certain personality to really enjoy flying that much to do it for a living.

Getting to the level of a professional pilot is an expensive endeavor, not just monetarily. I’ve never been a fan of training contracts. It’s the cost of doing business. And if an employer isn’t performing their due-diligence in the pre-employment screening process, or providing an environment that fosters longevity, then that’s on the employer/operator. There are way too many bad small charter operators out there scraping and cheating for every penny they can earn. Besides, most of these “training contracts” are unenforceable anyway. Any good employment attorney will tell you that.

To answer the root question…there are always choices. For one to say “I had no choice” is a choice in itself. Some choices are good…some are bad. But as they say…“In the kitchen of life, no matter how you serve it up, you still have to eat it.”

What is the max number of hours one can fly in a week?

Besides, most of these “training contracts” are unenforceable anyway.

Are you saying a contract, signed by a person with the mental capacity to do so, is unenforceable in a court of law? I’m not an attorney, but I did study some business law as an undergraduate, and I am pretty sure as long as a contract entered into is done so by mentally stable people and all parties involved enter with clean hands, anything is enforceable. Not attacking you, just wonder if you have any experience in the matter.

‘In the kitchen of life, no matter how you serve it up, you still have to eat it.’

For simplicity sake, is my friend wrong when he says he had no choice but to sign with this company because there were no alternatives, at least aviation alternatives?

You are right in my eyes. No matter what he has vested in aviation, aviation doesn’t owe him one red cent.

He has mouths to feed? Do some CFI work on the side, spread the wealth of his knowledge and love for flying. That can easily be worked in between his sorties. I am sure with a little hitting the bricks, other possible flying jobs may come up, such as CAP, pipelines, bush pilot in AK.

For him to expect aviation to spoon feed him and come to him as if aviation puts him on a high pedestal is ridiculous in my eyes.

Needlenose hit it on the head, he should be very, very thankful he is doing what he loves doing AND getting paid for it.

If the above is “beneath him”, time to shed his wings and find something else for him to complain about.

Seems to me, you are missing a good one! Hint… Our Valentiner! :stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks for the response lieberma, I couldn’t agree more.

Just to reiterate for anyone reading this, in case I failed to get my point across, my buddy’s belief is he has no choice but to be a pilot because of the vested time and money. I told him whether he accepts it or not, ultimately he is making the choice to be a pilot, even if he feels there is nowhere else to go.

For some reason, he just can’t comprehend that fact. How do I make him understand, just because his circumstances don’t leave him many options, doesn’t mean he is not choosing for it to be that way by not seeking work elsewhere?

Tell Your friend he should be F#@'ng glad he’s employed right now & if he works for scabby companies he will be treated like a scab.

I’m 32, the father of 3 and 24hrs ago I finished my last day flying a Lear-Jet. Just laid off, (there was 24 of us, then 4, now 2).

I have 3 college degrees, 3 jet type ratings, an A&P. I have a new job already. I CHOSE to take a 10k/yr pay cut & I CHOOSE to never pay for training or commit to a company that doesn’t/won’t commit to me.

I can’t stand people that are “entitled” to things for any reason than getting off their ass and earning them.

He’s invested a lot of time and money into his carrer. We’ve all made bad investments.
His probably wasn’t but he needs to-

  1. Stand up for his position to his employer, even if that means quiting.
  2. OR, accept that he is a commodity in a flooded market and do the job for the enjoyment of the work.

Depends on which part of the FARs to operation is conducted under.
Private- part91; Fractional part- 91k, Charter 135, etc…

:open_mouth: Damn! Sorry to hear that. :frowning:

Good luck with the new gig.

Absolutely! On both counts…regardless of the occupation.


I too would not take a pay for your own training job. Those tend to be with cheap charter companies that you wouldn’t want to work for anyway.

I also agree that your friend DID have a choice, maybe not a good one, but as other have said, he had one. Sure, there are crap jobs out there and in these times you may have to take one but you still have a choice. It was his choice not to move to another location, it was his choice to take what was offered, it was his choice not to work at Burger King. OK, he has time and money invested in his chosen career. Pilots are not unique in that respect either. A career change would not be the end of the world. Tell him it sounds to me that when the economy improves the company he is being forced to work for will have a 100% turnover so they’re penny pinching now will bite them in the end…:confused:
It sounds like this is his first recession since becoming a professional pilot. Aviation gets hit hard and early in every one I’ve been through. Better get used to it.
On the other hand look at the internet job boards, there are still ads for pilots.
I just read that American and AirTran are recalling several hundred furloughed pilots.

I’ve flown with too many pilots who are in it for the wrong reasons. (chicks is ok by me) One of my first Chief Pilots told me that he was tired of being on the road all the time, the strange hours etc. He said if he could make as much money digging ditches he would. Needless to say he wasn’t much of a pilot.

A career change would not be the end of the world.

See, he thinks that is no option, yet he thinks staying with aviation is not his choice. I’m really at a loss trying to comprehend his mentality regarding this subject!

Really not that hard to understand how he feels. First of all, yes, he should be very thankful to have a job now. That said, it sounds like he loves flying and doesn’t WANT to give it up, and feels his options are limited outside flying. His pride is bruised now, and he might be feeling some deperation, but he will get over it. Like others have said he should also find some PT work to fill the gaps.

 Perhaps you would be a better friend and encourage him to hang in there and work through it.  Instead, you have made his private anxst public.  Wonder how he would regard you if he knew he was being discussed on flightaware?  :blush:

First of all, this is not an issue of encouragement for a friend, and actually I have made my a-n-g-s-t public. By your comments, I can see you have missed my point. This thread is not about the hard times and things that come with being a pilot, it is about a person not comprehending it is his choice to be there. And to answer your rhetorical question, he does know he is being discussed on FA because I emailed the thread to him just to be an as***le; we are friends like that.

And here I am always accused of stirring the pot :stuck_out_tongue: Good for you.

Maybe this thread will be a clue for him to wake up and see the job he elects is an option and not a given. Based on your description of his personality, most likely not, but hey, one can only hope!

Unfortunately, the givens in some jobs are no longer givens, given the state of the economy so he just may need to be giving some thought for a backup plan.

After all, talk to some builders and contractors that feasted while the housing market was hot, and now famine is upon us. They are in no different position then your friend. Specialized trades do require a backup plan for when the trade winds change.

Aviation is still looked at as a luxury to most people that I can see and will be the forefront in feeling the economical pain through the recession shockwave… :open_mouth: