Top 10 Reasons to be a Pilot

You’ve dreamed about it for years. As far back as you can remember, you’ve hankered to be a pilot. And now you’re sitting on the proverbial fence. Can you do it? Should you do it? All you need is one good reason. Well—here’s ten:

Number 10:  It beats the heck out of driving!

Unless you’re into audiobooks, driving can burn up a lot of time. Consider a place you need to go that’s about four hours by car. As a pilot, you can make the trip in a Cessna 172 in a third of the time. In a light twin, like a Baron 58, it’s a tad over an hour.

Jump into your average turbo-prop and you’re down to forty-five minutes, give or take a few. Strap on a jet, and it’s a half-hour hop. Now, given those numbers, convince me you’re really looking forward to that next audiobook.

Number 9: You don’t have to travel by cattle-car (a.k.a., the airlines).

Cows aren’t the only animals who stand in long lines, get prodded, travel in cramped quarters, and have to put up with strange smells (okay, maybe that doesn’t matter to a cow).

Of course, cattle don’t have to take off their shoes so they can pass security. So the next time you’re getting undressed at a TSA checkpoint, just remember: pilots have a better way to travel.

Number 8:  You become a member of an exclusive fraternity.

Surely you’ve heard of Wilber and Orville. How about Eddie Rickenbacker? (If not, it’s time for some homework.) Does the name Charles Lindbergh ring a bell? How about Amelia Earhart, Chuck Yeager, Jimmy Doolittle, John Glenn, Alan Shephard, Neil Armstrong, just to name a few. And the latest in a list of famous pilots: C. B. Sullenberger.

You can join the ranks of these men and women who made a difference in history. Only about .2% of the American population holds a pilot’s license. As a pilot, you can be one of them.

Number 7:  Flying scratches that itch that nothing else will touch.

Low and slow, or high and fast; it doesn’t matter. You can slip along in a Stearman at tree-top level and let the wind whip your scarf backwards while you glide over yellow fields filling your head with the sweet smell of hay or alfalfa. Soothing.

Or you can be at forty thousand feet, not far from the speed of sound, painting the sky with white contrails while you take in the crystal blue as far as the eye can see.

Confess it: you’ve wanted to be a pilot ever since you were a kid who stared up into the sky, searching for the source of that roar that made your skin tingle.

Or perhaps your desire goes back even earlier. Lying in a crib, you slobbered over that airplane mobile spinning round and round above you. You reached for it, didn’t you? And you’re still reaching. Grab it.

Number Six:  You develop a completely different perspective on things.

Even while looking down on things (literally), you don’t develop a sense of superiority. Oh, we’ve all met the cocky airmen who think they’re God’s gift to aviation. Trust me, they’re the exceptions, not the rule. The true pilot is humbled by the experience.

You realize you’re a tiny speck in a vast world, full of incredible greens and blues and other hues too beautiful to describe. There are moments when time seems to hold its breath—while you’re holding yours: Can this be true? If I’m dreaming, don’t pinch me.

Number Five:  Corollary to #6—Flying provides some great “think” time.

The cockpit of an airplane truly is a great place to “get away from it all.” Throw the Blackberry in the briefcase, or turn off your cell phone. Stop the nonsense that’s chasing you everywhere you go.

As a pilot, you leave the rat race behind the moment those wheels leave the ground. And you can think! It’s amazing how the drone of an engine clears out the cobwebs.

If you’re a musician, tunes come to you that never enter your mind on the ground. Or perhaps you’ve been pounding your head for weeks trying to think of a better business plan. Suddenly, there it is, sitting in the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen.

Number Four:  The choices of what to do on a date get broader.

Think of it. As a pilot, male or female, you’re not left with just suggesting dinner across town. You can cross the state. Go into another state. Or a different time zone! How cool is that?

Do it on a clear night with a full moon bathing the world in a soft, pearl light. Over the intercom, tell the other person how special they are. They won’t forget the moment. If you’re already married to the person, they’ll remember why they fell in love with you: you’re such a romantic!

Number Three:  You develop a sense of accomplishment.

After you’ve taken lessons for a while, your instructor will tell you one day to stop the plane on the taxiway. He or she will open the door and step out while your heart jumps into your throat.

You’ve convinced your instructor that you’ve got the “right stuff,” you’re ready to solo, to bring everything back in one piece—to be on your own. It will be one of the biggest rushes of adrenaline you’ll ever experience.

And on that day when the FAA examiner shakes your hand and hands you your Pilot’s License, you’ll have goose bumps from head to toe. No graduation will be more exhilarating.

Number Two:  It’s a lifelong adventure.

Walk into a hangar some day and find that klatch of old pilots chatting among themselves. Ask if any of them ever regretted taking up flying. They’ll look at you like you just confessed to being sorry you won the lottery.

Then they’ll bend your ear for hours, if you let them, about all the adventures. You can have them, too. Incredible places. Sights unbelievable. Hair-raising brushes with death (you’ll love telling your grandchildren about those!). But you’ll need to bear one thing in mind: pilots are like fishermen. The older the story, the better it gets.

Number One: Flying helps you become a better person.

Let’s say it should. If you start becoming aviation’s Mr. Hyde—gruff, proud, combative—and you dominate every conversation by talking about your new-found greatness, then seek another pastime. Like bungee jumping.

As a pilot, you should become more disciplined, more thoughtful, and tolerant of others. More appreciative of life. In a word, joyful. A near-and-dear pilot friend said it best: Flying is not about transportation; it’s about transformation.

So how ’bout it? Ready to get off that fence and become a better you? Then head on down to the airport and make it happen.

(This post originally appeared at

One thought on “Top 10 Reasons to be a Pilot

  1. Thanks, Jim!! Now I have 2 kids wanting to become pilots, and they both confessed they have always kinda wanted to be pilots anyway! 🙂
    (Emily just told Benjamin that she would graciously let him fly the plane while she jumps out of it!)

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