Legacy of Commercial Airline Pilots

Commerical airline pilotsCommercial pilots fly around us everyday
(Photo by JetStar Airways)

Legacy of Early Commercial Airline Pilots

There is a sense of adventure surrounding pilots in early aviation history. They were pioneers in their field daring to defy gravity. With air travel now a common mode of transportation, some of the mystery has been shed. What type of legacy will commercial airline pilots write into history?

Charles Lindbergh, arguably one of the most famous American pilots, is best known for his historical and record-breaking flight from New York to Paris. He flew the nearly 3,600 mile flight solo, non-stop, and in a single-engine aircraft. Prior to this feat, Lindbergh was a U.S. air mail pilot. He later used his new-found fame to promote advancements in commercial aviation and airmail services.

The first commercial flight departed on January 1, 1914, just eleven years after the Wright brothers took flight on December 17, 1903, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The first flight is not the only contribution the Wright brothers made to aviation. Wilbur Wright is credited as the first to pilot a passenger flight when he took a single employee on a flight in 1908. Orville Wright opened the first commercial flight school in 1910.

Legacy of Modern Commercial Airline Pilots

What do modern day commercial pilots do? They are called upon to operate any number of aircraft, but most commonly fly helicopters and airplanes. While most of us likely picture passenger planes as the primary job, commercial pilots also fly aircraft for charter flights, rescue maneuvers, firefighting, photography, and crop dusting. Commercial pilots transport passengers and/or cargo on a fixed schedule.

Pilots do much more than fly and navigate. They must maintain the overall condition of the aircraft, ensuring it is below the weight limit, checking fuel levels, watching for weather conditions, monitoring aircraft systems and communicating with air traffic control.

The educational requirements typically required for an airline pilot include a bachelor’s degree, a commercial pilot’s license, and an Airline Transport Pilot certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration. Notable qualifications that potential employers look for include strong communication and observational skills, quick reaction time, and advanced problem-solving skills.

Commercial Airline Pilots in the News

We put a great deal of faith and trust into commercial airline pilots. It is most likely the same reason their actions and behavior can make for tantalizing headlines. Recently, pilots were fired from an Argentinian airline after posing for pictures with a passenger mid-flight. The pictures were later posted on Twitter showing the pilots with their backs to the controls. The incident put all of the other passengers in potential danger by distracting the pilots from their duties.

A recent report by Taiwan’s Aviation Safety Council found that the Captain of the tragic crash of TransAsia Flight 235 turned off the wrong engine after one of the two engines lost power. The fatal error cost the lives of 43 people on-board.

There was another tragedy earlier this year when a co-pilot allegedly acted deliberately to crash an aircraft into the French Alps, killing him and 149 others.

There are, of course, positive examples of airline pilots too, notably the heroics of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. On January 15, 2009, he was piloting a US Airways flight that struck a flock of geese during liftoff, causing major engine damage. Unable to return the airplane back to LaGuardia Airport in New York, he performed an emergency water landing into the Hudson River. Sullenberger’s quick thinking saved the lives of all 155 people aboard the flight.

We all could use some more positive news. There was recently a handwritten note that gained popularity online. It is a thank-you note from an airline passenger to her pilot for bringing her home safely. The author of the note, Bethanie, recalls recent tragic events in an attempt to reach out to the flight crew and acknowledge how difficult their job can be.

Thank a Pilot

Commercial pilots hold a variety of responsibilities. I think this too is why we hold up our pilots in prestige. Many of us may childhood travel memories include getting to meet the pilot. I was once able to visit the captain in flight on a short commute when I was younger. I remember being amazed looking out onto the clouds as we sailed through the sky. It was incredible. I probably still have the wings I was given by the pilot. Security on airplanes is certainly more robust today, but it is still possible to give kids the same experience.

According to the Code of Federal Regulations, anyone who has the permission of the pilot in command may enter the flight deck. Children are sometimes admitted into the cockpit to meet the pilot. Permission is up to the discretion of the pilot. If you want to give your child the opportunity your best bet is to speak with a flight attendant prior to the flights departure. Pre-flight visits are sometimes preferable.


Would you like to say “Thank You” to an airline pilot?
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About Kimberly Knowles

Kimberly Knowles has a BS in Communication and post graduate education in event management, editing, and publishing. She enjoys writing, reading, and scrapbooking, believing that preserving photos and mementos is a great way to share memories. She currently resides in Tallahassee, Florida.

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