Our secret pilot reveals the inside story of life jetting A-list celebs around the world. From getting amorous at altitude, to the nitty gritty of pilot training, find out what it’s like to be a private jet pilot.
1. What made you want to become a pilot?
A deep seated passion to fly. There’s no feeling like it in the world! It’s like a drug, a type of freedom which cannot be found anywhere else. Having your office at 40 thousand feet is the best place to have it.
2. We think of pilots as living a very glamourous lifestyle, but is it really all lunches in Lisbon and breakfasts in Bangkok?
Yes and no. Being a private jet pilot can have its benefits; I get to fly the A-listers, see some of the best places in the world, hang out in bars and restaurants in Nice, Corsica and Sardinia, stay in five-star hotels and see places so amazingly beautiful, you cannot imagine.
But there are downsides; I spend a lot of time away from home, miss my family, and trying to maintain a social life back home can be very difficult. It’s also a very tiring and demanding job with lots of early starts, late finishes and different time zones – which all take their toll on the body. Overall, it’s 70% glamorous, 30% tiring and boring.
3. Do pilots ever wear their uniforms outside of work to enhance their attractiveness?
No, in my personal opinion wearing your pilot’s uniform ‘off duty’ is corny and it’s rare to see pilots doing this. I have noticed a few ladies give me the eye but on the whole, the uniform is for flying only. Mine is handmade and cost £3000, but despite that, it’s never pulled the ladies for me!
4. Is it true that pilots and cabin crew often ‘get it on’?
Yes. We spend a lot of time together and it’s true that relationships (of varying lengths) do form between cabin crew and pilots, especially with the captain!
5. Where do pilots hang out when not flying and where would be the best place to meet one?
Local restaurants at your destination are a favourite hangout for me. I have a lovely fish restaurant that I visit regularly in France where they know me by name. Having friendly faces and people who welcome you when you arrive is really appreciated when you are travelling so much. If you want to meet a pilot, try Carnegies in Hong Kong perhaps?
6. What’s the worst thing about being a pilot?
In my opinion, it’s the best job in the world, but the downsides are that you’re away from home, friends and family a lot. Plus if we arrive during a busy period, we have to stay in grotty hotels – so it’s not all five-star luxury!
7. Have you even flown any celebrity passengers, and if so – any juicy stories?
As a private jet pilot, I’ve flown hundreds of celebs, from Glen Close to F1 drivers, Sophia Lauren to Sir Paul McCartney. I’m afraid I am sworn to secrecy, but let’s just say they lead colourful lives!
8. The 2012 film 'Flight' tells the story of an alcoholic, hedonistic pilot – but do pilots really ever fly under the influence of drink or drugs?
Absolutely not. Never. We have the responsibility of people’s lives in our hands so we take our job very seriously. In my experience I have never come across any crew member who has been under the influence.
9. Is it true that a pilot and co-pilot cannot have the same meal?
Yes it’s true. It’s an unwritten standard operating procedure but it’s mainly due to the fact that we often travel to places where you could eat something which might give you a stomach bug. So pilots will not order the same meals in restaurants either before flying.
10. When you’re flying as a passenger – what’s the thing that annoys you most?
Passengers who stand up early and start queuing to get on the plane when clearly they have an allocated seat and will be called forward in due course! Those who stand and argue with the crew over a bag which is too large to go on as hand luggage or some other mundane notion and hold up the queue trying to get on board. And the passengers who are rude to the crew and think they should have special treatment for no reason. Read more: 13 Most Annoying Plane Passengers.
11. How do you become a private jet pilot, and what advice would you give to others wanting to become one?
It has to be a choice you seriously want as it is extremely costly and there’s no guarantee of a secure job at the end of all the expensive training.
You may have to give up things to help subsidise your training, like selling the car, re-mortgaging the house and taking out large loans. On average a pilot will pay around £100k just for training. It costs £80k for the initial training to gain a licence, then there are interview fees and perhaps as much as another £35k to get your ‘type’ rating on a certain commercial jet or operator. Pilots must also pay for their own uniforms.
Young pilots must fulfil 40-50 trips on the specific commercial jet they wish to train for; after this period they would be signed off as having enough flying hours and would fly as a first officer during this period.
Training can be extremely difficult and not everyone will be cut out to be a pilot; even after you’ve completed your training, licenced pilots can still be rejected by operators. Once qualified, the average pay would be £25k for a First Officer and up to £60-£100k for a captain. After 500 hours flying, a pilot’s pay grade will increase.
However, if you get there – it’s worth it. I wouldn’t swap being a pilot for any other job.
Read more in our Confessions series:
- Confessions of an airport baggage handler
- Confessions of a cabin girl
- Confessions of a secret airport operations worker
We separate more flying facts from flying fiction and bring you the truths of air travel in the Skyscanner travel podcast.