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How does being an airline pilot affect family life?

Life Of An Airline Pilot

Ian Pullin (Retired British Airways Pilot) gives expert video advice on: Have you ever crashed a plane?; What's the proudest moment of your career?; What was your favourite plane to fly? and more...

How does being an airline pilot affect family life?

You need a good wife. If you've got a family, then you need a good wife to organize your life. Otherwise, you'll have a very hard life organizing everything.

How much travel is involved in being an airline pilot?

It varies with the style of pilot you are. If you are a long-haul pilot, then you only go to the airport four times a month. If you are a short-haul pilot, then you could do six days of reporting to the airport each day, so you would have a lot more travelling to the airport, and a lot more stress.

Are many of your friends airline pilots?

I've only done flying since I left school, so most of my friends are airline pilots.

What makes a good airline pilot stand out from the crowd?

It's not all about physically handling an aircraft and physically getting it onto the ground, although you have to achieve a required standard on that. An airline captain is somebody who is able to relate to other people and understand their problems, and be able to solve problems that occur. Flying is only one skill required in being an airline captain.

Who is your inspiration?

As a pilot, I don't particularly have any inspiration. When I was young, my father was in the Air Force and I lived in an Air Force camp called Scampton. It was in the early 60's when they were reequipping with vulcans. I used to lie on the grass and watch these things doing almost aerobatics. That was probably the catalyst, but I never dreamed that I could be an airline pilot. At that stage I was only 15 or 16.

Have you ever had to do an emergency landing?

Not really emergency, No. Emergencies don't happen very often.

Have you ever crashed a plane?

I have never crashed a plane. I have got a clean license.

What's the proudest moment of your career?

Doing a good operation when it's bad weather. A lot of the flying from London to Scotland sounds mundane, but Scotland gets a lot of the worst weather in the world. Operating in and out of it daily is very satisfying if you do it well.

What do you miss most about your job?


What was your favourite plane to fly?

I finished on the 400 Series Jumbo, the newest Jumbo, and that was fantastic.

Did you fly for more than one airline?

I did a six month spell with Air Europe, which was a charter outfit. Also, I did a three year spell with British Air Tours which was a subsidiary of British Airways, but purely did charter flying down to the Mediterranean Islands and the Spanish mainland.

Are some airlines better to work for than others?

I only worked for one airline and Air Europe, so I'm sure that there are some airlines that are better to work for than others. British Airways was always a good airline to work for.

Which airline has the best cabin crew?

Everybody says Singapore Airlines are fantastic. I don't know, because I haven't flown with that many airlines. I'm sure Singapore Airlines focus on getting young, attractive stewardesses to work on the aircraft, but whether they allow them to become older, plumper stewardesses and still work on the aeroplane is not a question I could answer, because I don't fly for them. Nobody in British Airways can be forced out of a job because they are a stewardess, and they are now 40 and they're putting on weight. They have a right to stay in their job, and in my experience, you get very good stewardesses who are 20, and you get very good stewardesses who are 40 or 50, or 55 even - it's the nature of the person.

Are the tales of mid air shenanigans between pilots and stewardesses true?

No, there's a big locked door now.

How do you practise emergency manoeuvres?

In a simulator. It saves the airline a lot of money.

Do pilots get to travel for free when they are not flying?

Not for free, but we get a reduced fare. On the other hand, we don't get a guaranteed seat. We might be stuck somewhere for a few hours of waiting for the next available seat, or we might be stuck if there's only one flight. We might be stuck for a couple of days - it's not altogether advantageous.

What's the best airport to fly into?

I don't know. Heathrow, I think. Heathtrow is a good airport.

What's the worst airport to fly into?

There's no really bad airport these days. The most interesting is probably Fueng Chow, years ago, doing charter operations and very simple operations. There was no landing aid because it was a very physically, strangely positioned airport. It was built on the edge of a mountain. It had a flat area where they had a runway, and it had another flat area where they had the terminal, and that was all it consisted of. There was no land before the runway or land after the runway. It was... interesting.

What's the best thing about being an airline pilot?

The job satisfaction is high with the totally varied working routine. You can do different things. You don't have to do Monday to Friday, you don't ever do Monday to Friday. You don't always do early shift, sometimes you do late shift. With British Airways, the more senior you got, the more you had choice of where you wanted to go and visit, which I thought was good.

What's the worst thing about being an airline pilot?

A lot of people don't like irregularity, but I did.

What's the scariest thing that has happened to you as an airline pilot?

Not really, no. You have scary weather sometimes, but if it scares you that much, then you shouldn't be there.

Have you ever had a celebrity on a flight?

There have been a few celebrities on some flights. Most of them don't want any fuss made, so we quietly get on with our job and leave them in peace and quiet.