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Commercial airline pilot: How I got my job and where I'm going

Angelo Bautista, a commercial airline pilot, shares his journey from nursing to aviation. He explains the process of becoming a pilot, including private pilot training, instrument rating, and commercial pilot certification. Angelo also discusses the influence of the economy on the aviation industry and his future career plans.

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Video transcript

My name is Angelo Bautista. I'm 29 years old. I'm a commercial airline pilot. Typically for someone to be a commercial airline pilot they usually first receive training to be a private pilot. A private pilot entails they need to do a written test that they have to pass. Once they have acquired 40 hours, they actually go with a DPE which is a designated pilot examiner, which they would have one hour one-on-one conversation. The examiner would ask the applicant about certain subjects and see if he has enough knowledge so if he does pass he can go ahead an move on to the second part. The second part of the examination is the flying part. The applicant is expected to perform certain maneuvers within standards and if the examiner deems that he passes they're gonna go back to the flight school and he is gonna receive a pilot's private certificate. After the private pilot's license a pilot applicant goes for the instrument rating. Once they get their instrument rating this allows them to fly through clouds which is necessary to be a commercial airline pilot. After that they go ahead and train to be a commercial airline pilot receiving up to 250 hours. Once the commercial airline pilot certificate has been received they are now able to fly and get revenue for it. I've always wanted to be a pilot since I was young, and I was influenced by my dad. He worked for Philippine Airlines for 24 years as a mechanic fixing 747s. From Philippines we moved to Mobile, Alabama when I was 14 and in high school he told me that I would need a bachelor's degree to fly for Delta Airlines, American Airlines or United Airlines, which I agreed. So, he told me, if I was going to get a bachelor's degree go ahead and get something non-aviation because the aviation industry is very cyclical with the economy. If the economy is not doing well, the aviation business is not doing well. So, I decided to go ahead and got my nursing degree. So, I received my Bachelor's of Science in Nursing back in 2009. I practiced for a year and about three months. I was a cardiac stepdown unit nurse first, and then I transferred into the ICU, which is intensive care unit, and in intensive care unit my supervisor was also the supervisor of the emergency room, so he would flow me down sometimes to the ER when they are understaffed. So, I have both experience in the ICU and the ER. After a year and three months, I knew the end game was gonna be a pilot. I went ahead and saved up all that time that I was a nurse for flight school. I went to Atlanta, Georgia to start my flight school at ATP flight school. It took me from no flight time to be a flight instructor in six months. I was lucky enough to receive eight certificates without failing anything. A week later the company called me and they decided for me to be one of their flight instructors. I decided to be a flight instructor here in Long Beach, California because I've never been into the west coast, so I decided to instruct for one full year in Long Beach, California. Once I got my hours I went ahead and applied for the airlines. When I was applying for my current job it was a one-day process. The first step to it was a computer testing. We had a three-phased test. It tested your personality, it tested your critical thinking and it tested your problem solving. If you do pass those three tests you move onto the face-to-face interview. Once you have the face-to-face interview you actually get asked by the chief pilot and the interviewers situations that applies to a pilot and they determine if you have enough or good critical decision-making for them to hire you. A typical career path for a commercial airline pilot is starting off flying smaller airplanes like what I'm flying. You start off as a first officer. You then move up to a captain. Once you have enough experience now you can move off to the legacy airlines which is Delta Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines. They fly bigger airplanes, wide bodies, to farther destinations. You start off as a first officer and you move up to be a captain. The typical pay starts off from about 20,000 as a regional first officer, 90,000 as a regional captain, 150,000 as a first officer in a legacy airline, and up to 250, sometimes I've heard, 400,000, as a captain on an airline. Typically the first officers that I fly with are at least 21 years old. So yes, you can graduate high school, start pilot training and become a commercial airline pilot at the age of 21. My 10-year plan is to be a captain on a legacy airline flying wide bodies. That is my long-term goal. It just depends on how the economy turns out. Like I said, the aviation business is highly affected on how the economy does, so if the economy does well I think I can progress to be a captain in the legacy airlines in 10 years. I think people that takes interest to be a pilot needs to do a lot of research. Knowing how long it's gonna take for them to have their certificates, how long it's gonna take them to reach 1,500 hours, and once they reach 1,500 hours accept the reality that you're not gonna make a whole lot of money initially but eventually it's gonna come towards the end of your career.