Anyone who has been flying for any amount of time has been exposed to his or her fair share of public opinion. Whether it comes from genuine curiosity, ignorance, or just an urge to make conversation, people typically ask the same things over and over. I discussed the topic a few of my pilot friends and compiled a list of quotes that we are just tired of hearing.
1. “But you don’t actually FLY do you?”
This is the most common question I am asked when it comes up that I am in flight training. It is hard to answer this without sounding a little condescending. Yes, when you are training to become a professional pilot you actually get inside of an airplane and fly it around in the air. I am not sure what they think it means to be in flight training. I find this is a great opportunity to broaden their worldview and explain how the pathway to becoming a commercial pilot starts in much smaller airplanes than a jumbo-jet, which you have to fly several days a week.
2. “Will you fly me to Florida?”
This is typically the follow up question from the causal non-pilot acquaintance. Will you fly them somewhere really far away? This question can get awkward when the asker is serious and persistent. In most cases I explain how it will cost hundreds, if not thousands more to rent a small airplane and make the trip than to just fly on a commercial airline. Don’t be “that guy” to your pilot friends.
3. “You must be so rich!”
This assumption always rubs me the wrong way. It is no lie that aviation is an extremely expensive career or hobby, but I have worked hard to earn every flight hour I have accumulated. The majority of my flight training has been financed through scholarships awarded to me by the Ninety-Nines and I am so proud to be part of an organization that helps passionate students that are not able to afford flight training. Somehow people seem to forget they are talking about a sometimes-sensitive subject because they assume you are rolling in money. I can assure you that the majority of student pilots are not.
4. “So it’s not like you’re actually in college.”
I have gotten this response more than once when I tell someone I am in the flight program at my university. Yes, aviation students are in college. We have to take general education classes like everyone else. In a lot of ways our schedules are way more challenging than that of a regular college student, because a flight lab (which includes an average of 6 flight hours a week) only counts as 1 credit hour. Not to mention the time we spend preparing for flights and driving to and from the airport. Being in an aviation program is no walk in the park!
5. “I don’t trust [insert plane type] you won’t see me flying those.”
This was a major pet peeve of my friend who occasionally flies a Cirrus aircraft for flight instruction. He said that other pilots are terrified of the plane because of the horror stories they had heard about the parachute that they are equipped with malfunctioning. He said that they don't parachute into the airport every time, and they are really quite safe aircraft.
6. “You aren’t a real pilot until you fly tailwheel.”
This one gets thrown around a lot between nose gear and tailwheel pilots. Often coupled with, “a tricycle gear lands itself,” or “true stick and rudder skills come from tailwheel.” While I do appreciate the respect given to tailwheel pilots, I think it can sound unnecessarily degrading. All pilots are trained to be as good as they can be, and they should all be recognized for their unique skills, no matter the airplane they use.
7. “So do I really have to turn my cellphone off in an airplane?”
Nowadays I just give a simple “yes,” to this common question. It is one thing for me to have my cellphone with me on a training flight in perfect weather, it is another thing entirely for 150+ people to have their phones simultaneously transmitting while the pilot tries to land in extremely limited visibility. When your whole life depends on your instruments being accurate, there is no room for messing around. Just turn your phone off, you won’t have signal anyway!
8. “Who is the better pilot?”
My fiancé Daniel and I get asked this all of the time. We have a good laugh about it and say that it is the other one. Some pilots are very competitive and a question like this can spark some tension. In general it’s probably best to not compare two pilots with similar skills and qualifications, unless you are evaluating them for employment.
9. “I didn’t know women could fly!”
Despite huge advancements in the last several decades, aviation is still a male-dominated and sexist world. I became aware of this the first time that I went to take my private pilot written exam and the test administrator scoffed and said, “You don’t LOOK like a pilot.” People tend to picture either an old man or Tom Cruise when they imagine a pilot or aviator. I hope to see the normalization of the word aviatrix in the next few years. Women pilots are growing in numbers and there is no room for sexism in this industry.
10. “I could never do what you do. Flying is SO unsafe.”
The people that say these things typically have it in their mind that pilots are some daredevil risk takers that thrive off of the adrenaline of putting their lives on the line every day. Flying is not nearly as dangerous as the media makes it out to be, and I have always felt much safer while flying than I ever did while driving my car. I can only jokingly respond, “there’s a lot less things to hit when you’re flying!” so many times.
I hope that you enjoyed this article of 10 things pilots are tired of hearing. Do you agree that these are overused? Are there any phrases that drive you crazy? Let me know in the comments below!