Fighting For Pilots' Mental Health

Often times we let obstacles stand in our way of obtaining our goals. How many times have you said to yourself that you will start a certain project when ___________ (Fill in the blank.) I know I have. 

Each and everyone of us has things in life that we would like to achieve. Goals and dreams are different for each person. Some people’s dreams may be simple such as visiting a state other than the one they live in, which may be a short distance away.

Then there are people with more elaborate dreams, like becoming a movie star. No matter what those aspirations may be it takes effort on the part of the person who has the desire to be able to achieve it. For the person who wants to visit the neighboring state, he or she must take the time to make the trip. If transportation is the issue then there must be effort put forward on finding a way to get there. This example seems very simple, but you would be surprised as to how many people have easy goals, yet no effort is put forward to achieve these things. Making excuses for not succeeding is easy.

The more elaborate goals require even more work to accomplish. To become a movie star a person has to make contact with the right people. He or she needs to be able to act. Therefore, acting lessons may be in order. I am sure that someone in the entertainment industry could come up with a long list of things that would have to be done for someone to be successful in this area. Even then, there is no guarantee of success. 

I continue to get emails from around the world. Often times these emails are from people who are already pilots and suffer from depression. I am also contacted by people who want to become pilots, but fear they may not qualify for an FAA medical due to depression. Someone who suffers from depression can make up many excuses as to why their goals cannot be accomplished. But I know that with hard work and not giving up on your goals that much can be accomplished if a person sets out to succeed.

Several months ago I received an email from a young woman who is going to college and wants to be a pilot. She was worried about passing the FAA medical exam due to depression. She was on antidepressants. She had researched the policies of the FAA and knew which medications she could take. She knew what she had to do to obtain her FAA medical certificate. It took her several months, but she was successful. SHE DID NOT GIVE UP!

This young lady and I exchanged emails throughout the months as she got closer to her goal. She was able to get her medical certificate. I talked with her on July 2nd and she had her first solo flight. I could not be more excited for her if she were my own daughter. It was a wonderful feeling to have her tell me about her accomplishment. 

I write about this young lady to share with others that goals can be obtained. I talked with her on the phone a few times when she was not certain if she could do it and talked about giving up. We all go through times like this. Giving up is easy. Going forward takes effort. 

I am very lucky to be able to do something I love. In the year 2012 there were a total of 610,576 total people with FAA pilot certificates who were actively flying according the the FAA. Out of that number about 120,000 were student pilots, 218 held recreational certificates, 4,493 were sport pilots, 188,001 had a commercial pilot certificate, and 145,590 held an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate.

Statically, being a pilot a rare thing. When comported to the total population of the United States only .2%, not 2%, but point 2% (just in case you thought the dot was just a spot on your computer screen) of the population of the United States has any type of pilot certificate. People who have an ATP make up only .05% of the population.

Many people not in the industry become confused with the wording. A commercial pilot certificate is the rating needed to be paid to fly an aircraft for most jobs. This could be flying a banner tow airplane for hire, giving tour flights ect. A person flying for an airline must be ATP rated. This is also the same certificate needed for a person to fly as pilot in command performing charter work if flying a jet aircraft. Having a commercial certificate is not sufficient to fly for an airline. The commercial certificate requires a minimum of 190 hours to 250 hours total time depending on the type of training program the pilot attends.

An ATP certificate requires at least 1,500 hours total flight time. There are other things a person must do to obtain each of these ratings on top of the hours flown. Often times I am asked if I am a private pilot or a commercial pilot. I am neither. I hold an Airline Transport Pilot certificate. Many times people will call a charter or a corporate pilot a private pilot. This is not the case. A private pilot cannot fly for hire. This wording is used mainly because the aircraft being flown in these cases is privately owned.

I mention these ratings a person must earn to share with you the time and effort that goes into having a career on the flight deck of an aircraft. Earlier I said I was lucky to do what I love. I take that back. It was not luck that got me to where I am today. It was time, effort, determination and hard work. In other words. if something is really wanted, it is worth going after.

Congratulations Kristin on her first solo flight. I knew you could do it. Keep up the hard work and always love what you do.

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