the mrbrown show: captains of the industry

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Captains everywhere are asking for more pay!

Podcast iconPodcast: the mrbrown show 26 April 2007: captains of the industry (MP3, file size: 1.2mb, Time: 00:02:29)


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33 Responses to “the mrbrown show: captains of the industry”

  1. Tay Tian Seng Says:

    Ha ha ha ha, a good one, Mr Brown. Now, all bus captains will salute you if they get a pay rise. Generally speaking, their job is stressful and kena ’spot check’ by bus inspectors too. I wonder whether ‘plane bus’ have inspectors?

  2. Ax Says:

    maybe its time we import foreign pilots…

  3. Ax Says:

    ministers’ pay hike is justified but pilots get slammed for asking for more?

    maybe the pilots should have a benchmark too (:
    M4 for ministers…A4 for pilots…

    i’m more willing to pay for expensive pilots who are in charge of making life-and-death decisions for MORE passengers, than the ministers who have done nothing so far for the DECLINING number of singaporeans.

    the pilots are not asking for $1million pay hike anyway~

    our local media blew this issue up…only to show singapoeans the irony behind ministers’ pay hike.

  4. Ax Says:

    oh mb. do a podcast on the issue of Regan Lee leh~ hahah should be darn funny.

    Regan Lee’s issue will remain a secret forever if not for the presence of internet netizens.

  5. white Says:


    人民的treatment KNS
    Complain 没人理睬

  6. white Says:

    modified lyirc on gov pay hike n ns treatment.hope u like it

  7. Yeah Says:

    All of us should ask for a pay hike or else refuse to work and go on strike. Must give the whole of sg a pay hike to remain competitive and motivate the people. We could have been earning and enjoying more if we weren’t in country with an autocratic gov. We made a huge sacrifice by being in sg u know…

  8. zHuAz Says:

    If you do not give the pilots a pay hike, the flight crew will end up as maids in other countries! What is a few thousand dollars of pay hike to the hundred million dollar worth SIA?

    All you need is a dose of bad piloting.

  9. WJ Says:

    All you need is a good dose of bad piloting, you mean, zHuAz?

    The “They have Airbus, we have Roadbus” part cracked me up…

  10. KF Says:

    I agree with “”Yeah”… How do you determine whether you are “top talent” or are supposed to get what ppl of the “Private sector” are getting… Maybe for every profession there are ppl who are actually the “talent” that is worth keeping and are “underpaid”.

    Continuing from zHuAz..

    All you need is a dose of bad law case fighting
    All you need is a dose of bad nursing
    All you need is a dose of bad doctors
    All you need is a dose of bad customer service
    All you need is …. you get the point…

  11. Ari Says:

    The pilots flying the bigger plane wants a bigger salary. Then will the pilots of smaller planes agree to a pay cut when they fly the smaller planes?

    This pay issue will forever be going around in circles.

  12. Hendrick Says:

    Sercurity guards working in schools, compared to those in shopping malls and CBD buildings?


  13. Airbus Pilot Says:

    Funny podcast as usual but I would just like to point out that pilots do face traffic jams on the ground and in the air. Just that passengers are not aware of it! ;)

    Furthermore, for economy (related to your ticket price) and operational reasons, we do not carry an infinite amount of fuel. Imagine a pilot being caught in a traffic jam in the air…… with time ticking away and fuel running out with every passing second…..

    And one has to be stuck in an airplane (and if you ever have the chance, in the cockpit) in really bad weather to appreciate the kinds of things that pilots have to do to bring their passengers safely back on ground.


  14. James Says:

    Hello, pilots reporting a low level of fuel are allowed to land first, regardless orthe stacking order you refer to as “traffic jam”. There is so much automation in the cockpit nowadays, the only danger to the passengers is a pilot who was drinking heavily the night before. A SIA told me that 70% of the pilots have aproblem with alcohol. Thier demand for higher pay because of larger aircraft under their charge is as ridiculous as LKY demanding higher pay for the Ministers because of the GDP.

  15. Airbus Pilot Says:

    It is never a good feeling to see fuel running out. It is true that aircraft facing a low fuel state are allowed to land first. However, consider a situation whereby a pilot has only enough fuel to make one approach and landing.

    If anything happens in that approach (ie. unable to sight the runway in a CAT I landing due to poor visiblity. And in many cases, the traffic jam would have been caused by poor weather conditions that prevents all the aircraft from landing) that causes the pilot to conduct a missed approach (ie. abandon the landing), there will not be enough fuel to make another one. This is indeed a dire situation that no pilot will ever want to have to face in his or her career.

    I would also like to point out that alcohol consumption by pilots is NOT the only danger that the travelling public faces. In fact, that is the least that the public has to be worried about. There are strict controls and pilots are professional enough (at least the ones in SIA and Silkair) to conduct themselves accordingly in this area. To not do so would be unprofessional. James, your SIA friend who told you that 70% of pilots have an alcohol problem is being dramatic and I suspect a little bitter, for him to talk about this colleagues in this manner.

    There are many threats in aviation that the public is not aware of nor have the opportunity to find out. James, you seem like an aviation buff (to know as much as you do and have a pilot friend; i assume) so I wouldn’t mind having a chat with you to let you know more. ;) Oh, and also, if there are more aviation fans out there, watch Air Crash Investigations on Discovery or National Geographic channel…. its a tad dramatic but a real eye opener nonetheless!

    With regards to bigger pay for bigger aircraft (mentioned by James) and smaller pay for smaller aircraft (mentioned by Ari), it is true and an industry norm! The bigger the aircraft you fly, the bigger your pay packet. It’s for the added responsibility that comes with ensuring the safety of more passengers. Also, bigger aircraft are more complex than small ones, it takes a more experienced and better trained crew to fly!

  16. Puzzled Says:

    The bigger planes are newer and they are also better equiped than the earlier and smaller planes…..Everything is electronically controlled and the engineering department ensures that the aircraft is in perfect operational state. Most of the time, accidents happen because of human error… based onn past records…. especially in our local history. Enough fuel or not enough fuel depends on your business analysts that sits in the office and not how heavy the air traffic…. It is the pilots discretion to request for priority in landing should he be caught in a situation that is low in fuel…. Pilots do not wait till they have only enough for one landing then request for priority….. We may be on ground but we do understand on some of the safety operational procedures…. or unless mr Airbus Pilot is telling us that he has been doing that for manny times or is that what our national carrier is practising? I wonder….

  17. Airbus Pilot Says:

    I see that there are many aviation buffs out there. And many valid points brought up. I can try and explain as best I can but if one is bent on finding faults and perceived loopholes with the explanations then there is only so much I can say.

    Perhaps that’s why many pilots don’t bother to explain themselves because they know the majority of the public will never be satisfied with any explanation. Even on the issue of pay. How many people actually know that SIA pays their flying crew on the low side of the industry standard? I don’t think the media even bothers to mention it. But anybody in the aviation industry would know that.

    The matter of fuel is a very interesting one. It involves many parties as Puzzled so rightfully puts it. But the at the end of the day pilots bear the full responsiblity whether or not the business dude made the right decision or if the flight dispatcher planned the right alternates or if the airfield’s instrumentation is up to standard. In fact, there are even more parties involved in this than what Puzzled has mentioned. It’s so complex that it is impossible to come up with an explanation that is easy for the public to understand. So I’m not going to even start here…..

    But just to correct Puzzled on one point. He said, “Everything is electronically controlled and the engineering department ensures that the aircraft is in perfect operational state”

    We have something called an MEL : Minimum Equipment List. This document contains the minimum equipment requirements that the aircraft is allowed to fly with legally. More often than not, the engineering department cannot garantee a perfect aircraft, due to lack of stock or components to fix a certain part of the aircraft or the lack of time to fully troubleshoot and fix the part. So they apply this MEL so that the aircraft can legally fly. We NEVER have a PERFECT aircraft. No aircraft engineer will ever garantee it. All that he can garantee is the MEL requirements have been met.

    So consider this, the pilot is given an aircraft that he knows has the potential to develop some serious technical problems but since all the MEL requirements have been met, it it legally good for the flight. Couple this with bad weather and fuel limitations. It’s a dirty job…. but someone’s got to do it.

    Back to the issue of pay. Have you guys thought why the media has played up this issue of pilots asking for more pay? Who recently just asked for a pay rise too? Isn’t it an all too convenient distraction?

    There are many considerations in flying. It isn’t as simple as the public perceives it to be. It takes a person from the industry to fully understand. However, I am glad that I had this opportunity to provide the non-flying public an insight into my world. If anyone wants to know more, you’ll welcomed to have a chat with me anytime.

  18. Airbus Pilot Says:

    Realised that there were a couple of more points brought up by people in eariler comments that I overlooked.

    Tay Tian Seng asked : “I wonder whether ‘plane bus’ have inspectors?”

    The answer is yes. Inspectors from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) carry out routine and unannouced checks on all Singapore airline operators. They simply appear at the aircraft during boarding and either sit in the cockpit of the aircraft to observe the flight crew operations. Or they sit in the cabin with the passengers to observe the safety procedures of the cabin crew (Aha! Our cabin crew don’t just look pretty! They ensure the safety of our passengers!).

    We have no right to refuse the inspector carriage on the aircraft. If the inspector feels that the operations and procedures have not been carried out properly, he can impose a variety of punishments, both against the crew themselves or the airline (including revoking licenses).

    Ax said, “maybe its time we import foreign pilots… ” and “the pilots are not asking for $1million pay hike anyway~ our local media blew this issue up…only to show singapoeans the irony behind ministers’ pay hike.”

    The fact is that we DO import FOREIGN PILOTS. The company pays these foreign pilots megabucks in the form of an expat package, way more than the local ones. Don’t ask me why. I’m also stumped on this one. Perhaps the company cannot find enough pilots to fly their aircraft.

    Yes, we aren’t asking for a million dollar pay hike. And anyway, we have to negotiate for it and there is a high chance that it will be turned down. It isn’t a done deal, unlike some other pay rises.

    Yeah said, “All of us should ask for a pay hike or else refuse to work and go on strike. Must give the whole of sg a pay hike to remain competitive and motivate the people.”

    We don’t have an “industrial” culture in Singapore. We don’t see people who are represented by unions go on strikes like in the West or even closer to home, Korea. In fact, I suspect most Singaporeans wouldn’t think too highly of anyone who goes on strike in Singapore.

    By not having much exposure to industrial matters, Singaporeans would probably think that this on-going negotiations are an unnecesary and disruptive process, “a bunch of arrogant and overpaid pilots asking for even more pay”. But to people who know, negotiations are a natural part of the process to develop a equitable relationship for both employer and employee. However, in the Singapore context, people are seldom represented by unions and have no opportunity to negotiate their pay collectively by this avenue.

    zHuAz said, “What is a few thousand dollars of pay hike to the hundred million dollar worth SIA? All you need is a dose of bad piloting.”

    Examples of bad piloting :

    Garuda 737 landing halfway down the runway in Jogjakarta at twice the normal speed and running off the end of the runway. Bursting into flames and killing and injuring scores of innocent passengers. (likely cause : irresponsible piloting)

    AdamAir 737 disappearing without a trace over the Makkassar Straits. Later to be determined to have plunged into ocean and killing all on board. (likely cause : inadequate engineering and maintanence or pilot error)

    Lionair landing in Surabaya (correct me if i’m wrong, can’t remember) and then breaking into half, injuring some crew and passengers. (likely cause : old aircraft that needs to be replaced coupled with plain old hard landing by the pilots.)

    AdamAir 737 losing its way around Indonesia and ended up landing in an airport couple of hundred miles away from its intended destination. (likely cause : bad maintanence of its navigation equipment or simply…… pilots *holland*)

    Mandala 737 crashing shortly after take off from Medan due to engine failure and killing almost the entire crew and passengers and not to mention many poor innocent people on the ground. (likely cause : insufficiently trained or inept pilots)

    Sobering note, Indonesian pilots don’t get paid a lot…..

    Not many people are aware that once a pilot gets his license revoked due to an accident or incident, it is most likely that he will not be able to get his license back nor will any other airline want to hire him again.

    We also go a medical check-up every year (and only up to recently, it was twice a year) to determine if we are fit to fly. If we fail this medical, our license will not be renewed and thus we lose our job.

    And most pilots only spend a week or so a month with their families. The rest of the time they are flying somewhere or laidover outstation. Imagine the all missed birthdays and anniversaries and other family celebrations. The monetary compensation is for something… it is not a number pulled out from thin air.

    This is the reality of our job…..

  19. vince Says:

    I’m not a pilot but I’ve no problem with pilots getting high pay for the following economic reasons:

    1. High wage is economic rent: Not everyone can become a pilot; just think about the eyesight requirement (amongst many other stringent physical, academic and psychological requirements)… how many Singaporeans can pass that now? Therefore, rightfully, pilots are a national asset and should be rewarded accordingly. That is not any more unfair than well paid footballers born with talent (of coz footallers earn much more).

    2. Career Risk: Pilots invest much resources training and clocking flight hours but one personal accident or if they develop some health problem eg eye injury, hearing loss, stroke, epilepsy, depression etc they lose their career. This career risk commands a wage premium in labour economics.

    3. Personal risk: plane crash, they die. need i say more? personal risk commands a wage premium.

    Airbus Pilot mentioned SIA pay is on the low end in the industry. I do not have such data on hand but i am inclined to believe him. Just look at the way the govt and MM Lee has neutered all our unions, ALPA-S included.

    I am just waiting to see if MM Lee comes out against ALPA-S with his usual thuggery this time round. It would be sheer hypocrisy if he did. This PAP govt advocated that people at the helm of a higher worth GDP should be paid more. So similar logic should apply: pilots at the helm of more expensive machineries should be paid more.

  20. Purple Says:

    Everyone would prefer a fatter pay cheque.. But nobody gets it as fat as our dear talented garmen ones. Yet they get upset if we poor people demand for a pay rise. How funny.

  21. Caitlynn Says:

    Aiyoh, why Mr Airbus Pilot take it so personally? If anything shouldn’t they increase the cabin crew’s pay too? after all who is working harder to SERVE the 500 +++ passengers (and not to mention serve the pilots too?)

    The reality of the job is that while pilots spend less time with their families, cabin spend even lesser time in base beacuse pilots have more mandatory off days than cabin crew.

    There are many other jobs that require shift work too, resulting in these employees missing time with their families, missing out on celebrating birthdays, graduations, weddings, christmas, CNY, but do you hear them complaining and asking for a pay raise?

    It was a choice you made when you chose to be a pilot, if you want time with your family, to celebrate birthdays, graduations, weddings, christmas, CNY, then quit and find a ground job.

  22. Airbus Pilot Says:

    The cabin crew are part of a seperate union. Whether or not they have decided to negotiate for a pay rise is up to them. And in all likelihood, they have also asked for a pay rise. More passengers to serve means more work, means an appropriate pay rise. Except that the media didn’t pick up on it. Why? It’s something only the media themselves would know… ;)

    What the public is not aware of (see my previous post on 2nd May) is that whatever conclusion the union and management comes to with regards to pay and working conditions is valid for a certain number of years as agreed also in the negotiations. When this time is up, they come together again to negotiate terms for the next couple of years.

    I think this process develops a very equitable relationship for both parties because renumeration is reviewed as a company grows. Also, when the company is not doing so well (eg. during the SARS period), the company can negotiate with the union for employees to take pay cuts. Its not all one way as the media would like the public to believe.

    This is a personal view here but I would think that one of the reasons that a widening income gap is reported to be happening in Singapore is due to people not being represented by (responsible) unions. I’m no unionist but I do believe in the concept of collective bargaining.

    Think of it this way, if you wanted a pay rise, and you alone went into your tough boss’s office and asked for it, what bargaining power would you have? As opposed to getting a couple colleagues to go in with you to convince him that you guys did a great job and would appreciate a pay rise for it. This is how unions are born.

    Caitlynn says, “There are many other jobs that require shift work too…. but do you hear them complaining and asking for a pay raise? ”

    These deserving people probably are not represented by unions. Or represented by unions who do not feel that they need to negotiate a pay rise for their members (see Vince’s post regarding neutered unions…. hilarious man, vince! too funny). Just take a look back into our country’s history to see why we have this state of things.

    On cabin crew having less days off, I think Caitlynn has to do more research on this. My cabin crew often feel sorry me because after a long flight, they are scheduled for more off days than me!

    On a legal note, the Singapore ANO (Air Navigation Order) dictates the manner in which cabin crew’s rest is determined and it is very similar to the cockpit crew’s. The ANO is a legal binding document. You can assess this document on line at the CAAS website or at their office at Terminal 2. Changi Airport.

    I encourage Caitlynn to report the airline she has mentioned because it sounds like they are flouting the ANO rules on rest periods. Rest periods are not for fun and laughter. They have been thoroughly researched by medical professionals and they ensure that flight crew (both cockpit and cabin crew) have sufficient rest so that they operate safely. This is the airline’s responsibility to the travelling public who pay good money to fly with them.

    I agree that when an average Singaporean earning $2~3K reads about this on-going negotiations, he might feel a little upset because the difference between his/her pay and a pilot’s can seem rather disproportionate. But let me assure the non-flying public that a pilot’s pay (Singaporean pilots, that is. Not the expat ones) is no where near the pay of financial service professionals, doctors and lawyers. Does anyone even know how much these blokes get? ;)

    I’m not taking this personally at all. I am just creating awareness. Many times, as Singaporeans, we take things too superficially, believe what the media tells us and don’t take the effort to seek out alternative views nor do our own research into matters that concern us.

    In fact, I quite enjoy this opportunity to engage so many individuals and make this matter just that little bit clearer for them.

  23. puzzled Says:

    Dear Mr Airbus Pilot, are you saying that our national carrier is allowing badly maintained aircraft to fly??? Are you also saying that the MEL is nonsense? I believe the FAA has got some backings for this MEL….. maybe I should seek clarification with the engineering dept to confirm on this fact…. Cabin crew are equally working hard… they get even lesser time with their families. When the tech crew is resting, they rest in first class or business class but cabin crew rest in the bunk….. I have personally flew on SIA and when I see the cabin working hard, I always encourage them for doing a good job but when I see the tech crew resting at the first class… I am wondering… why….. the aircraft is not that difficult to fly and with regards to losing your license due to poor health, I would say, cut down on your drinking…… you will have better health conditions….

  24. Airbus Pilot Says:

    Response to Puzzled : Part I


    I am not saying that SIA or any other local carriers allow badly maintained aircraft to fly. Neither am I saying that the MEL is nonsense. I was letting you know that it is incorrect for you to say that the engineers maintain the aircraft in a PERFECT condition. In reality, that is NOT POSSIBLE and the engineers themselves admit to that.

    What I am saying is that engineers follow something called an MEL that allows a less than perfect aircraft to fly. But consider this, the MEL is written mainly by engineers who don’t fly the aircraft. They analyze the aircraft systems on paper and come to conclusions about what it can fly with or without.

    How can I explain this more simply? Take the example of your car (this is just an analogy and doesn’t apply to aircraft tires…just in case you are thinking of quoting me out of context again). It’s got worn tires. You know that it’s not safe to drive with worn tires but the mechanic at the workshop says it fine because they don’t have stock to change them out for you. He suggests you come back in two days time. Now throw in some monsoon weather with heavy rains and wet roads. How safe will you feel driving your car now?

    I know it’s a very simplistic example. And most people will just say, “oh well, just take public transport for the next two days” or “go to another mechanic”. But for an airline, neither are options. First of all, they cannot ground the aircraft and not fly it for a couple of days because aircraft utilization is a fine art of balancing as aircraft are very expensive things. If they don’t fly, the company loses money and passengers are also inconvenienced.

    Secondly, it is not an option to go to another “mechanic”. Engineering services are bought from a provider on a contract. By the way, just for information, SIAEC (SIA Engineering Company) and SIA are two separate entities and SIAEC is not obligated in any way to help SIA get their aircraft up flying beyond their allocated resources or capacity; they service other airlines too. So it is not as simple as the car with worn tires example.

    Now, you might say, worn tires is a serious thing. Perhaps to you but it may not be so to the mechanic because the car tire manufacturer’s manual and specifications says that the condition of your tires are still ok and they will perform to requirements (in any case, you are driving it, not him). But how much peace of mind will you have driving this car especially when your family is in it?

    Just one more thing about the MEL. For Singapore operators it is a document that is approved by CAAS (Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore) and not FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) as you pointed out. The FAA is the CAAS equivalent in the United States. And it has no jurisdiction in Singapore.

    I do encourage you to seek clarifications from the engineering department if you can. They will tell you the same thing. Perhaps they might even tell you that pilots nick pick and refuse aircraft. But take the example of the car with worn tires. If you refuse to drive that car, isn’t it because you treasure your family enough not to endanger their lives?

    It’s the same when pilots are faced with an aircraft with a technical problem. We have to consider the safety of the passengers that fly with us. However, the difference is that we have to weigh out the risks. Perhaps nothing will happen. Perhaps it will be ok.

    A pilot’s job is not just about flying the aircraft. The macho stuff you see in the movies is a load of rubbish. It’s more about risk management and decision-making in a very short span of time. The kind of time that is afforded to people to make a decision in most other jobs is usually not available to pilots. We live with the decisions we make (good or bad) and we are solely responsible.

    Like I said in my previous post, the cabin crew union is probably negotiating for a pay rise too. Just that the media did not pick up on it because of whatever agenda they might have. In the airline industry, the union plays a very important role. The airline business is what you can call ‘cutthroat’. If you don’t manage (cut) your costs you lose. So the management does its very best to cut costs where ever they can (I have nothing against that, they are only doing their job and being responsible to their shareholders). If a union chooses to be passive, in all likelihood, the management will take away as many privileges as they can. And perhaps they have, I don’t know.

    I do not know specifics of the collective agreement that the cabin crew has with the company. But however good or ‘bad’ their remuneration and working conditions are, it is their union’s doing. Which comes to the point of the pilot’s negotiations with the company. We are only protecting what we have.

    If anyone in Singapore had a union to represent him on the issue of pay and working conditions, the same thing will happen. He will choose to protect whatever he has. Who wants a pay cut?

  25. Airbus Pilot Says:

    Response to Puzzled : Part II


    About aircraft being easy to fly. Puzzled, have you tried flying one? Ever wondered why so many people get ‘chopped’ from flying school? Let me tell you why, it’s because IT IS DIFFICULT.

    In driving there are only two planes of motion. Forward/Reverse and Left Turn/Right Turn. In flying there are 3 axes and six degrees of freedom :

    Longitudinal Axis : Rotation about this axis is called Roll (Turning Left or Right)
    Lateral Axis : Rotation about this axis is called Pitch (Climbing or Descending)
    Normal Axis : Rotation about this axis is called Yaw (Related to keeping the ‘balance’ in a turn)

    When a pilot flies an aeroplane, he is constantly balancing the effects of Lift and Weight, and Thrust and Drag. To climb, he trades off airspeed for pitch, leading to a nose high attitude for the climb. To descend, he again trades off pitch and airspeed for the required nose low attitude. And in a turn, the pilot banks the wings and balances the turn with inputs to the rudder (controlled by their feet). Don’t do this well and the aeroplane basically falls out of the sky.

    For further information, if you are interested, refer to this great series of books written for beginners by Trevor Thom called “The Air Pilot’s Manual”.

    I have seen people try to fly the simplest of aeroplanes and fail miserably. Most people just do not have the psycho-motor skills for it. In driving, you just coordinate yourself on two planes. But in flying there are more things to coordinate.

    In addition, there is the factor of radio communications in flying. The reason that Traffic Police books people for using mobiles while driving is because it may reduce the driver’s concentration on the driving and may hence lead to accidents. Consider this, pilots talk on the radio to ATC (air traffic controllers) all the time while they are flying. It is a necessary part of the operations; for traffic separation and ATC instructions. Imagine the amount of multi-tasking skills required to control the aircraft and coordinate with ATC at the same time.

    So IT IS DIFFICULT to fly an aeroplane.

    Granted modern jet airliners have complex and advanced features, it is still an aeroplane. It takes the same skill set to fly as any other small aeroplane. That is, the law of nature and gravity still applies.

    Let me also tell you the process of getting a pilot’s license. Bear with me so that you can appreciate our situation better.

    So if you were to pay your own way to learn to fly an aeroplane, you probably will get your Restricted PPL (Private Pilot’s License) in a year or two. And after having paid about S$30,000+++ for all the flight lessons (about 150 hrs) and exams. This license only allows you to fly single engine piston propeller aircraft around Singapore airspace (which isn’t very big; takes about 10 minutes to crisscross Singapore island in a single engine small aeroplane).

    Then if you want to do more, you pay some more to learn long distance navigation (in Malaysia) and convert your Restricted PPL into a Full PPL. This will cost you another couple of thousands.

    Then if your dreams of becoming an Airline Pilot are still alive (and if your bank account is still alive), you pay about S$200 per hour to gain hours to qualify for a CPL (Commercial Pilot’s License) Of course, to qualify you need about 100hrs. So that works out to be another S$20,000 or so.

    Then you move on to your multi-engine Instrument Rating. Which you cannot get in Singapore, because the flying clubs here don’t have twin-engine aircraft. So you quit your job and move to Australia or the US for a year or two to get this rating. And then when you finally get it you are probably A$20,000 poorer. By which time, your wife and kids will question your decision to change careers.

    Then, to make it attractive for the airlines to hire you, you study for the ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot’s License) which consists of 9 different papers of extreme difficulty. Scores of people fail every year. But you persist and finally pass all papers after a year of studying and another year of failing and finally passing every one of those god-damned papers.

    Of course, it would have cost you S$100 per paper. S$900 in all if you pass the first go. If not, it’s $100 per go until you pass. And if for some unfortunate reason, you fail to pass all 9 papers within a year, you face a one year suspension before you can apply to sit for all of them again.

    Then with your shining new ATPL you go apply for a flying job with a major airline. They tell you that they can’t hire you because you do not have jet hours (remember, up to this point you only have piston engine hours…. there is a difference). So dejected, you apply to gain hours in a small jet company. By the way, there aren’t many in Singapore so you might have to leave the country again to work in places like Australia or Indo-China flying charters and freight out of god-forsaken places. By now, your wife might be screaming for a divorce and your kids probably would have forgotten that they have a Dad.

    In addition, the ATPL is what is known as a ‘Frozen’ ATPL. That is, if you do not clock 1500 jet hours within 3 years, you lose the license and will have to study (and pay) for all those 9 papers again. Now you are hard pressed to find a company that flies jet aircraft to hire you before this time runs out.

    The total price of your dream : S$95,000+++ depending on how smoothly you go and S$XXX,000 of lost income during the time you spent chasing your dream (If you fail along the way it is much higher). The toll on your family life : Priceless. Total time : 5~10 years depending on your luck. And don’t forget, not everybody has the aptitude (psycho-motor skills) to fly an aeroplane (the flying in video games is no where near the real thing). People do decide halfway through their flying that they don’t have it in them to fly.

    So if you are willing to inject that much money and time you would have gotten yourself an ATPL (but no job yet). And you would have proven to yourself that you can fly.

    The theory of life is like this. Anything is possible, given enough time and money.

    But consider this, most of the local pilots in SIA are your normal guys. Not much money after graduation, but with a passion to fly. So we respond to the SIA ad for pilots, sit through countless interviews and psycho-motor tests and finally get selected (By the way, for every one pilot cadet that is chosen, it is likely that 30 or more others have been rejected). From then on, our path to getting the ATPL is pretty much the same as what I have laid out earlier. Only difference is that it’s all paid for by the company. With a few clauses.

    If we fail to solo (ie. operate the aircraft by ourselves without an instructor on board with us) within the first ten hours of flying training in Singapore, we are terminated (think about it, how many of us can drive a car perfectly within the first ten hours of instruction…what more an aeroplane…). I would say that about 10~20% get terminated during this stage. Likewise, if we do not pass all the ATPL papers within a time frame stipulated by SIA (usually shorter than what I mentioned earlier for the general public), we are terminated. Also, along the way we are constantly under assessment when we interact with people and in our daily dealings in the school. If the management feels that we will not make good pilots in terms of our behaviorial tendencies, we can also be terminated. Another 5% here. These things don’t even have to be considered if you pay your own way to learn to fly. So what if you fail? Just inject some more money into it until you pass.

    And when we finally get checked out to fly on the big jet airliners, the company starts to deduct the money they spent on our training from our monthly paycheck. It’s a win-win situation for them (again I have nothing against that; they provided an opportunity and they are just protecting their interests).

  26. Airbus Pilot Says:

    Response to Puzzled : Part III


    You said, “…and with regards to losing your license due to poor health, I would say, cut down on your drinking…… you will have better health conditions…”

    I think popular media has done a great injustice to the majority of the pilot body. It sells movies and newspapers when pilots are portrayed as hard-drinking, fast living individuals. And what movie producer or newspaper editor wouldn’t jump at that opportunity?

    The truth is that the majority of pilots are not hard-drinking and fast-living individuals. There are strict controls in the form of alcohol-free periods before duty. I have lost count of the times that I had to turn down drinks from my non-flying friends because of this. And man! I was labelled “UNCOOL”. Hardly the hard-drinking pilot that the media portrays me to be ;D (actually, pilots are very boring people cos for the lack of practice, they almost always can’t drink…lol)

    Coming back to what James said in his post on 1 May. He said that 70% of pilots have an alcohol problem. Now that is a very serious allegation. If he has proof of this, he should go to the CAAS and report it. If he hasn’t got proof of this, my advice to James and people who are even thinking of making such an allegation, is to stop making such baseless statements unless they want to get sued (lol, not by me that is, but by companies that have a stake in the airline’s operation and to whom such statements can seriously damage their airline’s reputation and jeopardize their Air Operator’s Certificate). And also, stop misleading other people.

    Pilots are in better health than most average Singaporeans. They have to be. It’s a requirement for the job. Every year we go for a very extensive medical check up. I do not see how we can pass this check up if we are not in the best of health. What I meant about developing a heath condition and not passing the medical are conditions that are out of the pilot’s control; such as hereditary heath problems like heart conditions and diabetes. Not drinking related health problems. Please do not mislead people by relating it to a drinking problem which doesn’t exist to the extent that you make it out to be.

  27. interesting Says:

    The way airbus pilot says is very defensive…. If it is so difficult and risky, why be pilot? Anyway, the company pays for the training…. not the pilots themselves…. not many pilots pay for their own license….

  28. Airbus Pilot Says:


    I stated clearly in my reply :

    “And when we finally get checked out to fly on the big jet airliners, the company starts to deduct the money they spent on our training from our monthly paycheck. It’s a win-win situation for them…”

  29. Boeing Pilot Says:

    Well, I’m in the airlines so I know how hard it was for me to get to where I am today.

    For those of you who think that flying is simple, life is all sweet for us and we don’t deserve what we are earning for our efforts and responsibilities as compared to our other colleagues in the industry, why not try applying to be a pilot and see if you can hack it?

    The best way to prove your point, is to go through what you believe to be true. Only after you have experienced what all of us pilots have gone through and are going through (namely the sacrifices, the extremely hard work and the responsibility of other peoples’ lives in our hands), will you then be qualified to open your mouth and provide us with your remarks.

  30. boh tong Says:

    I worked for 35 years with SIA as a crew and later a training/check executive. I got to know many pilots,local as well as expatriate and a “little” about flying.
    Frankly, I have no quarrel with pilots getting more pay.I had been in the cockpit hundred of times and seated for take offs and landing.I had gone through emergencies,witnessed disagreements between pilots in the cockpit etc. Personally,I feel the job of a pilot is indeed very stressful.
    Here I want to mention about a case of an airline (don’t want to mention the airline’s name) where a Captain just stood up and refused to land the plane,minutes before touch down because he was so stressed up and almost lost his mind. The co-pilot took over the control and safely landed the plane…do the travelling public know about this? I am sure not!
    So why argue against the pilots getting an increase in their salary…they earn every cents with their sweat,tears and not only blood but their lives.

  31. Virtual Airbus Pilot Says:

    I refer to Vince’s comment on May 2nd, 2007 at 11:58 am:

    “I’m not a pilot but I’ve no problem with pilots getting high pay for the following economic reasons:

    1. High wage is economic rent: Not everyone can become a pilot; just think about the eyesight requirement (amongst many other stringent physical, academic and psychological requirements)… how many Singaporeans can pass that now?…..”

    There is always a misconception that airline pilots need to have perfect eyesight. Singapore Airlines stated that pilots require “good eyesight of at least 6/60, correctable to 6/6″. This means that the airline will accept candidates as long as their vision can be corrected to perfect with optical aids, such as glasses and contact lenses. However, for the RSAF, “pilots need to have good eyesight of not more than 500 degrees near vision and not more than 200 degrees astigmatism per eye and must be corrected to perfect eyesight.” This shows a different and more stringent requirement in the air force.

    Next time when you walk in the airport, observe the people around you, and you will be able to see airline pilots who are shorted-sighted and wearing glasses. I hope this comment can help to regain confidence in aspiring airline pilots, and can fulfil their childhood dreams of flying!

  32. lefthandseat Says:

    I think this is best taken in an aviation forum where moderators have the discretion to end this discussion or not. no one is right or wron here. flying is a really closed up industry n pple speak what they know from books or , sadly from a misguided media.I applaud the pilots, e cabin crew who tirelessly serve n yet bearing in mind their service attitude n SEP,the ground staff who works tireless to keep the aircraft worthy, the authorities who keep standards in check, the ATC who keep separatiion safe. I had for a long time avoid discussing issues of aviation wz public because it would have no end N they choose NOT to accept the truth frm those inside it.
    Once I don on my uniform n in pre-flight, my concern is to fly the plane from point A to B safely N uneventfully no matter the weathe conditions..everyone contributes. ( CRM ) nothing else matters.
    Happy FLying.

  33. Samuli Orko Says:

    I’m looking for a Singapore Airlines guy “Fasil” - I found some of his personal belongings at clark key. Propably not a lot of value -but I’m sure he would like to get it. Just call 8522 3585.

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