I was having a discussion with a friend about the incident in the past days (4U 9525) and more specifically the what could be described as 'Taboo' of Psychological problems among pilots. We came across a few points:

  • They will only reluctantly admit that something is wrong, since risk losing their Medical (hence being 'grounded'). It will only be easier to loose and harder to get back I suspect after this event.

  • At least for the younger bunch who might have difficulties they will have substantial debt from training that is difficult to pay off. Furthermore, they will have worked hard to get where they are.

  • Any airline that does suspect something will most probably not allow them near the cockpit again. Should anything happen the airline will be held to blame, since they did allow him to fly despite knowing of the problem.

This brings up the question: What can a pilot do, career-wise, if they feel they are unable to exercise the profession? It seems pretty cornered to me. Perhaps work in dispatch/ network control was the only one I figured their knowledge could come to use. Switching to the simulator I suspect might also be possible, but not for the younger individuals.

  • $\begingroup$ You include a reference to GermanWings 9525, but the only clear link is currently speculative. $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2015 at 12:03
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @raptortech97: It's official that a doctor had put the FO in question on medical leave. That is not really speculative. $\endgroup$
    – JulianHzg
    Mar 28, 2015 at 12:46
  • $\begingroup$ @JulianHzg I guess so. I'm just concerned a link is being implied between the medical leave and crash. $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2015 at 12:48
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ @raptortech97: I think MikeFoxtrot actually did a good job not implying anything unnecessarily. $\endgroup$
    – JulianHzg
    Mar 28, 2015 at 12:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think a career as a Sim instructor would be the preferred route if you had the experience to swing it. Also, maybe test pilot stuff? It might also be possible to work as a consultant to design firms, if you have enough experience. $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2015 at 20:03

3 Answers 3


When I worked in the design department of an aircraft company, I had two types of coworkers: Those with and those without a pilot's license. You could easily spot the difference. In aircraft-related engineering decisions it was soon obvious. I mightily preferred to work with other pilots - they would have a much better grasp of "what looks about right" and not pursue hare-brained, outlandish ideas.

See it this way: All managers in car companies have a driver's license, so they have at least some contact with what their companies make. All higher managers where I worked had no pilot's license, and it made work outright awful. They were trained as beancounters, and that restricted their viewpoint. They were simply incapable of telling good engineering from bad.

If you have managed to get a CPL, adding an engineering degree on top is not hard. That is my advice to grounded pilots: Go to engineering school and enrich the workforce with your experience.

  • 31
    $\begingroup$ You are the first person I've ever known to use the words engineering degree and not hard in the same sentence. $\endgroup$
    – Steve V.
    Mar 28, 2015 at 14:31
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @SteveV. My brother who is a captain on B737 told me once that getting his Commercial Pilot License was murch harder than getting his engineering degree (related to aeronautics). So yes, in this particular case, I can imagine that Peter is right. $\endgroup$
    – Pavel
    Mar 28, 2015 at 17:52
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ As a pilot with an engineering degree (or, perhaps more accurately, an engineer who also flies airplanes,) I found the assertion about it being 'not hard' to be a little questionable, too. Still, this is a good suggestion, assuming one is good with (and enjoys) math and physics. And I completely agree about managers who are not engineers. Avoid those to the maximum extent possible. People who are not engineers making high-level engineering decisions does not usually end well. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Mar 28, 2015 at 20:48
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby: That happened really to the CEO of BAe some years ago. He (at the Hannover air show): "That is an interestingly looking airplane!". Journalist next to him: "Your company is making those". Would that happen with car company managers at an auto show? But sounds extremely familiar to me. BTW, the aircraft concerned was the MRCA Tornado, if I recall it correctly. Still a bad example? $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2015 at 21:51
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @FreeMan: I am intelligent enough to see through the phrases and hot air from management. If you want my respect and my cooperation, you best convince me that your plan has technical merits. The manager I respected most in my career was an Ex-Navy pilot. Yes, he was also good with people, but he knew what he was talking about, and that counted for me. And made him different from most other managers. Often, generalizations mask a deeper truth: Here it is a poor selection process. Trust me, there are enough technical people to fill all management positions. Three times over, if you want. $\endgroup$ Mar 29, 2015 at 14:06

Pilots are intelligent. They can retrain and become good at some other type of work: aviation mechanic, computer scientist, engineer, law. Some of these fields will pay much better than a pilot career will anyway, so don't worry about the sunk cost of pilot training.

If you are not fit to fly, no amount of bargaining/rationalizing is going to fix that — you've got to move on.

The root cause (psychological problems, in your example) is a red herring. You may have to change careers for many reasons: injury, family, health, etc.


Commercial glider and balloon flights don't require a medical, nor do certain kinds of instrument instruction. Someone who's is healthy but wouldn't pass a first or second class medical can have a career teaching, or flying commercial flights like sightseeing and advertising.

  • $\begingroup$ You need a second class medical for flying commercial flights like sightseeing and advertising. $\endgroup$ Sep 19, 2018 at 21:38

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .