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The Pilot Lifestyle

By: Rigo Gonzalez, Chief Pilot

5:30 A.M.  Wednesday:  As I reach for my phone to turn off my alarm, my impossibly bright screen confirms that it’s Wednesday, shortly after 5:30 A.M.  I dim the screen and swipe over to my weather app. Cold… really cold; snow and overcast skies early morning; scattered clouds and gusty winds by mid-afternoon; clear skies and wind advisories by early evening.  Yesterday, 100 miles to the North, these conditions would have resulted in a day lost to weather over Jefferson National Forest’s wooded mountain range.  Today, however, I look forward to the challenges of winter flying, the opportunity of getting another day crossed off my schedule, and being another day closer to home, friends, and family.

Scenarios similar to this play out almost every week for our team of 14 dedicated pilots at ControlCam. In my very biased opinion, flying for us is one of the most rewarding and exciting careers in the workplace. You get paid to operate a machine that soars through the air while exploring new cities and meeting new people in your free time. It’s just about as far away from a regular 9 to 5 work day as you can get. The lifestyle of any pilot demands constant flexibility. Aside from the airplane, most factors pertinent to a pilot’s day such as weather, client punctuality, airspace availability, etc. are outside any normal locus of control. For example, as a company that works year round our pilots navigate around and through winter weather. At times, this brings productivity to a grinding halt leaving an adventure seeking, task minded individual trapped in a hotel room with little to no entertainment or food options for days at a time.

Moreover, any aviation lifestyle is not without its personal sacrifice and risk; flying is incredibly safe yet inherently dangerous. Being away from family and friends for weeks at a time can certainly take its toll, but at times it’s shamefully easy to forget it all when, hours later, you’re flying over the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and crossing the Mojave Desert. You don’t have to be a topography expert to marvel at the changing landscape from Fresno’s valley at sea level, to 14,500 ft Mount Whitney, to barren Death Valley all within the driving distance of Jacksonville to Orlando, or flying through Arizona’s Painted Desert just before sunset when the sky turns true turquoise blue. The job and lifestyle go hand in hand. In my opinion nobody becomes a pilot and realistically expects to come home every night or know where next month is going to take them; it’s part of the draw. The memories I’ve made on my flights are every bit as good as the pictures I’ve taken and in some strange way make the longing to be home and crazy lifestyle just tolerable enough for me to come back from my time off ready for the next adventure.