It takes a lot of very low pay cheques before one can fly a Boeing

2014-05-13 00:00

TO work as a commercial pilot for a large airline is exactly as glamorous as people think it is, but to get there takes blood and sweat and a lot of perseverance.

This was the message Hercules Cameroden (46), originally from Sydenham in Durban, gave to pupils at a career exhibition at the Swartkops air base in Pretoria over the weekend.

The rookie on the team, Cameroden started flying for Mango only in March. He said he had been quite nervous on his first flight with Mango, despite all the training on simulators, simply because he was co-piloting one of the bosses, who was the captain.

Many youngsters were surprised when he told them a pilot must have logged at least 2 000 hours before they even apply to work for an airline like Mango. Cameroden, who was a software developer for Dimension Data, was in his thirties when he decided what he really wanted to be is a commercial pilot.

“I have always been interested in aviation but for a long time thought one has to have a degree in aviation to to fly commercially,” he said.

“Then I found out one can be trained privately and without any previous experience I started my training at the Lanseria. It was my dream to fly big Boeings.”

He warned that flight training is very expensive and said he lived from hand to mouth at the beginning.

“Most young pilots enter into a lot of debt to get their licences and if you finally get your licence you find out you must still get a lot more experience, also with bigger aircraft, before you will stand a chance of getting a job.

“To log enough flight hours takes a long time and is expensive and when you start to work for smaller airliners as a pilot, the pay is very low. But I advise anyone who wants to do this not to focus on the money issue. Focus on the experience that you are getting because in time this investment pays back with big dividends.” Cameroden currently pilots on average two flights per day, for example from Cape Town or Port Elizabeth to Durban and back.

Some days he flies up to four flights, but more than this is not allowed.

“It is a fantastic job with fantastic perks. It is however not at all an easy career to follow. It takes blood, sweat and a lot of perseverance,” he said.

“But if you press through it is absolutely worth the effort. The travel aspect of this career opens doors to the whole world out there.

“I don’t think it has yet sunk in that I am a commercial pilot. That is probably still going to happen.”

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