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Air Tanker Pilot

Odds of Hanging On

 
Preferably with a parachute. (Source)

Once a pilot achieves a captain rating, they're basically golden as long as they can maintain their skills and avoid ticking off their employer. In fact, it's not uncommon to find a captain who's been with the same company for more than twenty years. (When you spend over fifteen years qualifying for a job, you typically stick around until they throw you out.)

So how would you get thrown out? Either by losing your health, or losing your edge...and the FAA tests you annually for both.

The FAA requires all air tanker pilots to pass a Class II Medical Exam each year, and sit through about three weeks of hands-on training.

The training amounts to about eight hours on the simulator, along with another eight hours in ground school class. Try to stay awake, because you'll get two more days in ground school focused on your specific operating scenarios. 

You'll also review protocols for operating in specific types of terrain, such as mountains, flatlands, or canyons. Your company's contract might also require that you demonstrate your flight proficiency if your airplane hasn't flown in a while.

Finally, remember that while you're flying the plane and maintaining your skills, you're still expected to maintain a courteous relationship with your company's client, generally the United States Forest Service. If you tick off a Forest Service supervisor, perhaps by spewing a string of sailor's curse words or spitting at their feet, your employer will definitely hear about it. 

That probably won't help your boss' future contract prospects, and might also affect your job security. Considering the lack of air tanker pilot opportunities, you might want to take it out on the fire instead of your boss.

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