Airplanista Magazine Monthly Column - Paul Tocknell: Ask a CFI

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This article was originally published in the September, 2011 issue of Airplanista Magazine and can be viewed here. Airplanista Magazine is an all-digital new media publication that presents aviation feature stories and content in a digital magazine format. Read the current issue here.

Paul Tocknell:
Ask a CFI: Flight training Q & A

Here are some of the questions recently submitted to One of the nice things about is the fact that your answers don’t come from one instructor but from a TEAM of instructors! Some of these answers were provided by other instructors. Do you have a flight training question? Ask a Flight Instructor! Find us on the web at:

Chris Asks: I was scheduled to take my private pilot checkride on July 25th and needed current materials available including a current sectional. The latest sectional showed a valid date from the 28th of July. Since stamped valid from July 28th and the checkride is on the 25th, was it valid on the 25th?

CFI John Collins answers: Given the dates you specified, I would have recommended that you borrow a current chart from another pilot or reschedule your practical flight test. The chart you had showed an effective date that is after your practical test and therefore should not be used. Often changes to items such as frequencies are coordinated with the effective date of the chart changes. The same is true of the A/FD. You can always discuss this with the examiner and see if he will permit it, but I doubt it.

Cameron asks: I’m interested in becoming a career pilot. My first concern is, do pilots trained in the military excel further and faster than civilian-trained pilots? How long would it be before I would be able to make a living being a pilot?

CFI Paul Tocknell answers: Great question and I’m glad that you are considering becoming a pilot. What I always tell people is do what you love and the money will follow. That being said, becoming a career pilot definitely has its challenges, especially in the early stages. Monetarily, the civilian route is much harder. Not only do you have to pay for your certificates and ratings but you also have to pay in the form of low paying jobs while you gain experience.

You asked the question, “do military or civilian pilots excel faster?” Do you mean excel in pay? You won’t get rich flying in the military but you won’t go broke either. However, civilian pilots are able to determine their own pay by finding jobs that pay well. If your goal is major airline flying, you can get there with either a civilian or military pilot background.

You also asked, how long would it be before I would be able to make a living as a pilot? In the military? Pretty much instantly. Civilian? If my son asked me for advice about the best way to become a career pilot, I would recommend that he strongly consider the military. If he could pass the strict medical requirements, he would have several advantages of choosing this route. One, he would have the honor of serving his country. Two, he would get the absolute best training and experience in some of the world’s most advanced aircraft. And three, as a member of the military, he would be more likely to get better overall compensation than his civilian counterparts, especially early on.

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