Six reasons why it’s cool to be a pilot

The magic of flight has fascinated us for well over a century.

There are those who are content to sit on the ground and watch aircraft soar overhead. Many of us are excited to be passengers, modern-day jetsetters who travel the globe.

But for some, the passion for flight is overwhelming, and the need to fly becomes a lifelong obsession.

CNN Travel spoke to six pilots, who told us why it’s cool to be a pilot.

1. Freedom Mélanie Astles

A five-time French aerobatic champion, Astles was the first woman to compete in — and win — the pilot-punishing Red Bull Air Races.

“My father took me to an airshow when I was seven years old, and I sat in a fighter plane and just fell in love with aviation. Nothing has changed since then.”

Favorite aircraft:

“That’s a hard question, but basically so long as it has wings and flies, I’m happy!

“I recently came across the very first plane I flew, which is a Cessna 152, so that brought back fantastic memories. Recently, the French Air Force invited me to fly a Rafale fighter and that was the most thrilling experience I have ever had as I got to actually fly it.”

Why it’s cool to be a pilot:

“First of all, the feeling of freedom, of being your own eagle at one with the plane — leaving all your problems back on the ground and looking down at the stunning sites below.

“You really see the world in a different light. It is often said that the best office in the world is a cockpit, and it’s true!”

2. Taking a huge machine airborne Ken Hoke

Hoke flies Boeing 757 and 767 freighters for UPS Airlines all over the world.

He’s been a self-professed “aviation addict” since his first flight in 1972 on a United Airlines Boeing 727. “I still have the plastic wings given to me by the flight attendant.”

Favorite aircraft:

“This is a tough question for an aviation geek. I think any machine that can fly is amazing; even the ugly ones!

“My all-time favorite is definitely the Douglas DC-8. I’m an antique buff and really enjoyed flying the old Eight. It is, by far, the most challenging aircraft I have flown.”

Why it’s cool to be a pilot:

“One of the coolest things about being a pilot is just flying! Taking a machine airborne, whether it’s a balloon, glider, helicopter, single engine Cessna or wide body jet, is just ‘plane’ cool!

“The coolest thing about being a pilot for me? Walking down the airstairs and realizing that my crew and I just flew a wide-body aircraft 3,000 miles. It still amazes me and reminds me what a cool job I have.”

3. Variety Bree Stotts

Stotts flies Helijet International’s Sikorsky S-76 helicopters on medical evacuation (medivac) missions for the British Columbia Air Ambulance Service in Canada’s most western province.

She got the flying “bug” in high school, when she spoke with a floatplane pilot who was passionate about flying in remote areas of the province.

While working on her fixed-wing licenses, Bree was introduced to helicopters. “That was a game-changer.”

Favorite aircraft:

“Whichever aircraft is in front of me at the beginning of a shift, but I have a special affinity for the Sikorsky S-61.”

Why it’s cool to be a pilot:

“One of the ‘most cool’ aspects of the work that I do is the diversity of the work available to helicopter pilots. All of it has been an incredible vantage point to see life both urban and remote in British Columbia.”

4. The sun’s always shining Jim Payne

Payne is the chief pilot of the Airbus Perlan Mission II, with the goal of flying the experimental Perlan 2 pressurized glider to an astounding altitude of 90,000 feet.

Last year, Payne and co-pilot Morgan Sandercock flew Perlan 2 to a glider record of 52,221 feet in El Calafate, Argentina. An ex-United States Air Force fighter and test pilot, Payne became a pilot “because I was enthralled with flying. And I like operating machinery and going places fast.”

Favorite aircraft:

“My favorite airplane is the one that I am flying right now. The most satisfying was the F-4 Phantom since it required significant pilot skill. The one with the best performance was the F-16, which is actually pretty easy to fly.”

Why it’s cool to be a pilot:

“The coolest thing is that you are in command of your own flying carpet. You learn the sun always shines when you climb high enough. 

“The cool thing about gliders is that you can go places without using any fuel. And when you get there, you have the satisfaction of knowing that it was your skill and not some noisy engine that got you there.”

5. Camaraderie Tanis Herriot

Herriot first became airborne as a Royal Canadian Air Cadet and went on to become captain of the Beechcraft 1900 regional turboprop, flying all over Western Canada.

Six years ago, she made the jump from the small 19-seat Beechcraft to the globe-spanning 300-seat Boeing 777, which she now flies as First Officer.

Why she became a pilot:

“I loved the thrill of flight, freedom, the view and I wanted to travel!

“I decided it was best to have a career doing something that you love. My ultimate goal was to fly a jet aircraft as a long-haul pilot because I wondered what it would be like to fly across the Pacific Ocean. And now I know — any dream is possible!

“I hope to encourage other women in aviation, challenge gender norms and inspire anyone to follow their dreams.”

Why it’s cool to be a pilot:

“The ever-changing view from my ‘office’ window! I enjoy the camaraderie and teamwork that’s needed to fly a jet aircraft all over the world, which lets me fulfill my passion for travel.”

6. The view Yuichi Nishiyama

Captain Nishiyama has been flying the Boeing 777 for Japan’s All Nippon Airways for more than seven years.

He became a pilot because he “was seeking a job that required earnestness and eagerness since I wanted to challenge and develop myself, especially during my younger days.”

Favorite aircraft:

“The favorite aircraft for most pilots seems to be the one that he or she is currently flying, and it’s the same for me. I find B777 to be one of the most advanced and sophisticated aircraft in the world. It may not be the newest model, but I think it still has charm. It’s also very orderly and spacious.”

Why it’s cool to be a pilot:

“The best part is the view from the flight deck of the amazing scenery from all over the world — like the magnificent view of the volcanic crater of Mount Fuji and the fascinating aurora.”