Sometimes young pilots think that a career as an aerial photography pilot means simply flying a small aircraft like a Piper J-3 Cub taking pictures of farms all day long. In fact, I have some experience with this aspect of aerial photography: my wife is both a pilot and a professional photographer.
As a result I have done my fair share of flying the Cub while she snaps photos of those landmarks she has been paid to photograph. What may surprise you, though, is that those photographs sell for a lot of money! Aerial photography is a very profitable occupation!
Young pilots always find getting the flight experience required for a better job to be a long road to travel. The path to the commercial pilot’s license with an instrument rating and a certified flight instructor certificate is relatively short; from there to the right seat in a jet is a lot longer.
But a career in aerial photography doesn’t require that much flight time, the flying is normally during daylight hours in the early morning or late afternoon (when the light for photography is better), and evenings are spent at home.
Now, some aerial photography jobs can be rather demanding, particularly for helicopter pilots. Movies often require aerial photography to set the scene, and this kind of flying can be both dangerous and challenging. Low altitudes, power lines everywhere, and a photographer leaning out of the helicopter to get just the right shot.
Another area where aerial photography comes in is doing aerial surveys of herds of animals and other wildlife, or mapping a certain area for development. Even the military offers the opportunity for aerial photography, but of a much more dangerous kind.
I know a number of individuals who have made aerial photography their career as pilots. Much like the local ice cream shop in the Northern U.S. and the traveling fast food stand with a carnival, they only work a small part of the year and then take the rest of the year off.
How do they do it? Well, aerial photography – as it turns out – is very, very profitable! So before you dismiss it as a way to build time flying an old airplane, think again!
General aviation flying offers all kinds of opportunities for pilots. I know many pilots who long to fly the big jets and work for an airline, and others who wouldn’t work for an airline for all the money in the world. Some pilots love to fly the old piston aircraft like DC-3s or C-46s, others the challenge of flying an old twin beech and still others who love to instruct.
Whatever your interest as a pilot, there is a place for you which will satisfy your desires. As the pool of pilots declines pay increases and opportunities increase. Flying airplanes is a great career.
Tomorrow we visit flying for the fractionals.
To learn more you should get Flying Airplanes: For Fun and Money! (A Practical Guide to Becoming a Professional Pilot) which is a great read!
Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!
I am drawn to the new chart with all of its colorful intricacies as a gourmet must anticipate the details of a feast . . . I shall keep them forever. As stunning exciting proof that a proper mixture of science and art is not only possible but a blessed union.
— Ernest K. Gann, ‘Fate is the Hunter.
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