Hometown: Clermont, Florida
Birthday: March 8, 1996
We’ll be honest, it took us a long time to put together a profile for Rachel simply because we weren’t that interested.
We don’t think that’s Rachel’s fault. She seems like a very sweet, empathetic person who tends to match the energy of people around her and – unfortunately for her – last season that person was Clayton.
On The Bachelor, the only remarkable things about Rachel were her dad’s Tony Soprano vibes and that weird moment in the bloopers where she looked like a hobbit.
But it’s a new season – Rachel and Gabby’s season! – and we’re ready to take to the skies with pilot Rachel, that is if we can make it off the ground due to the massive pilot shortage. (More on that later!)
So is Rachel a flight student, a flight instructor, or a pilot?
Short answer, yes.
Here’s the longer answer.
It takes a LOT of school to become a pilot.
In order to become a commercial pilot not only do you need to know what all those buttons do but, until just a few years ago, most major US airlines also required a Bachelor’s degree.
Rachel went to Ohio University, graduating in 2019. Rachel was never a professional cheerleader like Gabby, but she was on the college squad.
She also used to be *gasp* a brunette!
After the Bachelor’s degree (and that associated student debt), comes flight school. From her Instagram, Rachel appears to have started flying around 2019.
You shouldn’t text and fly, but who could resist a selfie?
But Rachel is a flight instructor. Doesn’t that mean she’s done with school?
Although it’s an imperfect analogy, it’s helpful to think of flight school in terms of traditional secondary education and “Flight Instructors” as TAs. Like any other school, flight school has a lot of different courses, many of which require prerequisites. These requirements are set by the FAA.
Piloting 101 is the Private Pilot certificate.
People with their Private Pilot certificate are hobbyists who are only qualified to do the basics in a small plane and shouldn’t be flying over difficult terrain or in bad weather conditions. In these circumstances you can’t trust your eyes to tell your actual distance from stuff you’d like to avoid – like mountains and the ocean – leading to the majority of private plane crashes. (See: Harrison Ford.)
Piloting 201 is getting Instrument Rated. An instrument rated pilot should be able to fly a small plane solely by instruments in zero visibility conditions.
Pictured: a small plane (with a Rachel for scale).
At this point though, you are still an undergrad. In order to get paid, you then need a Commercial Pilot certificate, which is kind of like a pilot Bachelor’s degree. This allows you to fly people or cargo in small planes for money.
If you want to fly for a commercial airline, you’re going to need your Airline Transport Pilot Certificate (i.e. Masters of Piloting). To get to this point in America is going to require 1,500 logged hours and upwards of $100,000. Because that is time and cost prohibitive for most people, a lot of them, like Rachel, train to become a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) first.
Rachel received her commercial pilot certification (i.e. Bachelors of Piloting) and flight instructor certification (what it says on the tin) in 2021. The certificates list which planes she’s qualified to fly or teach in and under what conditions.
When it’s time for the show’s traditional small aircraft date, Rachel is certified to fly the plane. (But not, to our knowledge, the hot air balloon.)
The pay for a CFI is about $15-30/hour, but the real value is in the logged hours. CFIs like Rachel are able to work towards their 1,500 required hours for their Airline Transport Pilot certificate while earning money teaching others to fly. In that way, a flight instructor is both a teacher and a (graduate) student.
The process is so expensive some regional airlines are now offering tuition reimbursement (i.e. Pilot Teach for America) to combat the pilot shortage.
There’s a pilot shortage?
If you’ve tried to go anywhere this summer, you might have noticed that flights are more canceled than Chris Harrison. (Too soon?)
While it clearly doesn’t help that we’ve lifted masking requirements for air travel despite still being in a pandemic, the system was already strained.
“During the pandemic, thousands of pilots took early retirement packages, and because of disruptions in pilot training programs, there were also fewer people joining the industry. This exacerbated an existing problem, as the pipeline of new pilots was already too low before the virus hit.”NPR
For over a decade experts have been sounding the alarm that the pilot pipeline was unsustainable. The reason you’re stranded at the airport cursing Hawaiian Airlines and contemplating carving your own outrigger canoe is because, once again, nobody listened to the experts.
Well, not exactly nobody. The Air Force, historically a rich recruitment pool for commercial pilots (30% of commercial pilots are ex-military), has been struggling with their own pilot retention crisis. As a result, they’ve been making massive institutional changes and offering lucrative contracts for pilots to stay.
“United CEO complains that the US military isn’t training enough pilots for airlines to poach ‘You can’t sit back and rely on the military to give you a solid flow of new trained pilots.’”Task & Purpose
Although after the Top Gun themed date on Michelle’s season, we’re sure recruitment really took off.
The pipeline of new pilots isn’t the only source of disruption. While being a commercial airline pilot has historically been a well-paid and well-respected career, the lifestyle is challenging. In the last year, pilots from around the world have gone on strike for better working conditions.
“You absolutely cannot address quality of life with money,” said Casey Murray, a pilot and the president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association. “You’re never going to pay someone enough for a lost piano recital with their daughter or a lost baseball game.”The New York Times
When reading about United’s pilot negotiations and the contract they’re currently voting on, we noticed something particularly egregious.
“For the first time, the contract also includes eight weeks of paid maternity leave.”The New York Times
That’s right, until this contract, in 2022, United didn’t provide their pilots with maternity leave.
While we can all acknowledge that American maternity policies are literally evil, especially in the era of forced birthing, it turns out that corporate airlines are some of the worst offenders.
“Female pilots can begin to lose wages months before a baby is born. Most contracts at major airlines force pregnant pilots to stop flying eight to 14 weeks before a baby’s due date. . .Once a baby is born, the major airlines typically don’t offer paid maternity leave or alternative ground assignments for breast-feeding mothers.”The New York Times
Things appear to be improving, slowly, due to advocacy organizations like The Institute for Women Of Aviation Worldwide. No word on what airlines are doing to stem the tide of certified flight instructors leaving to become Bachelorettes.
In conclusion, it totally checks out that Rachel is simultaneously a flight student, a flight instructor, and a pilot. However, we reserve the right to remain skeptical about other things.
xo Your Nosy Friends, thanking you for choosing RBJ Airlines
PS Keep RBJ Airlines flying by sharing articles, following us on Twitter or Instagram, buying something from Amazon, or contributing to our tip jar.