Real Answers from Real Pilots

Financing Flight school and relocation

Hello, it’s Robert Ratcliffe. I’ve decided I want to pursue an airline career through ATP (see my previous post for my personal background - PPL, 150 hr TT, bachelor’s in EE) Right now, since I own a house, I’m thinking the best way to finance flight school is utilizing my home equity - either through selling the house or refinancing to both lower my monthly payment and borrow the funds for school via the new mortgage. When you subtract what I owe on my home (I’ve had a 15 year loan on it for 2 1/2 years) from its estimated value (by comparable estimates), I could most likely get enough money to pay tuition at ATP from a sale or refinancing. We would move into a local apartment if we sold the home - the home is in Ogden, UT. Therefore, ATP’s Ogden location is my first choice for learning and instructing.

From a pilot’s perspective, considering any possibility of having to relocate for either an instructor job at ATP or future airline career, would it seem more advantageous to sell the home, cash out, be virtually debt free, and rent an apartment; or keep the home, continue building equity, and effectively borrow tuition costs against its accrued equity? The monthly costs of either with all bills added together will be pretty much the same by my estimates so far.

I understand I may be temporarily reassigned during my instructor job, on the order of several months or so, therefore my wife would stay behind in northern UT for the sake of her job and it not being worthwhile to relocate for such a short time, especially if ATP instructor housing is for instructors only. Our concern is what if I have to relocate for longer than several months for either an instructor job or my first regional carrier job; and she’s stuck with the house? But if we’re in an apartment we’d have to buy out the remaining lease or sublet. I realize the housing market is impossible to predict, but what are a pilot’s thoughts on the matter? Thank you very much!

Robert,

I can’t really provide you with financial advice, that is a decision that you will have to make. What I can tell you is that your pilot career opportunities are going to be limited in Utah. SLC is a base for Delta and some of their regionals, but it is a relatively small base.

This brings us to the question of do you want to commute from Utah to work or do you want to relocate to your work? Plenty of pilots (including myself) commute. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend it if there is any chance that your wife will agree to relocate to where you are based. Commuting takes your own time and energy, pilots that live in base have more time at home and are often able to make more money. Of course, many pilots like myself chose to commute because we think it is worth it to live where we work.

So, decide if you are going to commute or not, then make your financial decisions.

Chris

Robert,

I’m with Chris on this one (and I think he has a degree in finance?). These are decisions you must make with your wife. I will say this, I’m not trying to be negative but there are a whole lot of “ifs” coming up. I have no reason to believe you won’t be successful but what if you’re not? It does happen. While I appreciate your decision to go “all in” I would be hesitant to sell my house and completely disrupt your lives. The reality is you have no idea where you’ll be based for instructing, for a Regional or eventually a Major. If it were me I’d wait before I toss the apple cart but that’s me.

Adam

Thank you both very much for your quick responses and insight in this and all matters! I very much appreciate it, as I do my best to make the most informed decision. The Mrs. and I have decided to “go where the hours are,” for my instructing and first regional job, especially when I’m junior and placed on reserve a lot. Thanks again.

I think that is a really good idea. By the way, your wife is of course free to join the forum and post any questions she has (or use your screen name).

I am glad we could be of help, let us know what other questions you have.

Chris

I will pass the word on to her! My end goal with flying is to make it to the majors, hopefully Delta, and maybe just maybe fly a trip with my dad who is a 767 captain before he retires in 6 years.

My father was a Captain at US Airways until he retired last November. While we of course never got to fly a trip together, I did jump seat with him several times and he with me. I was in the cockpit for his last landing, it was a pretty special (and sad) moment for me.

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Oh wow that’s awesome! I’m glad you got the special moment nonetheless. My uncle was at US Airways for a number of years but unfortunately got furloughed which ended in a layoff about a decade ago or so. Fortunately though he got picked up by Cathay Pacific, so he’s still well off and in the sky! I also have grown fond of the airline lifestyle and travel benefits experienced in my own upbringing.

It was a rough decade at US Airways, but things really seem to have turned around there. Now that they are integrated with American the pay scales have gone up quite a bit and the future is looking much brighter.
Travel benefits spoil you, I have had them my whole life. As you know, it is tough to enter the real world and give them up.

Oh yes, I keep hearing that things are turning around everywhere with higher starting salaries and faster upgrade times than ever before largely due to the pilot shortage - plus other perks such as ATP tuition reimbursement. I’ve been to some exotic locales such as Palau thanks to Dad’s travel benefits, and I’d love nothing more than for my wife and future kids to experience the same. Furthermore Uncle got picked up by a different airline a couple years afterward and they’re taking care of him. Who do you fly for, again?

I am with United. I was a Continental pilot until we merged in 2010. Prior to that I worked with Adam at ExpressJet.

Funny, I mainly use my travel benefits to go to the very exotic locale of South Bend, Indiana :slight_smile:

PS: my family is from there.

Sounds exotic indeed! I’ve never been there after all though. I read over your bio, and I too am a 3rd generation aviator - as you’ve probably read my dad is a Delta captain, who was actually one of Western’s final hires before they merged with Delta. My grandfather, his dad, was a WWII bomber captain who was hired by Western in 1945. Both my parents and grandparents met in the same way - dad/grandpa were pilots and mom/grandma were flight attendants. My other grandfather was a Navy pilot himself too. So you could quite literally say it runs in my blood! How did you enjoy your journey through instructing at ATP and your first years at the regionals?

Wow, our family backgrounds are incredibly similar. My father was with US Airways, his father was an Army Air Force pilot who joined TWA after WWII and my mother’s father was a TWA pilot as well. All but one of my uncles flies and my mother was a flight attendant.

I really enjoyed my time instructing at ATP. I worked at a small location that offered me a lot of unique experiences. I got to fly with everybody from beginning pilots to Navy Captains who were coming to me to get their ATP. The company trusted me with an office to myself and a Piper Seminole at my disposal on the ramp. I learned a lot and from time to time miss it a bit.

The regionals were great as well. The pay wasn’t fantastic, but I got to fly to some really cool airports all over the US and Mexico. While I am glad that I got to move on I am still happy for the experiences from there.

Does anybody have any advice on getting approved for a student loan without having a cosigner? that’s what’s stopping me from setting my start date with ATP.
Does anybody have any insight on Aviation scholarships or another form of financing the tuition?

Nathan,

You will most likely have to get a co-signer. The banks are making a very large, unsecured loan to you and therefore need to see either amazing credit, or a co-signer to help ensure that they get their money paid back.

Chris