Real Answers from Real Pilots

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Hello, I am new to this forum. I am 22 years old and working a a master’s degree while I work at the university at the same time. I am very sure that a career in the airlines is something that I’ve always wanted to do. I have a BS in Aeronautics, my private pilot certificate, and an instrument rating. ATP is an option that I am considering very much, however, I do not know much about it. One of my biggest concerns is the debt that is often accumulated during flight training and I have allowed that to delay a career in the airlines. How can I overcome this fear of debt? How have you dealt with the debt? How has the debt affected you financially? How did you decide to start a career in the airlines?

Hello Louis and welcome,

Debt can be a scary thing but unfortunately it’s often a reality when it comes to flight training. My decision to become a pilot was a fairly easy one. I was financially successful but was miserable and didn’t want to spend the rest of life hating what I did everyday. Money’s great but it’s far from everything (at least as far as I’m concerned). As for rationalizing, overcoming the fear etc again for me was easy too. To me it’s not debt with no purpose (ie, buying a new Porsche to impress my family and friends) it’s an investment in MY future. An investment which, while not without some measure of risk, is a lot safer than most. Why? Because I have a tremendous amount of control over the outcome. I knew if I worked as I hard as I could there would be a solid return on this investment and one that would MORE than compensate for the relatively few years of sacrifice upfront and it has. The debt is long gone and I now make many times the amount of that debt every year and it keeps increasing. Now when I made my decision many years ago a) instructor salary was half what it is now, b) there was no such thing as Tuition Reimbursement which there is now, and c) the hiring and job potential was nowhere near where it is now. I’m not trying to negate your fears but frankly in the current environment, AND taking into account your education and experience honestly I have a hard time seeing your concern? You’re 22 and for a $64k investment you have the potential to make $300k a year for the majority of your adult working life. I didn’t start till almost 40 and have nowhere near your earning potential and it was without question worth the investment.

Sorry if I’m coming across to strong but honestly I wish I was in your situation.

Adam

Adam,

Thank you for your response. You are not coming off as strong, you are just being firm about your answer and I can truly appreciate that. Honestly, you sound like my dad, as he would say the same thing. He is a military pilot and he understands the amount of hard work associated with aviation. I suppose I am being impatient because all of my colleagues are well on their way to the airlines and I am currently not flying as often as I was before and I am still in school. I believe I can relate to you very much because I thought I could find a career that would guarantee significant financial compensation but I would not be truly happy. Like you have stated, money does not buy you happiness. My dad always tells me that your ideal dream job is one that you would do for free and still be very satisfied and that is how I feel about becoming an airline pilot, although paychecks are nice too! Thank you for your insight! May I ask how you completed your flight training? Also, career-wise, how was your progression through the industry (CFI to regionals to majors)?

Louis,

Your dad sounds like a wise man :slight_smile: I completed my training with ATP which is the primary reason I participate on this forum. People sometimes think we’re salesman or get compensated if we get someone to sign up. I promise you neither is true. Unlike you when I made the decision to fly professionally I was not young, I was however impatient since I had a very finite number of years left to fly. I did a ton of research and visited virtually every major school in the country. I settled on ATP based on recommendations, their reputation but primarily there was no faster or efficient route to the airlines.

My progression was pretty seamless I must admit (and again the industry was nowhere as it is today as far as hiring and movement). I trained at ATP and accepted an instructor position with ATP shortly after. ATP told me when I reached the required min hours to let them know and send them my resume. My Regional of choice was ExpressJet. I sent ATP my resume and I received an invitation to interview 10 days later. For some reason they were foolish enough to hire me. My original intentions were to go from ExpressJet to Continental (ExpressJet was Continentals sole Regional partner at the time). I stayed at ExpressJet almost 9 yrs, I actually had the opportunity to go to Continental a few years earlier but they just didn’t seem like a “good fit” for me and I also was in ExpressJet’s training dept so money wasn’t an issue. Hawaiian had been my dream job for quite some time but I had always heard they only hired locals and people with strong internal recommendations (I had neither). I heard they opened their hiring window and said what the heck, can’t hurt to try? I applied, made them laugh and again somehow conned another airline into hiring me.

There was some sacrifice in the beginning, people thought I was crazy, mid-life crisis whatever but looking back the only thing I’d change would be to start when I was 22! :slight_smile:

Adam

Adam,

Thank you! Your advice has truly been motivating. I have also heard many recommendations from others about ATP flight schools, and to no surprise my dad highly recommends ATP also :slight_smile:. I would not hesitate to drop everything right now and sign up with ATP but I feel as though finishing my MBA first would be the wiser choice before starting. I am just a bit impatient! I was actually in IAH earlier this week and our Uber car drove past a large hangar that said “ExpressJet” on the side of it. I said to myself, “wow, that would be nice!” I am willing to make sacrifices and put in the hard work, believe me. It is just patience that I need until then! Thank you!

Louis

Louis,

I absolutely agree. While sooner is always better you’re so close to your MBA it’d be silly not to complete it. First off, not be pessimistic but this industry can be funny sometimes and it’s always good to have a back up. Second many years from now when you’re a senior Capt with 20 days off a month you might want to do something else with that MBA?

I spent a WHOLE lot of time in that building on JFK Blvd. Good times!

Adam

Adam,

That’s encouraging! At first, I was very unsure whether or not getting an MBA was in fact the right choice. Every once in a while I tend to feel as though I am wasting time. However, I have received a lot affirmation letting me know that getting a master’s will only benefit me later on. What kind of things do you think I could do with an MBA later on down the road?

Louis,

I’m glad you’re encouraged and are feeling better about your path but I’m a pilot my friend and as such I’m afraid my knowledge of what you can do with your MBA is somewhat limited. I do have a few friends with MBAs, 3 are investment bankers and one is Pres of a VERY large bank. Maybe you could even become a corporate officer at an airline. You’re young and educated and have the World at your finger tips. Go forth and be great! :slight_smile:

Adam

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