Real Answers from Real Pilots

Intro/Questions

Hi all,

First and foremost, thank you Chris and Adam for all of the info and support you guys provide on this forum! I have been reading every post over the last week, and you guys have definitely led me to take the next step in becoming a pilot. I researched the possibility in 2007, and I was quickly discouraged by the price of training, and the possibility that I would not get a job after training. Reading through this forum, and reviewing the ATP website, the chances seem significantly better now. I have contacted ATP and scheduled my introductory flight in Houston later this month, and I hope to start in January if everything goes according to plan.

I do have a few questions for you guys, but I’ll tell you a little about me first. I’m 31 years old, and I have been a police officer for 13 years. As most of you can probably tell from the news, police work is not what is used to be, and I don’t believe it will get better anytime soon. While I’m not one to run away from a challenge, I’m simply tired of working in a high-crime area “serving” an extremely ungrateful group of people.

Being a pilot has been a dream of mine since I flew with a friend 15 years ago. My experience is very minimal, but I LOVE it. Quitting my current career making $41,000 a year and moving to a low paying FO position is not much of a worry, especially after reading posts about pay increases over the years. My schedule has almost always been terrible, so that is not a worry either. Now that I’ve made you doze off with that lengthy intro, here are my questions… :slight_smile:

  1. I would gladly take a position with any regional airline after training, but which are considered better to work for and why?

  2. Which major airlines should one strive to work for and why?

  3. I do not have a degree, but I am more than willing to start working on one ASAP. Which college would you recommend while working a pilot’s schedule?

  4. I currently live in Louisiana, approximately 3 ½ hours from IAH and 5 ½ hours from DFW. What are the possibilities of being able to continue living where I am due to these large airports being relatively close?

  5. I have always been a quick learner and ready to tackle a new challenge. With that in mind, is it safe to say I’d have a good chance of getting through ATP?

  6. I know this depends on the airline, but what are the chances of flying to the Caribbean, Mexico, and/or Canada before making it to the majors?

Again, thank you both for your contributions to the forum!!!

Scott,

Thank you for your compliments, it is great to get good feedback from guys like you.

Before we go anywhere, thank you for your service to our communities. I can’t imagine how difficult your job is, I really respect you for stepping up to fill that role.

Let’s answer your questions:

  1. Honestly, all of the regionals are improving dramatically. We are seeing pay increases across the board and flow through agreements to the major airlines. As I am a bit removed from the regionals at this point I am going to refer you to www.airlinepilotcentral.com. You can see the hourly rates of any airline there and read some about their contracts. Keep in mind that pilots get paid about 20 hours per week, not the 40 that you might be used to.

  2. Any major that will hire you :slight_smile: Seriously though, all of the majors are pretty darn good to work for, I wouldn’t really be able to pick any one out of the line up.

  3. I would find a school that offered credits for your flight training and was available online. Utah Valley University or Embry Riddle come to mind. You will most certainly want the online aspect.

  4. I would think that it would be relatively easy to live where you do now, but you will be a commuter. That means that you will be spending your own time getting to and from work. It can be stressful, but many pilots (including myself) think that it is worth it to be able to live where I would like to. What is the closest passenger airport to where you live?

  5. The best predictor of success at ATP is how dedicated you are. This means how hard you study and how dedicated you are to really learning the knowledge. If you bring the same attitude to ATP that you did the police academy you will do fine.

  6. The Caribbean might be a bit tough to see at the regionals because of over water restrictions placed on smaller jets. Mexico and Canada though are fair game. When I was with ExpressJet I saw quite a bit of both countries and really enjoyed it, especially Mexico.

Thank you for the detailed introduction. It really helps us tailor our responses to your specific situation. Keep asking your questions.

Chris

Hello Scott and welcome,

First I for one appreciate the job you do PARTICULARLY under the conditions currently going on today so thank you.

Now no disrespect, but not sure how you can say after 13 yrs as a police officer making $41k moving to a Regional FO starting at $38k is “low paying”? Seems to me you’re moving somewhat laterally with much greater potential in the future. Ok let’s move on to some questions…

As for your first 3, those are really unanswerable. If there were a “best” there’d be only 1 were everyone would be trying to get to but as it is there’s really no such thing. What’s best is what appeals best to YOU. What kind of plane do you want to fly or maybe you don’t care? You mention wanting to go to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean so obviously that’s important to you but how important? If one airline pays more but only flies domestically is that good or bad? Do you eventually want to fly to Asia? Do you want to be home every night or would you rather be gone for weeks? Do you want to commute and if so how far? As for schools will you be studying online, part-time or what? I literally could go on for days. There are pros and cons to every Regional, Major and college out there and we could write volumes on the subject but ultimately it’s you’re decision. This one I’m throwing back in your lap and the good news is you have LOTS of time to think about it and do some research. YOU need to decide what’s most important to YOU and then YOU need to do some homework and figure out which Regional, which Major and which school works best for YOU. You say you’re “ready to tackle a new challenge” well here you go :slight_smile:

  1. I know pilots who commute from Europe, Asia, Australia and South America. One of the perks of being a pilot is the ability to literally live anywhere you want in the world. Does that mean it’s be easy to commute? Not necessarily. You live in La, If you’re close to BTR or MSY that’s shouldn’t be too bad, is you’re close to LCH or SHV that’s a little tougher. If you’re flying for a Regional (say ExpressJet) that flies out of those airports it makes it that much easier. Again you can live anywhere you like as longer as you can get to work it’s all good.

  2. Scott again with all due respect, you sound like a bright guy but I obviously don’t know you or your abilities. Flying ain’t rocket science or the Olympics but it does require a certain level of intelligence and coordination. I’ve seen people struggle and obviously some do better than others. The truth is hard work can make up for many deficiencies and laziness has downed some talented sticks. If you’re willing to put in the effort I don’t see any reason you shouldn’t be successful.

  3. There are Regionals that fly to all 3, some that fly to some, and some that fly to none. Again, if you chose a Regional that flies to those destinations you’re chances are very good you’ll go there. BUT again what’s it worth to you? Pay? Long commute? Smaller plane? Not saying you would have to sacrifice but these are all things that go into the decision making process.
    Make sense?

Adam

Wow, thank you for the quick responses!! At this point, I’m ready to do whatever it takes to be a pilot. If that means I have to fly regionals for 20 years and never see another country, I’m okay with that. I just want to fly. At some point I would like to see a variety of new places during my career. I can only imagine the feeling of witnessing the northern lights from a cockpit…among many other things!

Adam, I definitely understand. I’m used to a very structured environment where we are told what we can and can’t do as far as advancement. It’s refreshing to know that I have so much influence over what I can do, obviously with the proper seniority.

Also, I was referring to the “low pay” not being a problem because it’s basically what I’m making now. The difference is, I’d never make pilots pay in law enforcement. Definitely a huge advantage to being a pilot.

Chris, the closest passenger airport to me is LFT…it’s about 4 miles away. I’m not sure which regionals fly from there, but I’ll find out!

Please excuse the questions about which airlines to work for if that seemed arrogant. In my current line of work, that’s the first question we ask because of how different each agency can be.

As you can tell, this is a whole new world for me, but I’m looking forward to learning all about it!

Thank you both!

Scott,

No please excuse necessary and forgive me if I was too harsh. While I truly enjoy participating and providing as much assistance I can I’m also a “the Lord helps those that helps themselves” kinda guy. The internet is an incredible resource and I never want anyone to do anything solely based on my opinion, ESPESCIALLY a pilot! Good decision making is more important to being a good pilot than stick and rudder skills are.

Keep the questions coming, whether I answer them or not… :slight_smile:

Adam

By the way, I know there are many, many more people like you guys that support us in LE. We definitely appreciate it!! The area I work isn’t comprised of people with that mindset though. :smile:

Scott,

Your questions about airlines did not seem arrogant at all. I think you will find that as you enter the field and start to learn more about the various airlines you will have a pretty good idea which airlines you want to aim for.

I would imagine that LFT would have plenty of flights to places like IAH or DFW, but double check that. This puts you in that commuter category, but if it is worth it to you then it is a good move.

By the way, I have seen to northern lights several times, usually when flying to Oslo, Stockholm or Anchorage, they are beyond description.

Chris

Working in that kind of environment must get really old. If you become a pilot you might be interested in joining the FFDO program. We can’t really talk about that program here, but do some research and you can read about it.

LFT definitely has several to IAH and ATL, so I guess that’s a good start. Very jealous of those northern lights flights!!

Do either of you recall if ATP offers any type of health insurance for family while instructing?

ATP’s instructors are considered to be independent contractors. As such there is no offer of health insurance. I would recommend checking out the Affordable Care Act exchange for your state.

Chris

Okay gents, it looks like it will be a go if my medical clears with no problems! I have my medical exam scheduled, and I’m approved for a loan. A very generous friend is also opening up a room at his home for me for 6 months during training!

Next step, I’d like to try and take care of the written tests before starting, if possible. I called ATP today, and they sent me a link for Sheppard Air. Can y’all advise on which written exams I need to study for and take? Also, what is the sign off I’m hearing about?

Scott,

That is great news about your friend having a place that he is willing to share, that will be a nice relief. What location did you settle on? When are you starting?

On the written side, you will need to take the following:

  1. Private Pilot Airplane
  2. Instrument Airplane
  3. Commercial Airplane
  4. Fundamentals of Instruction
  5. Certified Flight Instructor

Make sure you keep your receipts as ATP will reimburse you for the costs of the writtens that you take at other locations.

Chris

Scott,

Check out this link for a post that Adam made the other day regarding written tests. You might find it interesting.

Chris

Great, thank you! Everything should be finalized soon, but it’s looking like I’ll be going to McKinney. I’m hoping for the January 2nd start date!

It will be here before you know it. Don’t beat yourself up trying to take those writtens, just do what you can. Even getting a single one complete will be a big advantage for you.

Gents,

More questions… I’m seeing a few regionals that require a certain amount of cross-country time to be eligible to apply. One required 200 and another 500. Any idea approximately how many cross-country hours you get at ATP? Can those hours be built up as an instructor? I was under the impression only students get cross-country hours.

Also, I see Atlas Air doesn’t seem to require the same hours a major passenger airline does. Does that mean they’re hurting for pilots, or has that just been the standard for them?

Scott,

I honestly don’t recall how many cross country hours you get during training but it’s at least 50 since that the min for your Commercial Pilot’s License. Not to worry though, you’ll get plenty during your time as an instructor. Keep in mind by definition a cross country flight need only be 50nm away which isn’t far. You’ll be helping your students get some of that time and since you’re the PIC you’ll be logging it as well. By the time you’ve got your 1500hrs there’s no question you’ll have more than you’ll need.

I have many friends at Atlas and while I doubt they’re “hurting” for pilot’s, they do have a fairly high turnover compared to other Majors. Atlas is a great airline, they fly 747’s all over the globe which is awesome and pay well. The problem is the lifestyle isn’t desirable to many pilots. You can be away from home up to 17 days at a clip and it’s some VERY long flights. It’s great if you’re a young person without a family but otherwise it makes it tough to see the spouse and kids and those long flights can really wear on you.

Adam

Ahh, okay. I didn’t realize you still gained those hours as an instructor.

Thanks for the info on Atlas!

Gents, a few more questions. I think I’m set on a Bose headset, after the reviews I’ve read, and a Brightline B7 flight bag. It seems like both of these items are dependable and would last a very long time. Would you suggest otherwise?

I’ve read a few reviews for the iPad, and it seems that the iPad pro offers a little more than the iPad mini. Any idea which would be better for the ATP environment?

Also, I do not have a laptop computer. Do I need one for training? If so, would you recommend an Apple to sync with the iPad?

Scott,

It is hard to beat a Bose headset, I am sure that you will be happy with that. I am not familiar with the Brightline flight bag, but if it has good reviews go for it.

I like the iPad pro as I find the Mini to be too small. You are going to want to be able to easily read approach plates off the screen, to me the Mini is not conducive to that.

You should not need a laptop, your iPad should suffice just fine.

I would always recommend Apple products, but that is for another thread :slight_smile: