Real Answers from Real Pilots

Is it worth it for me?


(V) #1

So long story short, I made a mess of my life and would like to become a pilot because I have heard of the shortage and it looks like a good job for me and one that would not only pay the bills but potentially make enough money to actually retire.

The bad: I am 35, and might be 37 before I get started. I am broke, I don’t owe anything, but I would likely have to take a loan for the program and enough to live on. Possibly worse though, I have a two year degree, I really wasn’t interested, and when you are not interested you get a passing grade in differential equations, but very poor grades.

The good: I have a clean background, am fluent English and Spanish, am willing to move and would be comfortable living overseas again.

Is it worth the money to become a pilot? How likely is someone to get a job? How long did it take for you and your co workers to pay off the loan?

As I see it I need new glasses, and to pass a first class medical. Would you recommend taking an intro flight before even getting the medical pass? What should I look for in an intro flight? Would you wait until closer to the class date to take your medicals or get them ASAP?

Is there a way to use being bilingual and comfortable overseas to make training cheaper?

Sorry for all the questions, and thank you for your time.


(Sergey Kireyev) #2

That is a loaded question. Only you can decide if it’s worth it for you. If you’re going to incur $100k in debt ($170-185k with interest) because that’s all you’ve ever wanted to do for a living it’s one thing. If you’re concerned with the size of the paycheck, you can purchase a small business with that sum and with some elbow grease make a good living without having to go through training. I wouldn’t be concerned about college right now. If you decide to fly for the airlines, you can work on getting a Bachelors while you’re at a regional airline. There are no right or wrong answers: each one will have consequences that are specific to you.


#3

V,

First if you’re looking at becoming a pilot because “it would pay the bills and make enough money to retire” I assure you they are easier jobs out there that won’t require $80K+ in loans. If you have visions of making the “big money” that only comes when flying for a Major and that means at some point (probably when you’re at a Regional) you’ll need to go back to school and earn your 4yr degree. You also mention a few time you’re bilingual. While that will help you order food on overnights in some countries (which is great), English is the “official” language of aviation around the world and is really the only language any airline anywhere really cares about. Also many people from around the world come to the US to train. While flying will never be “cheap”, it’s actually less expensive here than anywhere else.

Next. You should ABSOLUTELY take an intro flight if you’re seriously entertaining this. You can have all the desire in the world but until you’ve gone up and sat at the controls of a small plane you won’t know if it’s really something you’d like to do. Fact is many people go up once and never again. Provided you like it next I’d go for the medical. You really want to make sure there’s nothing physical that will give you an issue.

As for whether it’s worth it or not that’s a question only you can answer. I LOVE my job and honestly can’t imagine doing anything else but honestly there are many pilots who don’t and are either miserable or get out. That’s why I believe having a passion for it is important. If not it’s just a job and one that can be very challenging to succeed in.

Adam


(V) #4

Thank you both, you have provided me some new insight.

So what I am hearing is that should you graduate from atp you have as close as this life gives to a guaranteed professional paying gig. It is a lot of money to spend to find out that there is not actually enough paying work.

Sergey Kireyev:
it would seem to indicate from your figures most people would take about seven to fourteen years to pay the debt? It is an interesting break even point.

Adam:
My hope is/was not that I can speak another language but that I can also speak English. Clear as mud. To give an example; I am told that you must be able to speak English to fly into ANY international airport. A regional, or even a major servicing south America might put a crew base in Bolivia. Not a particularly desirable post, but I would be very comfortable based there. Potentially not even flying into the states I might not need the 1500 hours to start for a regional. And if they have enough trouble staffing such a crew base (while I was overseas I frequently ran into other Americans who could not last outside of the first world) it might make it easier to get into a major.

May I ask what it is the other pilots dislike?


#5

V,

I’m not sure where you’re getting your info but there are no US airlines (Regional or Major) that a) have ANY foreign bases and b) do not require 1500hrs (it’s where you’re licensed not where you fly to). While there are foreign carriers that don’t have the 1500hr requirement, they too want pilots with some experience. Copa for example wants 1,000 minimum and you’d be better off building the 1500 as US Regionals pay better, have better benefits, shorter upgrades and union protection.

As for “what other pilots dislike” I don’t really understand what you’re asking?

Adam


(V) #6

Honestly I just sort of figured that given the size of their network some of the American majors would at least have overseas regionals/feeders. I thank you for letting me know. I don’t know how else I could have found out.

It has been said in many threads that there are miserable pilots. I am asking what makes them miserable? Is it something I would not expect? Examples seem to work well. Take a job like a chef. You love cooking, great job right? A lot of people don’t realize that the chef has to work all the holidays, and when the kids are home from school. Home life suffers… Some just don’t like smelling like food all the time. Some just don’t like the kinds of people who end up in hospitality. You can love cooking and hate being a cook, because of the lifestyle. Contractor? You love building things, but have you ever worked with code enforcement or customers? Building codes and customers with unreasonable expectations are a hidden problem. Mechanic? You love working on cars, but how do you like working for nine hours to get three hours pay? The pay structure is not something you can understand until you experience it.


#7

V,

It’s funny, many of the issues you list for other jobs are the big complaints of many pilots. Until you build seniority you can expect to work holidays, weekends and be away from home and the family often. We have a ton of regs to follow. Mess up and you could lose everything. We only get paid when we’re actually flying but there’s alot of prep time before that we don’t, especially if we’re delayed. There are obviously others but you get the idea. Thing is every job has its good and bad. I believe it always comes down to perspective. I’m getting paid to do something I’d gladly pay to do so everything else seems very minor. That’s why I said what I did in my first response to your post. If you’re only doing it for the money there are easier ways. If you don’t have a passion or desire to fly, its just a job.

Adam


(V) #8

honestly i would prefer to fly, but i am aware that I need the money, and i certainly can’t afford the training costs for a hobby job, it’s not that I think flying is the best gold mine it is just the one I would prefer. Given that the training would be the largest debt I have ever carried money is on my mind. Also knowing that the day I sign up for classes I am locked into the industry for a minimum seven years I am looking for the hidden problems… That and it seems to good to be true.

So if they cancel a flight on you, you loose money at the end of the year? Or do you just mean that sometimes you have to work harder/longer for the exact same pay?

What kinds of regulations could cost you everything? (I already know about the first class medical.)

It may not sound like it, but you are actually making me much more confident. I Probably won’t schedule it for a bit, but I am rather looking forward to that intro flight.


#9

V,

No, if they cancel or delay your flight you still get paid but you could have a VERY long day. Let’s say you were supposed to fly from JFK-STL, a 3hr flight at 7am. Weather comes in, the plane breaks whatever. You’re delayed, then delayed some more and don’t take off till noon. You’ve been at the airport since 6am, what was supposed to be a 4hr day is now a 9hr day but you’re still only getting paid for 3.

The regs won’t cost you everything, it’s breaking them. Just like there are rules of the road, there are rules in the sky. While I may have exaggerated some, the FAA is far less forgiving than the DMV. How many times can you take your driving test? I don’t believe there’s a limit but there’s a record of any and all of your checkride busts. Fail too many and you could have trouble getting a job. I recently heard about a pilot who finished recurrent training and got drunk. Now he was off, wasn’t flying, BUT was so drunk that the agents wouldn’t let him on his flight home. The company had to put him up for another day and put him on another flight. When he finally got home he was terminated. Alcohol related termination, he’s done. Years ago I flew with a brand new pilot who thought it was appropriate to bust out his iPod while he was flying (only time I’ve ever raised my voice in the cockpit btw). If I had taken it to the Chief Pilot he would’ve been fired. Now let’s say you’re flying along and are supposed to turn right and turn left. That’s a “lateral deviation”. No biggy but it does require a report. Do it enough times and you will get the FAAs attention. Get the FAAs attention enough times and they will take action including going after your licenses you spent $80k for. Things like that.

People sometimes forget we have passengers lives in our hands. There are regs and codes of conduct. Fail to follow them and you can have a very bad day.

Adam


(V) #10

Thank you for your time. I really appreciate it, and it has really helped me.