Real Answers from Real Pilots

Prospective pilot questions

Hello everyone,

I’m really excited to here on this forum to share my questions and get the opportunity to connect with pilots and all other aspiring aviators out there.

I have always loved flying, and have flown a lot as a passenger all around the world to perform as a musician, so I’m familiar and comfortable with plans and airports, and I’ve recently decided to investigate the possibility of becoming a commercial airline pilot as it is something that has always interested me. The more I learn about aviation and working as a pilot, the deeper my interest grows and I’m really excited to make this shift in my career path. I’m about to be 31 years old, and I’m married with a 1 1/2 year old son. I have a bachelors degree, but it is from a music college, Berklee College of Music to be specific. I guess this brings me to my first question: when I eventually want to apply to work for a major commercial airline, will the nature of my 4 year degree make a difference, or is it merely the fact that I have one that will make the difference ?

I am also wondering about how long it should take to land a job at a regional airline once I begin my training at an ATP starting with zero experience in the cockpit. If I go at it full time, what would the hours generally look like ? Would I have any time to maintain a job as well to pay rent and stay above water? I know I would incur a good chunk of debt, which I am prepared for. The main reason I ask is because if I can ask handle working while studying at an ATP, then perhaps we will stay in NY and I’ll go to an ATP near the city, but if not, then we would consider moving into my parents house in NH and I’d attend the ATP up there in Manchester, as I wouldn’t be able to make any income during my studies. My parents would be more than happy to host us for that time period as they will have plenty of time with their grandson, it’s the wife that would need convincing.

My third question for now is if you have an knowledge on what the process is like to eventually work for a Japanese airline, ideally living in Japan. My wife is Japanese, and we would really love to eventually end up there as it is a country that feels truly like a home to me and I am now nearly fluent in Japanese with over 15 visits to the country in the books. I have read that they have more strict medicals, but I’m not sure what that means exactly. I am in great physical and mental health, meditating and exercising daily, but I do wear contact lenses. If i have 20/20 vision when corrected, does it matter if I need contacts or not ? That is my only “health” concern at this time.

My final question would be to ask your opinions on my age and current situation and if you think starting at 31 at an ATP would lead to a rewarding career mostly regarding the seniority based format of commercial airline careers. I want to fly, I see myself absolutely loving it and finding unspeakable gratitude in the act of helping get hundreds of people where they want to go safely each day. But at the same time, I want to rest assured that I am working towards a career that will provide comfort to my family for years to come.

Thank you so much in advance for reading my concerns and I really hope to hear from some of you soon and hopefully stay connected in the future.

Thomas

Thomas,

Welcome to the forums and thanks for your post. Let’s get right to your questions.

Your music degree will be absolutely fine. I know pilots that have all sorts of majors, I even had a chief pilot once who had a degree in piano composition, he is at United now. The airlines really just want to see that you have the commitment to stick with a four year degree program, you have done that, so you are good to go in that area.

It typically takes students about 2-2.5 years from the time they start ATP to being airline eligible for the regionals. ATP is a full time program and instructing for ATP is a full time commitment. You will not be able to work while in the program and as an instructor, you will not be able to hold another job. Keep in mind that ATP instructors are compensated, so it will only be nine months that you will go without a paycheck (I get that is a long time).

I am not at all familiar with the process to work for a Japanese airline. Adam might be able to shed more light on this, but my recommendation would be to plan on flying your career in the US.

Contacts are perfectly fine for the FAA and US airlines, I cannot speak to how Japanese airlines regard them.

The age of 31 is not at all too old, but you do need to have realistic expectations. Because you are starting a bit behind the age curve, you will likely be able to make it to a regional, then a major, and Captain at a major, but will probably not be able to hold Captain on the most senior airplanes, like the 767 and 777. That being said, you still have the potential for a great career ahead of you. I wouldn’t wait much longer, I would get started very soon.

Before you go any further, you really need to take an introductory flight. It is one thing to ride in the back of an airplane, it is quite another to actually fly the airplane. You can take one at any local flight school or at ATP. I would do this before making any further plans.

Feel free to ask any further questions that you can think of, we are always happy to answer :slight_smile:

Chris

Thomas,

Lots of good questions (albeit very common ones) so let’s get started:

  1. The Majors want a 4 yr degree the field of study is unimportant. I actually know quite a few pilots who have degrees in the arts. Not a problem.

  2. From ZERO time to flying for a Regional usually takes about 2-2.5yrs. (9mos of training and another 1 to 1.5yrs to build the required 1500hrs). ATP is an accelerated training program designed to a) prepare you for the pace of training at the airlines and b) expedite the process. As such you would not be able to work. Not part-time, not occasionally, not at all if you want to be successful. Btw, the closest location ATP has to NH is Hartford CT (unless there’s a new one I haven’t heard of?)

  3. Japan can be tough particularly if you’re talking JAL or ANA (SkyMark is a lower tier and easier to get into). The process is similar to getting to any Major, build time and experience and apply. They might not appreciate your music degree as much as the US carriers do but I don’t believe that would be an obstacle (nor your vision). The medical is a bear from what I understand. While the US can be tolerant of certain issues the Japanese are not. No high blood pressure, no history of ANYTHING, no “well I have/had bla bla bla but it’s under control” and your BMI must be LOW (no chubby pilots). Aside from that their interviews all include EXTENSIVE knowledge exams that go very deep into aerodynamics etc. Nothing that you can’t study it’s simply they keep the bar very high. What you need to understand is they need to have a reason other than “my wife is Japanese and I like it here” to hire you. If you check the recruitment websites they usually require a Type rating for the plane they’re hiring for and since no Regionals fly Boeings or Airbus’ that means you may have to start at another Major before hand? (I know 2 pilots who fly for ANA, 1 is from Delta the other from Air Canada). That all said with the pilot shortage in full swing around the globe they may be forced to relax their standards. FYI from what I understand the training can be brutal and there’s no calling HR or the union if they call you anything “unflattering”.

  4. 31 is far from old and you’re actually right at the average age to start so that shouldn’t be a concern at all. You do say you “want to rest assured…”. I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that this industry can be less than stable. While things are great now (best they’ve been in decades) they can and do change. Terror attacks, price of oil or supply etc can all have devastating effects on the industry. Additionally while you’re ALMOST(?) guaranteed a job at a Regional making it to the Majors is not. Many do but not all. While I don’t believe it’s as random and uncertain as the music business, it certainly isn’t a government job either. Just something to be aware of.

Finally while I appreciate you’ve done a lot of flying as a passenger, flying a small plane is VERY different. Before you rack your head with this decision I STRONGLY recommend you take an Intro flight and make sure this is really something you’d enjoy. ATP will not even accept you money if you have not.

Adam

Good time everybody,
I have been doing research on aviation filed and pilot career for a while to gain the pros and cons of it to see if I want to consider it as my future career or not. It has been nicely good enough to be counted so far, butt there is one point that I have heard and honestly got shocked. It is said that this career drives pilots to screw up with their family relationship. Actually I thought it’s exactly vice versa cuz actually pilots have about 10 to 15 days of per month so they can have more time to spend with their family and I was like why the statistics of divorce should be that high among pilots, maybe it’s about them as a human that couldn’t manage their family bond but more than 70 percent divorce statistic may not be with their personality regardless their career. Does anyone know why pilot life leads to this situation? Well we are all in love with aviation world so we may think about it in a biased way, but I would be thankful if anyone has a realistic neutral judgment about the reason behind this statistic share it with other colleagues.

Ilya,

Half the marriages in the US sadly end in divorce and only a tiny percent of the population are pilots so it’s clearly not only us. That said while I don’t know if it’s as high as 70% it does seem to be pretty prevalent in the industry.

First off I want to say (and I believe) that if you’ve got a strong relationship you’ll be fine and if you don’t well it doesn’t matter what you do for a living. I think the #1 contributing factor is constant opportunity for bad behavior. After a long day of flying it’s a fairly common practice for crews to go out together. There’s often alcohol involved and simply put you put a bunch of folks together in a hotel, hundreds or thousands of miles away from home, add alcohol and bad things can and do happen. Now please understand I’m not saying it’s inevitable or definitely will happen but again if there are some fissures in your relationship, or you’re somewhat weak of character, finding someone to misbehave with is pretty easy.

I also think that often our significant others have a misconception (or perception) of what we do. While your spouse is home putting out fires and taking care of the kids you’re touring the World, trying different cuisines, seeing the sights having a grand old time. That can and often does build resentment. Simple solution is to bring them along when you can. Problem is then they KNOW you really are having fun while they’re stuck at home :slight_smile:

That all said I do know plenty of pilots who have great family lives. It takes effort but it’s worth it.

Adam

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Thanks Adam for sharing your ideas, so basically u believe that’s not for the lack of sufficient amount of time to spend with family right? and Honesty I was wondering that could truly be the reason. Anyway, I will surely take your views into consideration, thanks again