Real Answers from Real Pilots

So many questions!

So, I have a few questions, I’ll explain my background a little and hopefully I can get some advice. I am 35 and a mother of 4, ages range from 16 to 1 year. I have wanted to be a pilot as long as I can remember, but, if you do the math you’ll see I had my kids pretty early. I have looked into flight school before but time and money were not right. Now I’m ready again, And feel like it’s now or never. But…I have 4 children, I’m 35, I am married. My husband is a firefighter here in a small Colorado town. He is willing to relocate but he will most likely only be able to do that once. I’ve looked a little at the fast track program offered by ATP, and into the smaller flight schools nearby. I’m not sure where to start. Would it be better to go through a smaller school close by and then after I have all my hours and commercial to apply in a bigger city. I’d like to work for an airline, but really I’d just like to be flying while making money doing it. I’m not opposed to moving to a bigger city to go to a bigger school and get done faster, IF we were able to stay there once I was done and I could get a job out of there or fly out of that area. I have some collage also but do not have a bachelors. Which I’d like to work on but…one thing at a time. Is it realistic to shoot for the airlines at this age, which kids. And what are the best options financially?? Ok, I feel like I rambled, And not sure it all makes sense. Any advice will be greatly appreciated!!

Katherine,

Welcome to the forums and thanks for your questions.

A few points here, 35 is not too old, not by any means. Plenty of pilots enter the industry at your age or older and have long careers ahead of them. Keep in mind though that the FAA mandatory retirement age is 65. I would caution you about waiting any longer though as your career progression is further limited the older you get.

What strikes me as your biggest obstacle is the fact that you have four children, with one of them being very young. Pilots are on the road a lot, sometimes as many as 18 days per month. Schedules at the airlines are based strictly on seniority, not on your family needs, so you are going to be gone quite a bit. Unless your husband can watch and raise those kids you are going to run into real child care issues.

I am not a fan of smaller flight schools, they might mean well, but they often fail to deliver in any reasonable period of time. Large flight schools are typically able to accomplish their goals much faster. That being said, you are very likely going to have to move more than once. It is impossible to predict what airline you will end up working for and thus impossible to predict your domicile. Even after you get hired at an airline, domiciles can often change.

I am not trying to dissuade you from your dreams, I just think you have a lot of things to consider before jumping in.

Chris

Thank you for replying Chris. Are here pilot jobs out there that would/could work around a family a little more? Are those jobs worth The time and money invested in the flight training?

Katherine,

The airlines are really where the money and quality of life are at. There are corporate jobs that offer more time off, but often those jobs involve require you to be on call and be at the airport within just a few hours of receiving a phone call. Perhaps some of the other mentors will have different ideas, but I can’t really see how you could make this profession work unless your husband was able to watch your kids a significant amount of time per month.

Chris

My former flight instructor/neighbor is a pilot for a Jet Managment company and I believe he has a type rating in 3 different aircraft. He is paid on salary and is on call 10 Days and then off for 10 Days, or somthing close to that. In my mind it is a pretty nice scheudal because you know what time off you will have but you could also not fly for a month or you could be flying everyday.

Flying is a dream and a passion but a lot has to be sacrificed, at least in the beginning, for people like your or my age. I am 37 and was pondering the same question for 5 yrs before I took the leap of faith, as they say. I have an excellent job 70-80k a year, company car and credit card, my wife was actually a little upset in the beginning lol but came around to understanding my forever dream of flying.

The age is not a factor, at least right now in your case 35 is still very doable with 25+ yrs of active job flying for an airline. Since you are a woman, there are actually a lot of scholarships available for you as well look into it. 4 year degree colleges with flying are a good option, wth federal loans available, but then the age factor comes into play you’ll be 39 when you graduate with maybe 2 more years to get to 1500.

The money part is also big, unless you can get a scholarship or a grant, loans can get pricey, that’s what stopped me for the last 5 yrs, but with tuition reimbursement and sign on bonuses in the aviation job market now, payments are more manageable. My friend started 10 yrs ago and made 19k in his first year compared to around 60k now for first year pay. I saved for the last 5 yrs, figured out it was now or never and enrolled with ATP, since that is the only option I saw for myself to get done fast and build hours asap to meet the 1500 requirements.

My wife and I don’t have any kids and moved in with our parents for now to cut down expenses since my paycheck will stop when I start in April. Since my wife works, her benefits will cover us both for the time being, at least 2 yrs, or less I hope before I can start my career. In your case, 4 kids are a demanding daily ritual but since your oldest is 16 and I dunno how much of a family help you have, but at least for the next 2 yrs, if you decide to do it, you will essentially be non existent in the family life because from studying to flying and the cross country phase you’ll be too busy too tired too exhausted to focus on family. Airline job is also demanding schedule wise when you are first starting out but you can gain more time if you live in your assigned base city by cutting the commute time for duty days. So if you have enough family support, once again it’s doable.

Just do a personal checklist, see where you stand, money, family, support, and then decide. Keep in mind that nothing is guaranteed but it’s better, to me anyways, to have tried and failed than regretting a career lost because of never trying. Go to a local FBO get a private license at least and then if you decide to continue, I honestly believe ATP is like the Harvard of flight schools and you’ll get the job with ATP training on your resume.

Good luck to you :slight_smile:

Thanks so much for all the great advice. Definitely helps to hear others stories as well.It is a dream and would be hard to let go…again, I know the big money is in the major airlines, but is it worth it at all to get all the certs needed to do anything else that at least contributes something financially? I’d like to be in a position where I can rely on myself if needed but I do have my husbands income as well. I wouldn’t be doing it just for the money, but obviously with 4 kids I can’t justify spending that much to just have a hobby. Is charter that bad, or regional?

Katherine,

Just to chime in there are many fine small schools but most simply lack the resources (pilots and planes) to help you get where you need to be to be a professional. Also training less than full time is incredibly inefficient.

As for flying gigs there are great charter jobs and terrible ones. Some you have fixed schedule others you’re on call 24/7. Fortunately the airlines are hiring like crazy so there are more charter jobs out there. The Regionals are just like the Majors except for the lower pay so if you’re looking for schedule it’s a wash.

As the other’s have said the first few years will be tough. I started later in life as well and have 3 children. When I started they were 8, 10 and 12. The first few years training, instructing and finally flying for a Regional I was non-existent in their lives. Please understand I’m not trying to dissuade you in any way. The choice I made was essential for me as I was very unhappy and my life needed a major overhaul. Prior to training I honestly wasn’t a joy to be around BUT I was there. I’m sure if you really want this you can sort out the child care with your husband but I think it’s important for you to know you WILL miss ALOT. Little league, dances, science fairs, holidays your kids will be looking for you, asking why you’re not home then eventually explaining it to others. I love my job and have a great relationship with my kids (they’re 21, 23 and 25 now) but I still wrestle with those lost years. Again I’m not trying to talk you out of anything but I do believe you should go in with open eyes. It’s hard.

Adam

Hi Katherine.

I think these guys have all given you some great advice and answered all your questions. I am in a similar situation as you are right now. I am a father of 2 (1 and 7 years olds). I recently decided to attend ATP and will start at the Denver location in April. It was a tough decision. But ultimately, I had to follow my dream. While being rough for the first few years, it will pay off after I start flying for an airline. For the kids, we are fortunate to have family that will help us out immensely. My wife works in the banking industry, so her schedule is a little more normal than a firefighters schedule. While it will be hard, my family will be staying put in Wyoming during the training phase of my career. There are too many unknowns as to where I may end up in the end that I don’t want to move them just yet. So I will be driving 6 hours one way on some weekends to go back home and I’m sure they’ll make the trip down to see me. I am fortunate that I have a good friend, that lives about 10 miles from the ATP location there, that has agreed to let me stay with him rent free. Once I start with an airline, if commuting out of Wyoming isn’t feasible to us, we’ve thought about moving to the Denver area. That way we are still close to Wyoming and commuting out of Denver should offer enough options where it isn’t a huge deal. I have a friend that works for Express Jet and is based in Houston. He lives in the Denver area and commutes without much issue. This decision is life changing in many ways but my wife and I agree that we should do what makes us happy. It will be a sacrifice at first but the rewards in the end will be worth it. I would really recommend a trip to an ATP training facility and take a tour. Take an intro flight too and make sure its what you want to do. It is not impossible to do this and there will be others doing the same thing. Best of luck to you!

Gabe

Thanks Gabe, sounds like you have a great support system. I have a lot of family in that area as well. I have considered ATP, and moving to the Denver and surrounding area would be easier. It sounds like after getting a job at a regional and major airline that the schedule will be pretty demanding as well. Just such a tough call, my kids have always been my first priority, I’ve worked everything around them. To do something like this would be a major change. And while I can’t really think about not flying, I’m not sure I’d be happy being away from my kids so much. I will call ATP and just talk to someone, maybe they can shed a little more light on things.

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