Real Answers from Real Pilots

Trying to live my dream!

So, I have had a life long dream of being a pilot. I have never believed in myself enough to pursue it. I was always discouraged from doing so, as well. Anyway, at 38 married with 5 kids I have decided that I am going to give it a try.
My wife is very supportive and is actually the one really encouraging me to stick this out. She is willing to sell the house and move to a remote pacific island if that is what it takes. Look, I know that this is going to be a long row to hoe, and an extremely difficult one at that! That being said I am not looking for more discouragement, just advice on the best route to take. I do not really care if I ever fly for a major airline (not discounting it). I just want to fly and can’t afford to do it for fun, so I need to make some money at it eventually.
I am a veteran so I get in state tuition in most states. I do not however have any GI Bill Benefits, I have been out of the Guard too long. So our current plan is for me to go to a community college that offers a pilot program. I am currently attended my local community college getting some of the academic requirements out of the way. That way I can just concentrate on the aviation portion of the degree when I transfer, and it gives us time to get our ducks in a row before moving.
My main question is, and I have been unable to find an answer to, is this: Has anyone ever heard of a four year school hiring a CFI from a Community College? I think the school near me, Liberty University, allows staff to take classes for free. I thought that may be a good way to finish my degree, get paid a little, and build hours. However, I am not sure this is even a possibility. I do think a degree would help differentiate, especially at my age.
I know this is going to be hard, but I want to try. I work 50 hours one week, 60 the next, have five kids, I am married, taking 6 credit hours per semester, and have a GPA of 3.6. That is all just to say I am working hard to make this happen so don’t discount me, give me constructive advice.

Thanks!

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Hi Justin and welcome,

Definitely not here to discourage, quite the contrary, and at 38 why wouldn’t you want to fly for a Major? I started at 39 and I do. There also shouldn’t be any need to sell the house and move to a Pacific island (although that’s what I did. I live in Hawaii and trust me that’s not a bad thing). Anyway I know you know this is ATPs website and it’s no surprise I’m a fan of their program. I’m also not a saleman and get nothing whether you sign up or not. That said I want to throw a few thoughts at you.

When I was 39 and decided to take the plunge I did a TON of research on flight schools and becoming a professional pilot. While 38 certainly isn’t old, it’s not young either. Not when you’re talking about a career with a finite expiration date of 65. That means the longer it takes you to get to an airline the less seniority you will accrue and therefore the less earning potential. Completing all your education upfront (while not a bad idea) means a minimum of 4 yrs before you start building time. You’ll need 1500hrs and that means at least 2 yrs at a fairly busy flight school working full time. Most flight schools (including colleges and universities) like to give jobs to their own students. Makes sense no? These pilots just spent 2-4 yrs training and paying money to those institutions so wouldn’t you give them the first crack at available positions? Ok, back to our timeline, under ideal conditions you’re not looking at getting hired at a Regional for 6 yrs (and 44yo). As an alternative you go straight to ATP, get a GUARANTEED Instructor gig, build your time and get hired in 2. THEN get your degree (if you so choose) online while working, getting paid and collecting Tuition Reimbursement while flying for a Regional. That’s 4 more year building seniority at a higher pay rate and ultimately having the opportunity to make real money. Senior Major airline Capts earn over $350k. Over 4 years that $1.4 million that you’re forfeiting.

If you really are serious you really need to seriously consider fast tracking this career. That’s what I did and it’s paid off in many ways.

Adam

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Justin,

If I understand your question, the only school that I know of that provides
education in return for flight instruction is Embry Riddle. I do not know
the logistics, but I know a CFI that got his ratings at ATP before he went
to college. He enrolled at Embry Riddle and the deal was if he taught for
the school, his tuition would be paid for (I think). He’s not teaching for
them anymore, and I don’t know why. I have reached out to him. I will let
you know what he says as soon as I hear back.

Tory

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Hey Justin,

This is what I have gathered. Embry Riddle hires CFIs (as needed) and in
return will compensate up to 2 classes per semester. The CFIs teach in
C172s and DA42s. They also offer discounted housing.

Hope that helps.

Tory

Justin,

Nobody is here to discount you and all we do is give realistic, constructive advice.

At 38 you are certainly on the older side when it comes to entering the profession. While your approach of going to a community college will work, it is the long way. I would recommend that you look into ATP’s nine month program, you could be getting paid to fly in nine months and to the airlines and two years. Your time frame at the community college will be much longer.

After attending ATP you could then go on to finish your degree at online school while you are flying for a regional airline. Many schools will give credit for pilot training, thus helping to reduce your costs.

Your plan will certainly work to, but what I suggested is a far faster route, just something to think about.

Chris

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So, thank you all very much for your replies. I do not know much about ATP. The issue I see with it would be whether or not I can still work, while attending. Like I mentioned before I have five kids, and I am not sure if I said that I am the sole provider for our family. All of our kids are adopted, we just got our boys home from Poland in March, and we want to give them a year to settle before another major upheaval. By then I will basically have all my academic classes already completed (I started last fall everything went haywire with the adoption, so the plans changed a bit of moving for this fall). I can go through most of the flight training at a community college quickly probably a year if that is my sole focus. So, does that change anyone’s thoughts knowing where I am at in classes? I am open to the idea of ATP, mostly I have read positive things about ATP. However, everyone does say the cost is very high.
I really am open to all suggestions, but I do think I am in a bit of a unique position. Once we sell the house, and I cash in the 401k, we should be able to pay off enough and downsize in house so that I can work 2-3 days a week, esp if I can stay where my company I drive for now has trucks. I will have to temporarily quit to cash in my 401K, then get rehired. The owners really like me esp their sons that are being groomed to take over. I am sure they would work with me especially if I will work weekends. That would give an income of approximately $600-$750 if I work 3 days. Anyway, long story short, I thought the flexibility of community college would be a great benefit until flying pays me, even peanuts as an instructor. Is ATP too intense to have a side job?
Also, someone asked why I didn’t want to work for a major, and I am not saying that I don’t want too. I am just saying that isn’t necessary for me to fill fulfilled. Just getting paid to fly will be a life long dream, making it to a major would be an added bonus. I actually think flying passengers on one of the Essential Air Service routes in a Caravan or a Pilatus-12 would be fun for a little while.
Once again thanks for the responses!

Justin,

I do not think ATP’s cost is high at all. You have to remember that most local flight schools or even colleges will quote a price based on the minimum hours required to get a license, but almost nobody does it in that amount of time, I certainly did not.

That being said, I think that the real issue for you is needing to work while training, which is of course totally understandable. That being said, I don’t see any way possible for you to be able to work while attending ATP, the course work is just too great and you will need to be gone on some weekends for cross countries and CFI school. I have heard stories of people trying to do this and they always end up doing poorly in their flight training because they are just plain tired and over stressed. ATP is highly accelerated training, as such there really isn’t time for side jobs.

Some of that EAS flying does look pretty cool, but at this point I am too spoiled by my 737 :slight_smile:

Chris

Justin,

I’m with Chris, if you break down the cost of ATP it’s not expensive at all (actually it’s the contrary). The difference is ATP price is FIXED and the numbers are what you need to be successful. Factor in a guaranteed Instructor position and Tuition Reimbursement and the cost is down right reasonable.

The other thing I have to second Chris on is you will not be able to train with ATP and work. Simply is not going to happen. While I understand and appreciate the need to support your family, there’s no way you can complete the amount of training required and work. Even part time.

Adam