Real Answers from Real Pilots

Working while in training?

It the ATP course full time? How many students hold jobs while in the ‘fast track’ 9 month program?

I’m in my early 40’s and looking to make a career change to a commercial (regional) pilot but I have to balance mortgage and family - not wanting to loose a house or accumulate too much debt. With that consideration, I’m not sure if I should go through a local flight school for ratings and hours or ATP.

Thoughts?

Greg,

I addressed your questions about working in the other thread, so I will limit this one to your questions about a local flight school.

I fully understand your desire to keep working while in training, but think about this: a local flight school is going to take you significantly longer, maybe even years, and especially while working. They might promise you that they can do it quickly, but they will fail almost every single time. You will find that small schools often have issues with instructor availability, aircraft availability, examiner availability, etc. Those delays will end up costing you time and money. The years lost flying for the airlines will further cost you money.

Now plenty of people have gone the local flight school route, in fact all three of the mentors here got their PPLs through local flight schools, but we all ended up finishing through ATP because the local schools were such disasters. This isn’t to say that all of them are, but it does seem to be the common theme.

Of course the decision is yours, I would spend some serious time investigating the various options that are available to you and asking as many questions as possible. Of course, we are always happy to answer whatever questions you may have.

Chris

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Greg,

As Chris and Tori have said working while at ATP is not going to happen. Some have tried and failed. If you decide to go the local route I STRONGLY suggest you set up a timeline starting with the Private. It’s incredibly easy for 2mos to become 6 to become a year. Sadly that’s the common theme and you’re the one who ends up spending WAY too much and making WAY too little progress. As someone who started later than most with a family and responsibilities I completely understand the desire and need to keep the money coming in. Problem is pilot’s have a very finite amount of time we can fly and every day, month, year you delay is one less you’ll be able to fly and you’ll never get back. While this may sound like no biggy I can tell you it’s not. I’m a Capt at a Major now, love my job and am finally making “good money” but the 11 years I have left to fly seems way too close and not a day goes by I don’t wish I could extend it. If you’re serious about doing this as a career you need to get serious about your training.

Adam

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Thank you both.

I am very serious about entering into this industry and making a career, I just want to be smart about it. From what I am hearing, the best way to get into the field is to jump in head first. Quit my current job, enroll in ATP, work hard, fly often and get on with a regional.

Easier said than done but like I said, I am motivated and willing to make the change.

Greg,

I should point out that before you go any further at all, you need to take an introductory flight. It is one thing to think you want to fly, it is a whole different thing to sit behind the controls of an airplane and actually be in charge of this.

You can take an introductory flight at ATP or just about any local flight school.

Chris

I’ve done the intro flight and sincerely believe I would enjoy this career.

That being said. Is the pilot shortage real? In your collective experience, how difficult is it for pilots to find jobs?

Greg,

At the regional level, the shortage is here ans is absolutely real. The regionals are snatching up pilots left and right as soon as they meet the FAA imposed hiring minimums. None of us have seen anything like it before and it is showing no signs of stopping. Keep your record clean (to include your FAA record, driving, and criminal), build your flight time, have a good attitude, and most importantly know how to fly, and you should be fine.

Chris

The regionals are where I want to be so that is good news.

Thank you.

Do you have any words of caution for one on the cusp of making the career change via ATP - or any other school?

Greg,

As Chris said the pilot shortage is VERY real at the Regionals. If you have any doubt, don’t take our word for it, go on ANY of the Regional Airline websites and see for yourself. The salaries have literally doubled and tripled. There are hiring bonuses, tuition reimbursements, and conditional offers of employment long before you’re even eligible for the job. It’s actually somewhat annoying as it was considerably more difficult just to get an interview let alone get hired when I started for less than half the pay. It’s about supply and demand and trust me the airlines wouldn’t be offering these things if they didn’t have to.

As far as cautions I only have one. Are you AND your family ready for this? ATP was created BY airline pilots to train airline pilots and it’s not for the casual or lazy (just like airline training). You’re basically condensing 2+years of training in 9mos and it takes a fair amount of focus and dedication. Your family will need to understand that daddy’s going to be VERY busy and somewhat unavailable. It’s a sacrifice but if you want to fly there’s no better route.

Adam

To tack onto what Chris said… I started at a local flight school with a goal of getting a PPL. I was flying 2-3 times a week weather permitting. After the 3-4 lesson, my instructor sat me down and told me that our flight school (one of and the best of only two schools locally) was closing and we had an indefinite time to finish my flying before the aircraft were sold… I soloed in a Piper Warrior and flew all the way up to my XC solo requirements. The buyer came and my instructor and a/c were gone. I reluctantly and after about a 1-2 month break switched to the “other” school. Their fleet was 172s, so I had to get new materials to learn how to fly the Cessna. My instructor was terrific, but their fleet left a “lasting” impression. If you didn’t schedule Romeo Kilo enough in advance, you were flying November Mike aka “Nasty Mike” with barn door flaps and a “camera” hole in the back of the aircraft. No bueno… Switching airframes and instructors meant not only learning how to fly a new airplane and solo it ($$$), but also learning how to fly with a new CFI ($). In the end, I spent additional 10-12 hours retraining ($2-2.5k) and adjusting…and my budget was up. Now, if I was working on my PPL, I’d probably be fine…set aside $600-800 a month and knock it out in another year or so. But…seniority at airlines is everything. That year is one more year off your time to 65 and one year less of your top earning capacity as a pilot.
The way I look at it is this…if a captain working for one of the majors makes $300k a year, every 6 extra months that you spend at a non accelerated program is $150k you forfeit. Time may be a luxury of 20-24 year olds getting out with their BAs. For “seasoned” career people like you and I, it’s not as much of an option.

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That is quite a bit of good information. Thank you all.

Once I get my 1st class medical in hand, I expect to make the leap and start ATP at the earliest class start date.

I hope to see you all in the air.

Greg,

Also, take a look at the “schedules” section with your family and make sure they will be okay with you not being home every night.

As always, feel free to ask us anything you can think of.

Chris

Little late to the party here, but I’d find it quite difficult to run a job and train once you get passed PPL. It seems that’s when the intensity really started to pick up in my program…

Upon getting my PPL, we immediately moved on to the PIC time build portion, we were in the air for 4-6 hours every day for a week. Now I’m firmly in IR and we’re doing a sim and flight in the same day several times a week, plus grounds. Add to that the dynamic nature of the schedule(s) it’d be nigh impossible.

Best of luck.

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So it sounds more and more if I am able to do this, the course work and culture will be closer to the college environment in that I am in class all day and studying all night.

Yep, you got it.

nine months of hard work for the entry into a good career, I would be willing to do that.

Well… really depends on you and your learning style. Personally I show up 45mins prior to a flight to get the preflight walk around done, weight & balance figures, review the maintenance logs and go over AD’s/337’s. After the flight debrief I head home to do my studying. I’m only at “school” for my scheduled time(s).

how many days you wait for the 1st class medical to be process?

Ivan,

First Class medicals are issued immediately after the examination UNLESS there’s an issue.

Adam