Career Changer

Aeronca

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I'm looking for opinions from some seasoned pilots.

My main question is do I still have a shot at a decent career at either a regional jet operator or fractional. I am realistic about what opportunities may be available to me. I don't expect to go
to the Majors.

Here are my stats:

35 years old, 2 year degree, CFI with about 400 hours. I don't yet have any multi time. I'm currently instructing part-time and fly anywhere between 0-13 hours per week. I can't quit my full time job because I need the insurance benefits for the benefit of my family.

I realize that if I am going to make a go of this, I will have to start instructing full-time. If all goes will, I will make the transition this
spring.

It's not that I've lost my desire to do this. I just need a reality check from some people with experience.

I would appreciate any replies, good or bad.

Thank you.
 

bluestuck

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Go for it. I left a desk job four years ago with 0 flight time, and am flying for a regional. I think that it will be realistic, if you want to, to make it to a major. All things are cyclical, and this current crisis is no different. Depending on where you life, just beg borrow and steal any flying time you can. One good place, is angel flight. Look up their website. they fly kids from out in the sticks to hospitals in the city. If you sign up to become an instructor/check dude for them, you will fly alot!!! You get the beni of doing something good, and free flight time for it on the side. Plus some of the guys who volunteer their planes have some sweeeeeeeeeeet birds.
 

UPS Capt

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No, you're not too old! However, the equation has certainly changed since 9/11 and the airlines are currently in one of their cyclical hiring slumps. This was not caused soley by the events of 9/11 but a combination of that and the slow economy. A double whammy! What that means, obviously, is that jobs are fewer and competition for those few slots increases. There are literally thousands of high time pilots (5000+ hrs) currently pounding the pavement looking for any flying job while the regional airlines and corporate flight dept's can pick and choose from a large stack of resumes. If you continue to build quality time, you should be in a good position for employment when the hiring cycle begins to pick up...and if history proves right, it will!

The current hiring slump may actually work in your favor as many semi- wannabe's will begin to look at other fields of endeavor while losing interest and patience on a flying career. At your age and with a family, I'm not sure quiting your current job and instructing full time is the way to go. Your family will suffer greatly unless your wife has a good job. It'll take several years "after" getting hired by a regional before you'll make decent money in which to support them. Remember also, that the regional/corporate/major job you are working toward may not be what you thought it was going to be. Long duty days, low pay, crappy schedules, and time away from the family will begin to tarnish that shine once on the apple. That RJ, as an example, will begin to look very small to you after a while and you'll begin to want something bigger that pays more. Very few people are completely satisfied flying for a regional knowing they do the same job as someone at a major making twice as much. I thought I would be but fell into the same "wanting more" trap as many of my friends.

If this is something you want more than anything and are willing and able to make sacrifices, then go for it. You do need to pick up the pace with aquiring quality time and the type of time you are logging. You need to work on obtaining multi PIC time. 1000tt of pattern work in a C152 isn't going to cut it. You might want to look into one of those accelerated school package deals. At your age that may be the best (quickest) way to go.

Advice: Don't quit your current job unless you can afford it for several years. Look into an accelerated program with an affilliation or two with a regional airline. Get a MEI and start building multi time. I'm sure someone else will pipe up here with more advice but that's how I see it.
 

flint4xx

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Ask yourself what it is about flying that you like. Getting it may not necessarily be doing it for a living. Maybe you already have the best situation for you and don't appreciate it. Maybe sticking with instruction and getting into the examiner business, or starting your own flight school. Fractionals, corporate, cargo, or whatever eventually will pay the bills, but it is a long bumpy road.
Maybe glider or ultralights will give it to you. The answer isn't always at the airlines. Good luck whatever you choose.:)
 

Saabslime

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The post by UPS Capt is about the truest piece of advice I've read on this board yet. Funny how you dont think about a lot of those things until you've already jumped in with both feet and have some experience under your belt. I'm not saying I have any regrets. It's still the best job in the world but like most good things, it comes with a hell of a price tag when you bring a family into the equation.

My only .02 cents here is dont commute if you do go for that regional job. It only adds to your expenses and time away from your family. My son just turned 3 and I feel I've missed some of the best moments in his life. We finally moved to where I'm based and although its not the city we desire to stay in long term, life is a whole lot sweeter.
 

kilomike

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flint4xx put it perfectly

Flint 4xx hit the nail on the head on this one. You may not have to fly for a living to be able to enjoy flying. I have switched gears into a new career but I anticipate eventually being able to incorporate flying into my company's business. There are many business people who own aircraft and use them in the furtherance of the business and that can be both lucrative and enjoyable. I also enjoy personal flying with friends.

He also pointed out that the airlines are not the only answer. He is so right.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do and fly safe!
kilomike
 

dondk

Don't you wish
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I second just about everything posted by the others. The only exception is to locate an accerlated program with a regional affiliation.
I worked for one of those regionals who had an accerlated program which fed the cockpits of the airline. I can say it was easy to "pick out" the people who came through the program to the line. Not saying they were bad, in fact some were trained so well it was a compliment to the program. Now the attitudes, that is a different story, no matter how good some were the general consensus was that they were a joke and thought less of. The "students" did not help the cause either because they felt the were better because they got there in less time than the rest. A vicious circle and add the pseudo PFT, and that will bring out the ire of the calmest guy here.

If I had to do it all over, I am not sure I would chose an airline route, there are much better ways to get the same goal.
 

bobbysamd

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Reality check, as requested

I don't know how much of a "reality check" this may be. The best I can do is relate to you my experience because I was about the same age and with about the same experience level as you when I tried it.

I started flying nearly twenty years ago when I was just turning 31. Learning to fly in and of itself was fulfillment of a dream. I found I really enjoyed it and kept working on ratings so I could be a better pilot. I couldn't work on ratings consistently because I worked horrible overnight shifts for a few years.

I became disenchanted and disillusioned with my business, which was radio news reporting. Then, in 1987, I started to read and hear about about a "pilot shortage." The Future Aviation Professionals of America were espousing propaganda which said forty thousand pilots would be needed over the next ten years. I say "propaganda" because, I learned later, that's what it was. I was 36 by then and had my Commercial and all ratings except multi. I had a long-time friend who was flying for a commuter and another acquaintance who had just gotten a job with Simmons. I thought, if they can do it, why can't I do it? I discussed changing careers with aviation professionals whose opinions I trusted. They said I should go for it. I finished my multi and MEI and I did.

I started by applying to commuters with my 900-some-odd hours and something like 15 of multi. This was in late '87-early '88 at the peak of that alleged "hiring boom." Plenty of spam and plenty of polite rejections, if I received any response at all. I applied at Embry-Riddle to instruct, thinking that if I instructed there it would be a decent reference. I had my four-year degree already. I got hired at Riddle, built hours, built multi, and got my ATP. I continued to spam the commuters. Primarily the same results as above; in fact, I continued to send updates to SkyWest for six years and always got the same rejection postcard.

I finally began to interview with commuters in the summer of 1990. I had five interviews from that time through the spring of '91. None of these commuters wanted me and no others were interested in me. One commuter, StatesWest, was in Phoenix, only 80 miles from me. I spammed it and dropped resumes by personally when I was in Phoenix. No response from them AT ALL.

You probably get the picture. And, to put my story into further perspective, bear in mind the times back then. Recession and a war. I was ripe but those events stopped hiring completely, just as now. Perhaps I didn't do the best interviews; I would concede that to a point. But I know of plenty of people who were hired who did less-than-perfect interviews.

My theory for my experience is threefold: (1) There never was, never has been and never will be, a pilot shortage. That was FAPA BS. Its successors continue to espouse the same nonsense. Don't believe it!! Every interview I attended was chock full of qualified pilots, including ex-military. Also, Pan Am and Eastern had folded and inserted many qualified pilots into the employment pool. Now, Emery and Midway pilots are looking. There is never a good time to get hired. Companies always have tons of resumes from qualified pilots. There are really very few jobs to be had. (2) Age discrimination. I was in my late 30s-early 40s when I was applying. Kids nearly half my age and with fewer hours than me were getting hired by commuters. (3) The economy. No airlines were hiring. I kept working via instructing. Finally, I had some bad experiences with employers during my last year in aviation, 1993. I left aviation, very bitter, and went back to school.

I feel very strongly that I was discriminated against because of age. I don't think you're too old at this point, but I suggest you keep age discrimination in mind.

One further point about age discrimination. I have seen the stories about pilots who were even in their fifties when the majors hired them. Let's examine these stories. Yes, the MAJORS hired these folks. The truth of it, guys 'n gals, is these folks were already very experienced and had been working for years for commuters, corporate, etc., with some being ex-military. I doubt that these over-thirty types were 300-hour or even 1000-hour wonders. The commuters are the usual next step after building time instructing or otherwise. How many career-changing, over-40 types do the commuters hire? I submit, a paltry few at the best.

I just give you my experiences as food for thought. Having said all that, I'd suggest you forthwith get your four-year degree because you won't amount to anything in this business without it. Finish your ratings and build multi. Instruct as much as you can. Build your time and start spamming. You need a Plan B just in case aviation doesn't work out. Maybe you might have other money available that can let you instruct full-time and let you pay for your health insurance through COBRA. I agree with other posters; don't look solely at airlines. There are other flying opportunities available that are just as good but are not as visible as airlines.

Hope all this provides you with some perspective. Good luck with your decision.

PS-I read "Fletch 717's" post with interest. It's great that he made it. But, to put perspective on his good fortune, bear in mind that luck and timing are everything in aviation. When he changed careers, the economy and airline hiring really were in flush times. You need luck. For every person who got in during those times, I'd submit there were dozens who never got past the flight instructing stage. Now, that IS a reality check.

Once again, good luck to you.
 
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nightrider

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career changer

Honestly all civilian pilots have been there. I graduated from college in 93, hired by a major in 01. If you can handle making between 18-30K a year for between 6-9 yrs, I would say go for it.
I think that the industry will turn around in the next 2 to 3 yrs.
Whatever you do, be honest with your spouse. Let him or her know what this entails.

Also realize this my daughter is 6 yrs. old, and I have had 1 thanksgiving and possibly 1 christmas (trip cancelled) I hope, this is one of the hidden prices of this career. If you are willing to pay this price you may indeed make it.

Good luck
 
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FlyinBrian

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I wanted to comment on the idea of a "pilot shortage," (somthing many people are still predicting in the years to come.) A shortage occurs when the current price of a good or service (pilot salary) is artifically low given the current supply and demand. There are a couple ways to remedy this situation, each of which focuses on increasing the amount of pilot labor that the market will supply. (Sorry if the verbage is awkward, but I have to keep the econ majors off my back.)

1.) increase salary (quit laughing.) This doesn't actually increase the supply of labor, but increases the number of people within the labor supply willing to do the job.
2.) Lower experience requirements to make the labor pool larger. This actually increases the labor supply.

There always has been and always will be plenty of pilots willing to fill the jobs. Airlines never have had trouble filling their seats. You may see mimimum hiring requirements come down, but there will always be stiff competition for airline jobs.

Also, to the original poster, check the thread on "professional pilot programs" And you will get a feel for what dondk is talking about when he says:

"Now the attitudes, that is a different story, no matter how good some were the general consensus was that they were a joke and thought less of. The "students" did not help the cause either because they felt the were better because they got there in less time than the rest. A vicious circle and add the pseudo PFT, and that will bring out the ire of the calmest guy here. "
 

fletch717

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In 1997 I was 33 and held a private pilot single engine rating. I was in sales and was doing well. I had been married 6 months when I told my wife that all I ever wanted to be was a airline pilot and I would'nt be happy unless I tried. I quit my job and without much research started full time at comair academy. My wife supported us both. Needless to say we were broke. I finished at comair in 11 months with my MEI. I was hired as a flight instructor in Atlanta, Ga. After 14 months I was hired with U.S. Airways Express in CLT on the J32. 18 months later I was hired by Airtran on the B717 where I have been for the past year. Never in my dreams did I think I would go this far this fast. This is still the only thing I have ever wanted to do. I love it, I can't wait to go back to work after 3 or 4 days off. My advice is, If this is your dream then make it happen Don't let anyone tell you you can't do it. And most important Don't ever give up.

Good Luck,

Fletch
 

bailout

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Timing is EVERYTHING. I too was a career changer. Last Jan., at 35 quit my GOOD paying job/career, went to FSI got all my ratings. And now I cant find a job anywhere and am living on peanuts trying to survive. I'm glad for everyone who else made it. I know I will get there one day. My advice.... prepare for the worst situtaion, and hope you get lucky and wont ever see it. I'm seeing it now, and it aint pretty. Hindsight is always 20/20....
 

skydiverdriver

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I got a job flying a Fokker 27 for a Fedex feeder at age 34, and then went to a large regional at age 36. It can be done, and I gave up as many times as some of you have. Try to get a copy of the book "I can do anything I want, if I only knew what it was" by Barbara Sher. It helps to to know what your dream job is, and how to leave your "safe" job. It also helps you to understand that there is no such thing as a safe job anyway. Good luck to you.
 
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