Pursuing a Dream--and lots of questions

Sooneruga

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I'm currently an officer in the Air Force but I don't fly (my eyesight wasn't good enough), and I will be eligible to retire in 2 yrs. I really never thought I had a chance to be a commercial pilot because of my eyesight & age. However, I discovered in the past year that airlines don't care what your eyesight is as long as it is correctable to 20/20 and that age didn't matter either (I'm 42). So, I was really excited that my dream of being a commercial pilot could happen. Obviously, the current state of the airline industry has tempered my enthusiasm but right now I’m still full throttle on pursuing my dream.

I have a couple of questions that I was hoping some of you experts could help me with.

#1. I have researched/contacted several academies (FSI, Pan Am, Comair, Tab Express, ATP, Ari-Ben Aviator, Sierra Academy, and several others). I’ve been told that FSI and Pan Am are the best but others have told me it doesn’t matter how you get your ratings as long as you meet the minimum flying hours required by the airlines. My question is DOES it matter what academy you attend and, if so, any thoughts on the best academy to attend?

#2. Even though my eyesight is correctable to 20/20 (my uncorrected is about 20/200) I’m thinking about having LASIK. Do airlines frown on LASIK? Is it really true that airlines only care that your eyesight is correctable to 20/20 (that wasn’t the case several years before)

#3. Can someone give me a general idea of the salary that a pilot will make at a regional in the first couple of years, including per diem

#4. What is the washout rate during training at the regionals? What is the main reason people washout?

SORRY for being so long winded. I’m just trying to get as much info to make sure I make the right decisions.
 

aero99

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Sooneruga,

Welcome aboard.

You should get some good responses to all your questions here. Question #1 is always a big topic here on the board. Who is better, most expenise, who is PFT etc.... and there are many opinions. Do a search in the forum on any of those school names and you will have a weeks worth of reading with all the past threads. Some good discussions in there.

I'm not an airline pilot, just a GA pilot, so I will let the others answer your other questions, or just do a search.

Pan Am is one of the most expensive. And no, it really doesn't matter where you get the ratings. You can go to an FBO, or flight school....just depends on how much you want to spend.

Good luck.
 

avbug

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Sooner,

1. Where you train isn't so important as what you learn. You'll end up with the same certification; a commercial pilot is a commercial pilot. You can very often get training locally at your nearby flight school or FBO for much less than you can get it at a big name academy. You have much lower expenses while you're doing it, too. Plus the comfort of home.

2. So long as you can pass your exam for a first class airman medical certificate, you're golden.

3. Several years of work as a flight instructor or other low paying position will be required to get to the airline seat. When you get there, you're going to take a pay cut from an already dismal pay level. Your advantage will be your military retirement, which will allow you to put up with low wages with little or no discomfort for years, if you need to. Your salary starting with a regional will be between 12,000 and 15,000 dollars, and add a bit for perdiem (varies with what position you fly; reserve, etc).

4. Washout rate? Washing out isn't really the issue; lack of preparation is the issue. Airline flying isn't the most demanding flying in the world. It isn't a matter of testing the mettle of each employee during training. When considering regional airlines, it's an entry level job, often taking people with a thousand hours or less, these days.

I'll add quickly, before enduring a lynching, that this doesn't indicate that regionals are filled with poor pilots, and that's not what I'm saying. What I am saying is that pilots who "wash out" of training for a regional do so for either lack of competence or simply not trying. Often it's a lack of experience that contributes to both. Once hired, you should have no problems.
 

bobbysamd

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Career Plans

Maybe I can answer a few of your questions and/or provide some information. I was about your age when I decided to pursue aviation full time.

I changed careers to aviation about fourteen years ago. I was 37. This was during a previous so-called "pilot shortage." I was told that I wasn't too old. I had been flying for five years and had most of my ratings. I finished my multi ratings and went to work instructing for ERAU. By the time I was ripe in terms of total hours, multi and certificates, a recession, war, and endings of Pan Am and Eastern essentially halted regional hiring. All I ever wanted was a regional job. I was in my early 40s by then; whatever regional jobs there were went to people nearly half my age. Our basic quals were identical: flight instruction. These folks had nothing special to set them apart, such as 135 time. I will go to my grave believing that I was a victim of age discrimination. I believe that age discrimination runs rampant in regional hiring.

You will hear plenty of stories of pilots in their 50s being hired at the majors. What these stories don't mention is these very same pilots were already flying for years at regionals, corporate or military or whatever, and were well qualified for the majors. I'd suggest you set a realistic goal for your flight career because you might be too old to receive fair consideration by the majors. Factor in furloughees and so many other, younger pilots who are ahead of you experience-wise. Fractionals and corporate may be a more realistic goal for you.

I instructed at FlightSafety ten years ago. I know FlightSafety and it is a good program. I can vouch for it. I know that Pan Am has a center down the street, in Fort Pierce. I don't know much about Pan Am, but I hear that it is comparable to FSI, in terms of cost and opportunities, and in dealing with large flightschool nonsense. Sierra Academy in San Fran has been around forever. I worked with an ERAU flight line faculty member who took his training there. If you run a search on the board for Ari-Ben and TAB, you'll glean a good cross-section of comments pro and con for all. I assume you have G.I. Bill benies coming; if so, you probably need to check out 14 CFR 141-certified schools because they may be the only flight schools to which you can apply your benefits. My opinion is it does matter that you go to a 141 school because you are more or less assured of receiving standardized training.

You might want to check out Mesa Airlines Pilot Development, www.flightcareers.com . I instructed at that school briefly. It may be right for you. You go through the school and when you graduate at 300 hours you can interview with Mesa Airlines. In this instance, because you will have been watched closely, age discrimination may not be a factor and you might have a real shot at a job. I'm sure MAPD is still a Part 141 school. A number of Gulf War vets were training there when I worked there. Mesa used to like to hire military veterans. Comair does have a similar program, but you have to instruct to build up time before you can interview.

It used to be that airlines frowned big time on vision correction surgery. I'd give the surgery a great deal of thought because there are risks. As long as your vision is correctable to 20/20, you can get a First Class Medical. You probably will have a corrective lens restriction. I'm something like 20/400 left, 20/40 right and I have a corrective lens restriction on my medical.

First-year regional salaries aren't that great. I've heard between $12K - $20K for the first year. It gets better thereafter. I know others can help with per diem. I know what many people would do is eat as cheaply as possible and pocket the rest of their per diem.

Finally, people do wash out of training. Sometimes, they can't cut it. But there are types in training departments who carve a notch every time they bust someone.

Hope these thoughts help and/or start a good discussion. Good luck with your decisions.
 
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newmei

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I say go to a FBO and get your training. Go visit a couple and pick one that has the most bang for the buck with safety in mind. I did all my training either privately or through FBO's. I have flown with about 10 instructors from PP up to my MEI. Some were good some were bad. From my experience the younger they got the better. The old guys had some good rules of thumb. One guy was even an ex-FAA inspector boy he was an ear full but he was darn good. Most of all what I have found is that training is what YOU make of it! Prepare for your lessons by reading. Pick up a FAR book go to the beginning and it should say recommended reading for each rating along with each regulation. Read and memorize all of them, that will put you 2 steps in front of everyone. I tend to like FAA books. Why? Because that is who is gonna bust you. They felt it important enough to put it in their. Pick up the airplane flying handbook and review your manuvers and procedures before your flights, that way when a instructor sits down to do some ground it will just sorta of be a patch up of things you don't understand from reading. Also pickup the airplane knowledge handbook. With those two alone read throughly your gonna be in good shape. Then if you want you can pick up some of the other non-goverment books.
 

exeagle

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Sooneruga, i'll put my 2 cents in for question 4. In my training class, i believe there were 2 washouts, but you could tell these guys weren't 100% dedicated to studying after class,(systems, flows, etc.) If you dedicate a few hours every night after class to studying with a group of 3 or 4 guys, it should be a breeze. On the sim portion, you gotta know how to fly obviously, but the hard part is the flows, emergencies, profiles, etc. Get those down and the sim goes fairly smooth. So, basically, dont let the fear of washing out deter you from your goals of a regional job. Good luck to you.
 

newmei

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I say go to a FBO and get your training. Go visit a couple and pick one that has the most bang for the buck with safety in mind. I did all my training either privately or through FBO's. I have flown with about 10 instructors from PP up to my MEI. Some were good some were bad. From my experience the younger they got the better. The old guys had some good rules of thumb. One guy was even an ex-FAA inspector boy he was an ear full but he was darn good. Most of all what I have found is that training is what YOU make of it! Prepare for your lessons by reading. Pick up a FAR book go to the beginning and it should say recommended reading for each rating along with each regulation. Read and memorize all of them, that will put you 2 steps in front of everyone. I tend to like FAA books. Why? Because that is who is gonna bust you. They felt it important enough to put it in their. Pick up the airplane flying handbook and review your manuvers and procedures before your flights, that way when a instructor sits down to do some ground it will just sorta of be a patch up of things you don't understand from reading. Also pickup the airplane knowledge handbook. With those two alone read throughly your gonna be in good shape. Then if you want you can pick up some of the other non-goverment books.
 
3

350DRIVER

Welcome aboard-
I can only wish you the best of luck as you transition into civilian flying- The biggest thing I have learned is that in this ball game it takes alot of persistance and "networking"...The more pilots you can meet the better off you will be. Add in alot of hard work, patience, and dedication and you will be set for a future in aviation. Fresh out of high school I attended a pretty well known Pilot development program a few years back however if I had to do it all over again I probably would have just went to a small fbo to do my training since I would have saved alot of money and would have gotten the "same" ratings as I now have minus all the loans which I am now paying back. On the bright side if you choose to attend a known school, accelerated program then you will get "added" classes and training that you won't get at a small mom and pop flight school at your local airport.

I guess the bottom line is that it is all up to your personal preferences and what is going to make you happy in the long run.Once again I wish you the best of luck and hopefully aviation will bring you lotsa happiness....
 

Draginass

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I would suggest before you do ANYTHING is to go down and get a class 1 physical from an FAA Aviation Medical Examiner to be sure you qualify (about $120). No medical, no license, and you're at the age where you could have a hiding problem. You won't need a class 1 to start out flying, but you might later. Better to find out now than later after you've spent a lot of money in training. The flight surgeon at the base can usually give you a class 2, but that doesn't include the EKG. Ask the AME about LASIK. Some people have had trouble with sparkling night vision after eye surgery and I THINK the airlines DO frown upon Lasik.

If you can, go to your aeroclub on-base and get your private and instrument before you retire. It'll probably be cheaper. If there's no aeroclub, go down to your flying squadron and ask where some of the pilots there do their light airplane flying and if they have any recommendations for instructors. You've got two years. Don't waste that time. With a lot of work you can have a ME instrument and instructor ticket in that time. I knew of several non-rated officers in my wing that were civilian pilots and worked helping-out the local FBO with SE and ME charters and instructing part-time. That's valuable experience. You need ratings and experience as soon as you can get them. Do it while you still have a decent active-duty income. Your retirement pay will pay the basic bills, assuming you don't live extravagantly, but not for flight training.

I know it's hard to break away from the 14 hour days in the USAF, but you must consider the rest of your career. You've probably made all the rank you going to. Start cutting back your USAF workday to minimum and start getting busy preparing for the 18 years of work you have remaining. I GUARANTEE that the only person that will notice that you're not giving 120% to your military job will be YOU. Believe it or not, you're not indispensible. You WILL be replaced. Start thinking of yourself first from here on out.
 
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Boeingman

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I agree with Drag above. I wanted to add that when you get the 1st class, be sure you also ask for the EKG since it is only required once a year after 40.
 
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