14 year flight plan of a single dad

Firstly let me say this forum is exactly what I’ve been looking for! I thought I’d bounce my goals and dreams off you seasoned pilots in the hopes of finding some advice, and mentoring.

Background: I’m a 32 year old single father of 2, who is currently broke due to a nasty divorce and even worse child support obligations. I come with a plan though.

The Plan: (All of this is a means to an end, bear with me for a moment) Currently I’m working for Fedex Express as a courier and going to school for welding. After which I’m going to start work in the Rope Access field. Trying to get work offshore on oil rigs. All of this is to get me ready to start flight school. As a rope access tech I’ll be working contract jobs on the rig for about 6 months of the year pulling down around $75-$90k for that time. Granted, some of that will be going toward child support but I’m already cutting my living expenses down once my house sells by living in an rv while I go to school. With what’s left and the time I won’t be on a rig I plan on jumping into flying with both feet.

Now the advantage I have with all of this is the luxury of time. I have 14 more years of paying child support to get to the point where I want to be. I’ll be 45 and if I can accomplish all I set out to do I want to be poised and ready to start flying for an airline or for Fedex. The point is to be financially secure and doing something I love doing while not paying an ex to have an extended paid vacation. (She refuses to work and I’m currently paying 75% of my income to her…) I don’t want to have to worry about money ever again. It’d be nice to not have to think about when pay day is. Not to mention all the traveling. (As a fedex employee I’m enjoying all the travel perks since we’re an airline)

The Questions: 1. Should I try squeezing in a degree in during this time? How serious are the Majors about having a BS? I’ve been looking at Embry-Riddle’s online program for a degree in Aeronautics. Worth it or should I not bother? I’ve heard that some airlines will hire as long as you’re currently WORKING towards a degree.

  1. Once I am in a position to start flying should I try to take an instructing position somewhere while I’m not working the ropes? The real question is how can I build hours to get all the way to ATP rating. I’ve heard that some of the small cargo companies near me are hiring pilots at around 500 hours. Again, that’s hearsay.

There’s a simplified version of the plan and some of the questions I have. Any help and insight you can give is very much appreciated!!! Thanks!


Welcome to the forums! Thanks for sharing your background, it makes it much easier to answer your questions.

Once your finances are in order why can’t you start flying for an airline sooner? Is it the child support obligation? It seems like your plan could have you eligible to be hired by the airlines long before you are 45.

Something to keep in mind is that airline pilots have to retire before they reach age 65, so if you start in the airlines at age 45 you have twenty years left. Now I am not saying that you won’t make it to a major airline in that time frame, but it is going to be hard. You will likely fly for a regional for five to ten years before you can be hired at a major (FedEx is a major airline that is one of the more sought after airlines to be hired at). By the time you are 50-55 a major might look at you as being too old to hire as they want to recoup the money that they spend in training you to fly their airplanes. There are stories of older pilots (50+) being hired on at the majors, but they are few and far between.

Regional airlines do not require any sort of degree, but the majors general all do. There are a few majors that do not list a degree as a requirement, but the vast majority of their pilots all have our year degrees. Working towards a degree will not cut it with the majors, they want to see a completed degree. If you want to fly for a major airline like FedEx, you will need a four year degree.

Most pilots build their flight time by flight instructing while some fly for the smaller cargo outfits. The problem you are going to run into is that people want to hire a full time instructor. I don’t see how you would be able to effectively instruct while taking such large blocks of time to go out to the oil rigs. The same will be true of cargo airlines.

I don’t want to seem like I am deflating your plans, but I do think you might need to rework them a bit so that you can focus more on flying if that is your end goal.


No worries of deflation over here haha. I’m happy to have the reply. That’s why I wanted to put my plan out there so I can refine and polish it.

My main concern with flying for an airline sooner is my ex taking me back to court to get a huge chunk of that money. Granted it’ll take me awhile to get to the point where I’m making serious money (eg. $100k+), I’m just kind of loathe to give her that much more power over me. Now, the 14 years is really until the youngest turns 18. The older one will be done in 10 years. If I could start flying for an airline tomorrow, then that’s what I’d like to do. I’ve wanted to fly since I was a kid. I’m just trying to work my plan as realistically as possible.

Working only half the year flying isn’t ideal I’m sure. However I’m already committed on my rope/welding track. I’ve been working towards rope access for a good amount of time too. And like I said, working the rig for 6 months out of the year I see as more of a means to an end. Trying to avoid having to take out a hefty loan, as I’m already up to my ears in debt.

I’m not opposed to working towards a 4 year degree. I never went to school, I got married WAY too young, so the idea is very appealing to me. Especially since my ultimate goal is to fly the big iron.

What about charters instead of cargo? I suppose I’d need the same qualifications of an ATP to do that tho right? One of my customers owns a charter company with 4 Lears, so I already have some connections haha. Networking is pretty important in this industry yes?

So here I am. Open to your ideas to how I can make this work. What if I just went for it? I mean sure if I can get where I want to be I’ll be paying more in child support, but would that be better for me in the long run? I’d have that much more time to start making real money once my obligations are over. And I’m sure the airlines would like to get their money’s worth out of training me and having more than 20 years from me…

Thanks again for the insight and advice!


I think you have some time to go before having to worry about making $100k+ in the airlines. It will be really hard to break that amount at the regionals, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Also, if your pay goes up it isn’t like she gets all of it, she will get a percentage of the increase. I pay child support, too. I just figure that when my pay goes up and thus the child support goes up that it is for my kids, so it doesn’t bother me.

I understand where you are committed on your rope/welding track and that makes sense, but you will have to limit your flying to just getting your licenses during that time frame. There really are not many positions at all out there for a part time pilot. The qualifications needed to fly corporate are roughly the same as what is needed for an airline job.

My suggestion is to not worry about the child support and go for it. If it turns out that you are paying more then so be it, it is for your kids. If your ex squanders the money then that is on her. By waiting for so many years you will be giving up a huge amount of seniority. I say go for it now.


Yes I figured I’d have a ways to go before making real money, and you make some excellent points. It’s my dream so I think you’re right I should just go for it. Once my house sells I’ll have enough to take care of some of my needs and still have enough left over. I’ve already spoken to a flight school about costs, etc. I should have enough to get all the way to PPL on my own. Where do you suggest I go from there? Save to get my other certs, or try to get financing? I’d love to enroll at ATP and just get it done. That 2 year fast track with the tuition reimbursement is mighty tempting. My concern is time with kids/custody. How do you do it Chris? I understand you’re flying full time now for an airline, do you have your custody adjusted to fit your schedule? The support payment is a huge concern and obstacle for me, so knowing that you’re in the same position is very encouraging! You’re right about the kids benefiting from the money. (even tho she does spend most of it on herself…) Your attitude is what I need to adopt. The child support isn’t going to be forever, so I think you’re 100% right. I should just suck it up and go after what I want. Thanks so much!


Getting through the PPL is a good start, but unless you have a plan as to how to proceed from there I wouldn’t go down that road just yet. I would really encourage you to find a way to just bite the bullet and go through a big training program, that is the sure way to get things done. If you are able to get approved for financing (and think that you can afford the loan payments) then I would do that and go from there.

As to custody, when we separated my now ex-wife was a stay at home mom, so I got to dictate the schedule. I get my schedule for the following month on the 17th and by the 20th I give her the days that I would like to see the children. Now your situation might be different, but that is how mine works. In North Carolina the courts are very good about working with you to make sure that you get the visitation you need based on your work schedule. As you are changing careers that might throw a wrench in the works, I cannot speak to that. Either way, they are your children and you have a right to see them.

I am glad that you are finding this forum to be helpful, keep asking your questions!


Yeah this is great actually!

Well let me ask you this… I read on one of these posts that ATP will reimburse for the cost of the written tests if you get them out of the way first. Does that mean just the groundschool portion or everything up to and including PPL/CFI?

Thanks very much for taking the time out of your busy days to help! Are you still flying regionals or are you in the big leagues? How difficult is it to earn Captain and either routes or aircraft you’d like to fly? If you had your choice would you choose Airbus or Boeing?


ATP will reimburse for all of the required FAA written exams through CFI. This does not mean the cost of any preparation too shote you buy or ground school that you attend, it means the cost of actually taking the exams themselves, which is about $100 per exam.

I fly for United and have for the last nine years.Take a look under “Pilot Mentor Biographies”, there is some good information there that will help explain how all three of us mentors got to where we are. I have been a Boeing guy for most of my career, but that is more out of circumstance than anything else.

I am happy to help, I am glad you are finding value in this forum.


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That’s awesome! Thanks again for all the insight and help. I will be keeping you posted as to my progress. I’ve been figuring out the financials and if all goes well with a loan for the training, I’ll be able to keep paying child support etc while doing flight school. Living expenses will be way down for me too since I’ll be living in an RV. I also have a nice fat fedex pension to live on till I can start making money flying. Instructing seems to be paying a little bit less than what I’m making now. It’s just that interim period till I get to that point that’s a little daunting.

Yeah the bios were good reads. Having insider info on this industry is making this seem like less of a challenge and more of a dream that will become reality.


I am glad that you are formulating your plan and making progress. Please keep us up to date as you go through the process of signing up and then the program itself, it is always nice to hear stories of people succeeding in the program.


Will do! I’m getting all my ducks in a row as we type. A complete life overhaul is a challenge but a welcome one. Incidentally, if anyone knows of any scholarships, sponsors, or donations to help pay for training, I’m all ears.


I am not really aware of any scholarships or things of that nature. The best deal going right now is the Tuition Assistance program. I sure wish they had that when I was going through the program.

If flying is your life’s dream then I really think you are making the right move here.


I bow to your wisdom. Tuition reimbursement sounds great. Could you tell me what the 2 year fast track costs roughly?

Hey Aaron,

Just to jump in and give Chris a break I’ll take this one. First off it’s really not a 2Year Fast Track. It’s a 180 Day Fast Track followed by 1.5-2 yrs of working as a flight instructor to build the required time. There are 2 option depending offering different amounts of multi engine time. The 40 hr ME time is $64k and the 100 hr is $74k.


Haha yeah sorry guys, I’m full of questions and I know you’re busy.

That explanation of the program is a lot clearer thanks! $64k-$74k is a lot easier to wrap my mind around. I was expecting more like $125k-$150k. When you only get paid $200/week because of an ex, any amount seems a little beyond my reach tho. That’s a little more doable. Especially once I sell my house and move things around (I have a lot of equity) and tuition reimbursement on top of that, this is looking very possible now.

Just two more questions if you don’t mind.

  1. Some of these regionals fly the Dash-8 turbo props. Isn’t jet time needed to be able to progress to a major?

  2. Which would be the better course, the 40 hour ME or the 100? In your professional opinion.

Thanks for all the help guys. I one day hope to be able to pay forward the advice you are providing in this forum. You’re doing great work!


That’s actually a really good question. The fact is the airlines don’t require “jet” time they require 'turbine" time and a turbo prop is in fact a turbine engine (difference being one has a propeller the other has an internal fan). Cool?

All things being equal I like the 100 me course. 2 reasons. First is it satisfies the 100hr multi requirement most Regionals have. Now if you plan on instructing for ATP getting that 100 hrs is no problem since much of the training is in the twin. BUT if for some reason you chose a different route or can’t instruct for ATP you’ll already have the required 100 hrs. For example, you complete ATPs training and rather than instruct you find a neat little cargo outfit flying Caravans (nice alternative to instructing). That’s great, you build your 1500 hrs and go apply to ExpressJet only to find out you’re still 60 hrs short on multi time because that Caravan, while a nice turbine aircraft only has one. hat’s a problem. The other factor is when you go for the 100 hr you get more experience in the twin (a complex airplane) and because of it’s speed and range, it allows you to travel much farther during the cross country phase. When I did my training I went as far west as Houston, south to Florida, north to Chicago and all over the East coast. Invaluable experience.

That said all things aren’t equal. Ten grand is alot of money and honestly if they had that option when I did my training I’m sure it would’ve been a tough decision.

Side note Aaron. Really none of my business, but on most of your posts you make some reference to your ex. Trust me, many of us understand your frustration BUT you’re attempting to change your life for the better as a Professional pilot. The sooner you can put this “away” the better. When it comes time to interview they’re not going to want to hear about your “lazy ex”, child support, etc. While this may sound obvious, it’s something you need to work on NOW. I participated in pilot hiring at ExpressJet and believe me these things come out and it’s never good. While I appreciate it’s a fresh wound now, the sooner you can make your peace with it the better off you’ll be.



Yeahhhhh I get that. You’re right about the fresh wound. Just explaining my situation, and that’s my biggest hurdle at the moment.

Turbine time makes more sense as I was a little confused about that. Almost seemed like flying a turbo prop would’ve been one step forward and two steps back, so thanks for clarifying that!

I was kind of leaning towards the 100 too. I want to get as much training and experience as I can. I want to see how far I can go. See what I can do. I’ve got a friend here at fedex now who just started flying one of our 208 feeder aircraft. It’s a contract gig and he seems to be loving it so far.

Ok one more question speaking of cross country phases to change gears a little bit. What do you do on a cross country flight if you have to pee? Let’s say solo cross country flight and you’ve really gotta go. Can’t exactly pull over right? haha thanks again for all the help

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I always tried to manage my fluid intake and never had a problem. If it’s really a concern they do sell these:


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Haha I just lol’d thanks.

I’ll keep you guys posted when I can get started.


  1. Jet time is not required for the majors. Turbine time is required, but turbo props meet that criteria. Plenty of pilots get hired at the majors that come from a prop background.

  2. Adam wrote a nice response to Tucker in regards to this question and brought up some really good points, I recommend that you read it. That being said, I would probably chose to save the money and go the 40 ME hour route. If money were not an issue I would recommend the 100 hour program, but it is for most people. I feel that the 40 hour program does a nice job of preparing a student to fly and instruct in multi engine airplanes while reducing costs where able. The caveat to this is whether or not you plan on instructing for ATP. The regional airlines really like to see at least 100 hours of multi engine time on a resume, if you instruct with ATP you will easily have that, if you plan on instructing some place else you will likely find multi time very difficult to come by. If that is your plan I would recommend the 100 hour multi program.