Real Answers from Real Pilots

A career change - worth the risk?

Hello everyone!,

BASIC INFO:
-Married
-Live in Charlotte, NC area
-Three kids with fourth on way
-Unemployed trying to make a change
-Looking into options
-No college. Just high school and coding bootcamp.

So I have 32 hours in a Cessna 172 logged a few years ago towards my private license. I was unable to finish as I ran out of money and was young and other priorities has to come first.

I am unfortunately currently unemployed and have been trying to get hired as a web developer but without a 4 year computer science degree and experience its been a long road. I took a gamble and spent $5000 on a coding boot camp and while I did learn some I still haven’t been able to get hired.

With that being said I have a wife and three kids and one on the way. I am young at 26 years old and feel a career crisis coming across me as I don’t want my kids growing up with their father still searching for a career to make enough money to make ends meet. Luckily my wife makes decent money but since she owns a business it can fluctuate.

I’m currently at the surface level looking into attending ATP and making this change but of course I have some questions prior to even discussing this over with my family.

-Whats a realistic schedule like for someone freshly hired on? Obviously with a family its important I can be home and from what I’ve been told its not easy at first until you gain seniority. This may be a deal breaker for me but I wanted some real examples to see how others with families deal with it.

-Is relocation needed? I’m currently in Charlotte, NC and since my wife owns a successful business I’m not able to relocate. This would be a big deal breaker for going this route. I know there’s tons of airlines based in Charlotte so I’d like some realistic expectations on getting hired locally.

-Could I defer my loan? I would have to defer my loan until I get a job as I know I couldn’t afford to pay the loan and train full time and even after training without a job I couldn’t afford to make ends meet. Is this possible?

-After ATP and building some time as a CFI what are my realistic chances of getting a corporate gig flying turbo props?

-I realize ATP offers a guaranteed CFI job. I know I wouldn’t be able to move so this may be an ATP question but whats the chances they’d have an opening in Charlotte, NC as a CFI?

-Last would this be a realistic option as a career for someone in my situation? My goal is to get into a career that I can provide for my family. I know I could go get a job paying minimum wage but that’s not even going to pay my current bills let alone raising children. As you can imagine this would be a HUGE financial and time sensitive risk and I just want to make sure I wouldn’t be making a big mistake.

1 Like

Hello Keith and welcome,

Ok lots of questions so lets see what we can do here. First though you should be aware that not having a degree can potentially limit you to the Regionals. Most Majors and corporate gigs desire a 4 yr degree.

  1. Schedules can vary greatly but as you said it’s all based on seniority. I won’t lie, in the beginning it can be tough. You’ll work when the airline needs you to and chances are it won’t be when you like. Eventually things will improve but you’ll probably be gone 4 days at a clip or even find yourself sitting reserve in a different city.

  2. Not sure about “tons” of airlines based in CLT but there are a few. Even if they are and you get hired at one there are no guarantees you’ll get CLT as a base. Again it all comes down to seniority and it usually doesn’t take long to get where you want (particularly with all the movement in the industry). You can even commute for a few months if you have to but that’ll cost you another few days off each month.

  3. Banks LOVE when people defer their loans. The interest continues to accrue on a principal that isn’t going down so they make even more off you. Deferring your loan, while not the fiscally best idea, is not a problem.

  4. Corporate gigs are often the toughest to get. There just aren’t that many and often it’s who you know. That said as things have been improving at the airlines, there are pilots needed elsewhere particularly the less desirable turbo-prop jobs so you could have a shot but there’s really no way of knowing.

  5. ATP does guarantee you a job but they cannot guarantee a location. While they will try and accommodate you they will not overload a location for any one pilot. No way of knowing the chances?

Finally only you can decide what’s best for you and your family. The rewards can be great here but it does require some sacrifice in the beginning. You won’t be able to work while you’re in training and instructing doesn’t pay much either nor does the first few years at a Regional (although some Regionals are paying signing bonuses up to $20K). In reality you’re talking at least 3-4yrs of living kind of tight and without a degree you may find yourself at a Regional for some time.

Hope this helps some?

Adam

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Very informal, I would like to come in and put a name to my face. Do I need to schedule an appointment or can I drop by some time this week?

Taylor,

I would definitely call and schedule an appointment before coming. ATP instructors can be very busy and while I am sure that anybody would be happy to help you with a tour, there is a good chance that you might show up while everybody is out flying or while they are in the midst of helping a student prepare for a check ride. If you call and schedule an appointment there will be somebody there who can show you around and answer all of your questions. Call the 800 number, they can get you all set up.

Chris

Thank you for taking the time to reply to me! I didn’t realize not having a degree would potentially hold me back to regionals which I’m not opposed to but realize I’d have to work my way through the ranks and stick with regionals if I couldn’t get hired elsewhere.

This has definitely given me some great information to help me make an informed decision! Thanks again!

Keith,

2 points. First off you can have a very nice career as a Regional pilot. Second, I’m not saying you’d be “stuck” for sure at a Regional, you’re just limiting your options considerably AND if there’s no relief given to the pilot shortage that too could change.

Adam

Thanks for all the information! I’m still weighing my options on what I need/want to do to support my family. I have a lot tied up in trying to switch careers into the web development field BUT it’s not easy at all to get hired. I’ve been unemployed for almost a year now and while my wife’s business is doing great I simply can’t be unemployed forever and I don’t want to go back to my old field of work (lawn care) as the salary just isn’t enough to live off of and support a family. I do have prior flight experience at 32hours towards my ppl but didn’t finished due to running out of funds. So I can say I have flown and absolutely love it. At that time I was younger and didn’t realize how expensive it was to get all the ratings needed to fly for a living so I had to move away from it for awhile. I’d still really personally enjoy it as a career option but I know my wife wouldn’t like me being away from home all the time so if it’s only that way at first and I’d eventually get a better schedule she’d be okay with that. So that’s really what’s holding me from taking the next steps and committing to atp and just doing it.

Keith,

I want to be clear that no matter how senior one is at an airline there will be significant time spent away from home. I am very senior on the 737 and am still gone roughly 14 nights per month, if I worked less it would be about 12 nights. I am not discouraging you from it, I just want you to know what you are signing up for.

That being said, I have 14 days or so off per month and those days are completely free of any obligations, so that is a lot more time off than people that work traditional jobs.

Chris

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Chris I really appreciate you being transparent. I definitely don’t want to rock the boat too much when it comes to my marriage but I’m definitely going to talk to my wife about this as it’s a big decision. Do you have any insight to what a schedule will be like at a regional as that’s where I’d realistically be at for awhile before moving to a major down the road?

From what I’ve read and been told it would be a schedule where I may be away for a few days or so and then off a few days but of course it really all depends what the market is like at the time of hire and all.

Keith,

Regional schedules can vary greatly. When I was at EpressJet we had 1,2,3 and 4 day trips. The one day trips were day trips and got you home every night. Those generally went very senior, followed by the 2,3 and 4 days in that order. The one benefit of the longer trips is you get to better destinations and they’re generally followed by more days off in a row. I was usually 4 on, 3 off which worked pretty well.

Adam

Adam thank you! I’ll be discussing everything with my wife and honestly that’s not that bad but I’m sure it all depends on a lot of factors.

Keith,

And just to give you a little more “ammo”. I’ve taken my family along on many of my trips. It’s one thing to plan a vacation but it’s another to just say “honey I’m going to Nashville for 2 days, why don’t you come?”. Makes for some great memories.

Adam

That definitely is a great perk! I know I’d be a cfi for at least a year or two after attending atp to get the required hours for a regional airline job so them hours would be more flexible I’m sure. I’m just really tired of trying and getting turned down for a web developer job. It seems airlines need people and a lot I checked out and obviously see on atps website actually pay bonuses for new hire first officers so if that’s true and I have the hours required I shouldn’t have the problem of getting turned down for jobs. And the fact that airlines are willing to do some tuition reimbursement tells me that they are really needing pilots. I’ve been told in the web development world it’s just over loaded with developers of all levels which is why it’s harder to get hired. People saw the media and all hyping the benefits of being a software or web developer and the high salary they make and then it’s like boom everyone wants to be a developer now. But correct me if I’m wrong but it seems different for pilots as they’re is actually a need and I do realize I won’t get rich flying but I do enjoy it from the 32hrs towards my private that I already have and honestly I feel my wife may be more open to this after I explain all the benefits and if it’s true there’s an actual need for pilots and I’d get hired easier (I know I’d obviously have a guaranteed cfi job after atp if I do well which I would of course!) so that may help ease the tension about it she’s just uneasy about me being gone for days at a time but if it’s followed by a few days off (ex. 4 day trip then I have a few days off) she may be able to handle that. But most importantly I need a real career to support my family and if there is that real need for pilots that it seems like there is then this may be a great opportunity to get into a real career where I’m needed and wanted. We’ve been traveling for my daughters surgery and noticed there’s absolutely no shortage of people flying for travel which seems like there would be a huge need for pilots.

Keith,

There is a strong need for pilots right now and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Just make sure that if you do this it is because you really love it, not just because it is a job that is in demand. I think that flying is a great career, but if I didn’t love it it might be difficult to handle the amount of time that is spent on the road.

Have your wife take a look at our schedules and see if it is something that she could handle. Pay particular attention to Yarden’s schedule as his is most reflective of what a new hire pilot will experience.

Chris

Chris, thanks for the reply! This may be a total newbie question but how do I view the schedules on here? I’m on mobile so that may be why I can’t find the schedules but ill look on a computer if I need to. I do really enjoy flying and I was actually in the financial process of applying a few years ago to atp but got held back because they wouldn’t defer the loans until after training because I didn’t have any credit established. I now have a decent credit score and it looks like their financing options have changed/improved but I do realize going $75k in debt is a lot and I’d have to really make it worth it in the long run and need to definitely be sure my wife is up for a non 9-5 schedule before I commit. I did request info from atp on their website but haven’t heard back yet.

Keith,

On the main page of www.https://airlinepilot.life scroll down and towards the bottom you will find “Schedules”. I think that will help you get a better picture of what the schedules are really like.

That is great news about the financing as that is often a barrier. Keep us posted on what you end up doing, please.

Chris

Chris,

Thank you! I found the schedules. Pretty neat to see a real schedule that definitely gives a real idea of how it is. I got a response from admissions but I wanted your input on this. So I’d of course love to get the guaranteed cfi job as an added bonus to get my wife more comfortable with this but he mentioned that I may or may not get an assignment in charlotte. He said I could of course work for another flight school to gain time but my hesitation with that is no flight schools in my area really do any multi engine flying and I definitely want to be able to build multi time so I can get hired by a regional. Plus a guaranteed job would be a huge plus for my wife.

Keith,

As Chris said (and as you’ve observed) there definitely is a shortage of pilots and that shouldn’t change for some time, particularly at the Regional level. So yes, if you work hard and do well you should have no issues getting hired. I do want to stress that there are no guarantees and of course things can change. I also want you to be aware that to advance (ie, move on to a Major) things do get a little harder. There are many qualified Regional pilots out there trying to get hired at the Majors and aren’t. Some it’s weak educational background, some it’s criminal issues (DUI/DWI) and others frankly just don’t interview well. Airline interviews are funny things. All airlines have min requirements so to get an interview you obviously must be qualified. The “intangible” is “is this someone I’d like to be locked in a cockpit with for 6hrs or will they drive me insane?”. I’m not trying to paint a bleak picture, I just want to make sure you understand there are no guarantees.

Adam

Adam I definitely understand there’s no guarantee. I’d say I wouldn’t be too bad to be with for a few hours in the cockpit lol but seriously I do understand it isn’t a guarantee but it does seem like that since there is a demand that as long as I met minimums it wouldn’t be as hard to get hired.

I hope all you mentors don’t mind I chime in here real quick.

Keith, take the plunge, it’s nice that you consider your wife and her business but don’t make the mistake I made. I always wanted to be a pilot, I took private pilot lessons at 16, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. It was very difficult, or at least I thought it was, 30 and 40 years ago to become an airline pilot. I even looked into attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical school in Daytona Beach and let me tell you, when I’m down there for bike week I am right there next to that school, that’s a wake up call. So now I watch planes everyday and say to myself, “There’s one lucky guy, if only I wouldn’t have quit”. So follow your dream, don’t make the same mistake I did.