Hi all! as the title suggests I am considering a change in direction and had some questions.
I’ve been working in automotive sales industry for 13 years (since turning 18) and have done well for myself. I have a family, a home and make low 6 figures in management. But, it’s getting old, the job part at least! I’ve always had a passion for flying and have always wanted to gain my private license and get myself a light aircraft. Combining these two suggests to me that a career in aviation would be a fun and rewarding one and a solution to both problems. I do have a couple of issues though.
First of all, this would likely (hopefully) be my last career change and so ultimately I’d like to end up in a legacy airline at the upper end of the seniority scale. With that said I have no formal education, I moved to the US when I was 18 and was in no position to put myself through college. I got into the sales world and have been with the same company since joining the workforce. Is this going to hurt me throughout my aviation career? Would getting into a program like the Endeavor Air “STEP” program be an option for someone in my position and would that help bypass any hurdles put in place by my lack of a degree? I’ve read through the FAQ’s on here but there are multiple, more recent articles floating around that state the contrary. Giving the current universal labor shortage, have things changed?
Secondly, I am a full time step dad and partner. The closest ATP location is a 12 hour drive. How much of an advantage does ATP provide over a local “ma and pa” flight school? Is it pointless pursuing a career in commercial aviation if my only local resources are so limited? I’m located in NW Montana, does anyone know of any good schools in the area? My other concern with being located up here is gaining the additional 1200hrs to be eligible to fly an airliner. I would want to commit as hard as possible to get the training over and done with asap so that I can get back to seeing, and providing for, my family. Those that have gone through this, was it worth it?
Lastly, obviously this a double whammy on the financial front. $100k to gain the expertise to fly these beautiful beasts and leaving my good paying career for this new one. How long, if everything goes right, would it be be before I’m back earning similar money? I’m fortunate that my partner has a very healthy income as well but I wouldn’t want to lean on her as the sole earner for too long.
Thanks in advance to all that can offer some insight,
I won’t lie, it sounds like you have some serious obstacles in front of you. Moreso it sounds like you’re really unwilling (or unable) to do anything to combat those issues. You want to fly for a Legacy but they want a degree and you’re unwilling to get one (you don’t mention is you have a HS diploma or GED. If not that’s your first problem). You mention Endeavor’s Step program, which is really putting all your eggs in one basket, but you’re also unwilling/unable to attend one of their partner schools so that’s not going to happen. Sure you can do your training locally but the odds are against your success. Most local schools simply don’t have the resources (instructors or aircraft) to put someone through all the license and rating requirements. Finally if you’re successful building 1200hrs teaching at a local flight school could take years.
I’m not trying to dissuade you but pilot shortage or not if your really aspire to be an airline pilot (particularly for a Legacy), you’re going to need to do some work, spend some money and sacrifice. Getting into this career is a challenge and requires a tremendous amount of hard work under ideal circumstances. There are no shortcuts.
I appreciate the honesty and the reply. I wouldn’t use the term “unwilling” but maybe unable. I have the UK HS diploma equivalent, but not a US qualification. Beyond relocation (which isn’t an option without leaving my family behind), is there something else you can see that I wouldn’t be willing to do? I would love to do an all in one course like ATP offers and would happily spend the money to gain the qualifications needed. But there has to be light at the end of the tunnel too. If my lack of college education is going to hold me back or prevent a meaningful and productive career then maybe this isn’t for me. In your opinion, would a program like Step help this deficit? I sense a hint of dismissal in your comment about Step, are these not recommended programs/partnerships? Is it even reasonable to think that I could get into a program like that? I have no guide in this and I am trying to gather as much information as possible to make an informed decision. Thanks again’
I’m not being dismissive nor am I that familar with the STEP program. What I do know is that in the approx 30secs I spent on their website the first thing I encountered was the following: “the only requirement for participation in STEP is that you are a fight student or instructor at one of our focus schools” and none of the schools on their list were “mom and pop”. Further nowhere did I say you couldn’t have a long and successful career as an airline pilot. What you said was “I’d like to end up in a legacy airline at the upper end of the seniority scale”. What you’re talking about is literally the pinnacle of this career and is something not everyone achieves even if they check all the boxes.
You asked if it’s pointless? If your goal is to be a senior Capt at a Legacy carrier but it’s under the stipulation that to do so means training at your own pace at a convenient local flight school, instructing there for however long, and eventually getting hired at a Legacy that either requires or desires a degree (OR has programs that require you follow their requirements) but have neither, I have to be honest and say yes, you may in fact be wasting your time.
Fair enough. I have not written off ATP or travelling for flight school wherever it may be, it was merely a question as to whether the type of school makes a difference in progression, clearly it does. I think maybe you have missed my point here, I understand the commitment, I thought I reaffirmed that in my second comment. I’m not sure what you mean by “training at your own pace”. I’m considering ending my career and leaving my family so naturally I would like the process to be as swift as possible. A single income two household family is hardly realistic in the long term, especially in our current economic climate.
What path would you recommend for a 31 year old family man that lives in an area as remote as I do that had his mind set on becoming an airline pilot? Unfortunately moving the whole family isn’t an option. Is there a path? Online aviation school BS then ATP?
Regarding the Captain/Legacy comment; that’s the goal, naturally, nobody aims to be backup QB. But if a BS is a prerequisite even if not stated by the airlines then that’s good to know.
Based on what I’ve gathered it seems like a move may be inevitable? You don’t live near any major hubs. So, you will either be a lifetime commuter which can take a toll on your quality of life or you can move at some point when it makes most sense. Being in NW Montana, you may need at least two flights to get to base
If you need to stay put for the time being then a local school may be your only option at the moment. If so, just know that you will need to be fully committed and you will need to hold yourself accountable to avoid unnecessary delay.
All too often I see people with the best intentions allow life to get in their way and their flight training suffers as a result. It will be up to you to ensure that that doesn’t happen.
I do share Adam’s sentiment about needing to be willing to make some sacrifices. If you want to make things happen quicker you will need to make some sacrifices to reach your goals. If you choose to go at this the long and slow route, it can be done so long as you have realistic expectations and are disciplined.
Any other questions you have?
What recommend, particularly if “you’re considering ending my career and leaving my family so naturally I would like the process to be as swift as possible”, would be to do so. ATP can have you trained and building flight time in only 7mos. Many of us made the difficult decision to suck it up, quit our jobs and leave our families to realize our goals. This really isn’t unique. When I did it I sold a successful restaurant and left 3 small children at home. Was that the right decision? For me it was. As for your degree at 31 I suggest you go for that after you finish your training and are at a Regional building time. That way you can get credit for your licenses and ratings and save money and shorten the process.
Finally as for your backup QB comment I respectfully suggest while anything short of a legacy might mean second string to you, that’s not everyone’s goal nor is that anywhere near the case. There are many great airlines that offer many benefits and unique quality of life options that aren’t available at the legacies.
Thank you for your input. I will have to be a commuter for now do to split custody with my step kiddos. Once they head off on their own paths our options will be a little more open. I think maybe I will attempt to get my PPL here locally whilst continuing my day job then move on to APT once my ducks are in a row. I appreciate your input, lots of learning to be done!
Thank you for your input once again. I think from the reading and input I’ve had here maybe the most economical and time friendly method would be for me to focus on getting my ducks in a row. Complete an online bachelors and get my PPL locally whilst still working my day job. Once those are complete then move on to ATP.
I did not mean to insult with the QB comment, merely suggesting that aiming as high as possible, especially from a place of ignorance, is a natural course.
Did you, or do you know anyone that stayed on with ATP to be a CFR? How long at that point does it generally take to accrue the required hours?
Thanks again Adam
Many many students become instructors for ATP. In fact ALL ATP instructors are former students. On the average ATP instructors fly approx 75hrs a month which equates to about 1-1.5yrs to hit 1500.
No offense on the QB comment, I’m simply saying there are a ton of pilots (many without degrees) who are fat, dumb and happy (and making great money) not flying for a legacy.
I would caution you on doing your PPL at a local mom and pop and still working. That’s the perfect recipe for a local school to draw out your training over months and nickel and dime you. The more you have to fly to be proficient, the more money they make.
For example, you take a solo prep flight with the goal to solo on the next flight. Instead, an instructor isn’t available for a week or your work schedule gets busy and now you’re back two weeks later. Not only are you not ready to solo, you need at least two more proficiency flights just to catch back up to where you were before. It’s like taking two steps forward, one step back. It will take time and energy away from your family and your job, bleed your wallet and take a long time to accomplish.
I believe the best path for you, especially at your age is an accelerated one like ATP. I understand right now isn’t the best time to move your family but what about just you? The program is 7 months and most locations have student housing available. You move to a location, get through training quickly and efficiently and then graduate with your CFI. Then you can move back to your family and time build at a local school at your pace. During that time you could also work on an online degree.
I am a bit late to this conversation and the others have already added tons of great information, but I really want to emphasize two points:
It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to commute from NW Montana to any pilot base. You will spend a significant number of your days off commuting and that will really eat into your time at home.
As for ending up at the upper end of the seniority scale at a major airline is probably not going to happen. The airline seniority system runs strictly off of date of hire, meaning that those that are hired at the youngest ages will end up being the most senior pilots. At already being 31, you are looking at getting to a major maybe at 35, but probably later. You simply will not have enough time left to crack into that upper tier of seniority at a legacy airline.
Now none of this is to say that you cannot have a great career in front of you as an airline pilot. There are airlines like Spirit and Frontier that hire pilots without degrees and you could certainly end up being a captain at an airline someday. It will likely require you to move to a place that is much closer to a major airport though.