I am struggling with the consideration of starting the route of becoming a commercial pilot.
I am a 28 year old male whom has a Bachelors Degree in Management Information Systems, with 5+ years in IT product development/consulting. I am at a cross-roads in my career. I have always wanted to be a pilot, and I believe I would excel at it. I am in good health, with great vision, so no concern there. The largest concern is the normal concern: Going back into debt…
I’m sure i’m not the only one who has had these thoughts. It’d be great to hear others experiences & career path success stories, whom felt similar.
I paid off College, started career, had a decent savings, bought a new 2017 Chevy Silverado LTZ fully loaded…
Then decided I wanted to be a pilot
Traded truck for a beater, put saving toward cost, $38k loan paid for rest, started ATP March 2017…
Been at SkyWest since April 2019.
It’s like hitting the restart button. Putting off marriage and kids longer than I’d prefer… but I love flying, and I know my future family will be better off with me in this career & happy, instead of what I used to do.
I’d do it again, sooner if possible.
You are definitely not alone in that. Most pilots I meet had another career before aviation and we were all once at the same crossroads you are. Its just a decision on your part, is the discomfort of your current job with no debt worse than the discomfort of loan payments but being happy and fulfilled in your career? It’s a trade off. All of us that took the leap decided the financial commitment was absolutely worth it and never looked back. I do still have $90k worth of debt to pay off but my quality of life is exponentially better and I wouldn’t sacrifice that for anything
You say “I believe I would excel at it”. I’m curious what you’re basing this on? Don’t get me wrong, you could be awesome but you could also not be. You don’t mention any flight experience (and no I don’t mean sitting in the back of a 787)? If you don’t have any it’s kind of like sitting on the couch watching an MMA fight thinking “I could do that”. No one can say you’re wrong until you get punched in the face.
Moral of the story is if you haven’t you really should strongly consider going for an intro flight or lesson. This way you can get a real idea where you’ll be doing the bulk of your training and if it’s really something you want to pursue.
Thanks @Hannah & @Chris
Your responses are exactly what I was looking for.
@Chris - i feel like your pre-pilot story is similar to mine. It’s good to hear you are happy with your choice!
@Hannah - That is the ultimate question…happiness… May I ask, on average, how much debt you have incurred?
From a mechanical perspective, i’ve always excelled at operating large machinery. Ex. I worked in a factory with large cranes etc… But honestly I base it on my hand/eye coordination, benefitted by my eye sight, and my reactionary skills. (I used to be a class V whitewater kayaker, for example.) I of course realize it takes much more than the physical aspect… but i’m not worried about understanding the written/concept training… In summary, I feel my brain is wired for this type of activity.
Yes, it can be a large amount of debt, but it is educational debt and one that should pay many dividends over the long run. Have you had a chance to download the Career Guide on ATP’s website? I helped write the financial section of it, it gives you a great idea of the average lifetime earnings of a pilot.
Hey, Christopher here is a link to the guide: https://secure.atpflightschool.com/become-a-pilot/download/pdf/apcg/1360995/3932994
(you may have to right-click and open in new tab)
Interestingly enough @Chris I downloaded this today minutes before I read your post
I have incurred about $95,000 of debt. About $85,000 was my ATP program. The other $10,000 was additional training in the form of a Jet transition course I opted for after completing my 1500 hours.
However, I did have tuition reimbursement as a cadet through Skywest for some time before covid ended those programs. But now at my CJ FO position at a Part 135 company, I am making plenty to live off of and make significant payments to my loan each month!
Thanks for your transparency @Hannah
While I had not worked nearly as long as you in my previous career, I also felt anxious about going into such a large amount of debt. It was the first loan I had applied for at the time, but I did it anyway.
Like Hannah, I also received tuition reimbursement while I was a CFI and that helped A LOT. I have been at my regional airline for almost 4 years now and I should have my loan paid off a few years early.
Thanks @Tory … Do you or @Hannah know if tuition reimbursement is coming back? I assume it will at some point? And of course, it will depend on the airline etc.
I believe that is all up in the air right now, so to speak. Details to be determined as the industry begins to recover.
It is too soon to say. I suspect it will come back when the economy recovers.
Yeah as Tory said, no one really knows. The fact that hiring is picking back up at the regionals, that’s a good indicator. It’s an incentive for young CFIs with a lot of loan payments to make to chose their airline. Right now there are more pilots than jobs, but eventually it will swing back where there are more jobs than pilots and programs like tuition reimbursement will come back. Hopefully that’s around when you’re graduated and working as a CFI.