Flight Attendant becoming a Pilot!?

Hi everyone, my name is Matt - thank you for reading thru my post.

My situation is complicated (at least to me) and I’m looking for advice and different opinions.
Ever since I can remember, probably since my first flight at age 5 on a DC-9 I was crazy about civil aviation, built aircraft models, went spotting and the most exciting part of every vacation was the flight.
Fast forward, I’m 33 and an 11 year senior flight Purser for a major European airline flying 320/330/340/747 - yeah, you should easily be able to guess the airline. :wink:
This is my 3rd airline I work for after a smaller one and 2 years at a ME carrier. I got a very secure job, I got ok schedules, I got free health care, retirement etc…

I love the job, but the future here doesn’t excite me, the city/country I’m based out of doesn’t excite me. I’m often working with people that are not passionate or less than knowledgeable about flying/aircraft. Also, the rigidity of the local schedule/pay system means I’ll never hit 6 figures ever. Maintaining a social life in an airline profession is always challenging, but even more so here because the local culture is neither talkative nor inclusive. Hence, I spend virtually all my time off/vacations in the US and try to work mostly US trips since I feel much more at home there - I’m legal to live and work in the US.

I’ve tried getting into airline sponsored cadet pilot programs twice but didn’t make it - first in the Emirates 12 years ago, made it all the way but got kicked out in the final stage post-medical because I was young and dumb and they could feel I wasn’t dedicated to the company (I truly wasn’t). Second was last year and well, I was definitely the oldest and everybody there told me they had been training for years and spent thousands of Euros on seminars etc. to prepare for that assessment… I hadn’t.
Anyway, the idea’s still very much alive in me and I’ve begun to investigate about ATP.

I guess my questions are:

  • Am I stupid for giving up the one very secure airline career I already have for a new airline career as a pilot via ATP, CFI, hopefully Regionals and whatever else may follow (no 4 year degree here)?

  • I’ve heard (mainly online) that many chief pilots would never want to hire a former flight attendant. I presume because many are highly emotional - myself being definitely the calm/rational type. Yet on the job I’ve also heard the complete opposite, specifically since many of our pilots work as flight attendants during their wait time between training and getting on the job in the cockpit. What’s your take?

  • I think I could be a decent pilot, yet I suspect I should try to get a long break/sabbatical from my job while I do ATP, just in case it turns out I’m not… or is that too half-hearted of an approach to this mission?

  • Should I be keeping my purser job and work a trip per month during my CFI time for additional income/insurance etc. AFTER completing the 9+/- month at ATP or is that not smart/possible schedule wise?

Thanks for your input, safe flying everyone!

There’s a lot to unpack here, so I’ll answer to those questions that I do have experience with. First and foremost, only you can decide whether or not the switch is worth it. Some of the value of a career change is not qualified in dollar (or euro) signs. It is simply a decision to forego the illusion of financial security and jump towards a possible future that you can only dream of right now. I have attended ATP with a handful of former flight attendants. Some were very successful, many were not. I think those that failed at it came in with the illusion that the switch between being in the cockpit and in the cabin will be an easy one (“You should see some of the pilots I’ve flown with. How hard can it be?”). Then again—few buckled down and really excelled. That’s why I couldn’t help but smirk at your comment that you think you will be a great pilot—you don’t know until you try. I do not think working or taking a sabbatical while training and building hours will be a wise decision. You simply don’t have the time for a second career if being successful in this program and getting a job at an airline soon is your end goal. The sole exception to that would be if your airline offered you a position at the completion of your training and upon reaching their hiring minimums. In that case, don’t shut the door of opportunity in your own face. Those are my $.02

Thanks for your input Sergey!

Exactly because you are mentioning that “Some [flight attendants] were very successful, many were not.” I think it would be reasonable to take a sabbatical at least until successfully passing ATP.

But I see how taking 4 days off every month to work a long haul would probably take away too much when working as CFI…

Thanks again!

Hello Sergey,

Besides the fact that not everyone can be a pilot, just like not everyone can be a surgeon, or an attorney, and so on… (you get my point); what is the main reason some ATP students don?t succeed in the program?

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Matt,

At 33 you’re far from old but if you do want to fly it’s time to get going. It sounds like all your experience is with foreign or Euro carriers. The US aviation industry is very different. Overseas age is a bigger factor as is the delineation between FAs and pilots.

If you live and plan to work outside the US I recommend you speak with pilots there or perhaps visit Pprune.org as they have more international pilots participating in their forums.

If you plan to fly in the US then you should start training and really not worry about the rest.

Adam

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Diego,

When I was an instructor with ATP the majority of failures were simply an unwillingness to put in the work. Some people show up with the attitude I paid a whole lot of money, make me a pilot. Doesn’t work that way and it requires a tremendous work ethic. If you don’t have it you’re doomed.

Adam

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Thank you Adam!

Definitley fly in the US… well, at least so far I can only see advantages flying in the US over Europe. Or am I missing something major? And could you elaborate on the delineation between flight attendants and pilots?

Thanks Adam!

Matt,

Well right off the bat your first your statement that CPs don’t like pilots who were former FAs. I’ve never heard anything of the kind and I know many pilots who started their careers as FAs. Further I also have friends who fly overseas and many have told me it’s almost like a “class” system with FAs being below in status. Again that’s not the case here.

Adam

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Thanks for elaborating… and yes, makes perfect sense.

Matt,

I don’t think y9ou are stupid at all for giving up being an FA to be a pilot. I know many FAs that have done exactly that. No disrespect to your current job, but it is very different being on the receiving end of “Captain, how would you like your coffee?”

I see no problem at all with a former FA being hired as a pilot. The only issues I have seen are with FA - now pilots - that think they know something about a particular place because they “flew there” before. Well, the pilots flew and they rode in the back. Just don’t bring that kind attitude and you will be fine.

The problem that I have seen with FAs becoming pilots, and I have seen this time after time, is that they don’t seem to want to cut the cord from being an FA. I have actually heard of a guy that was balancing being an FA once a month with also being a regional pilot. That is crazy. Nobody respects that, they just think it is nuts. You need to know when to go all into this as a career, not keeping one leg in your old life.

I in no way mean to disparage FAs, just giving you some insight into the pitfalls I have seen.

Chris

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As Adam already mentioned, generally it’s the unwillingness to go “all in” on training. I have seen it happen time and time again where someone thought that just showing up for a flight and jumping in the plane to go fly was all it took. Look, we as instructors don’t have the capability (yet…:smirk:) to magically transplant the knowledge into a student’s head. We can demonstrate, elaborate, or provide ground instruction on required topics but the foundational knowledge and follow up is all on the individual student. I can’t tell you a number of times that I have assigned homework, specifically referenced materials, gave handouts, and told my student “if you don’t understand something, take a photo and text me with the questions”. Next time we go up, it’s a blank slate all over again. CFIs getting hours to the 1,500 mark is a by-product of a job, not the point of it. So, it’s still frustrating to see lack of motivation from individuals that we are trying to turn into competent aviators. Adam is on point with his observation—a whole lot of money can’t make you into a good pilot…

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Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my question.