Hello, all. About to take my introductory flight and have of course been heavily researching this career path. I’ll be honest here, I was a below-average student that went into Real Estate, rather successfully, but after COVID somewhat retired and moved on to cold calling for a specialty accounting firm…surprisingly, I despise sales and see this as a prestigious, self-assuring, calming, although at times challenging path for me, as an extroverted introvert to travel as much as possible, meditate/listen to an audiobook in one ear (possible?) while I fly, and have weeks off from the wife. However, I have been reading up on the actual process of becoming a pilot. Most SAT scores were > 98%, have to have a meticulous, almost OCD behavior, deal with some grueling exams, and then on top of that after finishing the ATP schooling, find a way to gather up an additional 52 days of flight time to even be considered for a regional job (where pay can be as little as 25K/year). So I’m calculating around 3 years (assuming I end up with a CFI gig) for me to get to that 1500, as I do have a lot of time on my hands and as a fairly charismatic, calm, meticulous/OCD guy maybe getting hired by then, but then forecast an additional 3-6 years in regional, assuming a stellar track record/letter of rec, to be considered for a major. Does that all sound about right? I do wish I can succeed in this path but am curious about the percentage of aspiring pilots that fail to do so or those that burn out after 5 years in regional. Apologies if this all sounds a bit pessimistic but just trying to be a realist here before I dive into an extremely high financial/time-consuming investment. Thanks all.
I think what you’ve heard or the research you’ve found is a bit off.
Lots of people with different personalities can become airline pilots. It’s more about work ethic than anything else. I know some pilots that are “cool as a cucumber” but still very good pilots and others that are more “OCD” because being a good pilot is in the details.
In terms of education, no one cares what your SAT score was just the GPA you maintained in high school and college. 3.5 or better is ideal but anything above 3.0 and you’ll probably be alright.
ATP has a fast track program that provides all the student ratings you need from private through your CFI rides in 7 months. That is 7 checkrides and 6 written exams in 7 months so it is a challenge but completely attainable with hard work.
After completing the program you’ll have about 300 hours with 1200 to go until meeting the minimums for employment at a regional airline. At an average of 75 hours a month that will take you about 16 month to time build. In total from zero time to 1500 hours you’re at about 23 months which is right at 2 years.
At a regional, you’re time there will vary. Depending on how much you fly, upgrade time and the kind of applicant you are you could make it to a major in anywhere from 2-6 years.
Hope this helped bust some of the myths out there.
I noticed you brought up GPA, this is the first time i’ve seen this brought up. I was a good student in high school for the most part, graduated in the top quarter of my class and had over a 3.2 gpa but college was a little different. I had my first son at 18 before my freshman year in college and that created some distractions for me. I was also on a track scholarship and was working 2 jobs to make ends meet, but with all that said I did graduate on time with a 2.9 gpa. Is this something I should be worried about? I always assumed that having the degree was good in itself.
I know some legacy airlines still weigh college GPA but honestly the regionals and smaller majors didn’t even ask me. (Was SkyWest and now Spirit).
being open about being a new dad, supporting a family while so young and in school; finishing on time is an impressive feat on your own. That’s a huge challenge and you stuck with all your commitments, still coming out with a degree on time.
Best of luck,
I wouldn’t let it derail your plan of becoming a pilot. The hiring board will look at numerous aspects of your application profile. With a good training record, a degree, no legal issues, etc. the slightly low gpa won’t be enough to outweigh all the rest. Just do your best moving forward to build the best resume you can.
No apology necessary. You’re right, this career does require both a huge investment in time and money and frankly it’s not for everyone. Not sure where you got much of your info but I can tell you after almost 20yrs in the industry most pilots aren’t rocket scientists and don’t have OCD. I’ve flown with some genius level pilots and others who I’m surprised can walk and chew gum at the same time. Pilots are people and I hesitate to lump them all into any single group. What they do share is a strong desire (some say love) of flying and are willing to work really hard to reach their goals. As long as you have at least average intelligence most things can be learned and flying is no different. Again it’s a matter of putting in the work. While most Regional now start at around $40k there are lesser positions that pay less. While most people can complete the program in 2yrs total some take longer. This is no sales pitch, right now is literally the best time in history to get into this career. The pay is the highest it’s ever been and virtually every airline is hiring as many pilots as they can claim. The biggest single variable is you. No one knows for certain if you’ll be successful. There are physical coordination requirements required that not everyone possesses but again, if you have average skills you should be fine.
That all said to answer you question most people don’t burn out but some do. It never ceases to amaze me that I have a job I absolutely love and I’ll fly with others who have the exact same job and they don’t enjoy it at all. That’s something only you can answer but at it’s core I find there needs to be a fundamental appreciation for flying and travel. If you have that then the rest will be fine. If not then it’s just a job which you may or may not like. Your call.
Oh and btw, there is no listening to audio books or meditation when you have the lives of 50, 100, 200, or 300 people sitting behind you trusting you with their lives.
Welcome to the forum. A few things here:
There will be no listening to audio books or mediating while flying. Flying takes all of your attention, if you intend on living.
Weeks off from the wife is a good way not to have a wife. I would suggest being home more than that.
I have no idea where you got the information that you cite, but it is wildly inaccurate. Pilots come from all walks of life and different backgrounds. Some are laid back, some are not. None are OCD.
Your timelines sound accurate, but keep in mind that they are a guess at best and that your mileage may vary. This industry is dynamic and can change.
Appreciate the info Adam. Very well said. I will ask, when you’re on a 5+ hour flight are you locked in, eyes forward, checking anything and everything? I imagine once you get to a certain point the actual flying process comes with ease but obviously have no idea. Also by meditating I just mean being here and now so I would think that’d be crucial…not talking eyes closed chanting ohm over and over
Appreciate the response Chris. I think you may be confused on what I mean by ‘meditation’ but I won’t digress on that. Regarding the wife, will I not be away from her weeks at a time? Do pilots have a hard time maintaining relationships? Lastly, OCD is maybe a bad way for me to say: following every checklist/procedure/direction with the utmost attention to detail every single time you get in the seat.
I’m not sure I use the words “locked in”, it’s more a matter of being “engaged”. You’re right the longer you do this job the easier it becomes. Problem is it’s widely acknowledged that complacency is one of the greatest threats that pilots face. The fact is we work in a super safe industry and the chances of something going wrong are really relatively very small and it’s very easy to get really comfy and assume you can let your guard down. Obviously however if/when things do go south reaction time can be critical.
I recently read a report from a crew who’s auto pressurization failed causing the cabin to depressurise. Unlike in the movies this wasn’t explosive nor was it rapid. Fortunately a very diligent pilot noticed the cabin “climbing”, albeit it slowly, ran the checklist and discovered the auto function had failed but the manual backup was fine. He gained control and it was literally a non-event. If in the same scenario the pilot had been reading, meditating or been otherwise distracted and the cabin had reached the caution/warning level it would’ve meant a plethora of bells, whistles and alarms, masks falling in the back and a whole lot of unnecessary panic. No one would’ve died (unless they had a heart attack) but they definitely would’ve made the 6 o’clock news which I consider a bad day at work.
My goal is ALWAYS to make sure that neither I, my crew or my passengers never have a bad day under my watch and that means paying attention and staying engaged.
I needed to read this. 100%
In cruise flight typically you talk with the other pilot, enjoy the view and check back on the airplane (repeat). Automation can and will fail, it’s our job to continually monitor it.
As for being away from your wife for weeks at a time, that may be accurate if you’re adding up all the time away over the course of the year. Realistically you’re gone about 3-4 days for a trip and back 2-3. Over the month you’re probably gone about 18 nights and home about 12.
I enjoyed reading your response. Great information and helpful to understand starting salaries. Recently, I have been researching flight schools and this one seems to be the best fit for becoming a Commercial Pilot in a short amount of time. I always wanted to be a pilot, but life got in the way. My kids are grown and it’s now about me, at this point of my life it seems to be a perfect opportunity to become a pilot. Question for you, is it too late to start pilot training in your late 30’s? I plan on making this my second career and retiring as a committed pilot.
Thank you for your time.
Being in your 30’s is in no way too late, but it is important to have realistic expectations. Check out this link for more information:
Thanks for the information, the response was perfect. I like how it addressed the different age groups and could see the different age perspectives. Knowing I won’t be a major flying to Tokyo due to my age, I can still enjoy the pilots life comfortably.
Ummmm, how did you get that from the post if you’re in your late 30s?
Even in your late 30s you could be at a regional by 40 with a 25 year career ahead of you. Things are changing rapidly in the industry. I wouldn’t limit yourself right out of the gate.
Let me clarify that, I turned 40. So I guess I need to say I am in my early 40’s. I just don’t feel like I am 40. I haven’t started school, so I was trying to get a timeline of my where this career can take me starting this journey later in life.
Have a wonderful day, think happy thoughts.
Despite how you feel the actual numbers do matter. That said, even at 40, with the industry moving as quickly as it is, you still might have a shot.
I understand, that’s why I asked the original question regarding age.
Thanks for the response.