Introduction, Prospective Aviation Career Questions

Hello, I am Robert Ratcliffe. I’m 26 years old, married (only with fur babies though!), with a bachelor’s degree in electronics engineering, and almost 4 years of avionics and electrical engineering career experience as a government contractor. Although I love engineering, I can’t deny my passion for the sky, as I’ve been around airplanes for most of my life. I also have a Private Pilot certificate with about 140 hours, and my instrument and commercial ratings are in progress. I’m not currently enrolled in flight school: my dad, who has been a Delta pilot since 1987, and instructed in the Air Force, got his CFI certificate several years ago and has been my flight instructor. I’ve intended to get my commercial certificate, at least as a career backup, but now I’m contemplating making flying my primary career more than before! I’ve been hesitant to leave my current employment because it’s enjoyable and it pays for the house and our lifestyle very well. From all I’ve heard and read so far, getting into a flight training program full time to get time and ratings seems to be the best way to go. My end goal would be to work for the majors, such as Delta, or maybe even FedEx or something like that. I’d like thoughts and ideas from someone who has gone through the flight career training path, for someone with my background. I feel my greatest hesitation on pulling the trigger on training for an airline career is the question of: should I hold off for another year, two, or so to save some more money and build time privately; or will starting sooner be better even if I have to leave my job and get a loan? It’s a difficult decision for me to leave an engineering job I enjoy with great pay, but if you were to corner me point-blank and ask what my dream career is, flying would be it.

Thank you very much!



Welcome to the forums. If your goal is to work for an airline I say bite the bullet and go to an academy type school now. You won’t build much flight time flying privately over the next two years, but you will give up a lot of seniority at the airlines. Ask your father about the affect that two years of seniority can have on a career, it is huge.

I certainly understand the financial concerns, you will likely take a hit your first couple of years in aviation, but you will recover from that. Take a look in my “flying the line” section at an article called “What Pilots Really Earn”, it lays out our salaries pretty well.

Feel free to ask us any questions that you can think of, I look forward to working with you.

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Chris and Eric,

Thank you both for your quick and insightful responses. That’s a very good point about getting going now, because of all the difference made in seniority and down-the-road salary - I hadn’t considered the latter that way before.

As I stand now, with my PPL and 140 hours, how long would it take me to get to instructor status, if I did the full time ATP route? How often and when do ATP programs typically start?