Looking for career change with a couple questions

Hi all,
My name is Ryan. I’ve been a Wildland Firefighter for the past 8 years mostly working around the helicopter side of aviation. I turn 40 later this year so I’m a little hesitant to pull the trigger on the switch to become a pilot. Financing has horrible rates right now and I’m worried about being able to pay it back once the training is over. My rates vary between 13.0% and 16.0% based on fixed/variable and interest only/deferred payments and that with great credit.

I guess question #1 is: Is the current outlook looking positive for hiring CFI’s (assuming I graduate the program and ATP would hire me) at a pay scale to at least keep my head above water until 2, 3, 4 yrs down the line when I qualify and hopefully make the regionals?

Question #2: Will the lack of effort and subsequent grades in college be a disqualifier for admissions and career advancement?
I wasn’t a great student in college when I graduated 15 years ago. I graduated with a 2.5 GPA as I was more interested in a social life than studying. In high school I was an 3.75 GPA A/B student that never had to study. I’ve grown a lot through life experiences and have finally learned to actually put in the time and effort to study. I’ve passed the FAA knowledge tests for PAR/IRA/FII. Working on Commercial right now.

Question #3: Do people go through this program and do something other than airlines? Such as a tanker pilot on wildfires?

Ryan,

  1. While things have slowed a little the outlook is still positive for the future (obviously no guarantees). Do well in the program and ATP will offer you an instructor position. Keep in mind the location is not guaranteed which might mean relocating for it. As for “keeping your head above water” we have no idea what your expenses are so there’s no way of knowing. The average ATP instructor earns about $30k.

  2. The airlines like to see the degree. Some will ask for your GPA, not all but I wouldn’t worry about it.

  3. Many grads take other routes after they complete the training. Thing is the airlines generates have more positions available so people tend to lean that way.

Adam

Q1: $30k would be tough to keep my head above water. Based off my lowest loan rate, 70% of that 30 would be going to just loan repayments. I wish the current rates weren’t so horrendous but I’m not willing to gamble on the various rates right now.

I bet I already know the answer but, does ATP work with housing for instructors?

Ryan,

They do not. Here’s some great info on the position.

Adam

Thank you.

Ryan,

First off, appreciate your service as a wildland firefighter, I can and know what you guys do and it is appreciated. While the interest rate may seem like a killer move, mine was near 13% when I started and since hired at a regional, I refinanced and got it sliced in half… it was the right move. Going to throw my four cents out there (inflation increased it):

  1. Outlooks change, just like weather forecasts. While nothing is predicted 100% (unless it’s what you’re having for dinner), the shortage, hiring spree, and furloughs can happen at any time. Retirement age is still 65 and that means pilots will be forced to retire, in return opens vacancies that airlines will need to fill. I wouldn’t stress to much at this time about hiring because there will always be a need for pilots. We’re at an all-time high for pay scales, pay rates are the highest they’ve ever been and I truly think it’s the new standard.

  2. Do well in-flight training, have good recommendations and find yourself some brownie points within the company or positions and you may have a fair shot. While I don’t think the GPA is a killer to the application to a major/legacy, you may just need to find another way to stand out if it came down to academics.

  • You’re studying for the written, when do you intend to fly? Are you attending a flight school currently?
  1. There are hundreds and thousands (theoretically) different routes out there that you could do. It comes down to what you find, interest and accomplish, is what route you take. I know many friends that CFI’d, survey, photography, pipeline, the whole nine yards.

Brady

Thanks for the replies.

Brady, I’ve already passed the Private, Instrument, and Instrument instructor written tests. I’ve tried looking into some local flight schools, but very little luck in getting lessons scheduled.

On Friday I did an admissions flight in Bessemer, AL and received my Admissions letter. Now it comes down to making the decision on which location to choose. Does anyone have anything to say about the ATL-Peachtree Dekalb PDK location. I could potentially live with some family there to alleviate the housing costs. I was mostly considering looking for a location outside Class B/C airspaces because ground taxi and holding could eat up some of the training block. I’d also imagine that training in those airspaces may be more beneficial long term even though it may come with a larger initial learning curve.

Ryan,

Don’t over think this. There are pros and cons to every location and airspace. Choose the location that works best for YOU. If ATP has a location somewhere it means the location works otherwise they’d close it and move on.

Adam

Ryan,

Choose the location that will best set you up for success. Low financial stress, good environment to study and get good rest, short commute times, etc. You will learn and adapt to any flying environment that you’re in. ATP wouldn’t put a location somewhere that wasn’t efficient in maximizing time in the air for the student.

Hannah

Ryan,

Find the location that is most convenient for YOU. If you have one close to you that is doable, I recommend attending because every location is the same (minus airspaces and practice areas). The ATP training footprint is the same regardless to the location you attend minus maybe the equipment could vary; Piper Archer versus Cessna Skyhawk. I’m with Hannah on factoring to keep your costs and stress low.

Brady

Thank you everyone for the responses. I start at PDK on May 27th.

Very nice, please keep us in the loop as you go through training.

Chris

Ryan,

Congrats! Securing a class date is just the beginning to an incredible journey. The ATL locations are great. I did my CFI school down there and lots of cross country flights there.

Now get going on those written exams!

Hannah