Real Answers from Real Pilots

Mechanic to Pilot Career Change

Hello everyone,
I’ve been reading this forum for weeks now and thought I’d post for advice regarding my possible career change.

I’m 30 years old, and am currently an Aircraft Mechanic working for a major airline (United).
I really do love my job as a mechanic and the company I work for, but like everyone else here, my dream was and is to be a commercial pilot flying for a major airline. (possibly the one I already work for, they are great! :D)

I chose to be an A&P Mechanic since it was the middle line between my financial reality and my dream of being a pilot. I just had to choose a career path that was aviation related and being an Aircraft Mechanic was my second choice, and I never have regretted my choice since I made it.
Just like Pilots, I did my time at a regional and made my way to my dream major where my career is pretty much set for the rest of my life. (I still consider myself lucky to be where I am at).

But, the more I work on those beautiful aircraft, the more I wish to be a pilot.
I thought about going to ATP while working, but that idea seems impossible according to the comments I read on this forum. So here I am, wondering if anyone here’s been in the similar situation or know someone that has been. Or just any advice regarding my situation. Few questions in my minds are,

  1. Do you think it’s a good idea to leave the company I work for to go to ATP in order to finish the Training faster? Or staying with the company as long as I can and go for the slower paced route (Considering my age too).

  2. If I choose to leave my current position as a Mechanic at a major airline and attend ATP and be a pilot, will my past mechanic experience help me come back to a major airline later on? As for mechanics, I personally know a person that has been with a company in other work area who studied and got A&P and was given like a priority at hiring to continue working for the same company as a mechanic. Is there a similar thing for the Pilots too? (Of course, after building hours that is…)

  3. Any other options other than ATP or modular route to be a pilot (maybe a program from heaven where mechanics are taught to be pilots? :open_mouth: ).

I understand that I’ll need to take the medical exam and the intro flight first before making any decisions, but I thought I’d ask and listen to advice from actual professionals. I truly wish to stay with the company I love to work for, but at the same time, I can’t stop thinking about my dream of being a pilot.

Thanks for reading and all replies would really be appreciated! :grin:


Welcome and thank you for posting!

Your situation is one that I have run into a many times before, being employed at an airline, but not as a pilot and wanting to become one. This probably is not what you want to hear, but if you want to work at UAL (or any other airline) as a pilot, you need to leave your job and attend flight training as soon as possible.

To your questions:

  1. I absolutely think that you should leave UAL and get your ratings in the fastest way possible. Staying with the company even a day longer is not going to do anything to help further your goal of being a pilot. The airlines want to see pilots licenses and thousands of hours of flight time, not time spent doing anything else. No matter which training route you take, you are going to need to leave UAL at some point anyways to fly for the regionals.

  2. Your experience as a mechanic for a major will probably help you, but not as much as you might think. I would imagine that in your interview your past employment record will be reviewed, but I don’t see the airline going out of its way to hire somebody just because they used to work there. Is it a plus on a resume? Absolutely, but again, the airlines will be looking for flight time and by the time you apply to the majors, your experience as a mechanic will be many years in the past. I am not aware of any programs like the one you mentioned, but you could always check with your H.R. partner to be sure.

  3. No, flight school is the only way.

I do not want to disparage your time as an A&P, I have complete respect for what you guys do, but at the end of the day if your goal is to be a pilot, you need to go be a pilot as soon as possible.



Chris answered your question well and I agree on all points. While 30 isn’t old you do need to get cracking as seniority is key. Aside from that training full-time (while it can require sacrifice) is so much more efficient. There’s a reason why the airline, military (and ATP) train that way, because it works best.

Chris is the United guy so he’d know best about UA. That said as someone who’s been on hiring boards, whenever we see someone who worked at our airline previously and is looking to return as a pilot, it’s always viewed favorably. It shows loyalty to the brand as well as someone who’s worked hard to reach a goal. I can’t imagine that wouldn’t be the same at United.


Chris and Adam,

Thanks for such quick and honest replies.
I guess it comes down to either going all-in for flight school or not at all.
Harsh reality, but I guess I’ll have to deal with it and make a choice.
I’ll give it a deep thought before making any decisions :slight_smile:

Once again, thanks for all your advice!

Anytime, let us know how else we can help you.

ah this is exactly what i needed to see i’m a aircraft mechanic as well but love being in the cockpit and looking to career change as well the nights shift and working 12 hours fixing mels and stuff just gets to you…i enjoy being in the cockpit but reading this i guess i should start flight school asap…my question is about flight time should i grab as much flying time as i can to say transition to the 737 as soon as i can or are their steps to getting into the narrow bodies…

i’m a 737 mechanc and a320 love both aircraft :smiley:

I believe there are many of us who decided to turn wrenches when we saw the costs of flight school.

It does give us a unique perspective on planes as we understand how they work.

I’ve educated a few CFI’s on how things work as I couldn’t watch them give inaccurate information to their students…

My problem, I thought my dream was gone, so got married, had kids, made a life where I was. Now as the kids are or are about to leave the house I’m showing them you can still pursue your dreams after cancer and after you turn 41. Great lessons for them, and thankfully I have a patient wife who loves me.

Although everytime she sees me eyeballing a low cost airplane to build hours in, she hits me over the back of the head…


The steps to becoming an airline pilot are relatively the same for everyone. Maintain a medical, earn certificates and ratings, build flight experience, get hired by a regional, upgrade to CA, build turbine PIC experience, get hired by a major, and then from there you could get lucky and get hired straight into a 737. If not, then at that point it’s just all about building seniority and bidding for a seat in the 737. If there’s an opening and your seniority is high enough, it’s yours.

Building flight experience is important in the very beginning of the steps I laid out so you can build your TPIC quickly, but once you reach the major airline level (or get hired by a company that operates narrow bodies) then it’s mostly just about seniority.