Not your typical "New Start" situation

Living in Virginia Beach, surrounded by military. I’ve been in Warehouse/Distribution Management since I was 22, and I’m becoming very burned out with Adult daycare services. I’ve always had an interest in flight in general. Until recently, I fell under the misguided information that becoming an airline pilot required military. Little did I realize that a career as an airline pilot doesn’t even require a full 4-year Bachelor’s degree, Although I have discovered that you’re likelihood of becoming employed is slim without a degree.

So, this leads me to my question. I’m 37 yo. 2 kids (4 yo son and 15 yo daughter) at home with myself and my fiancee. We have a home to run. Bills to pay. I have child support that’s required, monthly. I do not have a degree, or any experience in aviation. All I’ve had since I was little is a dream!!

Is this a real possibility, or a pipe dream? Hard-work and sacrifice are not situations that scare me away at all. I am a very dedicated person when I believe in something. Is ATP really going to get me to a regional airlines and start a career in what I’m seeing to be 9-36 months?

Thank you all for this insight!

Hello Rodney and Welcome!

Not sure what you think is “not typical” about your situation? Not that you’re not unique as a person but your situation is actually fairly common (just read many of the past posts). Having a career as a Regional pilot CAN BE anything but a pipe dream, but there obviously are a number of variables. First once again I find myself asking the question what makes you think you’d like to be a pilot or would be good at it if you’ve never flown a plane? Would you sacrifice your time, money and efforts and commit to only eating pineapple for the rest of your life without ever tasting it? Probably not. My point being before you stress out wondering if it’s possible and worth the sacrifice, I STRONGLY recommend you get yourself over to the closest ATP (or any local flight school) and go for an intro flight!

Ok, now that’s out of the way a few other things, not sure where you got the 9-36mos to a Regional timeline? ATP’s training takes approx. 180 days from zero time till you’re in a position to work as a flight instructor (or other entry level flying position) and then another 1.5-2yrs till you build the 1500hrs for a Regional. The other issue is you cannot attend ATP without either your Private license or a degree (*or equivalent work experience. I believe your 15yrs at the same job would qualify but you’d have to contact ATP to be certain). Assuming you’re good the only really issue I see is staying ahead of your monthly bills. The sad reality is the #1 obstacle for many people trying to get into aviation is financial. You’ll need to allow for 6 mos with no income followed by up to 2 yrs with minimal, followed by another year at a Regional barely making $30k. You really won’t see any decent money till you upgrade at a Regional (3-5yrs) or go to a Major which may or may not happen without a degree.

Not trying to discourage or paint a dark picture but I do believe it’s critical that potential pilots (AND their significant others) know exactly what they’re getting themselves into. Not sure if you’ve got the saving or what your fiancé makes (not my business). You really need to sit down and do the math. It’s definitely possible but whether it’s worth the sacrifice is a decision only you can make.



Wow thank you Adam. This was about as realistic and forth coming that
anyone could possibly be on this subject.

My pleasure Rodney.

If nothing else I’m honest.


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I saw your post just as I was getting on a long flight, I am guessing that my friend and fellow mentor Adam has already responded as he is the Wyatt Earp of the forum, but I am going to give you my take on things as well.

In short, no, it is absolutely not impossible for you, but there are some choices and maybe some sacrifices that you are going to need to make, at least in the short term.

The vast majority of airline pilots today come from civilian backgrounds, the military simply does not turn out the number of pilots that it did at the height of Vietnam and the Cold War. I would say that 75% of the pilots that I fly with are civilians. That is a very unofficial number, but is based on my experiences. In fact, all three of the mentors on this forum come from a civilian background (at least as far as flying is concerned). Most pilots that I fly with got their training through either mom and pop type flight schools or the larger academies like ATP.

On the degree front, yes and no. The regionals do not require a degree at all. Pilots get hired at the regionals all day long without college degrees. At the major level, yes, you absolutely need a four year degree. There are stories of people getting in without one, but as a general rule a degree is required. The good news is that after you get hired at a regional you will have several years to work on one and there are many schools that give a considerable amount of credit for having your pilots licenses. On the other hand, you might decide that you are comfortable being a captain at a regional airline and decide to stay there, there is certainly nothing wrong with that.

Finances can be a bit tough. Of course I have no idea what your monthly obligations are, but it is tough for anybody to quit work altogether and go train for six months. Basically your options are to go to the flight school at Chesapeake Airport or Hampton Roads Airport and plug along there while working, however I can tell you from personal experience that it will be “plugging” at best. It took me two years to get my private license at CPK, it should have taken six months. Things like instructor availability, broken airplanes, etc kept holding me back. I was so fed up by the time I finished there that I decided to seek out an academy type school for the rest of my training. A cousin’s recommendation led me to ATP.

Yes, I think that a fast paced program like what ATP offers can get you to the airlines in 36 months. You will likely spend about six months in training with ATP, then the rest of your time flight instructing to build the 1,500 hours necessary for the airlines.

Before you get any crazy ideas, don’t even think of commuting back and forth from Virginia Beach to Richmond to do the program or to instruct there. As you well know, that traffic is awful and will consume much of your day.

For you the next step should be to take an introductory flight. Get up in the air in a small airplane with an instructor and get a feel for what flying is all about. There is nothing quite like holding the yoke in your hands to help settle your mind as to whether you want to fly for a living or not. You can schedule an introductory flight for a pretty reasonable cost at most local flight schools, or with ATP in Richmond. In the meantime dig through this forum, especially the “Flying the Line” section, there are many good articles on there that will give you a good idea as to what this career is really like. I also highly recommend getting your fiancee involved in this process, show her the forum and get her reading, she is along for the ride too.

Keep asking your questions here, you will find that we are all pretty fast to respond and offer no nonsense advice.

By the way, I grew up in Virginia Beach, graduating from Princess Anne in 2000. How long have you been in the area?



Thank you both!! The more discussions I participate in the more excited I’m getting!!

Good, feel free to ask us any questions that you can think of, that is what we are here for.