My story is far from complete, but I thought I’d share a few thoughts, since this site has been so helpful to me already, and share my progress so far. This is long, probably not interesting to many who might come across it, and partially written for cathartic purposes.
First, I want to give a heartfelt THANK YOU! to not only (though, especially) the mentors of this forum! Your advice and thoughtful replies to the users has been invaluable to me as I consider becoming a pilot. To someone like me, who highly values realism and logic in most things, the frankness of your words is also greatly appreciated.
I am strongly considering going to ATP, currently either looking at Long Beach or Camarillo. Like many others, I’m looking at this as a mid-life career change. I’m 37.5, but won’t be asking questions about that being a problem, as there are several answers to that question already given here. In fact, researching that very question on Google is what brought me to first this site, then to ATP’s site after it. I found the topic where Adam responded to that question in Oct. 2017, about being 40 and wanting to start. (https://airlinepilot.life/t/am-i-too-old-to-be-an-airline-pilot/8062) It is probably the way Adam wrote that I found most compelling, prompting me to poke around further. Now, I’m practically ready in many ways to start, but know I have several steps to go.
My first real step was to go get a medical check by an AME. Remember what I said about valuing logic? I figured that if I couldn’t get a First Class Medical Certificate, then as a career it would already be “game over” for me, and time to look elsewhere. (Unless it was a failure for something like vision, in which case it would be try again with new glasses.) Turns out I live about 2 blocks from an AME, so I walked over on Wednesday morning - I passed! I didn’t expect failure, but hate assuming, so I went in with a neutral mindset. This was my process - start at the things that might roadblock me, and work from least to biggest potential hurdle.
Next hurdle: finances. I still have a bit of student loan debt from my college days. I did get a BA, and have read the topics on having a 4-year degree for the Majors. I also don’t make a ton doing what I’m doing for work now, and have been unsuccessful so far at getting better work in my hitherto-fore chosen field. So, loan it is. As advised, I applied to both Sallie Mae and Wells-Fargo. I also decided to apply solo first, and consider a co-signer if rejected. I have some family who might consider such an arrangement.
Unsurprisingly, Wells-Fargo gave me a nearly instantaneous rejection, but Sallie Mae gave me a note asking to call them. I did so, and was asked several questions by the agent. In case anybody reading this is curious, I’ll list the questions I recall (I took some notes, but not 100% complete), but otherwise, skip the next bit:
- My student loans were brought up, and I was asked if I had a degree? (yes)
- Had worked in the field studied? (yes)
- Why am I deciding to leave the workfield I studied for?
- How much did I make working in this field?
- Back in 2014 (about 4 years ago now) I had some late loan payments - I was asked about that. (It was when I was just starting, and not getting enough work, plus I mistakenly thought I was on income-based deferment at that time.)
- Could I go back into that field, if things didn’t work out with this new study/career? (yes)
- Why did I choose this (pilot/airline) career? (I mentioned some things I’ve read about here, like the current pilot shortage and about the career projections, plus I’ve spoken to a few pilots and they love their jobs.)
- Do I have a pilot licens already, and any flight time? (No. Then I mentioned the what I know about ATP’s program from Zero to CFI to airline.)
- The agent put me on hold for a few minutes, then came back and said I was approved for a loan for the full amount ($99,250.00)!
I cannot say why I was approved with no co-signer. Anything I might guess at would be exactly that - guess and speculation. It’s certainly not because of my assets, as I’m negative in that regard. Whatever the case, I’m pretty much ready to go, as far as hurdles. But I still haven’t flown at all yet (in a cockpit), which is kind of important.
Greg from ATP called me the next day, but I wasn’t able to answer. I called back when I could, but it was already about 3:30 PM Pacific, on a Friday, so I’m not surprised I had to leave a voicemail, nor that I’ve not gotten a call back. Tomorrow is Monday, 04 June, and I’ll be trying again. My goal is to have my Introductory Flight on Wednesday morning, and see how I feel after that, as well as touring the facility.
Future steps and considerations, beyond the Intro Flight:
If I’m still not sure how I feel about flying after the Intro Flight, I will probably follow a specific bit of the advice I’ve seen the mentors mention a few times - Go get my PPL somewhere else, first. I believe them (you, if you’re reading this!) when they say that a person should have a clear idea how they feel about it after spending the time getting their PPL. I’ve already looked at a few school options for that, but won’t make that decision just yet. Finding them has been a part of my research (also something suggested) of flight schools beyond ATP. If I go that route, and find I love it and want to make a career of it, ATP is top of my list, so far, and having financing lined up for it is a huge bonus vs. other schools and options I’ve seen and found, where financing is just as hard to come by, but for which Sallie Mae isn’t an option (that’s what they say when I ask.)
Supposing I go to ATP, regardless if it is the 9 or 6 month program, I’ll have to look at my housing situation. I live smack-dab in the middle between Long Beach and Camarillo. It’s about 40 miles to each. Camarillo seems like the easier drive (no 405 freeway through the pass!), but it’s still about an hour commute each way. I’ve seen the advice, and know that is a huge chunk of time that could be studying, or recovering from the day’s studies. Several students have said they did something similar, no problem, but others have said the opposite. Long Beach is the worse drive, but has a housing option. It’s not really cheaper than what I’ve got now, but would be MUCH closer, I have to assume (until I visit this week). The hardest mental hurdle to going that route is giving up my private room, something I’ve come to love! But, I will weigh the options, pros and cons, and figure it out. If the Camarillo school were in Van Nuys instead, it’d be a no-brainer for me. Ah well.
So, that’s where I am. I’m about to fly for the first time, and will be making a lot of decisions based upon that experience. I will be visiting ATP, talking to people there and in the financing dept. (I have specific inquires they’re best suited for), and changing my life, one way or another.
I have appreciated reading the topics started by both others and the mentors. I’ve probably spent about 24 hours reading here over the past week. Thank you, and maybe I’ll see some of you soon.