Starting This From Scratch

Hi Everybody!

I have a plan, tell me if it is a good one.

I have been in the car industry for over eight years and have put my dreams aside to support my family. The dream is pretty obvious otherwise I would be asking on a different forum :smile: I want to be a pilot!

Step one, join the Air National Gaurd. Step two, join a pilot college course. Step three, profit!

The Air National Gaurd would help considerably with the debt if I joined a college program. On top of that that it would help with insurance, look good on the resume, and what not while my wife provides for the family. As far as going through the college courses, I am what some would call uneducated. I need a four-year degree for the airlines. After that it’s working my way up in the airlines, right?

Any and all comments are welcome, I am thirty years old and plan to start this venture in the coming months.

Neil P.


I have several issues with your plan. To begin with, is your reasons for joining the National Guard. You should do so because you want to serve your country, not because you think it will help you get to the airlines or help with college. The armed forces are a complete lifestyle, it is not something to be taken lightly.

Secondly, the National Guard really will not do much for y9our resume, unless of course you are a pilot in the NG. The airlines hire pilots and want to see experience as such. Everything else is rather irrelevant.

You need a four year degree for the major airlines, not the regionals.

The last issue I see is that “profit” seems to be your main motivator. Yes, airline pilots at the majors do pretty well, I do not want for much, but it is a long road to get here and not everybody makes it. The job involves a lot of time on the road and sacrifice, it isn’t just about the money.

I recommend taking a look at our FAQ section as there is a lot of good information there that will pertain to you.


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I think that’s a good plan IF you were 18 AND wanted to serve your country. If you’re 30 and want to be an airline pilot you should start your flight training, build time and get hired. The plan you lay out will take years before you ever touch an airplane. While you’re doing things you believe will build your resume and check boxes others will already be at the airlines building seniority.


The Air National Guard (part time), to list off my family that has served would take to much time. I have always wanted to serve. As you seem very serious and able to help I will be strait forward.

The armed forces is an 8 year commitment, no matter what. Its about being part of something bigger than your self. I want that more than the pros that come along with it.

What are the requirements for the regional airlines? Would I be able to finish an associates online to get into the major airlines?

“Profit” South Park reference to the underwear gnomes.

The ultimate goal is happiness and doing something that I have dreamed about since I was a child. My grandfather was a navigator in a B-14 and would take us up in the air till he passed away when I was young. I have never been able to shake that feeling.

This all takes time, I understand. In the grand scheme of things I invested eight years into a career that does not make me happy. Whats a few more to follow a dream.

If you want to be a pilot I would start civilian flight training and skip the other stuff. You say you’ve spent 8 years in a career that you don’t want to be in so you’re already at least 25/26. I’m not sure what it is you wanted to do in the ANG, but you won’t be a pilot there without a degree as you must commission as an officer. Also the age cutoff is going for your interview/indoc process by age 28 for pilots so you’re already cutting that close if not already passed.

The regional airlines do not require a degree, so once you get to the regionals you could get your degree while building hours that would make you competitive for the majors.

I see no real reason to deviate from just starting flight training now if that is really your ultimate goal. Your ROI just goes down the longer you wait. The finances can be daunting, and many people take out loans for that and then are able to pay them back way ahead of the total term time of the loan.


Sounds like you made up your mind and you like your plan (which is more than fine). Both Chris and I offered our take. It’s your life and you need to choose the path that’s best for you.

I am curious why you’re asking for advice when you don’t seem willing to hear any? As for the Major college degree question Chris answered that very clearly.


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Just putting my 2 cents in, but in all honesty I would stray away from the military after talking to you guys. As much as I want that to be part of my life, it seems to be redundant for my age. It would make more sense if I was 18. More so wanted my thoughts on the table of why I wanted each part.

I appreciate the views of a pro, and if I can cut the time down before I am flying that would be best from what I am reading and being told.

I’m not finding a specific answer to this, can you fly a regional without a degree? So after flight training, and building the hours I would be hireable to a regional.

Also, Adam, would a better plan be to get into the air, than worry about what the major airlines want?

Thank you Caleb!


You do not need a college degree, just a high school degree, for the Regionals. If you want to make it to the Majors, then you certainly will need a college degree, but you can get that during your 4-7 year stint as a Regional pilot with online courses. As long as you have your hours and certifications, you will be hired at this point in time with Regional Airlines. Who knows what the future will hold, we may be in a world wide depression where people don’t fly by the time you get your hours in 3 years…but if today is any indications, as well as predictions for the next 10-20 years, us aspiring pilots will be fine getting into the Regionals.

I would also like to add, as a person who is currently Active Duty Army, I don’t think your plan to join the ANG is a bad one. I myself will probably go to the Army Reserve when I begin my flight training next year. It should not impede your training too much but keep in mind you will have to spend several months at minimum at basic training, then maybe another half a year in your specialized training school, so essentially an entire year you could devote to your pilot training on the front end of your commitment. If you’re cool with that, then there is no reason you can’t achieve both dreams. As noted above, don’t think you will be given a pilot slot in the ANG, so if you want to serve and be a pilot too, don’t limit yourself to the ANG, there is also the NG, Army and Navy reserves if that’s more your cup of tea.


Thank you Sam, when thinking about the ANG, it wasn’t to be a pilot. Though my back-round is primarily sales, I would be better of in the garage wrenching on stuff. I wanted to join to be a mechanic, and to fly as a civilian.

Well keep in mind that the Navy actually has more planes than the Air Force, and the Army has fleets of rotary wing aircraft…not to mention Humvee, tanks, and other things that go vroom that can keep your wrench busy. :smile:

And for what it’s worth, I believe that mechanic schooling is one of the longer specialty schools out there for the military, so you’ll be away even longer from starting your pilot schooling. Not sure if it’s in the back of your head too, but as a heads up, the GI Bill will not / cannot be accepted at flight schools like ATP, but you can use some benefits for testing and checkride fees which do amout to thousands of dollars in savings.


You do not need a degree at all for the regionals, you will need a four year degree for the majors.

My apologies, I am not up on South Park or underwear gnomes.

To me if you want to be a pilot, you should focus on just that, take out a loan and start flight school. If you want to serve, then go to that. If you want to do both, then great, but just know that being in the service will in no way help you become a pilot and will likely make your path to aviation longer.

And yes, you can get hired on at a regional and then finish your degree online. Many before you have done just that.


Thank you so much everybody, this has cleared up so much!

When you guys talk about the major airlines, what does that mean exactly?


Great question and not as simple as you might think. I’ve read that an airline with revenues over one billion annually is considered a Major. Obviously there’s the Big 3 legacy carriers (Delta, United and American) but then things get a little muddier for some. A general rule is an airline that sells its own tickets (you can’t buy a ticket on or for a Regional), flies heavies and tavels internationally is a Major. Problem is Southwest doesn’t fly heavies but they’re a Major. FedEx and UPS don’t sell tickets but they’re both considered Majors. Hawaiian’s revenues aren’t over a billion but they’re considered a Major.

I’d just say it’s generally a large airline that pays well and you wouldn’t mind spending your career at :wink:


On the subject of money, I am used to annual income of around 70k. Should I prepare for a drop in income starting out?

Yes, I would expect a drop for several years. If you are going the airline route I wouldn’t really expect to make 70k+ until you are a Regional captain. I’m sure there are places you could really bust it to try and make it, but it’s a safe bet you won’t really reach that level until Regional Capt. This can give you an idea of the pay scales for everything.

I always answer the question by saying that a major airline is one that sells its own tickets and has its name in big, not little, letters on the side of the airplane.

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