I’m directing a set of questions to you which have been on my mind for a while. I’m a 26-year old PhD student from Germany who has loved aviation for a really long time. My mom was born in the US but because I only applied for my family-based green card at age 22, I have to wait until next year to be granted a green card. Over the last couple of years, I realized my desire to not only travel, but also to become a pilot. My question is whether you think I am too old/comparatively disadvantaged if I decided to pursue my dream of becoming a pilot? I know that for United one requires a bachelor’s degree, so I guess my previous bachelor and master degree weren’t “a waste”. I’m also trying to factor in airline demand these days (Despite corona virus, United released a press statement that they aim to hire 10,000 pilots until 2020). I have about 2 years left to finish the PhD, so would you recommend finishing the dissertation, or postpone this to be done some time later (or possibly never)? This strikes as a particularly difficult question given the huge steps in the first years (from PPL to CPL to working as CFI etc.) I would be happy to hear how experienced pilots think about this.
Welcome to the forums. As for your age question, please see the FAQ section as there is a detailed response there that deals with this very question.
As for working for the airlines, a PhD will be of zero value when applying for jobs, the majors simply want to see a bachelor’s degree and you have checked that box. Whether or not you finish the PhD is up to you, but if your plans are to train at ATP, you will need to have a green card to begin your training.
Have you taken an introductory flight yet? It is one thing to enjoy riding in the back of an airplane and quite another to actually fly it. I would highly suggest this as a first step.
I’m with Chris here, before you do anything if you haven’t gone for an intro flight you need to. Just to be certain.
Check the FAQ section but long short you’re nowhere near to old so put that out of your head. The PHD is totally your call but if you’re only 2 yrs out personally I’d finish it. While it won’t benefit you as a pilot you never know where life will take you and things like that create options.
I too am reluctant to recommend not finishing your PhD. It will be totally up to you to not finish. Seeing as you have to wait another year to get your green card, you’d only have a year left of your PhD.
Plus, your reasons for not finishing aren’t reasons at all in my opinion. You’re not too old, the shortage is a weak argument, and traveling as a passenger is not the same as “traveling” as a pilot.
So, what you need to be asking yourself is if there wasn’t a shortage would you not become a pilot? And as Chris and Adam have both mentioned already, it’s imperative that you get a couple hours under your belt before you commit yourself to a flight school. You need to know for sure that this is something you see yourself doing in the future. It would be a shame for you to have the same epiphany as you are now.
thank you for replying so fast. I went for three intro flights, two a couple of years back and one just last year. I agree with you that since I wish to train at ATP, where I could only apply once I have the green card, I’d only have about one year left to complete the PhD.
Tory - thank you for this interesting question. To be honest with you, I hadn’t heard of the pilot shortage in Europe (or the US) until my friend forwarded me an article outlining the tremendous shortage of pilots due the federally mandated retirement age of 65 (which will hit the industry hard in the years to come). I knew that most pilots start their career at regionals before going to the legacy carriers and I was fine with that. But obviously I am not hesitant to say that programs that promote a faster transition from regionals to majors further increased my desire to become an airline pilot. However, this has never been the reason.
Nevertheless, if I decide to finish my current program, I am keen to prepare while doing so. Would you recommend coming to the US for a PPL this year? Would you happen to know any books/online sources that allow me to prepare for the PPL exam (I am asking since most books I have access to prepare for the German/European exam)? I guess I am just keen to explore pathways that allow me to prepare efficiently.
Chris and Adam - I might just go to the flight school I went to and go for another flight.
Hello pilots, I am an 18 year old Senior. I am currently in the stage of deciding the college or school I want to attend. All I need to do is do my Test. I am in the middle of selecting a 4 year college that offers a Delta Program or ATP. I was curious into wondering if any major airliners such as Southwest, United or any other airliner that hires pilots who dont have a bachelor’s? How successful can you be going to ATP straight out of high school compared to a 4 year program?
I’m happy to hear that the shortage isn’t the reason for you wanting to become a pilot, and that you’ve already been on a handful of flights before. To be clear, I believe you when you say that the shortage is not your main reason. I only brought it up because usually when we see the word “shortage” from a first-time poster we immediately start asking questions about motives. So, thank you for your thoughtful response to the question.
What benefit would you gain from earning your PPL this year? You must be really itching to fly. Look, you can do what you want, but given your situation I think you should be focusing on one thing at a time. If you’re going to finish your PhD, focus on that. I’m sure you’ve heard this before. If you’re going to do a job do it well.
Plus, you need that green card and a first class medical. Don’t you think it would be wiser to wait until you had both of those things in hand before you drop $10k+?
The other point I want to make is that flying is a diminishing skill. You want the least amount of gaps between your ratings as possible. If you earn your PPL this year, how will you stay current until you have your green card? Technically, it’s not required that you do, but you will be expected to be current and proficient when you show up for your first lesson at ATP, and those are two different things btw.
The only thing I would do in your spare time right now is read on your own. It’s too early for you to be taking any written tests but it’s never too early to study. Sporty’s Study Buddy does a good job at preparing you for the PAR written for free. The FAA also has a library publications that are free to download. Start with the Pilot Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge and the Airplane Flying Handbook.
Start there, and once you have your green card, medical and start date, you’ll then receive a training bundle and access to computer based training. We highly recommend taking as many of the written tests before the program, but you’ll only need about 2-3 months to take all of them. No need to worry about those anytime soon. Here’s a link with more info: https://atpflightschool.com/faqs/acpp-prep-written-knowledge-tests.html
I totally understand that wishing to become an airline pilot cannot solely be driven by a factor like “shortage” because one should be intrinsically motivated. I guess my interest in becoming a pilot is driven by the fact that I love aviation, airplanes and the responsibility you have for others. I could literally watch airplanes ascend/descend all day long wishing that I could be the responsible pilot.
I am actually really keen on flying. I think you’re right, I should get the green card and the medical first to make sure I meet all the prerequisites to enrolled at ATP and later on be able to find a job at the regionals.
Thank you for this interesting argument that flying is a diminishing skill. The distinction you made is very helpful, so I will go from zero to CPL at ATP. I guess I was considering doing PPL asap so that once I apply at ATP or fast-track programs such as Aviate and AA’s pilot academy, I could convey my sincere interest in aviation? In the next months, I will start looking into books and the guidelines you provided (thank you so much!).
It’s not about “conveying your sincere desire” (taking your writtens and the willingness to commit to the program will do that). As Tory said these are perishable skills but there’s also the law of primacy which states the things we learn first stay with us the longest. If you’ve decided that ATP (or some other program) is the best route for your training, then wouldn’t you want to start off day 1 on the right foot? ATPs program is unique in many ways and starting with your basic training gives you a better foundation to build on.
I am with Adam on this one, starting your PPL early will not do anything to impress the airlines, they will never even ask or care. When you show up with your pilots licenses, that will demonstrate your desire.
I also agree with going to one school for all of your flight training to be the best course of action. I got my PPL at a different school than ATP. When I showed up at ATP, I had to learn the “ATP way” of doing things, you will find a similar transition period exists when transferring between any two schools. It will simply be easier for you to go through all of your training at one school.
Getting your PPL now won’t convey your interest to anyone. You’d only be taking on unnecessary risk. Like I said, the green card and medical are the keys that unlock your path to professional aviation. Without those, you are risking thousands of dollars towards a PPL with no assurances of being able to fly professionally in the US.
Thank you all for your advice. I will make sure to wait until l have the green card and the medical before applying to ATP. I agree that I would risk losing thousands of dollars if there was a problem with the green card or the medical. I guess the best thing for now is staying patient, read a lot and wait until my time comes to apply to flight school.
ATP is not like a college you think of with a campus. It’s a flight school that has over 50 different locations you can choose from. No matter what location you choose, the program cost is the same (DPE fees is the only cost that varies by location). There is student housing available if you need it and that is separate from program costs. That cost is also slightly different based on where you choose to live and attend ATP.