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Learning To Fly & Obtaining Commercial Work  
User currently offlineMattcorcoran1 From United States of America, joined May 2008, 2 posts, RR: 0
Posted (8 years 2 weeks 8 hours ago) and read 3377 times:


I am a 34 year old American living in Argentina. I have always wanted to learn how to fly and may have finally found the time to do it. My question is: assuming I have the time and resources for intensive training, what is a realistic breakdown of the time and costs to obtain a commercial license? Am I naive to think that I could change careers at age 34/35 and find high-paying work as a commercial pilot in the United States or South America?

Also, are there advantages/disadvantages to studying in a foreign country vs. the United States? Will these advantages/disadvantages make working in certain areas of the world more/less likely? For example, after a few years of intensive training, could I expect to work for a major airliner in the US or Europe? Or, would I be limited to countries with more liberal hiring policies?


Matt Corcoran

5 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlinePGNCS From United States of America, joined Apr 2007, 3081 posts, RR: 48
Reply 1, posted (8 years 2 weeks 8 hours ago) and read 3369 times:

Quoting Mattcorcoran1 (Thread starter):
Am I naive to think that I could change careers at age 34/35 and find high-paying work as a commercial pilot in the United States or South America?


These are all difficult questions, and I am sure that you will find lots of viewpoints on this forum. You absolutely can change careers into aviation at your age. Having said that, though, I think you will find "high-paying work" very difficult to come by in this field today, especially at the beginning of your career. I don't know what type of work you are currently in, but if you don't find it insufferable and the compensation is good I would fly recreationally and not consider an airline career. I am a Captain at a major airline, have been with my carrier for 17 years, and have just finished a second graduate degree in an attempt to change careers OUT of the aviation field. As others will no doubt advise you, only do this if you truly love flying; do not do it for perceived compensation or any other reason. I love to fly, but it's not enough anymore. I would like to be off of reserve and spend a few weekends and holidays with my family. It's not all bad, and I'm not implying it is, but be pragmatic and do a lot of research about the career before committing yourself to it.

I sincerely wish you wisdom in your decision, and good luck!

User currently offlineSoku39 From United States of America, joined Nov 2000, 1797 posts, RR: 8
Reply 2, posted (8 years 1 week 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 3268 times:

There are 1000 different variables to answering this question. A few that might help are...

What specific time frame do you want it done in?

What location will the training be done at?

Do you want a personal 1 on 1 atmosphere, or do you not mind being a number?

How much money will you have to work with?

There needs to be way more background information before anyone even starts to answer this.

The Ohio Player
User currently offlineMattcorcoran1 From United States of America, joined May 2008, 2 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (8 years 1 week 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 3252 times:


Thanks very much for the feedback. It is very, very helpful. I'll start with a bit of background information and work towards more specific answers to your questions.

I have a finance and banking background but have also spent a substantial amount of time over the last decade chasing adventure through Chile and Argentina. The reason for changing careers would be for a love of flying; salary would be secondary. I have enjoyed good salaries in the past, working in the US and Chile, but have not been entirely satisfied with the work. Currently I am living in Bariloche, Argentina and really enjoy the lifestyle here, but I am not making enough to fly recreationally. If I decide to learn how to fly, the goal would be to work commercially here in Argentina within a year or two, with long-term employment in the States a viable option in the next 5-10 years. If these are realistic goals for someone that is 34 or 35, I have funds to invest to help me achieve that end.

The time frame: If I decide to move forward, I would like to have at least a private license within 6 months.
The location: at the Aero Club in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina.
The price: about US$3,000 for 40 hours of flight time and instruction for the private license.
The training: I would prefer 1 on 1 instruction
How much money to work with: this depends on the return on my investment in terms of potential employment and salary, but for now let's say US$15,000.

Again, thanks very much for the feedback. It is greatly appreciated. If there's any other info I can provide, let me know.

Matt Corcoran

User currently offlineAAH732UAL From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (8 years 1 week 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 3236 times:

Well, lets just say that forgin countries like US pilots Espically China!

So I would say if you can, train in the US.

I am gonna try to get on w/ a Regional soon making 20,000..... but I am going to only be 19. So unless I have a girl I have been eying for a long while as my girlfriend when this happens, I will need to support only myself. That being said, you could get on w/ low time and if you are supporting yourself you could make it. And once you get in every year will get better.

You may want to look into getting trained in the US and flying someplace other then the US when you get enough hours.
Don't count on a US airline to have a full long lasting career w/.

Myself, I am going to finish a 767 type rating and once I get minimum hours for this contract airline, I am gonna head out to do that. Then later on come back to the US. So you may want to look at something like that. Only problem is, these type of Contract companies will not hire pilots over 55 or 45 in some cases.

Like said, there are a ton of ways to skin a cat.

[Edited 2008-05-18 12:05:01]

User currently offlineSlamClick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 66
Reply 5, posted (8 years 1 week 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 3230 times:

The only thing I'd counsel is that at age 34 you should be on with whatever it is you want to do with your life and with all deliberate speed. In the airline world this is especially true because it is still seniority-based. The very best you can do from this point is end up junior to a lot of younger people. They will never retire and let you move up, so your upgrade and your position is even more dependant on company growth or (favorable) mergers.

It is certainly doable. Provided you have no physical problems that could keep you from getting the required medical and no personal traits that would make you untrainable as a pilot, you could attain just about any professional position you could aspire to, other than military pilot, as that has rigid age limits for beginning.

As to where to ply your trade: Where do you want to live and work. If it is back in the US then you would probably be better off coming back here for your flight instruction because if you get a non-US pilot license the US will recognize it for all purposes other than flying airplanes. In other words you are going to have to test for the US equivalent license and the instruction to prepare you might cancel out the savings...

If you have the education needed for a high-paying job in another industry that might indeed be a better financial option. Becoming a pilot for the money is probably pretty much a thing of the past. However, it does pay pretty well, still, unless compared to being a senior VP at a Fortune 500 company, a big-league athlete or something like that. If those things are an option I'd go with that. If your alternative career is paying under a hundred grand right now, today, then being a pilot at a major would likely be an improvement.

There are three ways to look at airline pilot salary. Take an expected year's salary and:

1. Divide it by about 800, which is the approximate number of hours you are likely to fly in a year.
2. Divide it by 2080 - the number of hours a nine-to-five job works.
3. Divide it by about 3000 - the number of hours you will be away from your domicile on duty, even if asleep.

If these results sound okay to you, you might like it.

There are plenty of old pilots who are seriously disgruntled by the erosion of a once-wonderful job. I am one or two such old pilots myself. You will get all kinds of grumbling about what a crappy job it is today. All true. It is also a great job - if you were one of those born to do this. If so, nothing else will ever satisfy you.

But be careful. Standing on the ground at your present job you may feel the "grass is greener" sentiment that is all but indistinguishable from an actual desire to be a pilot. Keep a marketable skill in your back pocket.

I've known airline pilots who were (formerly) practicing attorneys, doctors, even gynecologists, multimillionaire hiers to family fortunes (some brand names you would recognize) with their own P-51 Mustangs, who didn't need to work at all. All these people found certain satisfaction in flying big honkin' jet airliners. It is a pleasant way to pass a day or two, most of the time.

Now as to how to build time? Not a frakkin' clue.

Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
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