>>>" I have never met an airline pilot who changed careers (except for circumstances beyond thier control"
Well, I kind of did............
Tactical flying has been the greatest experience in my life. I got off active duty several years ago (94), and I decided to go to the private sector since I had almost completed a Masters Degree. I felt that flying anything other than a F-4 or F-18 would be a let down.
Man, was I ever wrong. I got hired on with a large consulting company and got paid very well. Problem was, I had a complete B---h for a team leader, I was never home (gone 5 out of seven days), and I hate the information systems field. By the end of that year, I was fed up. I decided a career change was in order and I would do what ever it took to fly again.
Because I'd been out of the cockpit for a year and the market wasn't what it was now, I hustled my resume out for part 135 work and got hired on by ERA Aviation up in Alaska. I really didn't consider applying for the majors. Lasted almost a year with ERA and came down to the lower 48 to fly for Great Lakes. Lakes gets a LOT OF BAD PRESS, but I sucked it up, upgraded in less than a year and then went on with YX.
Pilots DO bitch and moan. So do all the Marines I served with. Wouldn't be happy unless we're bitching. The griping I hear with pilots is NOTHING compared to the Dilberts I worked with in '94.
Now, here are some things to be aware of.
--Unless you are a real high time military pilot, your first job will, more than likely, be a CFI. You can expect low pay and probably an adversarial relationship with your boss who knows you are on the way out the door.
--Your first regional job/part 135 will find you, most likely, at a garden spot of an outstation (Bullhead City, Rhinelander, Spencer, Muskegon, etc). A nice home here sells for the $100k price range. That may seem bargain basement, but You won't make enough to put a down payment on one, and you won't be with the airline long enough to. You will make $1200 per month. In a 1900 you will play flight attendant. You will hand fly and do NDB approaches. If you do 135 stuff, you might have a boss who will push you to the very limit and you might fly an airplane that has seen better days.
--Doing walkarounds in RHI in Jan is no fun. Waiting for a hotel van in Mar outside the terminal in RockSprings is no fun either. You won't eat in 5 star restaurants because you can't afford it. Eating at Mickey D's every day is expensive on a regional pilot's salary. Pretty soon you'll pack a lunch to break the monotony.
--You will sit reserve.
--If you get sucked in by the glamour that an RJ holds and pass up the opportunity for a 1900D, you may be seat locked for a few years. Meanwhile, that 1900D guy that you pooh-poohed quickly upgrades and starts logging that precious PIC time. The SCANTRON don't care, and your buddy is flying 76s (and staying in hotels with elevators and room service) while you are still waiting to upgrade.
--Did I mention that you will have to shell out a large portion of your hard earned savings and go into debt for the glamorous life above that I talked about?
Now for the positive:
--You get to fly
--The majors are hiring about 80 a month. Build up your PIC time, and you may just find your efforts will pay off. No pilot worth his or her salt does it for the money though.