B17GEAA
Topic Author
Posts: 12
Joined: Mon Mar 12, 2018 6:41 pm

Becoming a Commercial Pilot

Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:48 pm

I am currently a junior in high school and would like to pursue a career in commercial aviation. Is it too late to get into this field and become a pilot? There is talk of automation, but I do not believe that will affect anything in the aviation industry for a very long time. What kind of pay can I expect down the line if I pursue this path? People have told me i'll be almost begging on the streets, and others have told me I'll be living rich and large. Some clarification on what to expect would be nice, and an explanation of whether or not it is even worth the high cost of obtaining all of the required licenses. I am not worried about the low pay at first at the regionals. I just have a passion for being in the air and the pay doesn't matter to me at first; I would just like to know if it will get better from there.

Sorry for the long and complicated question, hopefully it is clear.
 
stlgph
Posts: 10380
Joined: Tue Oct 12, 2004 4:19 pm

Re: Becoming a Commercial Pilot

Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:50 pm

Remember, the pay doesn't matter until you have to pay the bills.
if assumptions could fly, airliners.net would be the world's busiest airport
 
B17GEAA
Topic Author
Posts: 12
Joined: Mon Mar 12, 2018 6:41 pm

Re: Becoming a Commercial Pilot

Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:55 pm

Are you saying that with the low pay at first it is not enough to sustain a living?
 
stlgph
Posts: 10380
Joined: Tue Oct 12, 2004 4:19 pm

Re: Becoming a Commercial Pilot

Tue Mar 13, 2018 3:08 pm

That's pretty much it.

I went into the TV business. Lots of people spending big money on big degrees from big name journalism schools making barely enough money to make ends meet yet making just enough above "poverty" level to where they couldn't qualify for food stamps and basically lived on one ramen noodle meal a day, or had to do community bunk living to have a place to live. Many lived close to the stations as they could so they could get by without a car. $100,000 education for a job paying less than $20,000 a year, all for the "love and passion of being able to do what they want to do" -- which they think is journalism and it turns out to be a lot less glamorous than that.

Some people, like me, get lucky and get gigs out of college with better pay and better career advancement opportunities. In 5 years I had gone from newbie cub reporter to working for a network, leaving many colleagues behind still struggling in the same market trying to break $25,000 a year. Meanwhile, I'm making multiples of that amount, basically doing the same job, living the life in one of the biggest cities in the world, surrounded by a schedule that allows me to have weekends free, make friends, and go home on the holidays.

Either you come into "the biz" and succeed and move up and put up with the troubles at first, or you get a few lucky breaks, or you don't, and it wears you down and eventually the stress of no pay, no life, no holidays, and no vacation gets to you, and you get the hell out and go onto something else.

Trust me, it's a *wonderful* thing to be able to do something you love and have a good life that may come with it, but it's a real shitty thing to be stuck doing what you love and not being able to enjoy it.
if assumptions could fly, airliners.net would be the world's busiest airport
 
B17GEAA
Topic Author
Posts: 12
Joined: Mon Mar 12, 2018 6:41 pm

Re: Becoming a Commercial Pilot

Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:57 pm

Thanks a lot, would you say that going into a different field such as aerospace engineering would be better in the long run? Do you know anything about it?
 
stlgph
Posts: 10380
Joined: Tue Oct 12, 2004 4:19 pm

Re: Becoming a Commercial Pilot

Tue Mar 13, 2018 5:12 pm

No, that's out of my realm. Don't be discouraged. If you want to do the pilot thing, do the pilot thing, just always have a plan B.

Just remember - there are some guys flying big ass planes across oceans making damn good money. Some are living the dream, some are miserable.

And at the same time, there are guys just as qualified flying smaller ass planes between points in a cornfield, barely making enough to pay the bills. Some are living the dream, some are miserable.

Doesn't matter if you want to be a TV personality, a pilot, a teacher, or a chef -- make it happen for you.
if assumptions could fly, airliners.net would be the world's busiest airport
 
KUZAWU08
Posts: 11
Joined: Sat Nov 21, 2009 12:14 am

Re: Becoming a Commercial Pilot

Tue Mar 13, 2018 10:23 pm

Focus on your fascination.

I debated about leaving it at that... but I'll elaborate. I was a high school student who had a longtime interest in the aviation industry, particularly the airline industry. I'm the first in my family to even have any interest in aviation and had a number of hurdles, including eyesight issues (since fixed and medicals passed) I may have not been mature enough to set aside and "get focused." I majored in something completely different for University because by default, it was a subject in which I had experience in and performed well. Although I don't regret getting a degree, I do regret my lack of focus on aviation... I could have been much farther along and considerably more senior had I had the gumption to just say "this is what I'm interested in..." and KEEP searching in the right places until I found the RIGHT person to talk to who did not think it was too far fetched for me.

That all being said... I've since found a way in to the industry and had a career working with airplanes for about six years. Don't JUST consider getting to the left seat of an airliner. There are MANY great positions and careers out there in the industry. They will not all make you rich, but if you're like me and have a passion for the industry, aptitude for safety, and would love helping passengers along the way, any role will be worth it. As far as compensation, no matter where you start, for the first couple years as you build seniority/ experience, the pay will not be all that great However, as you stick around two things WILL be an invaluable investment to getting the higher paying job... the resume experience you show (for example safety/ aviation related experience on the ramp, in the shop, customer service, etc.) and your seniority with a company. Whatever you do as you build experience, DON'T FORGET the fact that there are MANY great careers in the industry to be had long before you reach the left seat. Don't discount working the Ramp with a local FBO or airline (airline rampers often get travel benefits), working customer service (perhaps consider becoming a Flight Attendant) and definitely consider A&P training if you have a mechanical aptitude and like fixing things. (That actually pays really well right now and will help with your knowledge of systems when you're flying.) There ARE many great ways to be involved in the industry as a career, including being a pilot. You might have to "hang in there" for a couple years, and people will probably think you're crazy, but I promise schedule and pay will get better. You might have to repeat "hanging in there" with each new position, but it's worth it and you CAN be part of the industry... and right now working as a pilot is very reasonable.

THAT all being said, focus on your passion, and try to find the right person to mentor how you should invest your time, money in professional training. I did not have that person to talk to, and have run into major financial hurdles. It is a true story that many airlines in the USA are offering great incentives for pilots including considerable tuition reimbursement that will help over the course of those first few years if flying is your route. The trick (and frustration) is that YOU must show up with the training, and pay for the training first. They don't reimburse until after you're hired. (So good luck inventing ways to come up with it upfront... that's where some good mentorship helps.) I've run into MAJOR issues with these banks, credit aside, in recognizing the fact I'm trying to fund professional training. The banks JUST DON'T realize that this is legitamate professional training and a proper investment for someone like you or me. (No matter where you train, it's considerably less than some advanced career training- like law school or medical school.) There is a need in the US for Pilots across the industry, and there will be a return on your investment...it will not be immediate... but most airlines are offering some form of tuition reimbursement for First Officers and flow programs to the majors...just expect to put a lot into it.

What airlines REALLY seemed focused on for new FOs is your hours and flying experience. It doesn't matter too much what type of flying... so long as it fulfills the basic technical requirements and hours. After earning you Private Pilot rating Flight Schools like ATP are worth it, as they get you into these positions and many Pilots I've asked on the flight line have said they've attended programs such as this. Again they are a bit of an investment, but if you have the background and aptitude they will get you to the right place.

Best of luck... again... get involved and start building experience. (flight line jobs, clubs and organizations, etc) If the left seat is your goal find any way to build time you can, as flight time and experience are what REALLY matters. Invest in your ratings first over simply getting any degree. Yes, the degree is important no matter what subject it's in and WILL help no matter what subject it's in but don't just go get the default piece of paper like I did because it's the subject you know and make good grades in. Consider a two year program or aviation intensive concentration. Again, plan your investments toward actual flying as best as possible. (No idea what to tell you about the banks as they have NOT helped me despite the fact I've had good credit, solid employment and valid reasons to train.) Hang in there when you're "junior" and it seems there is not much pay/ hours. (It will increase.) Have fun and FOLLOW YOUR FASCINATION! Remember I mentioned I've been in the industry about six years? I haven't worked a day... sure there's been days I wanted to sleep in, stay out of the cold, or do something other than study... but I love playing airport for a living.
Last edited by KUZAWU08 on Tue Mar 13, 2018 10:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
KUZAWU08
Posts: 11
Joined: Sat Nov 21, 2009 12:14 am

Re: Becoming a Commercial Pilot

Tue Mar 13, 2018 10:43 pm

"And at the same time, there are guys just as qualified flying smaller ass planes between points in a cornfield, barely making enough to pay the bills. Some are living the dream, some are miserable."

Spoke with an FO a few weeks back who was formerly an Agricultural Aviation Pilot. Supposedly they're needed right now (especially if they have a knowledge of chemistry and agriculture) and are willing to fly in some really tight places all over the nation.
 
GalaxyFlyer
Posts: 990
Joined: Fri Jan 01, 2016 4:44 am

Re: Becoming a Commercial Pilot

Tue Mar 13, 2018 10:53 pm

What country are located in? Informed begin there.

GF
 
benjjk
Posts: 269
Joined: Fri Aug 08, 2014 4:29 am

Re: Becoming a Commercial Pilot

Wed Mar 14, 2018 3:43 am

I'd emphasize that there is a difference in loving planes or being up in the air and loving being a pilot. Actually piloting a plane involves paperwork, hours of planning and preparation, and a methodical, sometimes monotonous routine. Your skills and health are always tested with the threat of losing your career if either goes astray. And you have the heat of up to several hundred lives depending on you to do the right thing.

To me... all of that sounds appealing. Some of it sounds stressful of course but appealing, and that is why I have invested tens of thousands of dollars into flight training and will hopefully land a flying job in the next 6-12 months. But I started training with a few people who, once these facts became clear, realised that it wasn't actually piloting that they loved. One of them went into aeronautical engineering which he is loving. Another decided to focus on IT and just fly recreationally.

If you figure out that what you genuinely want is to be a pilot, then the money won't matter to you. For what it's worth, usually pilot pay is pretty lousy for the first few years but, like many professions, the pay increases as you gain experience and seniority so if you stick with it you'll be living pretty comfortably. But if you just want to hang around aircraft, engineering or even cabin crew are good alternatives, with much cheaper training pathways.
 
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Starlionblue
Posts: 18448
Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2004 9:54 pm

Re: Becoming a Commercial Pilot

Wed Mar 14, 2018 5:50 am

Very well put benjjk.

In order to be a happy commercial pilot, finding enjoyment in the mundane bits is important. Successful and happy pilots figure out methods for organising the various parts of their work, from flight planning to sim preparation to packing an overnight bag, and take personal pride in doing well at these tasks. Airline pilots are in some ways quite nerdy. :D

B17GEAA wrote:
I am currently a junior in high school and would like to pursue a career in commercial aviation. Is it too late to get into this field and become a pilot? There is talk of automation, but I do not believe that will affect anything in the aviation industry for a very long time. What kind of pay can I expect down the line if I pursue this path? People have told me i'll be almost begging on the streets, and others have told me I'll be living rich and large. Some clarification on what to expect would be nice, and an explanation of whether or not it is even worth the high cost of obtaining all of the required licenses. I am not worried about the low pay at first at the regionals. I just have a passion for being in the air and the pay doesn't matter to me at first; I would just like to know if it will get better from there.

Sorry for the long and complicated question, hopefully it is clear.


It really isn't too late. The job will continue to evolve but barring some completely unexpected revolutionary technological breakthrough airline pilots will be needed for generations to come. And from the perspective of your age, it is certainly not too late. ;)

If you want to become wealthy, the pilot career is probably not the path for you. You can have reasonable expectations of doing financially well over the course of your career, but the average pilot makes far less than what the general public seems to think. Of course pilots should expect a fair wage, but given the risks involved in terms of financial commitment and continual testing, it is not a wager that everyone is willing to take. Hence why having a real passion for not only aviation, but piloting itself, is important.

I'm guessing you are American. In that case don't overlook opportunities abroad, especially in Asia. Many employers overseas pay better and have better benefits than US ones, and the experience requirements are often less stringent.
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo

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