Discussion in 'Ask A Flight Surgeon' started by Sapient, Mar 9, 2017.
I'm PMing you with contact info for someone who should be able to give you good advice.
This. Flying is not a very good investment - honestly, the student loan debt I have is basically what has kept me from buying a home. Honestly, I don't know where they're at - but going to Arizona to study engineering, or astronomy in Hawaii, or whatever may be a better move - and honestly, everyone (myself included when I got into this) thought flying was going to be exciting and adventurous - and yeah, the way I've done my career it's mostly been interesting, but most of the times it's been "adventurous," I've been doing something dumb.
If the man ever wants a family, a house, to be debt free, and to not be beholden to the "man" - then I'd recommend against flying out of the gate. If I had to go back and tell my 17 year old self what to do before I got the loans for the rest of my flight training, I'd probably still do it - but I was absolutely in love with flying. If you can see yourself doing literally anything else...well, I'd recommend exploring other career options first given the cost.
Now if he's not going to go into debt for it - well, then that's a different story, do what you want.
Thanks all for all the comments. I was/am mostly trying to gather information so that he can make as informed of decisions as possible. My personal opinion of what he should do is, unsurprisingly, not his top concern. My advice to him is to go to school somewhere locally. I personally don't think that, even if his mental health concerns are addressed for now, the financial risks are justified. We don't have the resources to cover flight school, so he would be looking at a lot of debt for a career he currently wants and is at a significant risk of losing with a turn in his medical condition.
But, as I said, all I can really do is inform and advise. My guess is that he will either take a year off to get himself sorted out heath wise and financially, or go to a local technical or 4 year school to get some education under his belt.
What part of the county are you guys in if you don't mind our asking?
Minneapolis area. UND is a 5 hour drive.
It's a real tough age for kids and high school doesn't really prepare you for much. I had a co-worker out in California who took in his nephew to live with him as the kid was getting in trouble with drugs back home. Had him stay for a year, got in-state tuition and is doing really well for himself. I wish we did it like most countries do where kids take off a year to go travel as I think it helps people make great friends and figure out what they want to do a bit better. I know it's got to be tough as a parent as theirs only so much you can do.
Which state are you guys living in? There may be some reciprocal tuition agreements with other states. I know some college and community college programs are quite reasonable. Also I can't encourage him enough to talk to some older pilots about life as a professional pilot. I think there are a lot of people with very skewed and unrealistic expectations of the business and it will help him a great deal whether he chooses to fly or not as he'll be less surprised when the unpleasant side of things rears its face. Things are getting much better for pilots though too. Also he doesn't need a 4 year degree to become a pilot. With how the airlines are hiring now and the pay at the regional he could go some place like ATP and maybe even be getting paid to fly after a year or two. It would also be much cheaper.
Then if he has absolutely any other things he's interested in, and if he's not 100% committed to flying until he can't any more then I would tell him to go someplace warm, with lots of scantily clad women, and study something that's "trade like" (such as aircraft maintenance or marine diesel maintenance or HVAC or something) as well as computer programming or some other knowledge worker field.
The sun and sand and girls (or boys -whatever I'm not judging) will be fun, and learning a trade plus something less blue-collar will allow him to prosper whenever and wherever he goes. Not a lot of people can do both the blue-collar thing and the white-collar "knowledge worker" thing. If he goes and does that he can learn to fly for fun first and see if he likes it, and he won't have to mortgage his future on hoping the industry stays together.
Flying is great - I love it, but the most painful conversation you can have is the one with your doctor where he tells you you can't fly any more, and every year you have to get checked out for that, not to mention the checkrides, the paperwork, and the insecurity. There is literally zero job security and unless you are incredibly fortunate or are willing to shelf the career for lifestyle (I was after I had kids, some people can't) you don't really get to choose where you want to live.
Also, helicopter guys in particular may be facing a bit of an existential crisis:
It's coming for fixed wing too - but it will be longer out. Still - it's coming.
They have some fly-ins going on that might be fun to meet some pilots and talk to them about their careers. That and he might be able to go up flying too. If he's looking for a summer job or wants to put off going to school while he figures it out he could work for an FBO at many of the nearby airports. They likely are looking for line guys or people to work the front desk at least one of them. You might want to maybe look into taking him to go on a tour as well. I toured Airport Ops at MSP and thought it was one of the coolest jobs out there. Not glamorous, but there are a lot of well paying aviation careers in MSP that don't involve being a pilot and still lead quite interesting lives.
I know they also have the commemorative air force in South St. Paul. There was one of the pilots from The Flightline TV show who I heard speak and it was really helpful back then to hear him talk about his career. It all eventually worked out and I believe he's affiliated with them in some way as I think he might fly some of their planes. Ihttps://www.facebook.com/TheFlightline he was a really helpful guy and you might be able to reach out to them on Facebook.
There are also some cool summer gigs he could be applying for now. Maybe he'd like to work a seasonal job in Alaska and do something adventurous as certain places need a lot of people. I think he might be able to get on working at a national park like Yellowstone or Glacier National Park for the summer. Maybe he could work as a raft guide and camp out all summer in somewhere interesting like Glacier National Park. There's so many cool things he could do at that age. I wish I realized it all as I would've loved to have gone back and been a ski bum for a year.
Thanks again. Lake Superior College has a cooperative program with Lake Superior Helicopters. We visited that school, spoke with pilots there, and he did a 1 hour one-on-one "class" which included a half hour in the air. We have some light connections with some pilots. I think it would indeed be something he would love if
*Money was not an issue
*Health was not an issue
*Future health was not an issue
*His mind didn't change as he got older
I'm fairly certain he will be either beginning work towards another degree at UND to keep that option open, start working towards his second favorite thing (certification as an auto-mechanic), or taking a year to earn money so he is better positioned to make a decision later.
He's still young, and has plenty of time. The hard part is the timing of all of this. He needs to make some serious decisions rather quickly after having his mind set on something for a long time.
Also, he is already a ski bum. His envisioned perfect life has been to be a pilot in Colorado, either for back-country skiers and search and rescue, skiing, and rebuilding cars.
Really, that to all for the support and advice. It is good to hear from people with experience in the field.
Go do this and get his helicopter private on the side after he gets a 1st class medical. This is basically a $64000 job from day one. In contrast, in my first flying job I made $25 flight hour and flew about 100 hrs per month - which is about $30,000 per year. Hell, he could even
The other thing is too - if he gets really good at this stuff, he could do it from anywhere on earth. No it's not the most exciting gig, but if he wants to ski and work on cars a bunch, he will definitely have the time and money to indulge other hobbies - with flying it's not so certain. My buddy is a user interface designer, he just got back from 6 months of exploring Europe and working from internet cafes.
Not only that, but going right into helicopters...with a previous history of suicide attempts...well, that's not an equation that I think will end all that well. What happens when he inevitably gets laid off from somewhere (it will happen in this industry), what happens when he is treated like garbage by his employer (which happens in this industry - and from what I gather and have seen is especially the case in the helicopter world), what happens when one of his friends gets killed (it will happen in this industry), or his girlfriend/wife leaves him because he's out in the field all the time flying? Like I said, I'm not trying to be a wet blanket, but this isn't exactly a career field that I would suggest to someone who has had severely depressive moments. To be honest, as much as I love it, and I love the adventure, the only people I'd recommend it to are people who cannot fathom doing anything else. If he still wants to do it after he's got another "trade" started, then have at it and pay out of pocket. Otherwise, it's just too big of a gamble to take. He needs to get his private first and see if he likes it first.
Now, once you've come to that conclusion, I'm of the mind that you should have the most adventures possible, go to Africa, do tours in Hawaii, fight fires, but don't make the plunge without being damn certain you enjoy it. Just my $1.05.
You are preaching to the choir, my friend.
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