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A&P to Pilot

Discussion in 'Changing Careers' started by Urp99, Sep 27, 2016.

  1. Urp99

    Urp99 Well-Known Member

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    I think I might have an original question for you guys ...
    I'm an A&P/IA for the last 23 years, mostly on piston powered singles and light twins, with a little turbine experience in the last 5 years. I've also had my pilots license for 24 years, finally finished up my commercial license 2 years ago, looking finish my instrument this winter, and wanting to transition to a flight career. Nothing new there, I know, but here's where I differ from a lot of other people I see posting here ... I have no desire to fly for regionals, airlines, or even corporate. My passion has always been with small airplanes, jobs like glider towing, banner towing, flying skydivers, giving rides, aerial surveying, crop dusting, bush pilot, etc. have always been the ones that interested me. The biggest airplane I get excited about flying would be a Beaver or Otter on floats. I think my perfect job would be flying part time and wrenching party time. So, I guess my question to you guys is of anyone does this? Is it possible to make a career out of entry/mid-level flight positions? Or does a person need to work their way up into the airlines to make decent paycheck?
     
  2. z987k

    z987k TeamANC

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  3. Roger Roger

    Roger Roger Navajo Whisperer

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    Thanks for tagging, I'll get back here and post a real reply to the OP. And I'll try to keep the seething bitterness to a minimum, lol.
     
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  4. modernicarus

    modernicarus Well-Known Member

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    You're not alone Urp99. I feel the same way, but I've been told, if you want to fly, fly. If you want to wrench and rivet, wrench and rivet. But not both.
    Right now my ultimate goal is flying a Beaver on floats somewhere beautiful.
     
  5. Roger Roger

    Roger Roger Navajo Whisperer

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    Ok, so full disclosure, I am DoM for a part 135 float/wheel operation in a city and state that shall remain anonymous for our purposes. I am also a fairly experienced line pilot, 1500 hours or so with the company, qualified IFR/VFR in the PA31, past company instructor and check airman (let that and my other type quals lapse, I just don't have time anymore). I got here by moving for a mechanic job, not sucking at it, and having a little skill and a lot of luck (good luck or bad, I'm still not sure).

    What you want to do is possible with a select few operations in Alaska based on the seasonality of the work. Typically summer is big flying time and winter is heavy maintenance time. So here's the rub: good mechanics are like hens teeth right now, and TBH if you're good generally people won't want to let you out of the shop, and if you're bad nobody wants you around at all.

    What I would recommend if you're dead set on your goal is in January start putting your resume out for any part 135 seasonal flying job you can find. Better if you can get one with a company that flies floats and wheels, because it's easy to get hired into a 207 or a Caravan, but hard to get hired straight into a Beaver/206 on floats unless you have float time, but if you're qualified in a wheel plane and you don't suck and you have a float rating, there's a pretty good chance you'll get some sea time. Once your season employment is up, if you really like the operation offer to wrench through the off season. If you don't, shop around for competing shops (or ones in other parts of the state) that need an experienced hand to help with their winter maintenance, and get to work lining up your nex summer flying job. Repeat the cycle until you have that Beaver float job for the summer and a good warm shop to work in through the winter.

    It's far from a bed of roses, though. There's a lot of crappy operators out there, and even the good ones generally operate a lot closer to the edge of the envelope in many areas than what you'll be used to seeing down south. Pay can be good, but it can be awful. Equipment (at least at float operations) is old across the board, and you will work with some of the weirdest rejects to ever stumble out of flight school doors with pilot certificates. People you know will crash airplanes, and some of them will probably die. Not being melodramatic, it's just true. The highest density of operators that might fit your mold is around Anchorage, which is a dump that combines the worst weird crap of the Alaska villages with all the gang activity, drugs, and crime of a big city. There will be change, operators come and go all the time (though a lot of times the same airplanes and people stay), good Feds will leave and be replaced by utter , owners sell out or retire, etc. The state of Alaska is in a weird place right now with oil revenue evaporating and our legislature essentially rearranging deck chairs while the fiscal ship sinks under their feet. What that means long term for aviation as it exists in Alaska is unknown, but I doubt it's good.

    @Urp99 and @modernicarus tagged so you guys see it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2016
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  6. alaskadrifter

    alaskadrifter Slaab2Kbound

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    True, we are going to have to face the music if the governor and legislators can't get along. Theoretically a decline in oil won't affect tourism, theoretically.
     
  7. Roger Roger

    Roger Roger Navajo Whisperer

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    Yeah, but only a select few operators are really 100% tourism. Ask your folks about the last oil crash, this is going to hurt everything even if the state government can get their shizzle together.
     
  8. Urp99

    Urp99 Well-Known Member

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    I hear you there Icarus, every shop I've ever worked in (including a 12 year stint in a family businesses with my father, who's a CFII/MEI) has promised to help me get ratings and get started in a flying career, but it just never pans out. If you know what you're doing in the shop you end up working in the shop. I've considered letting my IA lapse so I'd be less valuable to the maintenance department, but unless I'm acting as DOM it doesn't really matter, and it's by far my most valuable asset, seems foolish to throw it away.
    Thanks for the input Roger, I really appreciate it! I'd really love to get back to Alaska, I drove up there the summer of 2011 after we closed down the family businesses and spent several weeks touring the state and living out of the back of a '77 F-250. There were some strange people, to be sure, but everywhere I've ever been had it's share of characters, and for the most part I loved Alaska. The only problem I see with your advice is that even after I finish up my Instrument rating this winter I'll still just be a fresh Instrument-Commercial pilot with less than 450 hours TT, not near 135 requirements. That seems like the 'work in our shop and we'll get you a few hours when we can' scenario ...
    Current plan is to get a seasonal job with a banner tow operator, skydiving outfit, or possibly seeding for an aerial applicator next summer, then fly pictography next winter. That should put me close to 1000 hours and make me more marketable, and possibly open some doors in Alaska. If it works out, great! If not, hopefully I can make some friends along the way, do some networking, and adjust the plan accordingly :)
     
  9. Roger Roger

    Roger Roger Navajo Whisperer

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    Yes, you will want more hours. We hire lots of banner tow, picto, and skydive guys.
     
  10. modernicarus

    modernicarus Well-Known Member

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    Wow, this is great! Thanks for that "career guidance" advice, it's good to kinda see how it works outside of the airlines.
    I'm working on my CFI right now, CFII and MEI are next, then I'll probably go up and try to find a job in AK.
    Might be another year or two though. The State of Michigan is helping me pay for all of my flight training and I'm not ready to give that up yet.
     
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  11. Roger Roger

    Roger Roger Navajo Whisperer

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    Also realize that lots of Alaska operations are VFR so you only need 500 TT for 135.
     
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  12. alaskadrifter

    alaskadrifter Slaab2Kbound

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    "Vfr".
     
  13. Roger Roger

    Roger Roger Navajo Whisperer

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    VFR /= VMC
     
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  14. Urp99

    Urp99 Well-Known Member

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    It is great advice, thanks again Roger! I've been in aviation for 25+ years, and the only advice I ever heard to get into a non-airline career was to incur a lot of debt, work hard at a low paying job, and try to get lucky ... and that was after the blank stare, like I was an idiot to not want to fly a 747. How is the state paying for your training Icarus? I've looked and not been able to find much in the way of funding for flight training ...
    That's interesting, do operators actually hire at those minimums? I assume they would still require an instrument rating? As I recall you can't carry passengers for hire more than 50 miles without one ...
    I also assume a float rating would be a good investment? That's another one I've been close to a couple times and didn't have the time or money to finish :-(
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2016
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  15. z987k

    z987k TeamANC

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    Flying floats at 500tt is harder than landing a wheel job at 500tt.
    And yes you'll need and instrument rating. And to be quite proficient at instument flying. You'll use it a LOT flying 135 vfr.
     
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  16. Roger Roger

    Roger Roger Navajo Whisperer

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    Look up 135.243.
     
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  17. modernicarus

    modernicarus Well-Known Member

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    MINGSTAP (Michigan National Guard State Tuition Assistance Program).
    It's independent from the GI Bill and gives me an additional $6k/year to use for flight instruction towards a certificate or rating. Unlike the GI Bill though, this one can be used for Private Pilot Certificate training if you need it, and can also be used at an FBO, not just a Community College or University.
    The catch is that I need to be in the Michigan National Guard (Army or Air) to use it. I'm in the Army National Guard and won't get out until February 2021, but I can transfer to another state if they have an open slot for my MOS, which is 15G (Aircraft Structural Repairer).
    I'm giving my GI Bill to my kids, so this is a good deal for me.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2016
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  18. modernicarus

    modernicarus Well-Known Member

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  19. modernicarus

    modernicarus Well-Known Member

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    Cool! I have an instrument rating and meet/exceed 135 VFR minimums according to 135.243. :)
     
  20. Urp99

    Urp99 Well-Known Member

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    Got it, thanks! So, it would appear I'm close to VFR 135 minimums, but it seems more prudent to build some hours and proficiency before making that leap! ;-)
    That sounds like a great deal! I don't think I'd give that up either.
     

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