Dark Secret of Flight Training School

Acrofox

All fox
Content warning: Long. (oh my)
Content warning: Biographical (Look how awesome I am!)

Not every "career changer" is a dilettante. Many of the pilots I know and talk to came into the career because daddy was an airline pilot, or Uncle Joe, and boy, they were home a lot and seemed to make a lot of money. And for all the talk of student loan debt, I sure interact, talk, and fly with a lot of people whose flight training was paid for by the parents.

Some of these people actually love aviation, and I don't begrudge them their leg up.

I had to pay for all of it myself, out of my own pocket. I grew up very poor, out in the Florida swamp. My parents drove $300 cars and worked multiple jobs just to pay the 30-year mortgage they paid on the $15,000 150-year-old house they bought in 1984. For transportation, I had to buy a beat up old motorcycle, because I couldn't afford a car or car insurance. We never traveled by airplane, ever. That was something only rich people could do... so I never got the experience of visiting the cockpit as a kit. I left school in the 7th grade to pursue my own education, and worked as a professional swordfighter, and also singing and playing pirate with my parents on the weekends. The money from that paid for my private pilot's license, after which I ran completely out. I did one flight after I finished my private, and then I was broke. In the 7th grade, I'd taken the ACT test and scored a 27 composite; from then on, until I moved away from Florida, I was inundated with "Come to our college!" pamphlets. However, no matter how much I wanted it, my parents had absolutely no money to contribute, and the available student loans at the time were nowhere near the cost of tuition, much less other expenses. I really tried. I dreamed of going to Embry Riddle, but even the community college in Panama City was more than I could afford.

Being technically inclined and passionate, I ended up having a few skills under my belt. When I was 18, my parents told me that I needed to find a job and move out. (It was encouraging, not mean) I found someone in the bay area who recognized my Unix skills and invited me to come out and sleep on his couch while I tried to find work.

It took me almost twenty years to finish all of my certificates and ratings. I flew aerobatics, I instructed, I flew cross-countries, I flew myself to the mountains to go skiing... and I made more money in tech than I'll ever likely make in aviation. Eventually, I had enough time and experience to get a job working as a bush pilot in Alaska. The cost of moving up there, finishing all my certs and ratings, and so on, wiped out most of my cash savings. I did that for a few years and then applied at and interviewed for my current airline, which offered me a job about four years ago.

After leaving Alaska, I needed a few more hours before reporting to class, so I did some more flying on my own dime, lending me about $16k in debt which I have yet to recover.

So yeah, as a broke-ass first year FO, I was a broke-ass first-year FO. Now I'm a broke-ass fourth-year FO.

That said, I do my best every day of every trip to be the best goddamn first officer I can be, to take up the slack from weak captains and learn from the strong ones. I am fully an airline pilot, even if it doesn't pay the bills and I slip further into debt every month. So please don't malign career changers on principal—All I ever wanted to do was fly, and I bent my entire life towards getting that done within the means I had available. If you think that makes me less, in any way, than Joe Krauthammer whose daddy paid for everything and allowed him to be a "Delta FO at 24," then we have issues.

I met one of those kids at a flight school once... I was trying to talk aviation with him, and he had absolutely no passion for it. I asked why he was doing it, and he said his uncle did it and said it was an easy job, so his parents were paying for it.

It broke my heart.

Be the best goddamn pilot you can be, because you have hundreds of people a day relying on you to keep them alive and safe, and thousands of people relying on you to return their loved ones safely home. Never forget that.

-Fox
 

Crop Duster

E pluribus unum
Content warning: Long. (oh my)
Content warning: Biographical (Look how awesome I am!)

Not every "career changer" is a dilettante. Many of the pilots I know and talk to came into the career because daddy was an airline pilot, or Uncle Joe, and boy, they were home a lot and seemed to make a lot of money. And for all the talk of student loan debt, I sure interact, talk, and fly with a lot of people whose flight training was paid for by the parents.

Some of these people actually love aviation, and I don't begrudge them their leg up.

I had to pay for all of it myself, out of my own pocket. I grew up very poor, out in the Florida swamp. My parents drove $300 cars and worked multiple jobs just to pay the 30-year mortgage they paid on the $15,000 150-year-old house they bought in 1984. For transportation, I had to buy a beat up old motorcycle, because I couldn't afford a car or car insurance. We never traveled by airplane, ever. That was something only rich people could do... so I never got the experience of visiting the cockpit as a kit. I left school in the 7th grade to pursue my own education, and worked as a professional swordfighter, and also singing and playing pirate with my parents on the weekends. The money from that paid for my private pilot's license, after which I ran completely out. I did one flight after I finished my private, and then I was broke. In the 7th grade, I'd taken the ACT test and scored a 27 composite; from then on, until I moved away from Florida, I was inundated with "Come to our college!" pamphlets. However, no matter how much I wanted it, my parents had absolutely no money to contribute, and the available student loans at the time were nowhere near the cost of tuition, much less other expenses. I really tried. I dreamed of going to Embry Riddle, but even the community college in Panama City was more than I could afford.

Being technically inclined and passionate, I ended up having a few skills under my belt. When I was 18, my parents told me that I needed to find a job and move out. (It was encouraging, not mean) I found someone in the bay area who recognized my Unix skills and invited me to come out and sleep on his couch while I tried to find work.

It took me almost twenty years to finish all of my certificates and ratings. I flew aerobatics, I instructed, I flew cross-countries, I flew myself to the mountains to go skiing... and I made more money in tech than I'll ever likely make in aviation. Eventually, I had enough time and experience to get a job working as a bush pilot in Alaska. The cost of moving up there, finishing all my certs and ratings, and so on, wiped out most of my cash savings. I did that for a few years and then applied at and interviewed for my current airline, which offered me a job about four years ago.

After leaving Alaska, I needed a few more hours before reporting to class, so I did some more flying on my own dime, lending me about $16k in debt which I have yet to recover.

So yeah, as a broke-ass first year FO, I was a broke-ass first-year FO. Now I'm a broke-ass fourth-year FO.

That said, I do my best every day of every trip to be the best goddamn first officer I can be, to take up the slack from weak captains and learn from the strong ones. I am fully an airline pilot, even if it doesn't pay the bills and I slip further into debt every month. So please don't malign career changers on principal—All I ever wanted to do was fly, and I bent my entire life towards getting that done within the means I had available. If you think that makes me less, in any way, than Joe Krauthammer whose daddy paid for everything and allowed him to be a "Delta FO at 24," then we have issues.

I met one of those kids at a flight school once... I was trying to talk aviation with him, and he had absolutely no passion for it. I asked why he was doing it, and he said his uncle did it and said it was an easy job, so his parents were paying for it.

It broke my heart.

Be the best goddamn pilot you can be, because you have hundreds of people a day relying on you to keep them alive and safe, and thousands of people relying on you to return their loved ones safely home. Never forget that.

-Fox
Fox, I think most folks know how awesome you are. And, thank you for being awesome. :)

Since you opened with "dilettante", I'm going to assume this was written in response to my post. If not, I'll still reply.:p

Just want to clarify that I am in no way opposed to career changers coming into aviation, especially now that one can actually kinda, sorta make a decent living in aviation. I welcome them and seek to help them if they are informed, dedicated and competent (see last line of my post).

I am opposed to actual dilettantes coming into professional aviation, regardless of their wealth. They probably won't like it, and almost certainly will gum it up for the rest of us.

I am opposed to dudes who could retire on their independent wealth who come into the industry - and undercut pay for the folks who actually have to make a living doing the job - so that in their retirement they can "play pilot" as a paid hobby; I'm especially opposed to that sort of cat if he happens also to be a dilettante.
 

phill1174

Well-Known Member
Any advice for a soon to be 40 year old, pension drawing, regional first officer?

Not that it'll necessarily keep me up at night, but I wonder how generally much younger Captains view flying with the career changer crowd. Though its subtle, the vibe I get from this site is that they rather not.
Do what you would normally do. I’m not perfect so I’m going to make mistakes and vice versa. As long as we catch them that’s all I care about. That’s coming from a 28yr old CA. I recently flew with a 58yr old fighter guy who had been out of flying for over a decade. The guy is the same age as my dad but it was a great trip. Maturity of the 20yr old also plays a part though. I’ve heard stories about younger guys being over the top as if they’re gods gift to aviation. Maybe they need more responsibility at home.
 
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FlyinLion

Well-Known Member
Well then say that. It was for family, being around more at that particular time, instead of regional airline schedules, etc. Not the previous thing you wrote about not accepting a low paying job with bad schedules and that we were holding the bar down low. Keep in mind, I knew some guys who started out at my age, 23-24 who were married with a baby (one guy had two). I'm not here to judge. But don't write us off for having worked at regionals back in 2007 while you stayed out of the industry in some "Hrmphhhh!" protest against the regionals.
Although I do think there was some truth in my initial statement simply from a supply/demand perspective, it's also fair to say my post overstated that aspect in my decision making process and also included an unfair generalization. I took issue with what I viewed as an over-the-top comment and returned fire in kind, the internet at its finest, lol.

I realize a lot of pilots paid a steep price to get their career where it is today and who could of predicted 9/11 or the impact of the increase in the retirement age. I suspect a lot of guys (and gals) knew there would challenges, but never thought it would get as bad as it did for some. Personally I think it's great that some of the pilots driven out of the industry are now able to get back in under better circumstances and I would gladly wait in line behind them to get my shot.
 

FlyinLion

Well-Known Member
My only question regarding your desire to be an airline pilot is ... why?

I get being a pilot. Flying airplanes is engaging, and interesting, and fun more or less ALL the time. Working as a pilot?? Not so much. I mean, it almost always involves operating aeronautical appliances, so it's got that going for it... which is nice. But making your living as a pilot entails a bunch of other stuff, too, to the extent that, realistically, a large part flying for a living reduces to showing up on time for just another job.

While it doesn't have to be, making your living as a pilot certainly can be a really easy way to kill your flying buzz, especially if your primary motivating factor for flying airplanes is your love of flying airplanes.

If, as you say, you've got all your major life expenses paid up, and you have a successful biz paying for everything and beer to boot, congratulations... AND, why oh why would you want to fly as work? Get yourself a little airplane and go fly to interesting places at your leisure. To each his own, I suppose, but that's what I would do.

I suspect that what a lot of us in the aviation profession find irksome is folks who've made their money elsewhere, and then want to play pilot on TV as neither a good actor nor a good pilot. Especially when, by their presence and economic immunity, those bad actors ease the pain of employers who would otherwise have to pay decent wages in exchange for the real value added by qualified, experienced, professional pilots. The world loves a fat man, but nobody loves a fat dog or a dilettante.

All that said, if you truly want to be a fly airplanes professionally, godspeed and best wishes. If there is anything I can do to help, please PM me.
Vaild points across the board. I recently had an offer to buy a half interest in a Cessna 310R and that really got me thinking, should I just do that instead of potentially making this huge life change, after all I can fly to interesting places in a nice aircraft with some real capabilities. However, the more I thought about it, I came to the realization that I am more interested in looking to replace what I do on a daily basis for a living.

Right now I do well with my law practice but find it tetiuois and boring. It's that odd situation where I am pretty good at something that I don't really enjoy. I realize that flying for a living will still ultimately be a job, but I think it suits my personality better and offers better challenges and rewards. In my mind, even the bad stuff that makes a job a job, would potentially be better, at least for the most part. For example, I would rather do pre flight planning than a sales agreement or a real estate closing, I'd rather talk with ATC than with clients answering estate planning questions and I'd certainly be happier flying the aircraft than driving in traffic to a meeting.

As far as the financial aspects, I do well but I am not independently wealthy and with 4 kids in the high school to college range, my pay from flying would be important to off set the income reduction from me not being involved in my firm on a day to day basis. The interesting aspect of this is that I could actually leverage a flying career into making more since I could pay someone less to replace me than what I make flying since pilots are now in more demand than attorneys. ;)
 
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jtrain609

I'm a carnal, organic anagram.
Vaild points across the board. I recently had an offer to buy a half interest in a Cessna 310R and that really got me thinking, should I just do that instead of potentially making this huge life change, after all I can fly to interesting places in a nice aircraft with some real capabilities. However, the more I thought about it, I came to the realization that I am more interested in looking to replace what I do on a daily basis for a living.

Right now I do well with my law practice but find it tetiuois and boring. It's that odd situation where I am pretty good at something that I don't really enjoy. I realize that flying for a living will still ultimately be a job, but I think it suits my personality better and offers better challenges and rewards. In my mind, even the bad stuff that makes a job a job, would potentially be better, at least for the most part. For example, I would rather do pre flight planning than a sales agreement or a real estate closing, I'd rather talk with ATC than with clients answering estate planning questions and I'd certainly be happier flying the aircraft than driving in traffic to a meeting.

As far as the pay aspects, I do well but I am not independently wealthy and with 4 kids in the high school to college range, my pay from flying would be important to off set the income reduction from me not being involved in my firm on a day to day basis. The interesting aspect of this is that I could actually leverage a flying career into making more since I could pay someone less to replace me then what I make flying since pilots are now in more demand than attorneys. ;)
Flying beats the crap out of practicing law. Especially estates and trusts.

I ran back to flying about as fast as I could after law school and never looked back.
 

knot4u

Repeat Offender
In my experience, having worked in aviation for almost 30 years, the people that chose to do this from the beginning are better than those that decide to jump in later. All of the pilots that I enjoy working with have never had any serious career aspirations other than flying for a living. They normally became enamored with aviation as a teen and did whatever they had to do to get where they are, The gritty early part of any career builds character and experience, walking in the door without the benefit those hard times provide is a detriment. I imagine it might be like how real lumberjacks and bikers view flannel wearing bearded hipsters and 50 year old bald guys riding $20,000 Harleys. Aviation is a hard mistress, moreso than many other industries in my opinion. The people that put in the grind at the bottom and rise to a position of authority and responsibility will never accept anyone that hasn't, and I don't have a problem with that.
 

BigZ

Well-Known Member
The worst kind of legacy kid.
A friend of mine, who never made the jump and stayed a station manager (although he'd run over to his MSFS setup and fly the flight that just departed, workload permitting) used to say "Love the aviation in you, not you in the aviation".
 

Autothrust Blue

"I'll take your case."
A friend of mine, who never made the jump and stayed a station manager (although he'd run over to his MSFS setup and fly the flight that just departed, workload permitting) used to say "Love the aviation in you, not you in the aviation".
That’s awesome.

From time to time I have to remind myself of the magic in all this; it’s easy to forget, sometimes, in the trenches. But once we get that door closed...what a marvelous thing to be able to do.
 

BigZ

Well-Known Member
That’s awesome.

From time to time I have to remind myself of the magic in all this; it’s easy to forget, sometimes, in the trenches. But once we get that door closed...what a marvelous thing to be able to do.
Wholeheartedly agree.
Sometimes I see the dudes that were dragged through the crap by the industry and lost all the passion for it, and I wonder if the same will happen to me. But then I fly with the guys, who slugged it out for over a decade, and they ask me questions about airplane ownership, how to go about buying one etc and I realize that it's all in the attitude and you can still show up at that point in time where you hang your wings while still loving what you do.
 

killbilly

Vocals, Lyrics, Triangle, Washboard, Kittens
The worst kind of legacy kid.
On the other hand, one of my students is the best kind of legacy kid.

Dad is a relatively senior CA at United. Non-military.

Kid is 18, one of 4, is thoughtful, diligent, loves flying, and he's generally an all-around good guy.

And just received his appointment to the Academy. I asked him, "Why that? Why not just train and go to college and airlines?"

"Because I want to serve."

I like this kid.
 

Autothrust Blue

"I'll take your case."
On the other hand, one of my students is the best kind of legacy kid.

Dad is a relatively senior CA at United. Non-military.

Kid is 18, one of 4, is thoughtful, diligent, loves flying, and he's generally an all-around good guy.

And just received his appointment to the Academy. I asked him, "Why that? Why not just train and go to college and airlines?"

"Because I want to serve."

I like this kid.
Well there’s hope for humanity yet ;)
 

Richman

Well-Known Member
Well, as long as we’re talking about people, I give a giant, heartfelt TOTD award to the individual who drained the hotel lobby coffee vessel filling up his/her personal ginormous mug/thermos.

They really went all in for the bonus jerkwad points, too because:

It was before 0600
Other people were waiting
Didn’t bother to tell the hotel staff
Wouldn’t look anyone in the eye so I was even denied using my Richman Stinkeye Gaze of Doom(tm)
 

jtrain609

I'm a carnal, organic anagram.
Well, as long as we’re talking about people, I give a giant, heartfelt TOTD award to the individual who drained the hotel lobby coffee vessel filling up his/her personal ginormous mug/thermos.

They really went all in for the bonus jerkwad points, too because:

It was before 0600
Other people were waiting
Didn’t bother to tell the hotel staff
Wouldn’t look anyone in the eye so I was even denied using my Richman Stinkeye Gaze of Doom(tm)
Which airline does this TOTD work for?
 
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