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Questions about Flight Training Schools and GI Bill

Discussion in 'Collegiate Aviation' started by Justin F., Mar 12, 2016.

  1. Justin F.

    Justin F. New Member

    Mar 12, 2016
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    Hello all,
    I am currently in the U.S Army (Active) and will be getting out this summer. I have been trying to figure out what I am going to do once I am out, and have decided to follow a long time dream of mine and become a pilot. I will be moving back to the Houston, Tx area and will be kind of restricted to that general area due to my step daughter's biological father's visitation restrictions on how far they will be allowed to move. I am looking at a couple of different schools where I can get a degree and flight training, and I am wondering if anyone here has any thoughts or experience with these schools. The first school is San Jacinto College and the other school is Texas Southern University. I am planning on using my post 9/11 GI Bill and will be contacting these schools to verify that they will accept that. I eventually would like to fly for an airline or even corporate companies. Will these schools get me started in the right direction?
    Thank you in advance for your advice and help.
  2. Wing-it

    Wing-it Well-Known Member

    Aug 27, 2014
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    Firstly, thank you for your service and congrats on getting set up for your upcoming separation.

    I would recommend that you take some time to browse around the forum and read everything relating to your questions. There are lots of folks that have already traveled the path you are about to embark on and have asked many of the same questions. I suspect that you probably are in the process of doing that anyway. There are also a few threads that are specific to the GI Bill/Post 911 which you might want to read over.

    In regards to degrees and flight training, here are some thoughts I have. The current state of the industry is very strong and there is a lot of upward movement taking place, so your timing looks to be very good. That being said, you still would want to remain competitive BUT you will not be required to have a degree until applying at the majors (like Delta, AA, Southwest). While it certainly wouldn't hurt you to have it knocked out at the regional level, it likely would not prevent you from getting hired. Something else to consider is the ebb and flow of aviation, and what degree would serve you best. Many folks agree that something outside of aviation is wise. The reasoning is that if you are furloughed early on, the entire industry is likely to be in decline. Having a degree that doesn't give you a safe plan B for the downtime could prove to be even more costly. Consider something along the lines of business or computer programming, I don't know, just try to avoid being a certified pilot with an Aeronautical degree to fall back on. Another consideration is seeking a certification in another trade such as welding or fiber optics for example. Just create a plan that offers you escape routes.

    Flight training is by no means easy. It requires a great deal of self-discipline to study and ingest lots of information that you can't simply test on and then purge. I would say that it would be equivalent, if not more, to the amount of study required toward a bachelors degree. There are few people that would attend two colleges simultaneously, and for good reason. What might be a better approach would be to focus on the flight training as first and foremost, then take one or even two classes towards a degree plan. Full time flight training is like drinking from a fire hose, and pairing it with college classes might be a bit much (esp. since you wont need it right away). Remember that you will have one and a half to two years flying as an instructor while you build your flight times to meet FAA minimums...maybe that is the better time to knock out some of those classes.

    The final thought I will point out is that a college program that offers a degree would be a four year plan (this calls back to the aforementioned "current state of the industry"). There are some Community Colleges that offer two year programs and spit you out with the same certificates but with an Associates degree. If you go to a "pilot mill" flight training school, you could be done in maybe six months...if you are very devoted to the program and willing to chalk up some heavy student loan debt. The sooner you get certified as an instructor the sooner you are working toward your minimums to apply at the regional level, or even getting on board with a survey company for example. I know in your case, a state funded college will cover all costs which weighs heavily into the equation, but don't forget to consider how that extra couple or three years of schooling will cost you down the road. If person B took a different path, would they be earning more money 10 years in the future because they got to the majors two or three years sooner? I personally think a slower and pace that avoids student loan debt is the best approach, but wanted to point out alternate routes. The VA considers "full time" to be a minimum of one on ground and one online class for a 9 week term. You could take a couple of classes and use the BAH toward the flight training in a pay as you go school. Pilot certificates are issued by the FAA, so it doesn't matter if you trained at some fancy expensive school or at JimBobs flying barn...the school might serve to be a conversation piece at best and has little if any weight on a hiring decision.

    I dragged my feet during my private pilot training and ended up taking over a year to get it done while working on active duty. After retiring, I considered going to a state funded program but hated the idea of it taking so long (since I felt way behind my timeline from the private) so instead tried out a pilot mill. I was soon struggling to keep up with the training because I had a side job...and a mortgage... and a wife...and a life! If you can't devote your all to one of these programs you have a high risk of failure. My new side job as an aircraft mechanic at a flight school now provides me the opportunity to keep working at my ratings as time permits. Ultimately, I fell back to the slow and steady approach because that is what works best for me. What works best for you is likely very different, but you need to be armed with as much insight as possible to be successful.

    Best of luck!

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