Dreaming of Flight: Flying as a second career (update)

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Dreaming of Flight: Flying as a second career

There is an often asked question that is batted around in real and virtual hangars across the land – should I chase my dream of flying for a living? In a related article I asked, “Is the romance gone from professional flying?”, but as I stated then it doesn’t mean it’s not a great career for some folks.

The idea of making a living flying airplanes has lured many away from their perfectly good first careers and down the rabbit hole of the professional aviator. Compared to someone just out of school, this is a much harder decision to make as someone in their 30s or 40s with a real life and real responsibilities. If you have a family, you just multiplied the difficulty quotient by an order of magnitude.


I think it is important for you to be realistic about what you want. If you are looking for a job that pays $300,000 a year and you work 7 days a month you are looking in the wrong place.

I would go further and say that you need to be honest with yourself that you may not “LOVE” flying forever. How will you feel about the “grind” in 20 years? There is no way to answer this, but it needs to at least be contemplated. The old saying “the best way to ruin a good hobby is to do it for a living” applies here.

There are so many different flying jobs out there that many people don’t consider. It’s not all about flying for the airlines; to be truthful the golden age of being a swashbuckling airline captain and spending 30+ years with a single carrier are long gone.

You may be more inclined to go with an “entry level” job like teaching, power/pipeline patrol, banner towing, flying a jump planes, etc. Unless you are resourceful it will be tough to support a family on these salaries. There are certainly people who have done well in these areas, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

Next on the list would be  “second tier” jobs like flying piston or turboprop singles or twins around for various reasons. This could be flying company aircraft part 91 or flying 135 trips. The pay will be commensurately better than the entry-level positions, but still tough unless you are an exception to the rule.

by for a regional airlineI would say that flying for the regionals has been a great career for many pilots who are realistic about what they want out of life. Ok the money isn’t as good as the majors, but the new jet equipment is great, you have decent job security, and if your commute is reasonable the quality of life can be very good. Other options are flying corporate or fractionals. Depending on the operator the pay and working conditions can be really great, rivaling some of the majors.

Depending on how far you want to go in your career, the longer the apprenticeship required and the more jobs it will take to get to the final goal. If you goals are meager, you’ll be there right after flight school. Second tier jobs require more experience so expect a year of two before graduating to that level. For regional airlines, if they are hiring you can move in quickly, if not you just have to wait it out, worse yet for the majors. These are rough numbers, but 5 years after getting your ratings to get to regional and 10 years to get to a major airline isn’t out of the question. In the current job market it could take even longer, but we are in the bottom of the cycle.

How’s your timing?
If you are starting later in life you will be at a disadvantage, but that disadvantage can be mitigated by having a great attitude and a little good luck. If you hit the job market at the right point in the cycle you will be on your way to the left seat of something cool in no time. Get this wrong and be mentally prepared for something less in the short to medium term.

Attitude is everything
Having a good attitude and working hard creates opportunity were none seems to exist. Don’t get discourage and keep your goal in sight. Follow your bliss.

For those willing to make the necessary sacrifices it can be a grand journey.

Check out this link about an unusual career change from pro wrestler to aviator – here

by Brent

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