Once you've acquired the private pilot certificate, you're ready to fly, have fun and pursue that airline career. Here's what you should think about doing.
First, you'll need to obtain the following certificates or ratings: instrument rating , commercial pilot certificate, flight instructor certificate, instrument flight instructor certificate, multi-engine rating and finally a multi-engine flight instructor certificate in that order. Obtaining any of the flight instructor certificates is not required, but it can be important in that it allows you to build flight time. That's right. The time you spend teaching others counts toward the total flight time necessary to become a professional pilot. In addition, you can earn money when you teach others. Imagine that. Someone pays you to fly! What a concept. So here's what you can expect when working on these higher ratings.
Acquiring the Instrument Rating
The FAA regulations allow you to begin working on the instrument rating right after you've obtained your private pilot certificate. What does an instrument rating do for you? It allows you to fly an airplane when operating in visibility-reducing phenomena like clouds, fog or haze. As you can see, this is an important skill to have, especially if you're an airline pilot. After all, airline pilots can't say to their passengers, "OK folks, we're not going because there's a little cloud out there. We have to wait till the little cloud goes away. In the meantime, I'd be more than happy to answer any chemistry questions you might have." That will go over like a pregnant pole vaulter.
It takes a minimum of 40 hours of instrument time to obtain an instrument rating. Instrument time is the time you spend flying the airplane while looking only at the instruments on the instrument panel. Your instructor will often place a view limiting device over your head to restrict your vision to the panel (which is like wearing a big fat hat too low). This device can look like a lampshade or it can look like a pair of welding glasses. There are several variations to these devices as you'll discover.
There's also a good chance that you'll use a simulator for some of the training required. In fact, with some simulators, you can apply as many as 20 hours toward the 40 total hours required for the instrument rating. It's also possible to use an approved computer-type simulator for 10 hours of this training. Simulators are efficient training tools that are very helpful while working on the instrument rating. Yes, even Microsoft's Flight Simulator is a very useful tool for helping learn about instrument flying (if anything, you can even practice your basic flight maneuvers that you learn with your instructor in the airplane). Under all circumstances, this simulator time is not applicable toward the instrument rating unless an appropriately rated instructor provides you with instrument instruction while you're operating the simulator. Furthermore, the simulator must meet FAA approval to be used in this manner. Nevertheless, you can still benefit from having a computer-based simulator on which to practice your instrument flight maneuvers, even if a flight instructor or simulator approval isn't involved. For instance, you may be taking instrument training from a flight instructor in a real airplane and use the simulator at home to practice what you've already learned. This, and this alone, is reason enough to purchase a computer-based simulator on which to practice.
You'll also have to pass another written exam as well as a checkride to obtain the instrument rating. Don't worry. You'll get used to taking checkrides. It's all part of the process of becoming a professional pilot.
Here's what you can expect to pay for the instrument rating:
40 hours of airplane rental @ $140/hr. = $5,600
40 hours of dual instruction @ $35/hr. = $1,400
Written exam fee = $50
Designated examiner fee for checkride = $250
Rod Machado's Instrument Pilot's Handbook = $64.95
Additional ground school materials = $200
Total Cost = $7,564.95
Of course, if you use a simulator instead of the airplane during these 40 hours, the expense is likely to be less. In general, it usually takes two to four months to earn the instrument rating. Of course, it's also possible to earn in it less than two weeks. You'll probably hear of several companies that provide accelerated instrument training. They advertise the possibility of completing the training in two weeks or less. Do these programs work? Yes they do (read more about it here). Perhaps the most important reason they do is that they have a reputation of providing excellent flight instructors. Once again, the flight instructor is the key ingredient in the flight training process. Most of the instructors doing accelerated-type training are highly experience and competent teachers. This alone can make accelerated training worthwhile. Second, because this is a rating that is based on flying in reduced visibility, weather isn't as much of a limiting factor as it was for the private pilot certificate. In fact, instrument training often works better when the weather is poor. At least you can get actual experience flying in the clouds. Third, these accelerated-type instructors come to your hometown to teach you. Yes, it's a little more expensive, but if you want to get that rating, then please consider one of these companies. Check out: Professional Instrument Courses , Single Pilot IFR (SPIFR), Accelerated Instrument Flight Training and MN Aviation.
Others accelerated courses will be added to this list when their owners or operators let me know who they are.
Once you have the instrument rating under your belt, you want to begin working on the commercial pilot certificate.
Acquiring The Commercial Certificate
What does the commercial certificate do for you? It allows you to fly an airplane for compensation or hire. If you're planning on working as a professional pilot (i.e., flight instructing, flying charter, flying for the airlines) you'll need a commercial pilot certificate.
The commercial pilot certificate requires a minimum of 250 hours of flight time. After you've obtained your instrument rating, you'll probably have a total of approximately 125 to 150 hours of flight time. Therefore, you'll need to build up another 100 to 125 additional flight hours. This won't be much of a problem because you'll most likely be flying around with friends while sharing the expenses of flight. Obtaining a commercial license typically takes anywhere from three weeks to two months from the time you begin your training.
If you're serious about that airline career, you should start thinking about the commercial license as soon as you've earned the instrument rating. The reason I mention this is that there are certain flight requirements you'll need to meet for the commercial certificate and some of them can be met while you're building time toward the 250 mark. For instance, you'll need to make a 300 nautical mile cross country flight as part of the commercial certificate requirement. You'll want to plan on meeting this and other requirements before you reach the 250 time requirement.
A written exam and a checkride are also required for the commercial certificate. You only need to have a third-class medical certificate, however, to take the commercial checkride. You'll need a second-class medical if you elect to fly for compensation or hire as a commercial pilot (the medical requirements are more strict for a second-class medical certificate). Since you're required to fly something known as a complex airplane (one having retractable gear, a controllable-pitch propeller and flaps) for the commercial certificate, you should expect to pay more for this airplane during training.
Here's what you can expect to pay for the commercial certificate:
20 hours of airplane rental @ $160/hr. = $3,200
20 hours of dual instruction @ $35/hr. = $700
Second-class medical = $75 (if you plan to fly for compensation or hire)
Written exam fee = $50
Designated examiner fee for checkride = $250
A commercial flight training book of your choice = $29.95
Additional material = $200
Total Cost = $4,504.95
Here's a very important thing to consider. A commercial certificate applies only to the class of airplane (i.e., single- or multi-engine) in which you trained. In other words, if you do all your commercial training in a single-engine airplane and take your commercial checkride in that airplane, then you're limited to flying for compensation or hire in a single-engine airplane. If you want to fly for compensation or hire in a multi-engine airplane, you'll eventually have to take a commercial checkride in a multi-engine airplane. At this point, some folks ask, "Why don't I take my commercial training in a multi-engine airplane to begin with?" You can do this, but here are the difficulties with this idea.
- First, if you're going to be a flight instructor and teach in single-engine airplanes, you'll still need a single-engine commercial certificate. Therefore, if you study for your commercial certificate in a multi-engine airplane, you'll still have to take another checkride in a single-engine airplane to obtain the single-engine commercial certificate.
- Second, obtaining your initial commercial certificate in a multi-engine airplane requires more time and money than initially earning this rating in a single-engine airplane. For instance, you'll have to demonstrate your instrument skills in this multi-engine airplane and that's quite a challenge. It's not so much of a challenge, however, when you've acquired a little more general flying experience in a single-engine airplane first.
- Third, your objective here should be to build flight time as quick as possible. If you're planning on doing this by flight instructing, then working on the multi-engine commercial certificate first delays obtaining the initial flight instructor certificate. Remember, if you're going to instruct in a single-engine airplane, that's a commercial activity, which means that you need a single-engine commercial certificate. On the other hand, if you've been offered a job flying a multi-engine airplane, then obtaining your initial commercial certificate in a multi-engine airplane is a wise idea. Such a job isn't, however, a likely possibility since there aren't too many companies hiring 250 hour, newly-rated commercial pilots.
- Fourth, my experience indicates that pilots become overall better pilots when they forgo their multi-engine commercial certificate until a later time. Unfortunately, some instructors or educational institutions assume that early multi-engine training produces a better overall professional pilot. The instructors who say these things are normally the instructors who are hungry to build multi-engine time. Sorry, but flying a particular airplane is not what makes you a better pilot, be it a professional pilot or a general aviation pilot. What makes you a better pilot is your attitude and the people you associate with in aviation. Period..
- Finally, the most common reason pilots want to work on the multi-engine rating first is that it's exciting. Frankly, this is the only reasonable reason to do this and, if that's the real reason you want to do it, then have at it as long as you have the money. On the other hand, if you're on a budget like most of the other folks learning to fly, then delaying your excitement for a short time make good economic sense.
Of course, this is just my opinion. I could be wrong. Overall, however, I think the recommendation is a good one. Therefore, let's assume for the rest of this article that you'll obtain your single-engine commercial rating first. Once you've earned the single-engine commercial certificate, you're ready to begin working on the CFI certificate.
Acquiring The CFI or Certified Flight Instructor Certificate
With the commercial certificate in hand, the flight instructor certificate is not too far off. This rating requires that you learn how to teach as well as fly from the right seat. You can expect to fly a minimum of 10-15 hours with an instructor and spend approximately 40 or more hours with an instructor learning the fundamentals of teaching. In fact, don't be surprised if your instructor requires as much as 80 hours of ground training (that's 40, two-hour lessons) just developing your teaching skills. The process typically takes anywhere from two to three months to complete. Two written exams (the CFI knowledge exam and the Fundamentals of Instruction exam) as well as a checkride are also required. Once you have the instrument and commercial rating, there is no minimum flight time required for the CFI rating.
Here's what you can expect to pay for the flight instructor certificate:
15 hours of airplane rental @ $160/hr. = $2,400
60 hours of dual instruction @ $35/hr. = $2,100
Written exam fees = $100
Checkride given by FAA (not designated examiner) = Free
Books for the CFI rating = $200
Additional material = $100
Total Cost = $4,900
There are a few other things you should consider. It's sometimes difficult for a new instructor to walk into an FBO off the street and start working as an instructor. That's why some pilots, after obtaining their commercial certificate, train for their flight instructor rating at a school where they'd like to work as an instructor. It's actually a great idea to do all your training at this school, if possible (as long as it's a good school, of course). This means that the FBO is already familiar with you and is more likely to hire you to flight instruct. After all, we feel more comfortable with the people we are familiar with, right? You might even make this part of the deal when talking with the FBO about beginning your initial training or your CFI training. Let them know about your flight instructing ambitions. I've found that most people are willing to invest a lot of extra time and energy in those individuals who will be around for a while, instead of those who will learn and leave.
Now you're ready to start teaching and making money at the same time. As a new CFI you're qualified to train others for the private and commercial certificate, as well as give flight reviews, proficiency flights and checkouts in other airplanes. With a little additional flight experience, you'll also be qualified to train others for the flight instructor rating. You can't provide all the training for the instrument rating since this requires an instrument flight instructor certificate.
This is why I recommend that you consider obtaining the instrument flight instructor certificate immediately after earning the flight instructor certificate. Some folks say that it's best to get a little flight instructor experience before training others for their instrument rating. This never made much sense to me because teaching students for the private certificate is far more difficult and demanding that training already-rated pilots to fly instruments. Nevertheless, obtaining an instrument flight instructor rating means you'll have more people to teach. That means more flight time and more income for you.
Acquiring the Instrument Flight Instructor Certificate
Fortunately, the instrument flight instructor certificate is not as much work as the original flight instructor certificate. After all, you've already learned how to teach, right? Now it's a matter of learning more about the world of instruments. And this is a lot of fun, too. You can expect to spend at least two to four weeks working on this rating. But plan on six weeks as the norm (this assumes that you're already a proficient instrument pilot).
Here's what you can expect to pay for the instrument flight instructor certificate:
10 hours of airplane rental @ $140/hr. = $1,400
20 hours of dual instruction @ $35/hr. = $700
Written exam fees = $50
Designated examiner fee for checkride = $250
Books for the CFI rating = $100
Additional material = $100
Total Cost = $2,600
The Multi-engine Rating
With two flight instructor ratings under your belt, you're in a much better position to make a living as a CFI. Now it's time to think about getting the multi-engine rating in preparation for building multi-engine time. No written test is required for the multi-engine rating. Since you already have a single-engine commercial rating, you'll want to work on your multi-engine commercial rating. In other words, you can obtain a private pilot multi-engine rating, but this doesn't make sense (if you want to fly for a living) because it won't allow you to fly a multi-engine airplane for compensation or hire. Therefore, you'll want to train to have the multi-engine rating applied to your commercial pilot certificate.
Here's what you can expect to pay for the multi-engine commercial rating:
10 hours of airplane rental @ $260/hr. = $2,600
5 hours simulator time @ 100/hr. = $500
15 hours of dual instruction @ $35/hr. = $525
Designated examiner fee for checkride = $250
Books for the multi-engine rating = $35
Total Cost = $3,910
Finally, you should consider acquiring a multi-engine flight instructor rating. This allows you to train others for their multi-engine rating. And that means you get to log the time you spend teaching as multi-engine time, which helps you meet the airline's multi-engine time requirement (which I'll talk about in a bit).
Here's what you can expect to pay for the multi-engine instructor rating:
5 hours of airplane rental @ $260/hr. = $1,300
5 hours simulator time @ 100/hr. = $500
10 hours of dual instruction @ $35/hr. = $350
Designated Examiner fee for checkride = $250
Total Cost = $2,400
And that's what it takes to go from zero flight time to being multi-engine flight instructor rated. How long does it take to complete the entire process? I've known people who have done it in around six months. They had good instruction and trained in a location with good weather. They worked really hard, too. Don't get me wrong. It's possible to do it in less time but those stars, moons and planets must be aligned properly for this to happen. How much does it cost to go from zero flight time to multi-engine flight instructor? The total process can cost somewhere between $20,000 and $30,000. Sure, there are all kinds of little things you can do to minimize the expense, especially working on the buddy system and splitting the cost with another student who has ambitions similar to yours (no, I don't mean to dominate the world or control a small country, either). In the end, this is a very small financial investment when it comes to the potential of having an airline job that pays a reasonable income over the course of a career.
If you're interested in flying for a living, you might even think about purchasing an airplane in which to do your training. This makes sense in that it's wiser to put money you'd ordinarily pay for rentals into the purchase of your own airplane. Besides, depending on the economic times, used airplanes can have a great resale value, so you might want to seriously consider this option. The main thing you want to look at when considering this option is insurance. You'll want to make sure you can afford the insurance on your airplane when it's being used by you (and perhaps a partner, too) for flight training. You might want to give the folks at Avemco a call and chat with them about the idea. Keep in mind that there are several aviation insurance companies you should chat with if you don't find a reasonably priced policy to your liking. An internet search is the best way to find these companies.
Take a look at these two sites to get an idea what used airplanes cost. The first site (Aircraft Shopper Online) is an excellent site. Trade-a-Plane is my favorite site but it does require a small fee to use (and it's worth it, however). Another good site (Wings Online) is also free. If you enter the particular airplane you're looking for you'll be able to acquire a general idea of the cost.
WORKING TOWARDS THAT AIRLINE CAREER
Now that you've acquired all the necessary flight instructor ratings, you're ready to think about becoming qualified for that airline job. Normally, you should think about getting hired with a commuter airline first. This allows you to build the turbine time necessary to qualify yourself for one of the major air carriers (i.e., United, American, Delta, etc.). To meet the basic (and I do mean basic) qualifications to fly for a commuter airline you'll need the following:
I do hesitate a little as I write these requirements because they're always changing. They change between commuter airlines and they change based on the number of pilots available in the pilot pool. In the late 1990s and up until September 11, 2001, a few major airlines even dropped their four-year college degree requirement. During that time, commuter airlines were even hiring pilots with as little as 100 hours of multi-engine time and 900 hours total time. In some cases, if you're attending a college that has a special ab initio (zero-time to professional pilot) flight training program, you can end up flying with a commuter airline with even less total flight time. It all depends. As of this writing in mid-2009, the hiring requirements haven't begun to move back to their pre 9-11 levels. Will they ever return to this state? Well, if you believe in America and the American economy, then you can bet they will. I'm optimistic given that even with the problems that some airlines are having, other airlines are still hiring pilots. Which airlines? Well, they're the ones what don't depend on passengers to make money, specifically the freight carriers like UPS and FedX. Nevertheless, the above requirements are generally considered the minimum you'll need to get hired with a commuter airline.
- A minimum of 1,500 hours of flight time
- An Airline Transport Pilot certificate
- About 200 hours (of the 1,500 total hours) needs to be multi-engine flight time
- A four-year college degree
Flying for a commuter airline allows you to build up your multi-engine turbine flight time. Once you've acquired around 3,000 hours of multi-engine turbine flight time, you'll most likely be qualified for the major air carriers. So let's talk about the first two requirements listed above.
Acquiring The Airline Transport Pilot Certificate
The Airline Transport Pilot Certificate (ATP) is the black-belt of aviation ratings (which doesn't mean you get to punch pilots with lesser certificates--unless, of course, they want to be punched). This is the rating you'll need to fly as a captain for a major airline. To obtain this rating you'll need to be at least 23 years old, have a minimum of 1,500 hours of total flight time, a minimum of which is 500 hours of cross country flight time, 100 hours of night time and 75 hours of actual (in the clouds) instrument flight time. There are several other requirements, but this gives you the general idea of what's necessary.
You'll also need to pass a written test and take a checkride. I recommend a good test preparation course such at Airline Ground Schools for this written exam. If you don't want to attend an actual ground school and prefer to take study a video program, then consider any of the fine DVD/video or computer-based training series available for ATP exam prep. You'll also want to take your ATP checkride in a multi-engine airplane. How much does this entire process cost? Since there is no minimum preparation time for the ATP certificate, I suspect you should plan on spending anywhere from $2,500 to $3,000 in preparing and training for this rating. You'll probably need at least five hours of multi-engine simulator training and about five hours of actual multi-engine training to adequately prepare yourself.
What About The College Degree?
Here are a few things to think about. First, it's possible to attend one of the many fine aviation colleges located around the country. After three to four years you're likely to end up with all your flight instructor ratings, an ATP certificate and a four-year college degree. The cost? It depends, but you're probably looking at sums from $30,000 or more a year for four years. I'd like to say it's cheap, but it's not. Since this is college, you're more likely to obtain to financial aid.
There are a few other benefits, too. As I mentioned earlier, a few of these colleges have a working arrangement with their local commuter airlines to hire graduates from that college (you'll have to contact each college individually to determine which ones have this option). This means you can be flying for a commuter with less than 1,000 hours of flight time. In some cases, I've even heard of these college graduates working for a commuter airline with as little as 250 hours of flight time. You also get to associate with a large number of people having interests similar to yours. This allows you to create a network of friends that can help you in obtaining that airline job.
Can you acquire your four-year degree at a non-aviation university? Absolutely . I can't say that the airlines show any special preference for those applicants having aviation degrees compared to those having other degrees. The fact is that it doesn't make much of a difference what your degree is in as long as you have one. On the other hand, it's logical to assume that no one can deny your interest and enthusiasm for aviation if you've majored in it. Nevertheless, as far as the airlines are concerned, you just need a four-year college degree (keep in mind that this may change based on the supply and demand of the aviation industry).
It's also possible to attend one of the fine community colleges around the country at minimal expense, and obtain your two-year degree. There are many two-year colleges that offer a very impressive aviation education. Once you've earned your two-year degree, you can attend a four-year college at much less expense (you've already finished two years, right?) while earning your four-year degree.
There are also many colleges where you can earn your degree by something known as distance learning or independent study . This means you can study at home or in your home town without having to attend a distant institution. Some of these colleges have satellite campuses right in your neighborhood (no, you can't find them by using a satellite dish, either). One of these colleges with which I'm familiar is the Utah Valley State College program. This is an excellent program for those with responsibilities that prevent them from attending a traditional college campus.
I would, however, be very cautious about diploma mills. In other words, if a college has the name "Bob or Fred" in it, it's unlikely to be an accredited institution. Also, if the college is located in a van, then this doesn't look good, either, especially if the advertisement says that the college will come and park in your driveway.
Check the following Aviation College web site out for additional information on college degrees. Here are a few web sites you should research regarding college degrees.
What About Those Companies Offering "Zero time to ATP Certificate" Training?
Yes, there are several companies that offer a flight training package advertising zero-time to ATP qualified pilot for a fixed amount of money. Basically, these companies provide you with all the training necessary to become a CFI, then put you to work (often a very low wage) teaching other students who've signed up for the same program. In essence, once you acquire the CFI rating, you'll teach for these companies until you're qualified for the ATP certificate. Then, the company provides you with the training necessary to obtain this certificate. That's what you get for your investment, which typically ranges from $30,000 to $70,000 (and up!). Well, there's nothing essentially wrong with this process. Nevertheless, the critical factor is the reputability of the company offering these services.
If you're dealing with a reputable company, then give them your money and get on with the training. If you're not sure the company's reputable, then I suggest you never give anyone more money than you care to lose at one time. I won't regale you with a few of the horror stories I've heard regarding folks who've lost $30,000 to $60,000 when the company to which they gave money went bankrupt. Therefore, if you are wise, you'll arrange for the money to be placed in some sort of escrow account and doled out in proportions that suit your idea of good risk management. This ensures that an adequate service is rendered before compensation is tendered. Sorry, but there are just too many stories of reputable organizations going broke from one day to the next. You just can't afford to take a chance with this sum of money, in my opinion.
On the other hand, how do you find the most reputable company offering this type of flight training? Do your homework, that's how. Just remember that reputation is everything. Talk to the company's recent graduates. Talk to the folks with which this company deals. Ask to see their records (no, not their Beatles or U2 records, either). Get an idea of the financial health of this company. Ask about their refund policy, too (although that wouldn't be my intro question if you know what I mean). Above all, ask and ask some more! As a general rule, the bigger the company and the longer it's been in business, the less the risk you have of losing your money and the greater the likelihood you have of getting what you want. On the other hand, newer and smaller companies are likely to offer more personalized service. There's no sure way to know which is best but there are lots of way to lose your money. So, talk with the companies involved to get a feel for the quality of service they offer and how they'll treat you.
So, think of these following items when choosing an accelerated "zero-time to airline cockpit" school:
1. Choose the school that has been around the longest.
2. Choose the school that has graduated the most students.
3. Choose the school that has the most students placed with the airlines.
4. Choose the school that offers the best money back guarantee.
5. Choose the school that requires the smallest amount of money down.
6. Don't put any more money down than you care to lose at one time.
7. Choose the school that has a climate conducive to flight training.
8. Choose the school that has older, more mature instructors.
Finally, ask yourself what these companies offer that you can't get on your own? Their biggest asset, in my opinion, is that they provide you with an ample supply of students after you obtain your CFI certificate. Nevertheless, even if you don't work with one of these companies it's still possible for you to obtain an ATP certificate in a reasonably short period of time. Additionally, take a look at this site Indeed.com. This is a web site designed to show you the major job listings found in newspapers across the country. On June 23, 2009, I typed in the words "flight instructor" and left the location undefined. I came up with 402 references. Now, most of these are for larger aviation companies like Boeing or Lockheed, but at least this can give you a sense of what's happening in the aviation market (which is not where you buy the things flight instructors love to eat, like Jujubes, Dots, Milk Duds, etc).
Is It a Good Time to be in Aviation?
As I see it, even if the airlines aren't hiring, it's a good time to start preparing for an airline career. Why? Because there's no one getting hired ahead of you, which means you'll have more seniority when you do get hired. If you believe in the American economy (and what reasonable person can't), then even during its slumps, the aviation industry will eventually rebound. This is a certainty as long as those oil wells don't suddenly run dry. As I see it, a qualified applicant who desires to fly for a living will have a good chance at doing so. On the other hand, if you're smart (and I think you are since you've read this far), then fly for a living but always have an alternate plan just in case the economy takes a sudden downturn. After 9-11, many airline jobs were lost and many pilots were threatened with furloughs. Be smart. Always have a little something extra going for you in case the folks at your primary job tell you to get going (I just love rhymes, which is why I like visiting Germany where they have a river named after folks who like to rhyme--but aren't too picky about spelling).
What Are the Age Limits for an Airline Job?
Generally, you're looking at an age range from 21 years to the early 50's. Realistically, it's not likely that you'll be hired by a major airline if you're in your late 50's. After all, the regulations require than airline pilots retire at 65. Pilots have been hired by major airlines at 50, but these folks generally have impressive qualifications (like thousands of hours in jet airplanes or a moon landing).
I'm often asked about how realistic it is for a person in their mid 30's to think about changing careers and flying for a living. As I see it, it's realistic--with qualification. At this point in time (mid-2,009) it's not too realistic to be 35 years old with no flight time and begin training for an airline career and hope to be hired in the next year or so to fly a commuter airline. On the other hand, the only place for the economy to go from its present condition is up. Within the next few years when the economy rebounds, you can be that flying jobs will increase, too. Why do I say this? Because of something known as VLJs or very light jets. These aircraft are making it convenient for small groups of small business owners to cooperate in fractional ownership of VLJ aircraft. This means these business men won't need to fly the airlines to go places (don't worry, there will always be folks who want to or need to travel by airliner). And that means that they'll need pilots to fly their small jet airplanes for them. You could be one of these pilots if you positioned yourself correctly in terms of gaining experience and building flight time. Furthermore, there are several small charter operations using four-place Cirrus aircraft to provide transportation to these same small business owners. That means someone has to fly these airplanes and, as an entry level pilot position, that could be you.
It's not unreasonable to assume that you can go from zero time to ATP rated pilot in 18 months. This isn't easy, however. It's more likely that you'll take two to three years to acquire the 1,500 hours necessary to become an ATP rated pilot. In one of my busiest years as a CFI, I flew a little over 1,250 hours. That means that a minimum of a year and a half would be necessary to obtain the qualifications for an ATP license. Therefore, if you're 35 years old and have the money to stop what you're doing and begin flight training right now at this present point in time, the odds are that you'll have a good chance at flying with a commuter airline in the next two to three years. Remember, I'm speaking of a regional (commuter) airline, not necessarily a major airline.
Additionally, the older you are, the more likely that you'll find it difficult to move beyond the commuter airline, to a job with the major airlines. But don't get me wrong here. Commuter flying is fun flying. It also has several benefits not offered by the majors. For instance, you're more likely to become a pilot with seniority sooner (or, if you fly in Mexico, you'll be called senor, sooner). This means you won't be away from home as long (assuming you don't like to be away from home, that is. Trust me, hotels get old fast). As a general rule, you get to hand fly the airplane more often than you do the big jets. This is one of the reasons that commuter pilots are very skilled pilots. Some commuters are equipping their fleets with larger and larger aircraft (no, not because the passengers are becoming larger and larger, either). So it's possible that you'll be flying airline-size equipment in a relatively short period of time. Please take the time to read the article: Am I Too Old to Fly for more information on this issue.
Where Can I Go To Find Financing Information for Flight Training?
Read the classifieds in Flight Training magazine . You'll need to have a subscription to do this. This is a very good investment. Also check out Avscholars Network for financial information.
Where Can I Go To Find Out About Flight Instructor Jobs?
Read the classifieds in Flight Training magazine and at Indeed.com.
Is There One Last Bit of Advice for Aspiring Aviators?
Yes. Find a good flight instructor, be enthusiastic and have a lot of patience.
What's the Ultimate Advice for Successful Flight Training?
Find a good flight instructor!!!!!!!!!! Nothing else matters more.
Here Are Additional Resources You Might Be Interested In:
- AIR, Inc.
- Aviation (Career) Consulting Service [Capt. Norris can help you!!]
- Karen Kahn's Aviation Career Counseling [Capt. Kahn is great, too!]
- Airline Ground Schools:
- Greg Brown Career Forum
- Jet Careers