View Full Version : Aviation as a career...
First, I'd like to thank all of those involved in setting up this forum - nicely done!
I'd like to hear from the pro pilots on this board concerning their thoughts about professional aviation careers. Does it become "just a job" after a while? Do you have any regrets about your career choice? I'm a junior in college with almost 500 hours of flight time (only about twenty of which is multi), and am at a fork in the road: spend my summer months getting instructor certs, or focusing on law enforcement with an internship. (my other career aspiration).
I thoroughly enjoy flying, but am left with plenty of questions, Like any field, I've run into plenty of cynics and those who see no future in aviation, as well as those who wouldn't have it any other way. What do y'all think? If I were to fly for a living, I can see myself as a frax ownership operator (NetJet, FlexJet, etc.) or part of a corporate flight department.
Justin, I'm not qualified to answer your question, but I can only tell you what I would do if I were in your position. You are a very fortunate young man; most kids would consider themselves lucky to receive a car on their 16th birthday, but you got yourself an airplane! ;f
Law Enforcement is a steady career. When is the last time you heard of a cop getting laid off due to outsourcing or downsizing? The airline industry is anything but stable and secure, even for those with 10 or more years seniority.
While I think your idea of being a pilot in the frac ownership end of the business is a good idea, I would also think that if layoffs were to get severe in the airline industry you will see a lot of competition from furloughed pilots for the seat you are seeking.
With those thoughts on the table I would go for the career in aviation without batting an eye. With the knowledge that you already have, with the skills you have already developed, with the (assumed) contacts you already have in the industry I don't see how you could pick any other path. I'm only speaking as someone who didn't have that opportunity back then myself, but I know that if I could turn back time or put myself in your shoes there would be no question about which career I would take. And my direction in college was geared toward being a cop too. I just hadn't been bitten by the flying bug back then. :)
I'd go for it. In fact, I did.
It is a very cyclical career. Like the stock market though, prospects for the long term are good. Timing is everything.
Flying for the airlines gives you time to pursue a LE career as well. (Not so with the military.) I know many airline pilots who are LE officers. One is a 767 Capt and an FBI agent.
Does it become "just a job" after a while? Do you have any regrets about your career choice?
No and No.
It depends on what kind of flying you are doing. I haven't liked all of my flying jobs. Mostly because of the shotie equipment and grueling work schedules.
If you stick in there long enough and work hard enough it all becomes worth it in the end. I've seen too many people quit just after making it to an airline. Sometimes people envision the job as being something it's not.
I do airamulance work, I'm home every night and I only fly about 2-5 hours a week, just enough to keep me happy and I'll never get burned out.
You're in the same spot I was about 7 years ago. I'd say go for the flying. Skip the instructing tho', find yourself a job in some little rat hole outfit, then move on once you get some time. You've got to be willing to chase the jobs for a few years. Flybywire is right, timing is everything. Another thing is live poor. I've had 4 outfits go bankrupt under me, but I always had plenty of cash saved so I never had to scramble. I've seen plenty of guys get their first real job, go nutso on a big house, new car, and big toys then panic when they got furloughed. If you're focused just on the goal of a 121 major you'll probably get burned out before you get there, if you enjoy the road it's a great life.
I was a military instructor pilot for quite a while and loved almost every minute of it.
There are times when it's "just a job" but then you look around and see that you're doing something that is a literal dream of a whole lot of people and you're getting paid to do it.
While on the live fire range occasionally you hear snippets of, "They PAY me to do this?" over the radio (hit intercom and not transmit, blast it!)
You are not a real pilot until you get furloughed.
Originally posted by glocknsail
You are not a real pilot until you get furloughed.
...or your airline goes bankrupt.
Justin, this will be lengthy, buckle your belt.;)
I opted out of a career with United because the schedules back then were just too much time away from my babies and family. My choice. I have flown commercially for small operations at my own bidding.
That said, I have one of my best friends who has flown 'corporate' for NYS Police, has instructed in Lears, Kingairs, GIII, Cobras, Blackhawks, and he instructs instrument multi as well as aerobatics. His flying is much more intense than mine.
Then there's the 'Kid' I introduced to flying in my Citabria 7ECA way back. He's now flying for American but is looking into quiting and flying with the NYS Police... go figure. He thinks the 'bussing' business is too quiet for his tastes PLUS the work environment just ain't whut he thought it would be. 9/11 didn't help there for sure.
So there you have it, three who have flown quite a lot in very different ways, but we do agree on one thing- it's the FLYING that matters.
Thanks for all the posts, guys - each one of you has provided incredible and thoughtful insight into a matter that doesn't even effect you. I really appreciate it!
I have until May 2005 to make a solid career choice, so I'm going to keep flying, regardless of what I become. It's promising to talk to LEOs, as they make it sound like there are some flying opportunities within law enforcement. Although highly sought after, these LE flying slots have a mission that interests me. For example, according to a contact in the FBI, appropriately-rated pilots may be asked to fly piston fixed-wing assets for various reasons as a collateral duty. As previously stated in this thread, the NYSP has some assets also (I'm testing for them in March).
Bottom line is that I will always keep flying close, whether it be a part-time gig or an entire career.
I guess you already figured it out, but I was going to say, there is some flying that goes on in law enforcement, more rotary wing than fixed wing, but there are a few fixed wing jobs out there. I know that the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, and most every highway patrol I would imagine, uses airplanes for speed enforcement from time to time. I could probably be the most boring flying a person would do, and probably not the most exciting law enforcement job either, but you get both career choices.
just a thought.
For example, according to a contact in the FBI, appropriately-rated pilots may be asked to fly piston fixed-wing assets for various reasons as a collateral duty
Agents only. Support personnel cannot fly.
Thanks for qualifying that statement Dan - I was aware of that, but others may not be...same goes for the DEA. They're also thinking about changing Customs pilots to 1811s from 2181s (hey're changing the names AGAIN, so I'm just going to say "customs" for now).
A little while ago I retired from 43 years of flying. Well I'm not completely retired. I still keep my hand in flying, I just don't get paid for it anymore.
My flying wasn't the "glamor" job with the airlines. I lucked out and got the Army helicopter flight school in 1964, after flying private fixed wing for four years. That lead to instructing helicopters and fixed wing and eventually flying in the Gulf of Mexico for 29 years.
There's not much money in this type of flying and it's dangerous as hell, (three more of my company's pilots have been killed just since I retired, last one a few days ago) but I've been lucky that I was only laid off only once and my machines always got me down in one piece.
Looking back on the 40+ years, I can not think of anything that I would have rather done with my life.
I even turned down a number of promotions because I would rather fly than make more money sitting in an office.:)
Do whatever's best for you.
I walked into the industry in the glory times of the late 90s. As glocknsail and flybywire said, you aren't a real pilot until you've been furloughed or your company Chapter 7s. I hope to be neither of those, but it's a most definate possibility.
I got started flying for the airlines in 99 at the ripe old age of 23 and upgraded early. Unbelievably lucky. I don't regret it for a minute. I truly have a lot of fun at work. I work with a great group of people and for an airline that's doing pretty ok in this day and age. I make decent money (I'm also single with not too much debt, to take that statement with a grain of salt).
The funny thing about airline flying is it can be incredibly boring. straight n level for hours on end (we used to get our rocks off flying in and out of LGA til they closed our base there...) I wouldn't change it for a thing, though. There are some beautiful sights out there and some beautiful times on overnights (if you're single!!)
Let me tell you, there's nothing like being on short final to an airport in a major metropolitan city during rush hour and being able to look down at the tens of thousands of people that are trapped in rat-race traffic and laughing your ass off because you are not part of that world.
Split the difference:
I'm a CFII/MEI and I'm a conservation officer. My flying got started back up due to career frustration, and ended up as a "second job" instructing.
With your current situation 500/50, you are certainly "over the hump" towards a careeer in aviation.
I suggest pursuing it, and seek employment in a L.E. job while you further build your time. With a little homework and looking, you'll probably find a State Agency that recruits it's pilots from it's own ranks, but most don't.
Get you rotary wing ratings too, there seem's to be greater demand there.
My agency (State of Georgia DNR) requires 5000TT/2500TT Rotary before they'll even consider you, and it dosen't hurt being on a first name basis with the chief pilot (long waiting list for a job availability of once every 5-7years for a vacancy to open)
My suggestion would be to seek a military aviation slot after graduation and use that as a spring board into the civilian market. All our agencies pilots except one is military vet. (He came to us with over 10,000hrs of civilian Rot. time!!)
Good luck with your career, the L.E. will be a viable option should you lose your medical for some reason. (Mine is "gone" at age 48, but my soon to start disability retirement is going to be 105% net takehome of what I make now !!)
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