I’ve spent countless hours the past week researching everything aviation. I’ve watched so many videos of people training in Cessna 152s and 172s that I think I could probably land one myself if the situation presented itself. As I work on my final projects here in Germany, I constantly find myself getting side tracked looking at flight schools, reading aviation news and watching anything with wings on YouTube.
I’ve taken the first step in what will prove to be a very long and expensive journey to a career that will hopefully suit me. Late last week I contacted a flight instructor about flying lessons near my university. After a pleasant 30 minute conversation that covered everything from training fees to lasers (don’t ask), I felt like I had made a good connection with the person on the other end of the line. I was offered a 1 hour discovery flight (for a small fee of course) and all of those questions that an anxious beginner has, were answered with as much excitement as I had posing the question. The conversation hasn’t helped my recent attack of ADHD either. Now I’m looking forward to my first flight.
There are benefits in being side tracked and connecting with aviators. It’s becoming clear, that although I’m sure there are exceptions, so far, pilots seem to be very down to earth (haha, get it?), positive people. Everyone I have talked to in the aviation community has taken their time to answer all of my questions, share some useful tips and guide me in the right direction. This surprises me as the competition in the aviation community is extremely high when it comes to finding jobs. Why would these people welcome more competition?
The other thing that has come to my attention over the past week is how much flight training is going to cost if I truly go all the way and get my ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot License). I’m starting to wonder how these people afford such training. Assuming most of the people who go to a private flight school like ATP (Airline Transport Professionals) or CPS (Career Pilot School) have a college degree, don’t these people still have a mountain of debt from their time at the university/college?! How can someone afford to tack on more to that sum, easily reaching $100,000+ in debt and at the same time be a regional FO (first officer) earning a meager $20,000-$30,000 a year? Personally, if I were to start with flight training tomorrow, that would be my situation.
I know most people are probably thinking, “Get a job and save up” and I totally agree with that. I have, however, two major concerns that make me think waiting too long after college will shoot my plans of being a professional pilot out of the sky: 1) The airline industry is starting to hire pilots again. In the next few years there will be (hopefully) tons of openings at airlines because of 2) a new law that the FAA has coming down the line. As of August 2013, all aspiring pilots will have to have at least 1500 flight hours before being allowed to obtain an ATPL. That’s triple the time pilots are currently expected to have. And if required flight time is tripled, costs are tripled.
So the new challenge now is not just working on getting my PPL (though expensive, I still think it’s within my financial reach), but rather figure out how I can get money together for essentially a second Bachelor’s Degree. As I devise my battle plan, I will be sifting through the numerous so-called “flight schools” and searching for the highest quality training for the lowest price. So far, the winner is offering a cool $49,000.
- Possible Pilot Shortage? (foxnews.com)