Long time listener, first time I have something to post in the forums. I do really appreciate the show and get a lot out of it. Thanks so much.
I have a conundrum and am looking for any feedback that anybody out there might be able to offer. I've quite literally always wanted to fly. I was finally able to save up the money to get my private pilot's license 11 years ago - when I was 19. After I achieved that I had a hard time finding the money to keep flying as much as I wanted, but I never usually went more than a couple months without picking up an hour here or there.
So here I am, just turned 30, wanting to fly and realizing that it's not likely I'll ever be in a financial position to just fly for fun whenever I want. Sure I can continue picking up 15 hours or so a year, but I Want To FLY! So.... I'm thinking about a career in aviation.
I've got about 185 hours now (22 in the last year), just completed my Instrument written (haven't started training yet), and am looking to figure out the right way to go about becoming a Professional Pilot. I live in the SF Bay Area (Richmond), and have looked at several flight schools and spoken with a couple instructors. I'm also looking into accelerated flight training like Airline Transport Professionals
which has a training center in Sacramento - not too far away.
My goals? Well, I realize that I'm a bit starry-eyed right now and need to add a dose of reality (you come in here), but I'm not as excited about driving a bus as I am about driving a taxi. Going to different places, mixing it up a bit. I like the idea of corporate or business aviation and also businesses like DayJet, NetJets, etc. And the fact that there are many new options coming on the market soon with the advent of the VLJs among other things makes me think there may actually be a future in aviation in something other than flying SFO-MDW-IAD-IAH-SFO. I do enjoy teaching, but with little professional experience at that I can't say right now that I see myself as a professional CFI.
My background: I'm 30, married, live in a condo purchased at the wrong time (in other words no serious equity to help with this and not likely to be able to easily relocate), and have a college degree in Geography. My wife is a very supportive woman who likes to fly and help out with cockpit duties but prefers to be a passenger vs. the one on the controls. I'm currently a freelance cartographer and VR photographer (360 panoramic photography) and have been for the last 8 years or so and making enough to get by and live somewhat comfortably.
So first a couple of easy questions with perhaps many different right answers. What's the best way to go about pursuing this dream? Should I go through a program like ATP that will get me my Instrument, Multi, Commercial-Multi and Single, CFI Multi and Single (including CFII) all in one fell swoop - actually a 90-day fell swoop? Or should I look at getting the Instrument, Commercial, and CFI (all single) and work my way from there? If not this accelerated program, what about Part 61 (general flight school) vs Part 141 (approved-syllabus style program)?
No matter which way I go about this, I'll be taking on some hefty loans in order to proceed. I don't exactly have $30-60k lying around in my flight fund. The ATP program runs $58k. A local flight school website estimates that the same set of licenses will run me about $36k at their place. Of course the difference is the structure of the training, aircraft availability, fleet maintenance, proximity to my home, etc, not just the money.
1) Am I being unrealistic or can I actually live as a professional pilot? Is this something that requires undue amounts of luck and some nepotism, or can hard-work actually get me somewhere?
2) Accelerated program, 'private' training to match the accelerated program, or 'private' training just to get me to CFI-single?
3) Financial - as someone going down one of these career paths, would I be likely to actually be able to pay off the training loans that I'll have to take on with money earned from flying? I mean before the bank decides to repossess everything I have including my cat?
Obviously I'm still in the exploratory stages, but I'm very serious about this and want to make a go of it. Once I make the plunge I'll go full tilt, but before that I want to weigh all my options.
Any input would be gratefully received. But just having written this has already been a help to me. Thanks for the forum!