How I Became A Pilot

I was 31 when I made the career change from IT Tech support. I turn 46 next month. It was without a doubt one of the best decisions I ever made. With the current and forecast shortage of pilots, if you want to do it, then go for it.


This may be veering into the realm better suited for PMs, but what exactly was the process for doing that? Are there ways to transition directly to commercial, do you need to get a PPL first? I too am growing rapidly discontented with careers in technology.


Just anecdotal data, but my wife flew on a short hopper (30 mins) from where we live to Victoria, BC last week and in chatting to the pilot she mentioned that I never finished my PPL, but loved flying. The pilot said they were absolutely crying out for new pilots, were desperate, and I guess the short hoppers that are appearing everywhere get your commercial hours up. A lot of hours on the road though…

Pics, because it’s mudspike…

The single Otter’s they use, although they do a lot of smaller DHC-2 Beaver’s as well.


I’m happy to talk about it here unless you think it is way off topic. We could also start a separate thread where the pilots in the group could chip in with how their career paths twisted and turned to the point where they are now. Bottom line is that it is most definitely feasible to hammer out a good career as a pilot surprisingly late in the game. It won’t be without sacrifice though, especially at the beginning.


T’is done! :slight_smile:

To pile on here, on The Aviation Geeks podcast they talk about the shortage all the time.

In my case the timing couldn’t have been worse. In the middle of my instrument rating, a bunch of airlines shut down, including my employer, EAL, and my CFI got laid off from his flying job. He interviewed with UPS, but there were 20 other guys there for the same job, all dressed in dark blue suits, white shirts, and red ties, all with mil time. An unemployed Dash 8 FO didn’t stand a chance against ex Viper pilots. The flight schools didn’t need CFIs, and it was costing me a ton to fly. So with 20 hrs toward my instrument rating, I went another direction. It’s taken decades since to work through the laid off flight crews. Now I’m too old, too married with 3 kids, and running 2 companies. Would give my left gonad to be where you young dudes are now.

Timing is everything. Go for it.




Timing is indeed everything in this business, and we have no control over that. I have been extremely fortunate, all things considered. Even being laid off in 2009 ended up being a good thing for me at the end of the day, although it certainly didn’t seem like it at the time.

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Why be a pilot?

The Northern Lights.
The Earth’s shadow arc along the sky at dawn and dusk.
St. Elmo’s fire on the radome. (You actually don’t want too much of that, but its a rare joy)
Along those lines: overcharged supercells lining the Midwest at night (from a distance).
Hitting the stops with the yoke on approach during a Nor’easter and squeaking it on.
Skiing in Aspen then playing with the flamingoes in Aruba the next day.
Your first Lamcevok!
You first outside loop!
Watching an eagle give you stink-eye across the circle in a shared thermal.
Having a 90 year old lady tell you it was her first flight, and she loved it. (Happened to me a couple months ago)
Seeing a meteor explode high over Chuuk and light the sky from horizon to horizon.
Having an old hero show you the spot he hit the beach at Iwo Jima.
Watching an underwater volcano boil the surface of the sea as you circle awaiting your turn to land at Iwo Jima.
Getting a burn victim to Augusta just minutes before it would have been too late. (Beach’s department)

I’ll keep going…:heart_eyes:


Dangit guys, this isn’t helping. On the verge of being newly single means I’m starting on my list of dreams to begin working towards.

This one is very, very near the top.


Started losing my hearing when I was 6, put the kibosh on any career like flying. Sucks, but that’s life for you.

Do agree with getting out of IT, though! I popped smoke from IT at the start of the year. Best decision I ever made.

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Time for a dual upgrade, relationship and career.

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I guess my questions would be:

  1. How do I, the humble young adult with a bachelors degree in not flying transition to the exciting world of aviation? A quick consultation with Senor Google returns Get PPL → Get Hours → Get Commercial License → Get Hired. Is this the only option? the best option? etc. etc.

  2. What jobs await? I understand this would probably be dependent on region, but I’d never actually considered what employment would exist beyond commercial air lines.

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Well, you certainly don’t have to go to the airlines, although there are a lot of good reasons to do so.

You have the basic order correct. Train for your PPL, Instrument rating, Commercial License and Multi-Engine rating. This is all pretty expensive because you are paying for every hour you put in your logbook until you have your Commercial license. If you are currently employed then you could chip away at this during weekends/evenings/vacation time and try to pay as you go. This is what I did because I wanted to keep the debt level down. It takes awhile though.

There are fast track ways if you are prepared to pay the money. I have two friends who went through the ATP Flight School Career program back in the early 2000’s. They both have successful careers flying business jets.

There are other fast track schools out there, but make sure you do your homework before making the financial commitment.

I can’t tell you much about the recruitment process at the airlines but I am sure @smokinhole, @Bogusheadbox, @Troll and @Sine_Nomine could tell you what you need to know.

Business aviation can be tricky to get into as, to a greater extent, it really helps if you know someone on the inside. Networking is key. I got my first flying job because I already worked for the company as a Line Service Technician. When I was flying as an independent contractor (after being laid off during the recession), it was the people I knew that helped me find work when it was scarce. And finally, the job I have now came about because I knew the lead pilot from playing iEN’s Warbirds years before. So, it really does have a degree of luck attached to it. Of course, you have to work hard for it too, play well with others and never burn bridges if you can avoid it.

Pay wise, it used to be that a Regional FO in their first year or two were very poorly compensated. That is improving now though. In the long run, an airline career will most likely result in a better schedule with better benefits and definitely a better retirement plan. It is IMHO too late for me to make the switch at this point. I can’t complain though. I make a good living, have flown some great airplanes, visited places I never imagined I would ever see (and have enough time when there to actually see things) and I work with a small group of outstanding people. So there are pros and cons.

There are lots of other rewarding career paths though. Take a look at what @BeachAV8R does for a living. That’s where it’s at if you want a job flying where you can use your flying skills to make a real difference in people’s lives when they need it most.


Thanks for the kind words. I really love my job and lucked into one that has the near perfect mix of equipment, number of hours flown a year, overnights, and pay.

I’ll post more when I get back from this weekend, but I’ll echo some of what has been said already. And for us (air medical Part 135), the hiring has really gotten tough. We can’t find really qualified candidates, which has resulted in us bumping our starting pay up quite a bit, but even that hasn’t caused the flood of quality-ish resumes we used to get.

Some of our younger FOs have made the jump to the airlines…a good decision for them if the ambition to fly something really big is there, as well…that can mean a few million dollars of pay differential over the remainder of their career. But they will be flying 4x as much and overnighting over 100 nights a year (?)…compared to us averaging about 2 a year. If I were single, I might consider it…but now in my mid-40s, very happy at home and watching my boy grow up.

Always keep in mind that aviation can be somewhat cyclical. Pretty good right now, but that doesn’t mean it will hold…but it appears to be pretty good at the moment and the foreseeable future.


My advice is to keep the following low initial goal as your “Ultimate” goal: Flight Instructor. Don’t think past that until you get there (often only 4 - 8 months after your first flight). Once you get into that groove THEN put out feelers for the next thing, whatever that next thing may be. But while you are instructing, really try to enjoy the job. Forget that the pay sucks and that the raggedy C-150 is older than you are. Because this is the most important stage where your fellow instructors or, just as likely, your STUDENTS, will lead you to the next job. It might be flying twin-otters in Puerto Rico or hauling fish in the Aleutians or whatever. There is no way to know until you get there.

He is how a sim-er did it from day one. Some of you may know him from his RoF, IL2 and DCS combat training videos on YouTube. He was gifted his training by a fellow sim-er and (now retired) airline pilot.

Requiem’s Wordpress

EDIT: I said “gifted” but that’s a poor choice of words. He has been so professional in the way he virtually flies and fights, helps others fly and fight better, and in his production of great YouTube content that I believe Robbie considers Requiem an investment. He earned it.

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And rather than type it all out…this was my path…complete with some pictures of when I was a thin guy…LOL…


I guess another way in is to join the Air Force? I know it’s definitely a big undertaking and don’t do it if you’re not also interested in joining the military/fighting, but I’m guessing it’s “free” training and I’ve always been jealous of those guys for having that Civilian Aviation career waiting to gobble them up when they got out. :slight_smile:

[Nothing really wrong with the post but I hated it. Moving on…]

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Helicopters - Too many moving parts all trying to break formation. ;). They are cool though.

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