The Ideal Plan

I have a goal to fly that is burning in me stronger than any goal I have had before. While I am stuck until I can secure financing for training, all I can do is absorb information, dream, and plan. I have thought about what my ideal career path would look like. I have even mapped out expected monthly/yearly earnings, loan payments, expected expenses, and how all the numbers work out until 2045 (Part 121 Retirement).

The Ideal Plan

  • November 2016 – Start accelerated flight training at ATP in Arlington, Texas as a full-time student.
  • April 2017 – Finish training with my Private Pilot, Instrument Rating, Commercial Single and Multi-Engine Rating, Certified Flight Instructor w/ Instrument, and Multi Engine Instructor.
  • April/May 2017 – Enroll in Envoy’s Cadet Program and be placed at a Flight School to instruct. I wouldn’t mind instructing for US Aviation Academy or American Flyers, as both are in the DFW area. While being paid for instructing, gaining flight hours, I would also be receiving a total of $5,000 for tuition reimbursement from Envoy.
  • October 2018 – Have my 1,500 hours, if not sooner, and start First Officer training at Envoy and receive a $10,000 tuition reimbursement.
  • 2022 – Upgrade to Captain with Envoy, which would almost double the salary as a First Officer.
  • 2026 – Flow to American Airlines as a First Officer in one of their smaller aircraft (MD80/B737). First year pay is about the same as Capitan pay from Envoy. Second year pay jumps to about $100,000/yr.
  • 2027 Pay off Student Loan for flight training. This is with the help of tuition reimbursement and making regular minimum payments.
  • 2029 – Move to a larger plane (B787) at American Airlines as a First Officer, which would result in about $160,000/yr.
  • 2032 – Upgrade to Captain, but move back to the smaller aircraft (MD80/B737). In 16 years, I would have gone from bouncing around jobs making about $50,000/yr to making almost $200,000 year.
  • 2036 – Move to the larger planes (B787) as a Captain. I would finish out my Part 121 career making about $250,000/yr.
  • March 2045 – At 65 years old, I would retire from Part 121 Operations. I may continue to still fly as a Flight Instructor, Corporate, or Charter Pilot.

Justifications

ATP Flight School – I want to make the transition as quickly as possible. Even with the high cost of training, based on my calculations, I lose more money, in the long run, taking a cheaper, slower training route. By using ATP, I would have all my ratings in 6-months and being able start making money as a flight instructor.

Envoy – With so many regionals to choose from, I like Envoy for a few reasons. One, They are Headquartered in DFW area, with DFW Airport as a base. The potential for not commuting to work, would be very beneficial for family life. Two, the cadet program would offer $15,000 in tuition reimbursement and improved hiring process. Three, Envoy is owned by American Airlines and has flow into AA.

Which leads me to…

American Airlines – American Airlines has been the airline of choice for my family for many years. My grandmother worked and retired from American Airlines and the AA Credit Union. Again, AA is headquartered locally in DFW. With DFW Airport being a major hub, I would have more opportunities to be based locally and not have to commute.

The $2,000,000 Mistake

One of my favorite podcasts is “Aviation Careers Podcast”. One of their episodes “ACP082 – Avoiding a 2 Million Dollar Mistake in Your Pilot Career”, they talked about how the later you go into a career as a pilot, the more money you are potentially losing on the backend of your career when you make the most.

If I fly for a Part 121 airline (think of airlines that most people fly), I am required, by the FAA, to retire at age 65. Which means, at my current age and the earliest I could start flying for an airline, I potentially only have 30-ish years of flying. For every year I delay in getting to my goal of flying for an airline I’m losing a year of salary at the $200,000/yr range that is on the back end of the career.

The “$2,000,000 Mistake” is basically what I have already made. Had I started flying in college, and got my ATP certificate at 23 years old, I would have an extra 7 years in my career. Those 7 years on the back end of the career could have equated to an additional $2 Million in my career earning potential.

If I could suggest anything to younger people looking to get into a career flying, start early! Goto a college that has a Pilot program, whether 2- or 4-year, and get a degree with your certificates. It will give you the most bang for the buck and give you the most career earning potential. For me, I’m looking to switch as soon as possible, so I am going to have to pursue an accelerated training program which comes with a high cost of training; with that, I won’t be able to remain employed during the time due to time requirements.

Debrief

In the 18 Month Recap, I gave an overview of my life since May 2015. Reflecting on those events, I have discovered and realized a few things that may have been God at work.

It’s a Small World
I had thought about going to a flight school in Bowling Green, KY. I decided against it due to the cost. When I was working in East Texas, one of the guys that worked for me, was from Bowling Green, KY. I actually didn’t put the two together until a few days ago.
Also, when Jackson was born, we had a Doula from NIDO Birth that came to help to fill in for a friend of Janie’s. We met the night of his birth. In talking, the doula and I discovered we went to high school together, graduated from the same class, and know several people in common (we went to a very large HS so there was a lot of people you didn’t know). On top of that, I interviewed for a job at a company her husband works at. I didn’t get the job, but hopefully that’s because I’m meant to be flying.

Core Gifts and Talents
I have always thought and been recognized for being talented when it comes to technology. What I have realized is that technology has just been the default application of my core talents: quick learning and problem solving.

Strengths
I read and took StrengthsFinder 2.0 and discovered my top 3 strengths are:

  1. Maximizer: I focus on strengths to stimulate personal and group excellence. I seek to transform something strong into something superb.
  2. Ideation: I am fascinated by ideas. I like to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.
  3. Strategic: I tend to create alternate ways of doing things and can quickly spot relevant patterns and issues.

Interests
To use my strengths and talents, I thought a career in Data Science would be good long-term career. To pursue Data Science, I would need to get a Masters degree, which isn’t a bad thing, just not very motivated to go for one. I like software development personally, but don’t have the education or experience to do it professionally. Whenever something reignites the flying spark, all other interests become less attractive. As soon as flying comes in to focus, it’s like tunnel vision. Things like being on the computer seem less appealing. Hobbies I wanted to pursue, like kayak fishing, camping, tour cycling, all seem ‘eh’.

Marriage
Going into professional flying career, with several days away, my marriage needs to be solid. In the past several months, my marriage has been strengthened. Janie and I are the closest we have ever been and in a much better place than we were a year ago. We have put Jesus first and each other second. We pray together often.

Finances
By moving to East Texas, we sold our house near Weatherford, TX. The property was great, but the house had become a burden financially and physically. Getting out from under the house has been a huge relief. In the mean time we have also traded vehicles to more reliable, cheaper, and easier to maintain vehicles. After we sell our RV and pay a few medical bills, we will be in a good place financially to start flight training (with an education loan) and get our own place again.

In the Ears

Right now I want to fly so much, I am feeding off of anything and everything aviation related to learn and appease the desire until I get in the air. As such, I am listening to several aviation related podcasts that I thought I would share:

Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Podcasts

I also listen to several church’s sermons via podcasts.

One thing to be thankful for with a 45-60 minute drive to work–I have a lot of time to listen to podcasts.

18 Month Recap

I last wrote about waiting on God’s plan, which was the best thing I could have done; I’m still discovering the benefits and blessings that came out of the journey of the past 18 months.
To start, August 2015, Janie and I take positions at a Christian camp and retreat center in East Texas. We bought and lived in a 5th wheel trailer in a small RV park. The camp was a very tough work environment but I learned and grew a lot in my leadership ability. While out there, my wife and I grew closer together and our relationship got stronger.

Earlier this year, Janie and I found out we were going to have a baby.
It was very exciting. Ultimately our baby boy, Jackson, was born into Heaven after 4 hours on earth due to MCDK (MultiCystic Dysplastic Kidney Disease). Through this difficult time, Janie and I continued to grow closer and our relationship and reliance on Jesus became more prominent.

With Jackson’s birth, we decided we wanted to move back to the Fort Worth area. So we resigned our positions in East Texas and moved back home with my parents temporarily. I’m working a contract job as a Police Technology Specialist at a former employer and Janie is working at a fitness center.

Smoother Skies Ahead

The past couple days have been frustrating due to our plans not working out and things seem to be turbulent. Today, I hit a low and felt lost. I decided to pray, listen to some worship music, and read my Bible.

I opened my Bible up to Micah to continue where I left off on my “Bible in 90-Days” reading plan. I started this plan a couple years ago, still haven’t finished, and unfortunately haven’t read recently.  As I was reading a couple verses resonated with me:

But as for me, I will look to the Lord;
I will wait for the God of my salvation;
my God will hear me. (Micah 7:7 ESV)

As I read the study notes below, I learned that Micah was mourning over only seeing sorry and futility, but here he turns a corner and decides to have confidence that God will act. How true is that for me now?! Though I don’t see the big picture of why certain things are happening the way they are, I need to look to God, and wait for His timing, knowing He hears my cries.

For still the vision awaits its appointed time;

If it seems slow, wait for it;
it will surely come; it will not delay. (Habakkuk 2:3 ESV)

This verse is referring to the judgement of Judah and the punishment of the Babylonians, but the take away for today is ‘WAIT’. Patience is hard, especially when you have a vision to pursue. I get an idea and I want to act and move on it immediately.  That doesn’t mean I act hastily; I often spend time researching, thinking, and planning a course action for that idea. I need to remember that though I may have a great plan, the timing may be off. God’s timing will be perfect.

I pray for patience and wisdom. I am confident in my God and know that smoother skies are ahead. Things will work out for the best, I just have to wait until its the right time to act. Until then, I will seek the wisdom to know what to do until it’s time to act and to know when to act.

Charting a Course

There are a three different flight training paths I considered to get from 0-hours to CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) and ultimately to ATP (Airline Transport Pilot). I have evaluated each of them based on cost, program length, and several other factors detailed below.


Option 1: TCC

Tarrant County College offers a 2-year “Professional Pilot” program that will allow me to obtain my Private Pilot, Multi-Engine, Instrument, Commercial, CFI/i, and an Associates degree in Aviation Technology. TCC has partnered with US Aviation Academy (Denton, TX) and offer the courses at Alliance Airport (Fort Worth, TX).  They offer a guaranteed Flight Instructor position at USAA after completion of the 2-year program and USAA has a pipeline program (guaranteed interview for job after obtaining 1500 hours) with Envoy. One benefit of this program is the ability to use Federal Student Aid for financing. The program has only been offered for a year and the first set of students are only half-way done.
The total cost would be around $50,000. The schedule would allow for a part-time job to help with expenses. I have decided against this program because I need to make the career change as quickly as possible to start earning income; and two years would be difficult on personal finances with only a part-time job.

http://www.tccd.edu


Option 2: ATP Flight School

ATP Flight School is a 180-day “Airline Career Pilot” program that will take you from 0-hours to a CFI/i and MEI with over 275 flight hours (100 ME). ATP has been around for almost 30-years and has 37 schools across the country. They fly newer planes with glass cockpits. They offer a guaranteed flight instructor position upon completion of their school with no more than 2 failed check rides. ATP has over a dozen relationships with regional airlines. The relationships offer a pipeline for job interviews, tuition reimbursement, and sign on bonuses. The program is very intense (immersive) and will require a full-time commitment. A part time job would not be possible during the 6-month program, but liquidating some assets would help cover expenses. The biggest obstacle of this program is the cost of $70,000.

https://atpflightschool.com


Option 3: Local Flight School

A local flight school or instructor offers a self-paced training program, allowing for fluctuations in training schedule. The flexible schedule would allow for a part-time job. To complete all the desired/required ratings it would cost about $40,000-$50,000 and take almost a year to complete.
The three schools I have considered are:

Huffman Aviation
Nationwide Aviation
Fox Aviation