The Alternate Plan

I previously shared my “Ideal Plan” for an aviation career. As with most plans in life, it’s good to have a backup or alternate plan. Fortunately for me, my alternate plan is just as appealing and desirable as the “Ideal Plan”.

The ultimate goal for me is to be piloting aircraft as much as possible. With that goal in mind, the alternatives, to flying in the airlines, that interest me are:

  • Flight Instructor
  • Charter or Corporate Pilot
  • Family Pilot
  • Aerial Applicator (Crop Dusting)
  • Ferry/Repo Aircraft

While some may earn more income than others they all have full-time or part-time options. These options would allow for another source of income, if need, or afford me the time to pursue other interests as well.

Investing in my Aviation Career

My wife and I have discovered we need help to secure financing for me to goto flight school. I have created a proposal that I am sharing with friends and family, or anybody else, that may be able to help.

Here is a public version of the proposal with personal finance and credit information removed. I can provide more information if you are interested in investing in my future aviation career.

Public Flight School Proposal

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.

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

Run Up (part 2)

Continued from Run Up (part 1)


Hobbies and Jobs

I have been fortunate to have developed skills in technology at an early age. I liked tinkering with electronics and working on the computer. It was a fun hobby growing up.

My hobby did well for me in getting jobs. Some of the jobs even paid really well; as many jobs in technology do. But I noticed something, I tend to get burned out after a year or two of working in a technology job. It is even apparent in my job timeline; I typically went to a non tech job after working a tech job. In addition, I would typically do more personal/fun technology projects when not working in a technology position.

What I came to understand is that my hobby of working with technology had become a job; subconsciously I didn’t want that hobby to be my career. I was blessed to have so many positions offered to me and they typically paid well. There are great jobs in technology, but I am not excited about them. I like technology, but not enough to do it all day everyday. 


Work towards your Goals

I have taken jobs because they have been offered/handed to me because I had a little skill and the ability to quickly learn. This means I never really had to work for any of the jobs I had. At the same time, I never really spent much time to evaluate if I was pursuing a career path that I wanted to continue on.  As I was getting tired of a technology job and ready to move on, another was offered with higher pay that pulled me back.

I have decided that I want to: work towards a goal; work towards a career path that interests me; and work towards something that isn’t handed to me.

I want my hobby in technology to be a hobby that maybe occasionally pays for special projects/contracts on my terms. I have decided to pursue my goal of becoming a pilot and pursue a career in aviation.

Goal: Pursue a career in aviation as a Pilot

Run Up (part 1)

I have had a lot of jobs (see previous post). I liked all of them for different reasons and left many of them for nothing more than needing a change from the status quo of that season. Most of them I never saw myself in that position long term; I never had a clear career plan of where I wanted to be when I retire, in 10 years, or even 5 years. Ever since I got married and left Dallas PD, I have struggled with what I wanted to do job wise until I retire.

It took me 11 years of off and on school to get my bachelors degree. I was never satisfied with what I was studying in school as pointing me in the direction I wanted to take. I thought about Computer Science, but was bored in the classes. I tried Math, to pursue a math teaching career, but struggled with keeping up with the work. I tried Engineering, but didn’t like the program.

I finally finished a Bachelor of Science in Applied Science with a Business Administration/Computer Information System concentration.

I have always liked the idea of being an entrepreneur; The freedom to run and operate a business the way I want and the potential income that can come from having a successful business. I have had several small businesses through out my life, such as mowing yards, DJing school dances, web development, IT consulting, direct sales, and freelancer. Each of them would make a little income, but I would struggle growing them enough to support my family.

In the past several months of doing contract work, I have been looking for jobs that appealed to me. With months of searching and applying to technology related jobs, I was getting discouraged from not getting hired and from not finding anything that really excited me. This led to a lot of reflection, introspection, and thinking about my past and future career.  I began to notice a small thread throughout my life and reminded of a lost/suppressed love.


I love flying!

For my entire life, my dad has worked at a large aerospace company. My dad’s father worked and retired from the same aerospace company my dad is currently at. I remember at a young age having posters of military planes, building model planes, going to airshows, and occasionally getting to see my dad’s work. I loved airplanes.

In elementary school, I had the opportunity to go flying with a pilot as part of the Young Eagles program. I was fortunately to get to sit in the right seat of the Piper Cherokee and even allowed to fly the plane for a few mins. I loved flying.

Over the next several years, I drew pictures of airplanes, studied aerodynamics, and ready books and magazines on flying. Realizing I was too young to start flying lessons, I turned my attention to models and really wanted to build a Radio Controlled airplane. I read books and browsed catalogs of kits and parts. I loved airplanes.

I never got a radio controlled plane and never started flying lessons as soon as I was old enough. Both seemed out of reach due to the cost. I put the idea of flying away and focused more on what was in front of me.

When I started working at UPS, I learned that they hired from within for all positions, including their pilots. At bid time, I could bid to become an UPS pilot and they would pay for all of the training. I was excited! My dream as a kid to become a pilot could finally happen! Unfortunately I didn’t get it and was moved to an early morning shift, which ultimately led to my immature departure. While working early mornings, I had started the shipping associate job and was attending school. I over slept one morning and my supervisor at UPS called and asked if I was coming in. Half a sleep, I told him ‘no’ and he said to not worry about coming back.  I was young and dumb; and messed up my chances at UPS. I wanted to fly.

While working as a shipping associate, the company sold fiberglass, resins, glues, and etc. to several DFW aerospace companies. I was fascinated at how the companies used our products to make their aircraft. I would occasionally go with a delivery driver to one of the aerospace companies and wish I could just walk around admiring and watching aircraft being made. I began researching planes and flying lessons again, but didn’t have the income for either. I wanted to fly.

Several years later, while on field training at DPD, I had the opportunity to fly a shift in the Dallas PD helicopter. It was amazing! I was so excited and decided I wanted to pursue that as my career in DPD. I started researching helicopter flight schools. Being a newlywed and trying to establish ourselves, helicopter flight school was a little out of reach at that time.  Ultimately I left DPD. I loved flying.

A couple years later, while working as a Police Technology Specialist, Arlington PD purchased an unmanned helicopter. I was really excited and wanted to put my hands on it and be a part of the team that flew it. Arlington was working with the FAA on developing rules for flying the aircraft. One rule that was determined was the pilots of the aircraft needed to have a pilots license.  This was my chance! I decided, with the support of my wife, to pursue getting my license to be able to fly the unmanned aircraft. I got so far as to start flight school. I had a few hours of ground school and 2 hours of flight time. I wanted to do more, but the cost quickly caught up with me as I was attempting to finish my degree and purchasing a house. I loved flying!

Continued on Run Up (part 2)

Pre-flight Career

 

I have been very fortunate to have been able to grow up working with technology. Starting at a young age, I was building small websites and my own computers. This led to several computer related jobs that I didn’t have to work hard for, but paid well and kept me employed.

Here is a timeline of those jobs: Continue reading “Pre-flight Career”