General Question

derekpaperscissors's avatar

How do I become a pilot?

Asked by derekpaperscissors (626points) February 14th, 2010

I’m very interested and curious to pursue piloting as a career. I love to travel to meet new places and locals, and I’m a very hands-on person. I like to try new stuff a lot, and am not afraid of the risk that some experiences entail. I think being a pilot would fit nicely to my lifestyle.

What are the requirements to be one? And how would it cost?
How can i convince my parents, or earn enough money for myself to afford pilot training?
How’s the job market like?
What’s it like to be a pilot?

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21 Answers

tragiclikebowie's avatar

Well, first off, how is your vision?

Pretty_Lilly's avatar

Most professional pilots got started in the military ! You’ll be hard pressed to find a pilot who did not served in the military.

derekpaperscissors's avatar

@tragiclikebowie pretty good, haven’t had any problems with that.

Bugabear's avatar

This is how. It’s the kind of job that requires dedication. You have to want it more than anything in the world. It’s a slippery slope. Getting some sort of military training helps.

Shuttle128's avatar

Definitely look into starting off with Military. My father tried getting into flying through private lessons and basically got stuck in the flight instructor vortex. What happens is that you need to get lots of flying hours but you also need to pay for rented aircraft so you become a flight instructor to get experience and enough money to pay for your flights at the same time. The problem is that flight instructors are not usually in high demand. He ended up leaving piloting for carpentry since there was no money in flight instructing.

Arp's avatar

Being a pilot is also a very expensive job/hobby. You have to be able to afford lessons, your licensing, and the actual fuel and plane. I agree that starting with the military is the best way to go, though.

Judi's avatar

I have known a lot of pilots. It is not as glamorious as it seems.
Most of them spend years as starving flight instructors trying to get enough hours to get hired to fly and get rated indifferent types of planes. It takes luck and being at the right place at the right time along with skill and hours to get the good gigs.
In the end, they often feel like a bus driver.
The military might be a way to get hours in higher rated planes faster.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Military or undergrad degree in aviation

simone54's avatar

You fly a plane.

lilikoi's avatar

I have been looking into this recently myself. I like to travel also, experience new places, people, and likewise am a very hands-on person, a craftsman personality for sure. What you say about trying new things and risk also apply to me.

You need to go to flight school and get your certifications, clock your hours. It costs, according to my research thus far ~$20k. You also need to have a bachelor’s degree to be competitive. Many people, myself included, agree that pursuing a degree in a field not related to aviation is the best way to go as aviation is not a stable field to be in and this degree will provide you with a “Plan B”. I have a degree in mechanical engineering, which people have told me would make me a more competitive pilot candidate. Mechanical engineering is very broad, and you could get many different (well paying, professional) jobs with a BSME, yet what you learn is also relevant to aviation.

A lot of people join the military to learn to fly. This way, the government foots the bill for your training, and you can accumulate hours on the job. They require something like 7 years of commitment from you after training. The other alternative is to fund it yourself. I’ve found maybe one scholarship that I’d be eligible for. The best way to do it is to pay as you go, rather than pay everything up front. You could work part time on the side.

The job market is not good when the economy is down – no one is hiring right now. The field sounds very competitive. You have to work at a regional airlines before even considering a position at one of the majors. Starting pay is less than it costs to become qualified for the position. There can be hundreds of qualified applicants for a single pilot job, and only one will get the position. The others are forced to teach flying (which does not sound like fun to me at all) or rely on their “Plan B” until a new opportunity comes along – which could take years. After you get on a regional, it could take years after you’re qualified to actually get a job in the majors. There is just more pilot supply than there is demand. Everything in the commercial airline industry is done by seniority so it is important to get into the field as early as possible. This also causes a major drawback, unique to the airlines industry, in which whenever you start at a new company, you are placed at the bottom of the ladder regardless of experience. That’s why most pilots stick with their company for their entire career.

Another option is to become a corporate pilot or consider flying for USDA, NOAA, or something like that, or flying helicopters. I am currently looking for info on this.

The following sites have been very informative to me over the last few weeks:
(they keep track of furloughs, hiring, and have other info)
(lots of people have asked the questions you’re asking here)
(here is a forum that active pilots seem to frequent)
(documentary about recent regional plane crash and what a pilot’s life is like – everything the pilots that are interviewed say about hours worked and salary are true according to my research thus far)
(some other ideas of what people like us can do for a living)
(more discussion about careers and people like us – browse forum for more info)

For me it is hard to justify taking on massive debt for such a low starting wage in an industry that is so unstable when I have virtually no debt from the BSME degree and was making several times what starting pilots make working as an engineer. Still, I admit I haven’t been able to cross “pilot” off my list of potential new careers – it does sound like an interesting lifestyle and a fun job in many respects.

lilikoi's avatar

Vision has to be correctable to 20/20, which is usually possible in this day and age. You have to pass a routine physical. There is no height limit or minimum.

Judi's avatar

Just as a side note, most pilots are jealous of us because we own a nice plane.
A better plan might be to choose a career in a field that will allow you to fly for the love of flying instead of as a career.
Most flight schools will let you do an intro flight for $50 to $100 just to see if you like it. They will let you take control and fly it. They will also answer your questions about flying as a career.

Cruiser's avatar

Pilots right now are a dime a dozen. How bad do you want to get paid to fly is the question…Be prepared to fly private or overseas…

lilikoi's avatar

The flight school may answer questions about flying as a career, but I wouldn’t solely rely on them for your information. They have a vested interest in persuading you to attend flight school, after all. But taking an intro flight to gauge your interest is a good idea. I plan on doing this soon myself.

Yeah, it sounds like (from what I’ve been reading on forums) that pilots fly because they are passionate about flying like they are passionate about nothing else. It sounds like they would be willing to fly for free if they had to.

Judi's avatar

they even have “will fly for food” t shirts.

Irishmar's avatar

Take swimming lessons

ucme's avatar

Ask Frank Abagnale.

Broken_Arrow's avatar

Spread your wings and fly.

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