Jump to content

Flight training

Recommended Posts

Ok, this was taken off of APC forums, this is geared toward the fixed wing industry. It is kind of long, but very interesting. I am very familiar with how things work in the fixed-wing world career wise, and training wise. But can anyone tell me how this might affect the helicopter industry. Is the helicopter industry something a non-military person can get into and make it anymore? I know it is very expensive, and I know you have to pay your dues. But, how hard is it really, and if you have a passion for flying helicopters, can you still make it to the offshore jobs or the EMS jobs? Or is it just a waste of money period?




A Crisis in Flight Training

I just spent a day at Delta Connection Academy (DCA) listening to industry experts discuss the state of airline flying and the industry training programs that feed the profession.



The big questions raised at the round-table conference centered around what DCA, which sponsored the event, said was a coming shortage of pilots. Many furloughed pilots have been out of the cockpit for more than five years, and many of those pilots say that they don’t plan on coming back to an airline job. On top of that, training providers across the industry say that business is off. Several said during the conference that nobody believes there will be enough new pilots to fill the seats on regional airliners even in a couple of years.


The coming shortage--of pilots and students--is based on a number of factors, some of which are frightening to the training providers because there’s very little they can do about them.



Perhaps the biggest factor is the drying up of financing to prospective students. Many students who want to fly—and DCA says that it’s getting as many applications as ever—simply can’t get loans. DCA’s Jason Dauderman says that the company’s loan application acceptance rate is down to about 30 percent, and the amount of the loans that lenders approve has decreased, as well.


Part of why it’s harder for students to get loans is because of the sub-prime mortgage crisis that caused a worldwide recession. The same thing happened with student loans, as you might know, as the sub-prime market spread into the student loan market, with lenders okaying loans to inumerable students who had poor credit, poor academic records, and little prospects of paying off the loans. As a result, Sallie Mae, the private lending company, is writing off a billion dollars of bad student loans. Long story short, the crisis in student loans prompted many lenders to leave the student loan market altogether.



While the biggest reason that many lenders have fled the aviation student loan market is related to the financial crisis, the recession has made it harder than ever for students to pay off their loans, which are typically between $100,000 and $200,000 per student, if the entire two-to-four-year education is financed. And there's little chance of those costs coming down. Flight instruction, as Dauderman pointed out, is an expensive proposition. We as pilots understand that all too well.



And when lenders look at the risk, they see some big question marks. Will the student actually be able to earn their ratings? Some do wash out. And if they're successful, will they be able to land a job and be able to pay off their loans? And if they do wind up in the right seat of an airliner, will they be able to pay off those loans on the $18,000 annual salary they might earn for starters? Of course not.



And if Congress has its way, we might be looking at the need for first officers to have an ATP, a requirement that will add tens of thousands of dollars to these students' debt, making it more difficult for students to get loans and for school to attract young people to their programs. For the record, no one at the conference thought the right-seat ATP provision would improve safety.



Perhaps the most troubling question raised at the event was whether airline flying was a profession that any young person should pursue. One attendee, a bright young many who got his ratings at DCA and now flies left seat in an AirBus for JetBlue said that he loves his job and still backs the profession. But he admitted on numerous occasions that there were big factors--chiefly economic ones--that should give any prospective student pause.



Would I advise my kids to become airline pilots? As much as I love flying, in this day and age, it would be hard advice to give unless conditions changed substantially.



One thing has to happen. The airlines need to start paying starting pilots more money, a lot more money. A starting salary of $30,000 would go a long way toward making the transition to professional life if not attractive, then at least survivable, though barely. Starting teachers in almost every state make more. And there’s no doubt that the airlines should start subsidizing training a great deal more than they already do. Today their subsidies consist largely of partnerships with training academies to give jobs to their graduating students, a good marketing approach but one that does nothing to help students cut their indebtedness. Why not have the airlines foot part of the training bill? It would be to everyone’s advantage, especially theirs. After all, they're the ones who need the pilots.


And it's not all the regional airlines' fault. The major airlines share much of the blame. After all, they're the ones who on a daily basis squeeze their regional partners to cut costs--especially labor costs--to the bone, and then some.

And schools need to start pre-qualifying students, helping to ensure that those who can get loans have what it takes to get their ratings. That's a tough thing to do when times are hard. To be sure, some schools view a "qualified" student as one who can get a loan, as opposed to one who has the right stuff to fly an airliner. That kind of cynical view isn't fair to anybody.


Right now schools are doing a lot of selling from the point of view that pilots will need to make a sacrifice to get into the profession. (That's also talking point number one for the Regional Airline Association.) The truth is, that's the absolute truth. And it just might pay off for those pilots in the long run. I for one sure hope so,


But as it stands today, the sacrifice is just too much, far too much, to ask.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Again, sorry for the long post. I do have some other questions too relating to the topic. In the fixed-wing world you have so many known companies to try and fly for, airlines for one. What about the helicopter industry? I have had people tell me, "oh you dont need to fly helicopters, there are no jobs, your competition with military pilots will not last". Well, I would be going up against fighter pilots, and cargo pilots in the fixed-wing world. Just how bad is it trying to find a job? Even after you have 1000, 1500, or even 5000 hours, how hard is it? I am not trying to sound lazy, when I say hard I mean, is it just about impossible? I know I will have to go around, apply, network, etc.. And that is not a big deal, but I am just trying to make sure that I am not just going to spend 70K on a hobby...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

First of all the military is not training pilots in the numbers they were during the Viet Nam war. Proof of that is the fact that the military is hiring contractors to do support work in both FW and Helicopters. During Viet Nam aviation contracts were few and far between. There were a few but they were for the most part into and out of the country. And Air America doesn't count as they were property of a government agency. Plus they are using the Guard and Reserves well beyond the degree they were used in VN.


Next the military has increased the service commitment after flight training to the point where it is almost not worth it to leave before your 20 years are up. After VN when military flight training slowed way down, the airlines and other companies start hiring a larger percentage of civilian only pilots. Up to this point it was uncommon to see a civilian pilot being hired by the airlines. And the airlines found that they liked what saw in these civilian only pilot.


As for the ATP requirement. Most airlines require that a new pilot have an ATP or meet the requirements. In real life, they require the ATP. The regionals are a different story. They will accept lower times because they will pay starting pilots a reasonable wage. And higher time pilots will not put up with the BS.


If you paid for the time to get the ATP on your own, yes it would cost many thousands of $. But you defeat the purpose of the time requirements. Most pilots build up their time to ATP requirements by flight instructing and charter, etc. And will also require you to be quite instrument proficient. The ATP checkride and the Part 135 .293/.297 checkrides are almost exactly the same, except the 135 checkride has a couple more requirements.


I understand your concerns. You need to learn more about what is going on and make a decision based on what is best for you.


Good luck.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Look a flight school business is getting students to come to school, its no different that what colleges do in general. Now we know going to College is not cheap, it never was. Nor is learning to fly Cheap, it never was. Now you have to look at what the job as a pilot really pays and what you really have to do the get to the point were you can get one of those jobs.


Flight Schools have been talking about the Great Pilot shortage since Christ was a Corporal. The simple fact of the matter is that there was never a shortage of pilots, not for airplanes not for helicopters. When I started flying back in the mid 70's the times were tough as they are now. Jobs were hard to come by then as now, the difference is that well my certificates are 35 years old now vs new then. It dose not matter much, not worth a cup of coffee when you really get down to it.


This is not to say you should not become a pilot and fly for a living, The flying for a living part is going to be the hard part, going to flight school is easy all you have to do is just show up with a check book. The problem is going and borrowing money for it, for a while there was a bubble in fight training because people were able to get loans for it, never mind about paying it back, nobody cared that much about it and flight schools were cranking out pilots for both airplanes and helicopters in droves and well those new pilots were able to get jobs at flight schools to build time to get real jobs, ie like a fixed wing friend of mine, he started out at a Pilot Mill for Indian students in CA and was able to get on a Regional back in Dec 2007 last of the hires. Spent most all of 2008 in ground school of one kind or another. Started in Beech 1900's and after a month on the line, they canned the 1900's and since he did a type on his own in CRJ they sent him to CRJ ground school and well he is flying one now. All well and fine, he got a pay raise, his first one, he went from 19 an hour to just a about 23 an hour, the max flight time he can fly in a year is 1000 hours under part 121. So here is a college grad, been flying for four years and then some now making what amounts to 4 dollars an hour if you look at the amount of time spent at work vs what he is paid for, flight time only. Most legs he flies are 20 to 40 min. And he is looking at a lay off soon. Ok no problem he has jet time now, well yes, and so just about every one in his age group that flies airplanes. Its not going to be worth much. I will not go into the amount of debt he took on to become a pilot, and now an airline pilot.


I was offered a job with such an airline, back in 2008. I was 53 at the time and guess what with 22 times the flight time in the interview group I was in and it was worth just 19 an hour and I would have to live in Chicago. I am to old to do the frat thing with regard to a place to live. I passed. The pilot board and the DO could not get over the fact that I said no, they needed guys like me to keep the young wet capts out of trouble. I could not afford to work for them. To do so would have just enabled them more. And as for me, I would just do some I really didn't want to do for a rate of pay that would put me on food stamps. And still not have anything to show for it down the road. Its one thing to put up with it for a while when you are 26 because there is always the chance to move on and up at that age, no so for a 53 year old.


You need to do a lot of looking at it, and ask a lot of questions, and for your economic well being you have to look at what it really pays and where your income is going to be in 10 or 15 years vs what its going to take money wise to get to that point. For the most part, flying dose not pay very much, yes there are jobs that do pay very very well, guys that get those seats tend not to ever leave. That is the hard fact of it, but flying is so much fun and so addictive and that is the hook. In good times you may be only compeating with 5 or 6 guys for the seat, in times like now it can be 20 or 30 guys. That is the issue of the matter. In an economic down turn, the first ones to feel the pain is people in aviation and the last group to recover is aviation when a economic recovery occurs.


I learned to fly at a time when inflation and interest rates were at all time highs. What I thought it would be vs what it really was 180 degrees apart. Sure I had great years and I had some rotten years, mostly its been a thankless proposition. But flying is such a rush, and well the view is great. Never mind that most every pilot I know, will have a lot less at retirement or loss of medical than they thought they would and that even goes for a few I know that flown for some of the Major carriers.


I can't tell you what to do or what not to do, its not my place. Nor would I want to. Flying can be rewarding you get to see and do stuff you never though you would do. Don't expect much, the pay will be what it is. And for your personal economics don't borrow any money for it at all, pay as you go, it will take you a little while longer, but the advantage you will have is being able to get by on the pay that will be offered. Its going to be years before the Aviation sector recovers, so its not going to hurt you if you take the pay as you go route.


I would suggest that you go to College and get a Degree in something that you can really make a living at as something to fall back on. No matter what any one says its a tough road to go down. Good luck to you.

Edited by gmsemel
Link to comment
Share on other sites

wannabe87 Posted Today, 06:33

I know it is very expensive, and I know you have to pay your dues. But, how hard is it really


This seems to be the hardest part, finding a way to "pay my dues". It doesn't seem like there are any "pay your dues" jobs in this idustry? At least not for Commercial Pilots. :( Flight instruction is really too important for just 'time building', it leads to a lot of crappy teaching when someone just seems to be 'milking' you for hours. Its happened to me, and it sucks! :angry:


Sorry if this sounds bitter, but I've been pretty bummed lately. It seems I've lost all hope of ever flying for a living. :unsure:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Times are tough to be a flight instructor these days, for a lot of you, you never known tough times. Student starts are way down, its going to take a while to work our way thru that feeding frenzey of a few years back with regard to flight training. for every boom this is a bust. Well welcome to the bust, this one in Aviation is going to last a while a long while. And its not just this sector, till the rest of the economy bounces back guess what aviation and flying is going to be very very flat with regard to jobs and just plain work for those that have a seat. It will end in time, it may take another election and sending a bunch home as the result of that election before improvement is seen. I seen this stuff before if you are over 50 you have, you young guys that have never see a real down turn well its one of the experiences of life. When I started this computer business was just starting I was a Commerical Pilot when Bill Gates was eating cold day old Pizza and sleeping in that Flea Bag Motel in New Mexico. I was a Commerical Pilot and I was flying for money and Bill was sleeping on the floor. Well I had it good for a little bit, but old Bill started something and well you all know what happened to him. I make a little more than I did then, not much more considering. My previous post was not to be negative. Its just telling how it is for pilots, its always a boom or bust kind of thing, one day you are going to be parked on the side of a river full of Red Salmon and you are not going to be flying much and for six weeks you are going to have fishing you would not belive and you will say to yourself gee's they pay me for this? I would do it for free. There will be times like that, to go along with the not so good times. You have to be able to roll with the punches and just take it one day at a time. I learned not to count on anything. In 23 days it will be Deer Season and I am counting the days. The flying will come at some point it always dose.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

While I can't really comment on deer season (other than I was never allowed to ride my horse in November - northern Vermont), I just wanted to throw my .02 in that I'm sorry that there are CFIs out there who are so self-centered that they shortchanged their students with a lack of care and commitment to the future of their own industry. Those first 300 hours apparently became a distant memory too quickly and that's a crystal clear testament to their overall judgment and character as a person, an employee and a PILOT.


Personally, I LOVE teaching. I'm not saying it's all I ever want to do nor that I make a living wage at it (does anyone??) but I clearly remember each step I took in my own training and being able to give that back to someone else AND FLY EVERY DAY is pretty freakin' awesome. I hope I can teach part-time forever because I will enjoy it and I will only have more to offer my students as the years and hours tick by.


Besides, watching my log book grow is like watching paint dry. :P

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank for the replies! Im going respond based on what everyone has said so far. I do agree with you heligirl! I think flight instructing is a VERY important part of your career. Though I really dont think it is for everyone. I have met some flight instructors that have no buisiness in the air. Also, my dad working for the FAA and giving CFI checkrides at one of our local colleges, he has told me some stories about some new flight instructors that will really make you nervous about who is flying over your head. Me myself, I think I would take it as that step you have to do, and I would enjoy it and work very hard at it to make sure my student got everything out of it. I want to work very very hard at everything I do in life, and have always done so. Also, I have some big names to live up to, and personally I dont think flying is one of those things you should short-change yourself on. I am worried that the past airline hiring styles have hurt the industry a lot, and do not ever expect to see it like that again where regionals are hiring guys right out of flight school. Honestly I wouldnt want to see it that way. I just wish there were jobs out there for people that dont want to instruct(I want to instruct, but if someone doesnt want to or have a passion for it than they really shouldnt be doing it) Also, to those of you that think you are being negative on this, dont worry about that. Everyone should have their own opinions, and it isnt going to hurt my feelings any lol. Thats why I posted this, I am hoping to learn as much as I can! It is nice to hear from alllllll sides of the industry. Even though this is geared more towards the fixed-wing industry, I am trying to compare this with the helicopter industry, as that is what I hope to do, become a professional helicopter pilot. I love flying, it is more than a passion to me, and I have grown up in aviation. When I was 6 years old, I told my dad "Dad, when I grow up, I want to be a pilot" and my dad looked at me and said "Well son, you cant do both".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Glad to see some other Deer hunter's here, seems that its another thing with pilots, expensive hobbies like big game hunting and fly fishing. Young lady sorry bout you not being able to ride your horse in November. No matter how you look at it a horse is no white tail deer period, What you said about flight instruction is a very valid point. If you are going to do it, do it well. Its not hard to do. Of course that is easier said than done, when you are spending long full 6 or 7 days a week at the airport and your pay check is barely enough to cover rent never mind food and the other things. That effects a persons job performance too and not just flight instructors. Those that make it thru this tough market are going to be better for it in the long run. All to often we get so rapped up in things that we can't control, and loose out in other avenues. I am looking forward to some venison backstraps. Also glad some of my comments were of some use. 2010 is just around the corner. I think it will be better than 09, but will not know till it gets here. A very slow year, and now its coming into the slowest part of the year for pilots , February is the month to watch. Jobs get posted in late Jan and feb for spring hire. Keep an eye on Christmas shopping Season. FedEx and UPS will report freight loads up or down. Up means people are buying and shipping stuff. A good sign the economy is on the mend.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...