The Career Advisor
I am a 33-year-old Navy veteran. I earned my private certificate about a year and a half ago and now I am enrolled in an aeronautical science/professional pilot program. At my age am I going to be a marketable pilot that airlines would want to hire? Is it going to take me five years to make a $50,000 salary or am I just spinning my wheels with this pipe dream? Would it be a wise idea to stay at a regional making the $60,000 to $75,000 a year cap that they have to ensure some stability?
- Aris from New York
A: A very important strategy at this time for anyone thinking about a flying career is this: go slowly. The airlines are expected to lose
$9 billion worldwide this year. The executive officer of the International Air Transport Association said, "This is the most difficult situation that the industry has faced." To forge ahead blindly, assuming heavy training expenses with the hopes of getting hired quickly by a regional airline or corporate operator, is very shortsighted and financially dangerous.
The question about age has a fairly simple answer: yes. Previous articles have addressed the issue (see "Career Pilot: The Career Advisor," October 2007 AOPA Flight Training).
As far as staying at a regional airline as the top rung on your career ladder, that depends totally on the carrier. Some airlines like SkyWest and the Republic companies (Chautauqua, Shuttle America, Republic, and Midwest) seem to treat their employees very well. Others were losing up to 60 pilots monthly a few years back (when there were other airlines to go to) because the pilots were fed up with the way they were being mistreated. Many just bailed out of the industry because they could not take the lifestyle anymore.
Making $50,000 in five years? I would not bet on it today. That is captain's pay, not first officer pay. If hired by a regional airline, you could be in that right seat for a few years at $35,000 or so annually.
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