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Old 07-30-2018, 08:30 AM   #1  
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Joined APC: May 2014
Posts: 35
Question Mechanical Engineer to Pilot

Hey guys,

This thread will likely be a bit long, but I'd like to provide as much background info as possible. Bear with me. I really appreciate those of you who take the time to read and respond to this thread.

I've lurked around this forum for a few years. Read a ton of career change (or potential career change) threads. There seems to be a lot of folks here who really discourage any sort of flying career. I tend to walk away from here fairly discouraged.

I am 24 years old, graduated with my mechanical engineering degree and currently work for a large Aerospace company as a Materials Engineer. My original intent was to do Air Force ROTC while attending engineering school. Unfortunately, I discovered quite early on that this was not going to be an option because of my asthma. So the military option was off the table, but I continued to pursue and obtain my mechanical engineering degree. Please note, that obtaining a first class medical is of no issue for me (I have already consulted several AMEs). Since graduating I have obtained my PPL and Instrument rating. I am currently working on my Commercial rating. The goal is to have the CSEL/CMEL done this year and CFI sometime next year. I have NO DEBT - this is all being cash flowed from my engineering job and from some of my wife's job. I have no intention of taking any loans out. I do have the benefit of co-owning a Cherokee 140 with my dad, which has saved a good bit of money.

Long story short, I've started to second guess the engineering career. I'm really struggling to come to terms with sitting in a cubicle for the next 40 years. Large corporations are becoming less and less employee centric (e.g. the days of pensions are long gone). I've been through one furlough, countless layoffs, etc. I have good job security considering I am at the bottom of the payscale ha! I'm "required" to work overtime - I typically work 45-46 hours a week, which isn't horrible, but it does add up when I am trying to get through my ratings. I am paid well for a 24 year old and I do get to be home every night. I know some of you might be thinking, "hmm this sounds like the airlines". The sad thing about this job is that I see so many guys in their 40s/50s who are just totally miserable, but are working a job to support their families. I'm doing my best to NOT be in this position.

Engineering has the benefit of having a great starting salary, but it becomes rather stagnant after a while. Like most traditional jobs, as you gain experience and move up the ladder you are required to work more. Long hours, working 6-7 days a week, minimal time off. This is one of my primary concerns with respect to the engineering career. I do value time with my wife and someday my future family.

For several years now I have been seriously considering a flying career. I've put a lot of thought/research into it and have worked hard to chip away at my ratings and do it debt free. I've made an effort to talk to as many pilots about their experiences, family life, etc. I have several very good friends (all quite a bit older than me) who fly for the airlines. Quite frankly, it has always been very positive. Interestingly enough, I've ran into quite a few engineers who left the engineering field to go fly. I've yet to find one who regretted the switch, which has been very encouraging for someone like me. I really value the opinion of those who have experienced both a desk job and a flying job. I've found a lot of pilots have only ever worked a flying job, so it can be hard for them to relate to a desk job. That isn't to say I don't value those opinions.

I am married - my wife is very supportive of whatever career path I may choose. She grew up in Alaska and her dad worked a 2 week on, 2 week off schedule (oil field). Her mom was in the Coast Guard and traveled as a psychologist as well. So she is used to people being gone. This doesn't seem to be a worry for her. We have no intention of having any kids for probably another 6-8 years.

The one thing I really find value in with a flying career is the time off and quality time with family. This sentiment has been shared by virtually every airline pilot I have talked with. When your home your home. If I continue with an engineering career (especially if I pursued management or other roles), quality time with family can become very sparse despite being home every night. Working 50+ hour weeks, 6+ days a week, etc takes a toll on a family as well.

So I'm slowly closing in on the point where I will have to decide if I want to make the jump or not. It is not an easy decision and it is filled with a lot of unknowns and potential risk (like most life decisions I guess). I'm looking for as much constructive feedback as I can get. I am always willing to have a phone conversation as well to get more perspective (I just had a phone conversation with my old CFI who is working at Compass - this was a very helpful and constructive conversation). I'm not opposed to sticking with an engineering career, but it will require some drastic changes if I am going to continue on with it (maybe a different company, position, etc). Flight Test Engineering may be an option down the road as well (I assume I would need some turbine experience). I'd like to give flying a shot, but if it is really the nightmare that so many make it out to be on here, then maybe I am better off in the ole dusty cube.
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