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Old 07-30-2018, 10:28 AM   #11  
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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.
Wow, your situation sounds VERY similar to mine, it's almost eerie.

I am just a few years older than you (28), also working for Corporate America as a Reliability Engineer for a major Aviation/Power/Oil&Gas company... I have had my current job for almost 3 years and before that worked for a Jet Engine OEM and spent a few years as a Field Service Engineer supporting an ATL-based airline down at Hartsfield Jackson.

Well, all of that was exciting at first, money is a non-issue and my current lifestyle is quite comfortable. My wife and I are able to travel, go out and have fun whenever we want to, but the routine and lack of long term exciting perspectives with this career are taking their toll on me. Just like you, work-life balance is very important to me and from what I have seen so far, this doesn't seem quite compatible with the cubicle world and the natural progression of an engineering career going into higher roles.

My longtime desire of a flying career is finally catching up to me, and with the current hiring environment, I am very much in a 'now or never' mindset. Like others have mentioned, if for any reason things don't work out flying-wise, the degree and engineering career will be a guaranteed back-up.

I passed my Instrument checkride a month ago and am going for the Commercial in a week or so. CFI will be next in October and hoping to pull the trigger on the career switch by the end of the year / early 2019.

All the best with your decisions. I would absolutely recommend you go for it and don't look back. You have the support of your family, are debt free and have a solid back-up. You wouldn't want to wonder "What if?" in a few years.
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Old 07-30-2018, 11:04 AM   #12  
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Wow, your situation sounds VERY similar to mine, it's almost eerie.

I am just a few years older than you (28), also working for Corporate America as a Reliability Engineer for a major Aviation/Power/Oil&Gas company... I have had my current job for almost 3 years and before that worked for a Jet Engine OEM and spent a few years as a Field Service Engineer supporting an ATL-based airline down at Hartsfield Jackson.

Well, all of that was exciting at first, money is a non-issue and my current lifestyle is quite comfortable. My wife and I are able to travel, go out and have fun whenever we want to, but the routine and lack of long term exciting perspectives with this career are taking their toll on me. Just like you, work-life balance is very important to me and from what I have seen so far, this doesn't seem quite compatible with the cubicle world and the natural progression of an engineering career going into higher roles.

My longtime desire of a flying career is finally catching up to me, and with the current hiring environment, I am very much in a 'now or never' mindset. Like others have mentioned, if for any reason things don't work out flying-wise, the degree and engineering career will be a guaranteed back-up.

I passed my Instrument checkride a month ago and am going for the Commercial in a week or so. CFI will be next in October and hoping to pull the trigger on the career switch by the end of the year / early 2019.

All the best with your decisions. I would absolutely recommend you go for it and don't look back. You have the support of your family, are debt free and have a solid back-up. You wouldn't want to wonder "What if?" in a few years.
That's great! Your description of the engineering career are spot on. It's amazing how many engineers I have met who share the same sentiment. I met a guy who was a Boeing Flight Test Engineer - actually had a pretty cool job. He hated it - long hours, working weekends, etc. Made the switch to flying and he seems to love it.

I wish I could get it all done this year, but I'm cash flowing it about as quick as I can right now.

You just don't know what to expect until you've done it I guess. Who knows, I might make the switch and find that I don't want to live in a crash pad anymore lol.
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Old 07-30-2018, 11:17 AM   #13  
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That's great! Your description of the engineering career are spot on. It's amazing how many engineers I have met who share the same sentiment. I met a guy who was a Boeing Flight Test Engineer - actually had a pretty cool job. He hated it - long hours, working weekends, etc. Made the switch to flying and he seems to love it.

I wish I could get it all done this year, but I'm cash flowing it about as quick as I can right now.

You just don't know what to expect until you've done it I guess. Who knows, I might make the switch and find that I don't want to live in a crash pad anymore lol.
It seems to be a re-occurring theme indeed. There have been a lot of lay-offs at my company over the past year or so, and people are starting to leave voluntarily to pursue other things. Friends from college are leaving the corporate world to pursue their passions. Perhaps it sounds cliche, but I think that's great. Just like you said, you won't know for sure until you try for yourself. The worse that can happen is you realize that the lifestyle is not for you and then decide to revert back to your original career plans. It's not that terrible and you will at least have learned something valuable along the way. Financial loss? Sure, but that's not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.

And yeah, I'm also financing flight training through my job... I hear you, it takes time and dedication. I've been saving a bunch for the last couple of years and I'm about done now. Keep it up, you're almost there.
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Old 07-30-2018, 11:37 AM   #14  
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Flying a plane is exactly like being in a cubicle, it just moves.

GF
Ah, but therein lies the magic of flight. When I exited my “cubicle”, I was .... elsewhere. Saw a good chunk of the world on the company’s dime, and the view enroute was better than IMAX.
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Old 07-30-2018, 11:44 AM   #15  
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Ah, but therein lies the magic of flight. When I exited my “cubicle”, I was .... elsewhere. Saw a good chunk of the world on the company’s dime, and the view enroute was better than IMAX.
Ha...no kidding. I'll tell ya...10 hours a day in a cube will make you go mental.
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Old 07-30-2018, 11:46 AM   #16  
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It seems to be a re-occurring theme indeed. There have been a lot of lay-offs at my company over the past year or so, and people are starting to leave voluntarily to pursue other things. Friends from college are leaving the corporate world to pursue their passions. Perhaps it sounds cliche, but I think that's great. Just like you said, you won't know for sure until you try for yourself. The worse that can happen is you realize that the lifestyle is not for you and then decide to revert back to your original career plans. It's not that terrible and you will at least have learned something valuable along the way. Financial loss? Sure, but that's not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.

And yeah, I'm also financing flight training through my job... I hear you, it takes time and dedication. I've been saving a bunch for the last couple of years and I'm about done now. Keep it up, you're almost there.
Thanks for the feedback. Much appreciated. Best of luck to you!
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Old 07-30-2018, 02:06 PM   #17  
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Ah, but therein lies the magic of flight. When I exited my “cubicle”, I was .... elsewhere. Saw a good chunk of the world on the company’s dime, and the view enroute was better than IMAX.
Very true, Tom, but happiness doesn’t come from a job, it comes from your personality.

GF
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Old 07-30-2018, 02:21 PM   #18  
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Very true, Tom, but happiness doesn’t come from a job, it comes from your personality.

GF
Well I've got a great personality man. I'm happy as a lark.
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Old 07-30-2018, 04:06 PM   #19  
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To the OP:

Yours is a common theme, and you'd probably be a good fit.

Your timing is quite fortunate, as the airline pilot demographics dictate massive turnover and hiring over the next 10-15 years. Many folks have made the jump when conditions were nowhere near as favorable (and some regretted it).

That said, the industry is cyclical with the economy(and vulnerable to random events like 9/11) and few people complete a career without any speedbumps or detours. If you go down this road, be prepared for that. Although the pilot shortage will likely get so bad that furloughs may well be mitigated or rare even in a modest economic downturn. Once you get above 80% seniority at most major airlines you should be relatively "furlough proof", and bankruptcy liquidations will likely be rare or unheard of among the top carriers for the forseeable future (they're too big to fail now).
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Old 07-30-2018, 04:56 PM   #20  
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Excuse my cynicism after 40+ years of flying—I loved every minute, but I doubt my wife did nearly as much. Too many missed holidays, missed planned evenings, etc. I visited 70+ countries, have innumerable stories, friends and memories. Great, but I also lost my airline career to bankruptcy, 14 friends in flying accidents, 5 jobs changes with a couple of retching career changes. Just about nothing worked out as I planned and I’m still proud of my career.

Right now there’s never been a better future for pilots in the past 60 years, but that thought that in 1965 when the last shortage happened.

Good luck, enjoy the journey, if not all the possible outcomes.

GF
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