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CC268 07-30-2018 08:30 AM

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.

galaxy flyer 07-30-2018 08:37 AM

Unhappy engineers are as common as unhappy pilots, so thereís that. Flying a plane is exactly like being in a cubicle, it just moves.

GF

CC268 07-30-2018 08:58 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by galaxy flyer (Post 2645352)
Unhappy engineers are as common as unhappy pilots, so thereís that. Flying a plane is exactly like being in a cubicle, it just moves.

GF

Thanks for the feedback!

wrxpilot 07-30-2018 09:01 AM

I disagree with Galaxy Flyer. I was also a mechanical engineer, and had many of the same concerns as you. I made the switch to professional aviation about 11 years ago, and absolutely love it. For me, it was the best decision Iíve ever made in my life.

Send me a PM, Iíd be glad to discuss this further with you.

NeoPilott 07-30-2018 09:07 AM

I've been a mechanical engineer for 5 years now and am switching to airlines in a month. If I hate it within a year or two, will simply go back or try CAE instructing/Part 91 flying etc.

I also learned how to program (mainly Python along with financial packages for it such as NumPy and Pandas and Django for web design) and If I ever feel like going back due to lifestyle or any other reasons I will definitely look into IT or financial industry as salaries for most mechanical engineers (and even here in NYC area) suck as compared to people working in IT or finances... The headaches I have to go through on day to day basis are just not worth it. I would rather stare out the window and come up with cool ideas than deal with office BS which gets my heart rate up at 27...

PS. I was contacted recently by Virgin Galactic to work as propulsion engineering in CA just because I have aviation and ME background. There will be always options out there. Just keep learning whatever you do.

Oh and so far at the two companies I worked, most engineers over 40/50 not in management are MISERABLE with anger issues....sad

CC268 07-30-2018 09:09 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by NeoPilott (Post 2645376)
I've been a mechanical engineer for 5 years now and am switching to airlines in a month. If I hate it within a year or two, will simply go back or try CAE instructing/Part 91 etc.

I also learned how to program (mainly Python and financial packages for it such as NumPy and Pandas along with Django for web design) and If I ever feel like going back I will definitely look into IT or financial industry as salaries for most mechanical engineers (and even here in NYC area) suck as compared to people working in IT or finances. The headaches I have to go through on day to day basis are just not worth it. I would rather stare out the window than deal with office BS which gets my heart rate up at 27...

I've often said I really need to learn some programming. I know some basic MATLAB and VBA. IT, especially anything relating to programming is such a valuable skill. Thanks for commenting. Very encouraging to hear from other engineers. Maybe I need to pick up some books on programming and start reading.


Yes, I figure if flying doesn't work out I can probably go back to engineering. Although it does concern me that I won't have any recent experience if I am out of the engineering career for a few years.

JohnBurke 07-30-2018 09:14 AM

A friend is an aeronautical engineer. He used his training and skills regularly. He flies for a living, but also bought his house from doing A&P/IA work on the side, and using his engineering skills, to boot.

Flying requires almost no math, or very little. I'm the poster child for that, a shining monument to math inability. Your training won't have so much benefit in the cockpit as it will your golden parachute should aviation crumble around you (and it will, from those of use who have been merged, sold, furloughed, laid off, and every other routine and common term in the business with which you will become ever so familiar).

Happiness in aviation doesn't come from arriving. It comes from the journey. Quite a few forget that, and arrive to find that they've missed the best part.

CC268 07-30-2018 09:23 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JohnBurke (Post 2645382)
A friend is an aeronautical engineer. He used his training and skills regularly. He flies for a living, but also bought his house from doing A&P/IA work on the side, and using his engineering skills, to boot.

Flying requires almost no math, or very little. I'm the poster child for that, a shining monument to math inability. Your training won't have so much benefit in the cockpit as it will your golden parachute should aviation crumble around you (and it will, from those of use who have been merged, sold, furloughed, laid off, and every other routine and common term in the business with which you will become ever so familiar).

Happiness in aviation doesn't come from arriving. It comes from the journey. Quite a few forget that, and arrive to find that they've missed the best part.

Sounds like fun. I suppose my ultimate goal would be to fly and then maybe have some sort of a business on the side (real estate, something engineering related, etc).

NeoPilott 07-30-2018 09:26 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by CC268 (Post 2645379)
I've often said I really need to learn some programming. I know some basic MATLAB and VBA. IT, especially anything relating to programming is such a valuable skill. Thanks for commenting. Very encouraging to hear from other engineers. Maybe I need to pick up some books on programming and start reading.


Yes, I figure if flying doesn't work out I can probably go back to engineering. Although it does concern me that I won't have any recent experience if I am out of the engineering career for a few years.

I've used courses on udemy.com...cheap and effective!

Agree on recency of experience but if you absolutely hate it I'd assume you will hopefully know it in 1-2 years in which case you will probably have no issues finding another engineering job.

I too have a very supportive wife however I am sure I’ll know fairly quickly if the lifestyle will suite me well.

Also, have you looked into ATC options? FAA just had a window opened few days ago.

CC268 07-30-2018 09:33 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by NeoPilott (Post 2645394)
I've used courses on udemy.com...cheap and effective!

Agree on recency of experience but if you absolutely hate it I'd assume you will hopefully know it in 1-2 years in which case you will probably have no issues finding another engineering job.

I too have a very supportive wife however I am sure Iíll know fairly quickly if the lifestyle will suite me well.

Also, have you looked into ATC options? FAA just had a window opened few days ago.

Oh yea udemy is great. Used udemy to learn Adobe Premiere Pro.

You sound like your in a very similar situation to me. Experiencing the lifestyle will certainly be a determining factor.

I guess I haven't thought about ATC...


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