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My Introduction and Some Questions

Old 11-18-2023, 10:10 PM
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Iím sure thousands of people like me have passed through this forum in the same manner I am now. I hope you guys donít mind the same questions youíve heard before being asked here!


Hello! I wanted to ask some questions that have definitely already been asked on here before, but itís always hard to navigate forums with how much is on them now. I hope you donít mind.


Iíll start off with an introduction. Iím Evelyn, Iím a student researcher majoring in Entomology in NJ. Which, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with aviation in the slightest. However, from all Iíve read through, itís better to have a degree in something else youíre interested in in case flying doesnít work out, and any Bachelorís is better than no degree.


Iíve always been surrounded by planes. Unfortunately, never of our own, but my grandfather was a technician for the FAA up until a couple years ago and I always got to go with him on Ďbring your child to work dayí. It was a lot of fun to watch the military/government aircraft come in through his cubicle, which was on the same level with the runway. All I know is it left an impression on me. I finally got to go on my first flight because of him last year, he got us a private C172 flight to see around northern PA. Iíve never flown other than that single time. Recently Iíve been sitting around Newark airport during the week and Philadelphia on the weekends, photographing and just generally just watching planes come in and out.


I donít really know where to start, Iím definitely going to have more questions, but for now I just have some basics since when I tried looking into anything the only forum results I could get were from 2006.


One of my friends (who I should add is NOT a pilot) has told me that flying is miserable, and that the only happy pilot they knew was someone in the military who got all their training paid for and was going on to fly national airline charters.


I donít really want to listen to him.
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Old 11-19-2023, 08:33 AM
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Find a local flight school and schedule a flight or two.
The question is what do you want out of flying?
It is a great job, but may take a while to get to the great job.
It is a great hobby as well.
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Old 11-19-2023, 09:02 AM
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Re: Your friend.

Every group has complainers. Every person gets tired and complains at times. It is human nature.

Complainers are most vocal. People focus on negative times.

Taken as a whole, you will find most professional pilots say the pluses out way the negatives. They say they are pleased with their decision to be a pilot.
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Old 11-19-2023, 09:39 AM
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When I began spraying crops as a teen, entimology was an important part of the studying (and testing) for ag pilots. I've had a fascination with insects ever since.

Many years ago I flew a learjet to pick up 2 pilots for a major freight company. Both military aviators, they had nothing but bad things to say about their employer. At the other end, I dropped them and picked up two more pilots from the same company. Civilian pilots, they had nothing but good things to say about their company. The difference wasn't necessarily their early pipeline (military or civilian), but their views. You'll find positive and negative views throughout the industry, regardless of one's background. One guy loves it, one guy hates it, and many are somewhere in between.

Aviation is on the thinning end of a hiring boom; some of the most active hiring and movement in the history of the industry. A false bubble, this was largely due to the pandemic and the rebound from restricted travel for several years. Hiring is slowing. The kind of hiring and movement that has gone on is not a normal industry cycle. When it slows, opportunities will be less, as they typically are, and they will become more competitive again. Pilots will likely have to do a little more earning their place in the industry, which is to say that it may take a while to move up to whatever kind of job you want.

Is it worth it? Everyone will answer differently, but I can't imagine doing anything else.

If you can't imagine any other future, then chances are, it's for you, too.
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Old 11-19-2023, 02:05 PM
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Sorry, hi everyone! I didn't realize posts were sent through verification, so I didn't get to add my actual questions to the post, since I thought it'd be too long for a single post.

I think that flying would be a very fulfilling career for me; especially if I went into cargo. What is a work year like for a cargo pilot, since I know that specific day-to-day work can switch up at any point? Or maybe itíd be better to ask what a typical week is like?

What do you do while youíre up in the air on autopilot for x hours at a time? Is it downtime? I know you of course have to follow VFR and watch for other aircraft, but how do you pass the time? I figure, if Iím allowed, I could probably just do my entomology research during any of that time, but I donít know anything about flying or the rules around it.

On that note, how could I start learning about flying/how to become a pilot/all the steps? I donít expect to start flying until Iím out of college at 21 (18 now), so Iíd like to know what I should do in the next 3 Ĺ years until then. What might a timeline look like for me after I graduate college (May Ď27). I plan on obviously doing a lot of flightsim flying through then, not that it actually counts towards anything.

I came across this thread, but since it was so old I was worried information has probably significantly changed since it was written. My friend (who again, is not and never has been a pilot) that I mentioned previously has also said that flying is ďbrutal, unsatisfying, and hard to live with,Ē and that it takes a while to get into and doesnít pay well. But, from what Iíve read and looked through on this very forum, flying looks like it pays pretty well.

Is there something Iím not seeing? Something Iím missing? I know flying obviously takes forever to actually get into, I either plan to join the AF/Navy (if I can get over the thought of having to work for the US government) out of college or getting a job with my degree and slowly working towards becoming a pilot in my downtime (entomology has a lot ofÖlong jobs with a lot of downtime).

Heís also said that nothing in aviation (aside from working on planes, which is interesting he says that since heís a car mechanicÖsome sort of bias?) is a good place to be working right now, which seems like a load of ****? Cargo especially seems like a booming industry right now, but Iím sure things will change in the 6 or 7 years until I would actually become a pilot. What do you guys think about the state of the aviation industry and working in it right now?

Just an oddball kinda random question, but what are my chances of flying an MD11, ever? I heard FedEx and UPS are retiring theirs by 2027, when I graduate college, so I don't expect to be able to ever fly them there, but do other cargo airlines fly MD11s? I just like the MD11.

I'm seriously considering joining the Air Force. What should I know about that? Should I enlist in the reserve until I'm out of college? I don't know anything about Air Force or enlisting and how it works while I'm in college now. I'm a freshman now.
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Old 11-19-2023, 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Rama View Post
Find a local flight school and schedule a flight or two.
The question is what do you want out of flying?
It is a great job, but may take a while to get to the great job.
It is a great hobby as well.
I think it would be a great job for me. I completely understand that getting to fly the big ones takes time. I wouldn't mind starting off flying 208s for FedEx or UPS, but maybe I could start in the military? I don't really know how the process works in the first place.
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Old 11-19-2023, 10:25 PM
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The Air National Guard may be a good way to go for you. The unit where I live (Not part of them in any way) Flies fighters, tankers and C-17's. Many work at the airline I fly for.
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Old 11-20-2023, 10:17 AM
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Originally Posted by pinkjacket View Post
What is a work year like for a cargo pilot, since I know that specific day-to-day work can switch up at any point? Or maybe itíd be better to ask what a typical week is like?
Too varied to ask. Most scheduled, Part 121 operators (FedEd, UPS, Airlines) you bid for schedules which are awarded based on seniority. They can be a "day trip" (out and back), 2,3,4,5 day trip then off for a few days. Rinse, repeat. But there are nearly infinate answers to your question.

Originally Posted by pinkjacket View Post
What do you do while youíre up in the air on autopilot for x hours at a time? Is it downtime? I figure, if Iím allowed, I could probably just do my entomology research during any of that time, but I donít know anything about flying or the rules around it.
For legal reasons, pilots converse with each other, stare out the window, or read company material provided on their company approved device. You are not allowed to use a personal entertainment device for non-company work. Besides, by the time you reach a job where youíll be up in the air long enough to even entertain that fantasy, youíll be done with school.

Originally Posted by pinkjacket View Post
On that note, how could I start learning about flying/how to become a pilot/all the steps? I donít expect to start flying until Iím out of college at 21 (18 now), so Iíd like to know what I should do in the next 3 Ĺ years until then. What might a timeline look like for me after I graduate college (May Ď27). I plan on obviously doing a lot of flightsim flying through then, not that it actually counts towards anything.
Join AOPA and subscribe to their Flight Training Magazine, that would be a wealth of information to read over the years. Formulate a plan of how you will pay for flight training (and presumedly also pay off your degree). If you train full time, itís possible to be at the regionals in 2 years.

Originally Posted by pinkjacket View Post
I came across this thread, but since it was so old I was worried information has probably significantly changed since it was written. My friend (who again, is not and never has been a pilot) that I mentioned previously has also said that flying is ďbrutal, unsatisfying, and hard to live with,Ē and that it takes a while to get into and doesnít pay well. But, from what Iíve read and looked through on this very forum, flying looks like it pays pretty well.
As mentioned, people like to complain. It can be brutal, at times, as well as easy, pleasurable, and fun. Most is what you make of it. Some, comes with your decisions, such as do you live in base or do you ďcommuteĒ i.e. You are based in Chicago but live in Texas.

Originally Posted by pinkjacket View Post
Is there something Iím not seeing? Something Iím missing? I know flying obviously takes forever to actually get into, I either plan to join the AF/Navy (if I can get over the thought of having to work for the US government) out of college or getting a job with my degree and slowly working towards becoming a pilot in my downtime (entomology has a lot ofÖlong jobs with a lot of downtime).
It does not take ďforeverĒ, but there is an investment in time that must be made.

Originally Posted by pinkjacket View Post
Heís also said that nothing in aviation (aside from working on planes, which is interesting he says that since heís a car mechanicÖsome sort of bias?) is a good place to be working right now, which seems like a load of ****? Cargo especially seems like a booming industry right now, but Iím sure things will change in the 6 or 7 years until I would actually become a pilot. What do you guys think about the state of the aviation industry and working in it right now?
Aviation is VERY economically driven. There are up cycles and down cycles. Cargo WAS booming and has started a trend of flattening out as UPS asked over 100 pilots to retire early and FedEx is going through a similar process (to state it simply). It is something you need to be aware of, you can (and likely will) be laid off, fired, furloughed, etc. during a 30+ year career.

Originally Posted by pinkjacket View Post
Just an oddball kinda random question, but what are my chances of flying an MD11, ever? I heard FedEx and UPS are retiring theirs by 2027, when I graduate college, so I don't expect to be able to ever fly them there, but do other cargo airlines fly MD11s? I just like the MD11.
Not likely you will get to fly one, but anything is possible.

Originally Posted by pinkjacket View Post
I'm seriously considering joining the Air Force. What should I know about that? Should I enlist in the reserve until I'm out of college? I don't know anything about Air Force or enlisting and how it works while I'm in college now. I'm a freshman now.
Do not enlist prior to finishing your degree. It will likely only make it more challenging to complete your degree. Besides, to fly in the military you need to be a commissioned officer and to do that, you need your degree.
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Old 11-20-2023, 05:41 PM
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Originally Posted by QRH Bingo View Post
Most scheduled, Part 121 operators (FedEd, UPS, Airlines) you bid for schedules which are awarded based on seniority.
Could you elaborate on how this works? The bidding of schedules? Is it daily/monthly/yearly? Are you yourself bidding, or is the company bidding on your behalf? Are you spending your own money to fly for an airline?
Originally Posted by QRH Bingo View Post
...you can (and likely will) be laid off, fired, furloughed, etc. during a 30+ year career.
I expect such from a business so lucrative as aviation. I figure that's why it's good to get my degree in something else (Entomology in my case) so that way when I'm done I can do something else I love just as much.
Originally Posted by QRH Bingo View Post
Do not enlist prior to finishing your degree. It will likely only make it more challenging to complete your degree. Besides, to fly in the military you need to be a commissioned officer and to do that, you need your degree.
I've decided that I don't think I could stomach the morality of joining the military. What might the pathway look like for me to become a regional/cargo (are they separate terms?) airline pilot without joining the military?

I really appreciate everyone's help!
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Old 11-20-2023, 06:49 PM
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Originally Posted by pinkjacket View Post
I've decided that I don't think I could stomach the morality of joining the military.
The morality?

Originally Posted by pinkjacket View Post
Could you elaborate on how this works? The bidding of schedules? Is it daily/monthly/yearly? Are you yourself bidding, or is the company bidding on your behalf? Are you spending your own money to fly for an airline?
There are several ways schedules are awarded on a monthly basis, but generally speaking, an airline releases a list of "lines" of flying, which is a list of schedules. For example, Line 1 might be flying Las Vegas to Los Angeles, on certain days, with a certain amount of flying. Line two might be Dallas to Minneapolis to Philadelphia, with a certain amount of flying, on certain days, and so on. Bidding works by listing the lines you want, in the order you want them. The most senior pilot gets first choice, and so on, in order of seniority (who has been with the airline the longest). These are called bid lines, and the process of "bidding" is submitting a request each month (or at some places, every two months) for the flying and schedule one would like to do. Those who aren't senior to be awarded (or "hold") a line are given reserve lines, waiting to be assigned trips. There are regular lines, which actually have known flying on them (hours, destinations, etc), and reserve lines. There is also open flying, which is flying which doesn't have a crew assigned, that pilots can "bid" on, or put in a request to fly. If a crew or crewmember becomes sick or unavailable or something occurs that needs additional crew, open flying can become available, and some operators award the pay for this over and above the regular salary (salary is called "guarantee," which is a set dollar amount, based on a minimum number of paid flight hours, per month. There is also a term you'll see called "bid line guarantee," which is different: it's the amount of flying a given line holds...so if Line 1 has an anticipated flying time of 90 hours, and minimum guarantee is 70 hours, then Line 1 pays more than one's base salary...pay can get complicated, but lines are basically bidding for the schedule next month that you want).

Bidding isn't actually placing a bid like ebay...one isn't bidding money. It's just a list of your choices for the schedule and flying you hope to do, and you get whatever your level of seniority at the airline, in your position (captain or first officer) in your aircraft (eg, 737, A320, etc) can hold. If you're really senior, you'll get your top choices when you bid. If you're really junior, you get what's left when everyone above you has been awarded their bid lines.

Seniority is how everything works. It begins the day you're hired and start class, when you're given an employee number. You move up the seniority list over time as others retire, die, or quit. You upgrade as your seniority allows; an upgrade means moving up from first officer to captain, and sometimes can also be thought of as moving from one aircraft type to another, if your seniority allows. Bidding is also part of the process of moving to another base (location), aircraft type, or crew assignment (upgrading to captain, for example). You list your bid preferences, and if your seniority allows it, then you'll be given that assignment, subject to any limitations. Sometimes limitations occur as "seat locks" or other restrictions. That might mean, for example that if you've just moved to a position in the company, you can't leave that "seat" or position for six months or a year, or you can't change from one equipment type to another, until you've spent a minimum amount of time in the new job.

The ultimate goal for many is to get a base where they live, so they don't have to commute. Commuting is a necessary evil for many: you may live in Denver but when hired, you get assigned to Los Angeles. You have to find your own way to Los Angeles and your own way home. This is done mostly by "jumpseating," meaning begging rides to get where you want to be. There's a system for requesting rides, but there are few guarantees, and it's still a process of finding one's way to work every few days, the getting home on your own time. If a pilot can get an assignment in his home airport (called a "domicile"), then he or she doesn't need to commute so much. Drive to the airport, drive home. But that can take time to get senior enough to "hold," or be awarded, that domicile or base. Sometimes it means bidding to be in a different kind of equipment...so if you're flying for American Airlines and you live in Phoenix for example, the only equipment that flies out of there is the Airbus. If one is flying a 737, one would need to move to the airbus and bid to get to Phoenix. There are a lot of strategies employed regarding bidding, commuting, etc, that make it a lot more complex than what I'm describing, but this is the gist of how it works.

Originally Posted by pinkjacket View Post
I expect such from a business so lucrative as aviation. I figure that's why it's good to get my degree in something else (Entomology in my case) so that way when I'm done I can do something else I love just as much.
After you've spent enough time in aviation, it can be lucrative, but it may not be quite what you think. The past few years of the pandemic have artificially inflated the need for pilots and have boosted salaries, but historically the early years of aviation have been starvation years. I can very distinctly remember a point earlier in my career, while flying air ambulance, when I was down to two coupons for two weeks, and no money. That amounted to a free half gallon of milk, and a roll of English muffins. That was it for two weeks. I frequently worked two or more jobs at the same time. By the time you get to the regionals now, it's no longer a poverty job, but it very much used to be, with first officer wages well under 10,000, and even today, it's not that uncommon for pilots to make their lunch and carry it on the airplane, at some places. I've been doing this 40 years. I drive a vehicle that's coming up on 280,000 miles. I'll drive it until the wheels come off.

The business can be lucrative, but you're right, it's well to have something upon which to fall back. Furloughs, mergers, bankrupcies, failures, closures, downsizing, economic downturns, and other things can mean sudden changes in employment; those of us who have been around the block a time or two have experienced some, or all of them, many of us several times. As noted above, hiring and aviation in general runs in cycles, historically about ten years, with a high and low every five or so, roughly speaking. Times being what they are, expect the unpredictability to increase, and the timing of the cycles to be evenless predictible. It's good to have something to fall back on with short notice.

When you do flight training, schools will paint a very rosy picture, because their business is not to put you in an airline seat, but to sell you a training seat and an instructor for a few hours, and they'll often tell you anything to get you to buy those few hours. The hardest part of learning to fly is paying for it, but that's not the hardest part of making a career. Today, new pilots have had it easier than most of the history of aviation, but those times are drawing to a close, or at least slowing down. You mentioned cargo; not so long ago, during the pandemic, cargo operators saw international freight move from roughly three dollars a kilogram to twenty-seven dollars a kg, and operators doing runs out of places like Hong Kong and China were seeing 1-2 million dollars per trip (plots weren't seeing that, to be clear). That's over. The best paying places in aviation, and perhaps the best flying jobs in aviation, at FedEx and UPS, are not available, presently, with strike votes and hiring stoppages, and even early retirements. it's not the end, but it's much slower than it has been. Meanwhile domestic freight continues to bustle with online shopping being a big driver. Much of the freight demand during the pandemic was driven by a stoppage of passenger airlines that carried freight in their lower cargo areas; now that passenger airlines or going full tilt, that space is available again, and not as much demand or as much money in cargo. Again, the fate and fortune is complex, but aviaiton is a leading economic indicator; it's the first to see a secreaming success, and the first to fall, and oftne with a razor-thin profit margin. It's often correctly said that the fastest way to make a small fortune in aviation, is to start with a large one. Think about that.

This isn't to discourage you, but it should give you something to think about. Flying airplanes sounds like fun and it is, but you're biting off more than just something to chew; it's a career, and it's a demanding part of your life that may involve some sacrifice, moves, re-arranging your life multiple times to accomodate your job(s), a number of job changes, missing holidays and birthdays and anniversaries, and for some, the classic AIDS (aviation-induced divorce syndrome), a not-uncommon element of many pilot's journey, regardless of gender or background.

As I said before, I couldn't imagine doing anything else (though I've done a lot of "else" along the way). I embraced this career as a teenager and have ridden the wave no matter of flat or angry, for a long time now. All I can say about the future is that it's a lot less predictable than the past. The business tends to shed a lot of people starting out, and those joining the past few years have been very lucky, as have many upgrading their employment or assignment...but the business comes with no guarantees. None, I'd say, other than whatever path you take in this industry, it's guaranteed to be an adventure.
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