So, surely several folks in this community much like myself feel called to become pilots. And I bet there are many on here who are choosing to follow that calling after realizing that they just put four or more years into a degree choice they realized either was not for them, or if it was, it just wasn’t what they thought it was cut up to be. I ran into the reality of the latter: I spent a total of seven years going to music school to become a church organist, and only during and after my Masters degree was completed did I realize the harsh reality of what my degree can actually be used for - nothing. I have a bachelors in music, which can be applied anywhere, and a masters in Sacred music, which only comes in handy for high end church jobs, which are few and far between. The result of this scenario: a never ending struggle to find church work that pays well (I went into this thinking projected salaries were actually accurate, but they are really far from it for most churches), and myself sending random applications to anyone who is paying a living wage, just to pay the bills.
Is this the way to live life? Heck no.
I fell in love with flying in 1994, when I was two. My first flight was an international one, and I was enthralled by every bit of it. I still have a visual memory of it, 24 years later. I wanted to be a pilot all the way till high school, when I decided to become a musician instead. I enjoyed playing piano and organ (still love it just the same today), but had a false notion that it would pay a living wage. Beyond a now non-existent salary guide created by a national association for church music, there was really no basis for this assumption, unfortunately. People said I was great at music too, and that I really should follow that as my career. Grad school was also very discouraging in many ways, as it is for many grad students,
I screwed up in some ways doing this, i benefitted myself in other ways.
Anyway, here I am now, 26, out of one of the best music schools in the country, I have a MM in Sacred music, and I have only seen church jobs paying 15k a year max (if you’re lucky), given you continue to search local (doing this because I am about to marry). How do I make most of my income to pay bills? I’m a ramp agent at Indy International. I get to work around planes up close and personal, which I love, plus it is something that anyone can get. Keep in mind, most of my music degree only works in that particular industry, and that industry just really isn’t where I thought it would be.
After some soul searching during my time away from home at grad school, I decided where my heart actually resided. It was not in music, but in aviation. I knew I wanted to fly, but wanted to be able to pay for all my training before I started. Eventually, I accepted the reality that this was not going to be possible for a very long time, so I just decided to do what I could to see if I would truly enjoy it. I was hooked, needless to say, and still am. The sad part is this: Since then, I have continued to let finances rule this dream. I have continued to tell myself that my dream is impossible, that I will never make it… I have not come up with a plan at all to fulfill this desire of mine - till now.
A few months ago, Indianapolis-based Republic Airlines opened a training academy called LIFT, which I posted about before. It is a 2-3 year program designed to get you from 0-1500 ASAP, and then a guaranteed 5-year contract job with Republic flying the Embraer 170/175 at the conclusion of training and teaching/time-building. The program is $85000, brought down to $65k by Republic. Additionally, you can request loan assistance up to $15k, bringing it down to $50k. They have a loan program set up through US Credit. Students have an option to defer the loan until their time of hire as a pilot, and once you get to that point, your salary will be around $45,000 MINIMUM. Following your captain upgrade, that salary has a potential to double. At the end of your contract, you’ll have logged around 5000-8000 hours, and you very well may be able to pick up a job at mainline making six figures starting at $110k… and it just goes up from there.
Needless to say, loan payments suddenly become easy to pay off. Needless to say, for me, my dream suddenly becomes attainable. Needless to say, everyone’s dream to fly becomes attainable.
The point of this long winded message is that anyone who has that passion and dream to fly can absolutely do so, but sometimes that really means forgetting about the money. If you continue to let money decide what you do, you’ll never do what you want to do, what you are called or meant to do. First, I chose to forget about paying for my private all at once. Now I’m forgetting to pay for my entire career training. The most important thing is to have a means to an end to pay off the debt. But under no circumstance should anyone ever let their current finances determine how they live out their future dreams.
Call me stupid, but I’m considering adding an additional $10k to my loan just to cover what I need for living expenses during my training. It brings my monthly payment up $200, but if it is the difference of now vs. never (because what part time job will pay $20-$25/hr, which is what I need to offset living costs?).
Go out and do what you love. Make a plan, UNDERSTAND the risks, make a backup plan, and then assume all risks and JUMP. It’s gonna be a wild ride, so you might as well live it out!