Would you ever go back after a lengthy break?


Well-Known Member
Wow, this is a really great area of the forum! Career changers- back when I left aviation it was unheard of. I'm guessing this forum is for those considering leaving their regular jobs and going to aviation and those considering leaving aviation and going on to something else.

I guess I'll throw my story out there. Maybe some of you will find some motivation from it that you really can leave and be happy. I can't lie though, finally seeing a real pilot shortage (or at least a shortage of those who are willing to work for such terrible pay and working conditions) is tempting bait to consider returning.

So here is my story.

I started flying back in 1991. I was 20 years old just finishing an Associates degree from community college in an unrelated field. Prior to this I had never even considered flying as a career much less even a hobby. Coming from a blue collar neighborhood, I just assumed you had to be in the military to fly airplanes. I had no idea that civilian flight schools existed at airports, never crossed my mind.

Then one day, a friend of mine from school asked if I wanted to go flying with him and his brother-in-law who was a flight engineer for a commercial cargo carrier, Emery I think. He didn't do a lot of flying as an FE, so when he got the chance he would rent Cessna's to stay current.

Needless to say I was hooked after that and the rest as they say is history. Now I suppose there are some of you I do not have to tell how stagnant the hiring scene was back in the early 90's. Nobody was going anywhere.

So it wasn't until 1995 that I got my first job with a commuter airline. During the time I started flying until the time I got my first job as a commuter airline, I had logged over 1500 hours, received my full ATP in a Piper twin, logged 1200 hours of flight instruction, got my gold seal etc.. and even an MEII etc.. I was put on my flight schools charter certificate and flew the occasional unscheduled 135 cargo run. The rest of my twin time I paid for from some outfit in California where they would pair you up with another guy and you would split the cost. We flew that twin 50 hours in just a short week all over california, nevada, arizona, etc.. The commuter airlines were requiring 200 hours multi back then.

Hiring was really starting to pick up. I was at the commuter for just about 1.5 years and was awarded a captain position. By this time, hiring was in full gear. Some of my primary students were starting to come to the airline that I worked for. Hours were coming down, some had under 500 hours. We were hiring some graduates from a major university with less than 250 hours, they had over the pt 141 190 hours. Some of the people being hired that I flew with had never seen ice.

After a few years as a captain, regional jets were starting to come on to the property.

Anyway, after a while the truth is I started to get bored with the job. This was pre-911. I was getting married, wife was having a baby. I was really starting to hate living out of a suitcase all the time.

After a lot of soul searching, I decided I was going to leave the airlines and go into IT. I started studying. I received my first IT certification while still working for the airlines. I put an application into a large local company and was hired. Now it was real, I was leaving aviation. The job paid $41000 to start with full benefits and the days off normally associated with the working world. This was an IT help-desk job.

In the IT field, at least at the time, you did not get promoted from within in a very quick way. All my significant promotions and pay jumps were from jumping ship. My second certification was Cisco. Right after getting that certification (self study by the way), I jumped ship to a new company as a Network Administrator at $65,000 to start. I'm at 65,000 in less than 1.5 years after leaving the airlines. I stayed at this company for two years and worked my way up to IT manager with a salary of roughly $90,000.

After a while, I jumped ship again. This time for an IT Director job for a medium size Internet Service Provider. This is a $120,000/yr job.

Today, I am self employed in my own company. I've been on my own for 7 years. I have an IT company that that does a variety of things including voice over ip phone systems and reselling servers and storage for a few vendors. Although my company is small, its never been 100% about the money for me, although the money has been helpful in becoming debt free. I love being my own boss. My stress level is pretty low. I'm 43 years old and my blood pressure is good :) I moved to the beach and am enjoying life more than I think I ever could in the airlines.

The one thing that kept me sane through all this? I've always told myself that if I absolutely had to, I could go back. I logged over 5,000 hours of flying time and I figured that must be valuable to someone. But truthfully, although I think it sounds neat to fly one of those fancy jets, I am content to stay doing what I'm doing. I enjoy flying now as a hobby. I make enough money where I own my own small plane and fly for fun and sometimes a little business. The other day I flew an ILS to 500' and I can't remember the last time I actually had to that for real. Although you can get rusty, I find that some things never change and in some ways I'm still pretty good skill wise. Although I might be a little rusty on that ILS, I'm still way ahead of the airplane with good situational awareness and all the tasks completed before needed.

So, would I go back? I think the only way I would ever go back is if there was such a thing as a part-time airline pilot. If I could fly a turbo-prop or jet airliner twice per month, I would do it. But I think the chances of that ever happening are 0.

But it has been quite a journey. If I could offer a piece of advice to any aspiring pilot who might be reading this it would be this. Do NOT get your college degree in flying. You must have a backup plan!
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