I'm 29 myself, with about 106 hours, and thinking about banging out the rest of my ratings locally (FBO) while staying out of debt.. One of the biggest hurdles for me is wondering whether or not I'd fit in, or get bored.. Do you feel like you are home often enough? I mean at my office job, I leave the house at 8 and am home by 6 usually.. so that's 50 hours away from home per week. So that's about 217.5 waking hours away from home in a month.. I feel like "awake" hours away from home would be similar if I worked a typical regional airline schedule.. (3.5 days per week away, 56 hours per week) I don't care about being home all the time, I just don't want to feel like I have no home, ya know? Would you recommend it to someone in my position? Decent but boring and at times annoying unfulfilling job (upper level IT Help desk/Network Admin.. 60k a yr about), unmarried, no kids.. I love to fly and travel, but also like my life at home too..(but many of my friends are getting married and having kids which means I'll only ever see them when they need something, or a wedding gift - we know how that goes.. so being home is less of a desire than it was before, my girlfriend is a nurse and she works long and odd hours too so that could be a good match up if anything) Anyway I do appreciate this blog.. It gives a good feel of what life is like as an Airline guy.. I know I have 1200 hours of instructing and/or some other poor paying job now until then, but that's ok as long as I have 0 debt, and if the shortage is real, that will improve the future career prospects... hopefully making it worth the massive investment. I've been on the fence about this for a while, but just couldn't make the leap.. I think the time to finally do it is here.. Advice?
You may think you might not like being gone all the times, but six days on the road living in hotels can get old.
I was 28 while I sitting in a cubicle at an IT company troubleshooting log files when I decided I'd had enough. It was only my second day at the job. Prior I spent 5 years working in the field fixing hardware. I realized I wasn't made for office work. I had weekends and holidays off...making good money....but I wasn't happy.
Getting your training done at an FBO is an excellent choice. Chances are training cost are lower and likely more relaxed than "big flight schools". Being more relaxed has its pros and cons though.
I'm going to assume you don't live near a major airport. Living "in base" increases your quality of life 100%, especially starting out. My airline gives reserves 11 days off a month. Just assume you will have to be in base all but 11 days. If you commute you could easily be down to just 8 days at home. This could go on for years.
Since your girlfriend is a nurse...and you have nothing tying you down....I would strongly suggest moving to base. Nurses can work just about anywhere. Bigger cities (where bases are) likely pay more for nurses. One thing to watch out for is airlines that use "out station" bases. This means being based in Louisville, Columbus, or Dayton. Cities where you would have to two leg commute to get in. Additionally out station bases are much more likely to close than say Chicago, Miami, Atlanta or New York.
Speaking of pay, I left a decent paying IT job. I'm approaching year 7 pay at my airline and will still not make more than when I left my IT job (excluding per diem). When I made the jump to flying I did so with a level head and we prepared for it financially. This year I should clear about $43,000 excluding per diem.
My first two years or so I was on reserve. Since I lived in base I was home a lot. There were times where I was gone for 5 days, but then I was home for 3 to 4 afterwards.
Now in my 6th year I'm home a lot more. For the most part I have 14-15 days off a month. Every now and then I hold 18 days off. It's very nice being able to work when I want to. I've been able to take a week long vacation without using any vacation time by working with my schedule. I'm also able to spend several days in a row being Mr. Mom with my daughter.
As far as the pilot shortage I will say this. There are more pilots leaving my airline than coming in the front door. My airline is a great place to work, but pilots are finding flying jobs at the Majors and elsewhere. Word is 30 are going out the back door and just 6-7 are coming in the front door...every month.
This career is one that, if you stick around long enough, you can make six figures (even at the regionals) and work when you want to.
Additionally you get to travel for free or next to free on just about every airline. I travel standby, but I'm able to see exactly how many paying passengers are on each flight. Before my daughter came along my wife and I would travel almost every week. We'd take day trips to Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C, Minneapolis and more. We took long trips to Cabo San Lucas, Tokyo, Toronto, and Frankfurt. My wife has taken trips by herself to visit family a lot while I was on reserve. Even now with my daughter we travel about once a month.
I think I hit all your questions. If you have any more feel free to comment or shoot me an email at Geek at Geekinthecockpit.com I don't use the @ symbol as bots pick it up and I get spam.