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Thread: Opinions and Information on Average Pilot Pay

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    Default Opinions and Information on Average Pilot Pay

    So I need to ask the question. Needless to say, the pay is not the primary (or even secondary) reason I am pursuing aviation but rather that I love flying airplanes. Still, a man must make a living, so I turn to you, the experts, for information about what one can expect to make as a pilot in Alaska. I have been told many things, but it seems a common bit of advice is that I should do some flight instruction right out of training in order to build up hours, make some dough, and make myself an attractive candidate for the air taxi and air charter services, which is what I would like to fly, at least for some time.

    So, any and all information on pay would be greatly appreciated. I'm sure a lot of you folks are GA/private recreational pilots, but I would imagine that you still probably know a bit about the industry. Thanks in advance for anything you'd like to share with me. I hope to be among your ranks soon.

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    Flight instrucor - $20-25/hour working for a flight school, $40-70+ as an independent instructor. During winter/bad weather months you'd be lucky to get 20 billable hours/month, during good months - 80+ hours/month.
    Good luck!

    Quote Originally Posted by AKpilotWannabe View Post
    So I need to ask the question. Needless to say, the pay is not the primary (or even secondary) reason I am pursuing aviation but rather that I love flying airplanes. Still, a man must make a living, so I turn to you, the experts, for information about what one can expect to make as a pilot in Alaska. I have been told many things, but it seems a common bit of advice is that I should do some flight instruction right out of training in order to build up hours, make some dough, and make myself an attractive candidate for the air taxi and air charter services, which is what I would like to fly, at least for some time.

    So, any and all information on pay would be greatly appreciated. I'm sure a lot of you folks are GA/private recreational pilots, but I would imagine that you still probably know a bit about the industry. Thanks in advance for anything you'd like to share with me. I hope to be among your ranks soon.

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    Typical flight instructors here in Anchorage make $20-25 an hour depending on if it is flight or ground instruction. Sounds pretty good on paper but remember a busy, full time flight instructor is probably only doing 5-6 hrs of billable time for every 12-13 hr day. Most flight instructors I know choose to work the weekends because that is when their students are most available. All said and done a flight instructor will probably make $15-25k a year and fly about 500 hrs.

    A lot of people get a job with Ace, Grant, Penn Air, or Era as a co pilot after instructing a year or two. Last I checked expect to make somewhere in the low $20s a year. Once you do that for a couple of years you should have enough time to get a job driving a 207 or 206 in the bush. It has been a few years since I looked into this but I was thinking that they were making around $40k ish a year working 2 weeks on 2 weeks off.

    I took a different route in my aviation career and the last job offer I had a couple of weeks ago was a job based in Anchorage for $4k a month base plus $60 an hour flight time. Good luck, hope this helped.

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    Well hell, that's kind of what I was afraid I was going to hear. Down here, something like $30k would be just fine, but with the high cost of living in Alaska, especially if I were to fly for Era out of Barrow for instance, where everything is expensive. I mean even in Anchorage it's not cheap, and then you add in the fact that I would be living in the bush flying for some of those companies (which is something I want to do), and it starts to seem impossible on that kind of money.

    I have considered getting an A&P ticket and doing that, because as far as I can tell, they make really solid money. That's just from reading through job listings, but I would think those are pretty accurate. And the number of jobs is higher too. Problem there is, I don't really want to fix airplanes, I really want to fly airplanes. So... I don't know. Like I said, I'm not getting into aviation for the money, but you know, a man's got to eat. AKHUNTER, if you don't want to say I would understand, but what route did you decide to take in your career? That is good pay, what you're getting offers for.

    Argh, it seems like you can't win, no matter what you do. The only way I can think of to make it work would be to take a second job, and those aren't exactly abundant. I try to have faith that another big boom will come along in Alaska, one that needs pilots, and I'll be able to get on board with that maybe. I just don't like the idea of not knowing. Is there any good way to fly for a living in Alaska and make more than $25-30k a year? Or, another thing, am I wrong that that isn't very much to live on? Thanks for helping out folks, I appreciate it.

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    "I have considered getting an A&P ticket and doing that,"
    "I don't really want to fix airplanes, I really want to fly airplanes"
    Being able to do both increases the chances of initial employment many times over. I also means that while the summer-only junior pilots are living in their parents basement during the winter. You will be working in a heated hangar turning wrenches and filling in for the senior pilots every few days... along with a winter paycheck.

    A man or woman in Alaska with only one skill, is not worth much.
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    I will second what Float Pilot has to say about this, one of the biggest mistakes I ever made in my flying career is not doing the A+P. I had the time and the money for it when things were hard for low time pilots in the late 1970's and were I was working there was an A+P school that belonged to a local college. Talk about dumber than dumb. I had almost 7000 hours in my logbook when I secured my first alaska pilot job. And it started out in Bethel in October!! You are going to have to build some time, Alaska is not the best place in the world to start out as a flight instructor. Weather Consideration mostly and the job pays terrible. Even for a New Englander who thinks Anchorage is a cheap place to live, most people do not.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Float Pilot View Post
    Being able to do both increases the chances of initial employment many times over. I also means that while the summer-only junior pilots are living in their parents basement during the winter. You will be working in a heated hangar turning wrenches and filling in for the senior pilots every few days... along with a winter paycheck.

    A man or woman in Alaska with only one skill, is not worth much.
    Duly noted. And I have received similar advice to this before, as well. Alaska is certainly the type of place where you need to be versatile, and I am young and not particularly versatile but learning as much as I can, as quickly as I can. I'm just trying to figure out how to go about this. The thing is, I get financial assistance on ONE thing, and it can be my flight training or it can be a bachelors degree or it can be the A&P ticket. So my line of thinking (and it may be skewed) is that I would rather get the financial assistance - which is essentially my parents have said they will pay for it as long as I put my energy into it and don't screw around - for the flight training because it's the most expensive, and then when I'm earning my own income I can go back and get my A&P as soon as possible, which is what I plan to do.

    So is that totally off, or what? You have a very good point about having a job during the winter, which is something I've thought about and a very important thing in Alaska since the winter is so long. My biggest concern is the cost of flight instruction. Since I have my parents' assistance, but only for one thing, I feel like it makes more sense to apply it to the flight training since it will be really hard to ever pay for that unassisted. As far as not starting in Alaska, that's not really an option as far as I'm concerned.

    So what do you guys think? It seems like it would be easier to go back and pay for my A&P ticket myself than to go back and pay for flight instruction myself. Then again, A&P pays better, but it doesn't pay THAT much, and flight instruction is very expensive, as you all know. I calculated it, and to get fully certified at Land and Sea Aviation, including multi-engine, tailwheel, instrument, commercial, the whole nine, it would be about $30k. An A&P ticket from either UAA or UAF (preferably the latter since they do fabric work that UAA doesn't seem to do) is something like half that, if not less.

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    Lol, with those 3 choices, to me it's a no-brainer. Get a Bachelor's degree. You'd have many other options to get the flight training and or A&P after you get a bachelors.

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    Argh, I knew I shouldn't have mentioned that. No, that's not an option, so I don't know why I put that in there. Things are NOT like they used to be, and a bachelors degree, especially in the fields that I'm looking at, is not a guarantee of ANYTHING. In fact, a bachelors degree is the new high school diploma, I promise you that. I have about a thousand friends who just graduated with bachelors degrees who are completely up a creek with NOWHERE to go. Not only that, I refuse to spend my life in an academic building anymore in the next few years at least. I have said that I will most likely go back and get one once I've done my pilot training, but not now. Bachelors degrees are easier to pay for than flight training, especially since I've already got a bunch of the credits.

    I came here because I'm going into aviation, because it's the choice I've made. I haven't mentioned bachelors degrees because I don't want one right now. I can always go back and complete my college education if I decide that I want to go that route, but right now, what I want to do is fly planes. It's what I've always wanted to do, and it's what I love to do. Surely a forum full of pilots can understand that?

    So all I'm trying to figure out is, flight training first or A&P first? The flying is what I would rather do and is harder to pay for without assistance, but it's harder to make money on that alone. Vice versa with A&P.

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    Get the bachelors degree for sure, once you get about 10 years bush flying under your belt you'll be looking for something slightly different. The degree will go along way when finding something else. I did a double major, that way I still got all my ratings AND a degree, and I am very glad I did. I too am from the east coast(Maine) and think living in AK is somewhat cheap. I came up right out of school with about 1200 hrs in 94. Worked for ERA then SCA and now fly the big cargo jet. Could not have done it without the degree and ratings.

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    Central Washington University has a bachelors program in aviation tech. My cousin got his bachelors there, then spent 2-3 years flying for Great Lakes aviation taking turbo props from Denver to places like Vale and Telluride. Now he's flying for Evergreen over in Afganistan shuttling VIPs around and doing the occassional night drop of supplies to FOBs. His goal is to rack up a lot of hours, doing a lot of different types of flying, then come back to Alaska.


    Point being, you can get a bachelors degree and the flight training at the same time. With this degree you get your private pilots license your freshman year, instrument rating the second year, commercial rating the third year, and flight instructor and multiengine rating your senior year.

    Then you can worry about getting your A&P on your own time.
    I'd agree with you, but then we'd both be wrong.

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    Not sure if it's your cup of tea, but with a bachelors degree, you can get your commercial, multi-instrument and about 500 hours paid for. They'll even pay you a salary while you are in training. Of course, you have to wear a uniform and fly to some unsavory places every once in awhile , but I know a lot of people who had it work for them.

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    Not sure if it's your cup of tea, but with a bachelors degree, you can get your commercial, multi-instrument and about 500 hours paid for. They'll even pay you a salary while you are in training. Of course, you have to wear a uniform and fly to some unsavory places every once in awhile , but I know a lot of people who had it work for them.
    Roger that.
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    Degree isn't worth a rats ass if you want to stay and fly in Alaska... A&P is worth a hell of a lot more from a practical view....if you want to fly the big flying computers go get your degree.... The hourly pay outfits are paying @ $50-60 per hour and more with experience....there are many salaried jobs, two on two off in the bush...or medevac jobs if you like being on call....the A&P will allow you to fly seasonal and wrench in the off season...might be your way to get your foot in the door.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pipercub View Post
    Degree isn't worth a rats ass if you want to stay and fly in Alaska... A&P is worth a hell of a lot more from a practical view....if you want to fly the big flying computers go get your degree.... The hourly pay outfits are paying @ $50-60 per hour and more with experience....there are many salaried jobs, two on two off in the bush...or medevac jobs if you like being on call....the A&P will allow you to fly seasonal and wrench in the off season...might be your way to get your foot in the door.
    I have to agree with pipercub. Get some ragbag little airplane and fly the wings off it. You'll find that you'll be flying the bush as you go along, because you won't be able to stand not looking around a little. One thing will lead to anotohter. amd ot will seem no time at all until you will move up to a better plane for that, and the bush flying will come along almost as soon as you get your commerical ticket.

    And, in spite of those who claim teach you to fly the bush, you'll find that every single bush landing and takeoff is a new experience. I don't want to step on any toes, but I think you'll be better off learning the outback kind of flying on your own. It was bettter for me that way anyway. And every landing and takeorr were still new even after almost 20,000-hours at it.

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    I started my flying career in Alaska 22 years ago. After 15 years and about 15000 hours and a lot of "been there and done that" it all boiled down to money and time off. Even if flying the "bush" seem like an adventure right now after a while flying to the same village, mountain top or lake for hire get pretty boring and is in fact a lot of work for not a whole lot of money. Flying international cargo is much more boring but I now have the time and money to fly my own airplane which is by far the most fun flying here in Alaska.

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    you asked for opinions: my opinion, they don't pay me enough, but boy do I love it!
    The winner isn't the person with the most gold when they die, but rather, the person with the most stories.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gambler 17 View Post
    I started my flying career in Alaska 22 years ago. After 15 years and about 15000 hours and a lot of "been there and done that" it all boiled down to money and time off. Even if flying the "bush" seem like an adventure right now after a while flying to the same village, mountain top or lake for hire get pretty boring and is in fact a lot of work for not a whole lot of money. Flying international cargo is much more boring but I now have the time and money to fly my own airplane which is by far the most fun flying here in Alaska.
    IMO, the best advice you've got.

    The only people I sort of envy in life are my friends that are on standby for about 27 days each month. Jacking around with their new project plane........... or flying if the weather is good enough to do so......... and they feel like it. All the while making good money being on standby.

    If I had it to do over again, I would go that route, even though I have nearly zero interest in big iron. Allows lots of time to do whatever I feel like today!

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    If I had to do it all over again, I would have skipped the helicopters all together and taking the money in 1983 and bought stock in Microsoft. And then dump it 16 years later. I would be in a lot better shape money wise than I am. Can't really complain to much flying been pretty good to me, this current down turn not with standing.

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    All 5 of our kids went to a University.
    4 of them are doing well for themselves.
    1 tried aviation as a career and not a hobby.
    Guess which one barely gets by.
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