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Thread: Entry level pilot job

  1. #1

    Default Entry level pilot job

    Hi All, I'm almost done with my commercial training and I have about 300 hrs total time - all in Alaska (plus approx. 250 in ultralights, but I'm not sure if that counts). My goal is to get a flying job in Alaska. I don't have much interest in flying for major airlines, but instead is attracted to bush flying, float planes, and may be light twins. My question is how many hours (plus what other requirements?) do I need to have to be able to get an entry level pilot's job? I'm interested in air taxi, flying for lodges, or ? I'd also like to know the entry pay scale in these places?

    I'm a member of a flying club so can build time relatively inexpensive. I have a full-time cushy job that pays the bills meanwhile, but I wouldn't hesitate to leave it to pursue my flying dreams.

    Any advice on how to better proceed to land that first flying job is highly appreciated!

  2. #2
    Member BeaverDriver's Avatar
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    You need at least pt 135 mins to even apply for most air-taxi jobs and the insurance companies are going to require more than that. Depending on where you want to fly, you might need a float rating and some float time.

    My advice would be to keep the cushy job and fly for fun.

  3. #3

    Default pt 135 requirements

    Float rating is next on my list. Then I plan on getting a CFI rating. I should be able to build some time by instructing and flying my club's plane. How do people go about building initial float time? And what are pt 135 mins and what are real requirements set by ins companies?

    Thanks for your advice, BeaverDriver. I'd have to think twice before changing careers, but the flying bug has been pretty strong. So far I'm working through the ratings...


    Quote Originally Posted by BeaverDriver View Post
    You need at least pt 135 mins to even apply for most air-taxi jobs and the insurance companies are going to require more than that. Depending on where you want to fly, you might need a float rating and some float time.

    My advice would be to keep the cushy job and fly for fun.

  4. #4
    Member Rich_in_AK's Avatar
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    If you ever make it to being a bush pilot you will wish you never left the cushy job. Buy a cub and have some fun in your life.

  5. #5

    Default

    You guys sound pretty pessimistic regarding bush flying. Is it all that bad?
    Or is it the money part that will make me wish I hadn't made the switch?


    Quote Originally Posted by Rich_in_AK View Post
    If you ever make it to being a bush pilot you will wish you never left the cushy job. Buy a cub and have some fun in your life.

  6. #6
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    The way the economy is going, a lot of Alaska air taxi's will be going out of business or cutting back on the number of planes/pilots that are kept on the flight line.

    Since you are getting a commercial license, you should already be familiar with Part 135 FARs. In a nutshell, to fly passengers, you need 500 hours minimum, plus 50 hours night flight time, plus an instrument rating. You'll be working a 14 hour duty day with a max of 8 hours flying during that day.

    Most air taxi operators require at least a 1000hrs of which 500hrs are Alaska time to fly passengers. The insurance requirements are usually 1000-1500hrs, 500hrs Ak, 25-200hrs in aircraft type. Insurance floatplane time runs from 25-1500hrs depending on the aircraft to be flown.

    A low time pilot is occaisionally hired to fly small aircraft freight only until they've built up time. Air taxi pay varies greatly from $25-35hr to a base of $2500-4500mo. Lodges pay $6500-!0,000mo but you are only flying 3-4 months. Lodges also tend to hire high Alaska time pilots with lots of float/tailwheel time. Confined waterway (read: narrow, fastwater river landing/T.O.) operation experience is a must.

    Bottom line is, keep the cushy job, buy yourself a Champ,Taylorcraft, Cub, 172 or Stinson 108 and enjoy the freedom of flight before making it a "job".

  7. #7

    Default

    Floatplanepilot: thanks for an informative response! Sounds like catch 22 with time building: need time to get a job, but hard to build time wthout a job.

    So far I got 3 responsed in favor of keeping the current job + flying recreationally and 0 for change careers, get a flying job. Are you guys afraid of potential competition.

  8. #8
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    Here is your 4th vote in favor of keeping your job. wHEN IT IS -50 DEG IN BETHEL (where you would probably start). you will be glad you only fly for fun.

  9. #9
    Member ret25yo's Avatar
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    have you flown..bush?

    have you hauled..in and out of bush?

    .. I agree with above.,. buy plane,, build hours,,fly for fun and friends.

    If you cant stand behind the troops in Iraq.. Feel free to stand in front of them.

  10. #10

    Default

    No, I haven't flown bush. that's why I'm asking questons here. I'd like to learn from other people's experiences before I do something that I may regret in the future.


    Thanks for responses to ALL. I know there are quite a few experienced pilots reading this forum. (Mr. Mason: I just finished reading your book on bush adventures and misadventures. Great read! It was especially special since I'm familiar with the area and have flown in some of the places that you write about).


    After getting this feedback I wonder how many professional pilots here wished they had some other job rather than bush flying and why?

  11. #11
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    I used to have a well paying non aviation job in Anchorage I liked. I flew my own plane around and did a little part time flight instructing. I finally couldn't resist the temptation anymore and about 20 years ago headed out to Western Alaska to start my flying career....I haven't regretted a minute of it.


    I'm in Fairbanks now. There is some occasional discomfort involved in getting a plane ready to fly when it's -45, but when you get above the temperature inversion and start feeling the heater, then see the snowy mountains silhouetted against the first pink light of dawn, you start feeling sorry for the poor blighters trapped in their office cubicles during the few precious hours of daylight. I wouldn't trade it for anything, regardless of the season.

    Obviously, flying for a living isn't for everybody but when you feel that feeling in your gut drawing you out to the tundra to aviate, go for it. Life is short!....Louis

    P.S. you may get more career pilots on the computer giving feedback when hunting season is over.
    Louis Knapp

  12. #12

    Default

    Yes, finally! 1 to 5. I knew there was somebody out there enjoying their flying career (which is not associated with majors). Thanks, Louis, for your response.

  13. #13

    Default

    I got bit by the flying bug hard when growing up in southwest alaska and did everything that I could to get a bush flying job as soon as I could (No interest in flying for the major airlines.). I got hired with very low hours.......thousands of hours later I still enjoyed it! Got to see cool places and animals on a daily basis, ugly, short and very narrow cannery airstrips, crappy weather and nice people. It is not for everybody and the important thing is to work for a GOOD COMPANY THAT TREATS AND PAYS ITS EMPLOYEES WELL. You might as well go for it! you will find out soon enough if its for you.
    Things changed for me and I now work for a major airline. I do not regret changing careers. I find myself missing my old air taxi job now and then but being able to swill beer and sit on the beach in Cancun or Hawaii and make enough money to hunt,fish and live in Alaska is nice.
    Bottom line....I enjoyed bush flying! and network, network,and network to get that first job! Good Luck

  14. #14
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    It's not that we professional pilots don't like our flying jobs, we do, very much. We just get tired of hearing about the high paying jobs that others have which require less skills, training and are a lot less dangerous. And it's not that the air taxi owners don't pay well, they pay their pilots within the financial means of the company and try to stay competitive so that they can keep good pilots on. When I owned a floatplane air taxi, I made a lot of money......for the Insurance company, the mortgage company, the aircraft engine company, the fuel company, the folks that I leased a dock from, etc, etc, ad infinum. I was constantly under financial pressure to meet the high cost of operations, and the customers complained about the high cost of chartering a plane, not realizing what it took to be able to provide them the conveince of flying somewhere.

    If you don't have a family to support and can make do on a salary/wage that is less than some other jobs that are less stressful, go for it. Most of the year-round pilots do have families, most of the seasonal pilots don't. Competition for jobs really increased this past winter due to the state of the economy as lodges(low bookings), air taxi's(less tourists booking flights) and commuter lines(higher operating costs ratio to passenger seats sold) laid off pilots. Many of the pilots had to find other types of work to get by.

    Get on Airline Pilot Central Forums and you'll find a lot of out of work commercial & atp pilots trying to figure out what to do.

    I don't mean to sound discouraging, I am suggesting that you really look hard at an aviation job before making that leap.

    Would I do it again if given the chance......You betcha!!

    Regards

  15. #15

    Default

    Yes, I do read Airline Pilot Central forums and a lot of people there are unhappy with the current state of affairs in the airline industry and especially with the pay scales of regional airlines. Here is the link that pretty much describes it well in one song:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RayMaswju1A


    The score went up a bit to 3 to 5, with 5 for keep the current job, fly for fun.
    Thanks for your responses!

  16. #16

    Default thom2249

    ftabal

    You are asking a question that has been asked for millenniums. No one can answer it but you. It's a risk to leave your cushy job and your looking for concurrence. You have already made up your mind. You started down your career path when you started flying. Stop asking others and just keep going and one day you'll look around and wonder how you got here. I have done almost everything I've ever wanted to do in life and there's more. BUT the single most satisfying thing I ever did was spend 25 years running my own air taxi business off of Lake Hood. I had many other business' but flying was my passion and I pursued it without a single regret. As I travel the world in my other business there is one subject that commands interest and it is the flying stories that I have from Alaska. I know and employ pilots from all over who missed their dream of flying in Alaska. Time passed them by. Keep going and don't stop until your there and I promise you there won't ever be any regrets.

  17. #17

    Default

    I'm afraid you might be right, thom2249. I probably did make up my mind deep inside, but was wondering if experienced pilots would be able to talk me out of it. Those who have done it and know ins and outs of this trade and the current trend. And as you can see from this thread a lot of people do advise to keep my other job and stay away from flying for a living.

    Well, the weather is great and I'm going flying now. Please feel free share your thoughts on this subject if you haven't done so.

    Quote Originally Posted by thom2249 View Post
    ftabal

    You are asking a question that has been asked for millenniums. No one can answer it but you. It's a risk to leave your cushy job and your looking for concurrence. You have already made up your mind. You started down your career path when you started flying. Stop asking others and just keep going and one day you'll look around and wonder how you got here. I have done almost everything I've ever wanted to do in life and there's more. BUT the single most satisfying thing I ever did was spend 25 years running my own air taxi business off of Lake Hood. I had many other business' but flying was my passion and I pursued it without a single regret. As I travel the world in my other business there is one subject that commands interest and it is the flying stories that I have from Alaska. I know and employ pilots from all over who missed their dream of flying in Alaska. Time passed them by. Keep going and don't stop until your there and I promise you there won't ever be any regrets.

  18. #18

    Default

    Bottom line, If you want it bad enough, then do it. Try it, nothing says you cant change your mind later.
    Me personally, I always wanted to fly. Went to college to be a super farmer. Had an opportunity and means to learn to fly. Met many who came to college to be crop dusters. Before I new it, crop dusting became a very appealing backup plan to the family farm. The next thing I new, the family farm was out and crop dusting was my primary business.
    Many thousands of ag hours and a very few hundred other hours later, I bought a super cub and flew it to Alaska and worked for a big game guide for 3 months. Best 3 months of my life. The most fun flying, actually, nearly the only fun flying of my career.
    Looking back, many of those who wanted to be crop dusters are not. Didn't like it, didn't make the cut, better opportunities came up what ever. I intended to fly for fun, 18 years later, I rarely get to fly just for fun. If I had to do it over, I might be inclined to find an enjoyable, well paying non-aviation job that afforded me the ability to fly for fun rather than having to fly.
    I often tell people the nice thing about an aviation career is I have had the ability to travel and meet alot of people many of which are my "family". The negative thing about my flying career is that it seems like I am often gone from my real family.
    Everything has pros and cons, and that decision can only be made by you.

  19. #19

    Default

    Goosepilot: thanks for sharing your thoughts! When the time comes I will have to make a decision whether to make a leap into professional piloting.

    Meanwhile I'm thinking of ways to build some float time. Do you guys know if Civil Air Patrol is a good way to get float time? I've heard that they have a Beaver and C206 and some other planes.

  20. #20

    Default flying job or "real" job

    Just one more perspective,to make the decision harder.

    After 10 years working as a commercial lawyer, I took the summer off and flew an amphib 182 on Vancouver Island. When I started this summer, I had 350 hours TT, almost all of it on my own float-equipped Cessna 180, and all of it acquired in the last 2 years. Yes, I had the float-flying bug bad.

    I found a relatively cushy flying job - not out in the bush, not in questionable equipment, and with a very good boss. Yes, I had to fuel the aircraft, grease the gear, wash the windows, vacuum the sand out of the carpet, and all that, but like I said, no hardship.

    After several months out of the office, and many days flying over glaciers, whales, lakes and ocean, I am still jazzed about the job. More importantly, I am a way better pilot for having gotten a CPL, the extra training and the oversight that comes with a boss of a one-plane operation. Even if I go back to being a commercial lawyer, I'll have the skills that come with nearly doubling my total time over a summer.

    Those are the plusses. The minuses - ten years of sitting behind a desk does not prepare you for actual "work". You use different parts of your brain and you are often tired. Yes, I "worked" hard as a lawyer, but this was different. Not harder, certainly not easier, but different.

    Of course, if I get the flying job, my own personal 180 has to go - I don't know any pilot short of a -747 or A340 who can afford to keep up a 180 on floats in the saltwater, and certainly no seaplane driver makes enough coin to keep his own 180 up to snuff.

    So am I ready to give up an income in the range of a quarter-million per year to make one tenth that flying floats? I mean, I could keep my current job, indoors, with an assistant, respectful clients who are happy with the work I do, all the bills paid, the airplane always full of gas, and shiny new? But fly it only on weekends and maybe two weeks a year, if I'm lucky? Stay tuned. Right now I am leaning towards a daily fix of my favourite drug over all the comforts of home and seeing my baby on alternating weekends...

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