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Crisis of Confidence...


NWade

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Hi All,

 

This is only somewhat relevant to EZ's, in terms of my future ownership - but I'd love to hear your comments. (My apologies for the length of this post; but its somewhat complex...)

 

I'm trying to decide what future direction my career and flying should go... I've been in the computer industry for over 10 years now. Unfortunately, I've had the bad luck to be working for the wrong companies at the wrong time - being laid-off or having my employer go bankrupt many times over the last few years. I've been in a good employment situation for the last year or so - but I've very skittish about my future... I'm a total generalist / jack-of-all-trades who does lots of various programming/IT work - but because I don't have a single "expert" skill to hang my hat on, its been tough to progress in my career. And as a college drop-out, my ability to become a senior programmer or move up into management has been limited. All this means that I feel somewhat "stuck" and burned-out in my career (mostly programming dynamic websites).

 

Aviation is my first love - before I dropped out of college (in '95), I was majoring in Aerospace Engineering. Last year I decided to go back to college and major in Aviation Operations, as a way to get back to my first love. I recently started on my Private license - and after only 2 hours in my logbook I'm already making landings unassisted in DA-20's, so I know I can be a pilot if I go that route. I've been going to school full-time while also working full-time - all in preparation for attending a 4-year college with an aviation program.

 

That college has recently raised its rates and I'm looking at 3 years of college that will rack up nearly $50k in loans (on top of working 30 hours a week). I'll come out of the program with my CFI, CFII, and MEI ratings - but that kind of debt scares me, given starting pilot/instructor pay rates. It works out to about $500/month to keep up with the loan payments... (Not to mention trying to afford an EZ someday)

 

Now, I must make it clear that I have no ambitions of flying for the Airlines. I know several pilots that fly for Alaska and United - and all seem somewhat bored with their work. I'd much rather fly corporate jets, maybe do ATC work (although by the time I graduate college, I will be 1 year too old under present regulations), or work in a field involving aviation and computers (maybe avionics, or something along those lines).

 

If I'm not going to fly 737's or big jets for a living - is it worth going through and getting all of my licenses at this expensive school?? I know I will *LOVE* to be a CFI - and I wish I could make a paying career out of that; but it just doesn't seem possible, from everyone I've talked to...

 

I'm just really concerned about being able to keep up with the loans and making a decent living if I go with one of those careers... I don't have a high standard of living (and am willing to sacrifice a lot to fly and/or own a plane) - but I need enough to afford my own apartment, a reliable car, and either some good computer gadgetry or some money for flight-time.

 

I've thought about trying to blend my two skills - but I don't know exactly what my prospects are. For example, King Schools is hiring for a Webmaster right now. Scaled Composites is also hiring aggressively for fabricators - stating that they'll take novices...perhaps I could get my foot in the door there and try to move into some kind of junior engineering or programming role? I would enjoy the hands-on work of fabrication - but getting "stuck" doing that at a low wage for many years would sap my will...

 

My "safe" option is to maybe go back to a normal college, finish my degree in computers, and just keep flying a hobby. At my current salary level, I could probably buy into 1/2 of an EZ before the end of the summer - and I could definitely build my own. The "instant gratification" aspect of this is quite tempting - but I worry about having a true career in computers, both in terms of stability and in terms of burnout/motivation.

 

Concerned, and still praying for an EZ someday,

 

--Noel

noel.wade@gmail.com

Seattle, WA

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Noel,

 

Everybody will have a different take on this, so in the end you have to follow your heart. My angle is this, if you're not going to fly for the airlines, why go into that kind of debt? What do you get out of the big name school, really? If you want to CFI, great, but you can do that much cheaper close to home (most likely, anyway). And I know several CFI's locally, and I also don't see that being a "Full-time" job, at least for some time. Given that, and my conservative nature (I'm an engineer, after all), I'd counsel you to get the "safe" degree and do IT work as your day job as cheaply as possible, so you can afford to do your flying and building in your off hours. Thats what I do, working at the "umbrella" corporation during the day, and rushing home to build my plane at night. Sure, it'd be great to be able to get paid for what you have a passion for, but it just doesn't pay like the less pleasant stuff. Like they say, it's called WORK for reason. :) If you think your IT work is sketchy, try the CFI gig. Every economic whim, or change in weather, swinging your ENTIRE market. With great risk comes great reward, but that's not a bridge I'd be ready to jump off of. Good luck with your choice.

 

Brett

---

Brett Ferrell

Velocity XL/FG

Cincinnati, OH

http://www.velocityxl.com

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Noel,

 

I think we've travelled a lot of the same roads. I'm a telecom/network engineer by trade. I lived the fun of TimeWarner, XO, WorldCom, and a couple of startups that tanked. After all that I decided to go back to where I started - working for the military. After a couple years in the US playing "Powerpoint Ranger", I am finally back where I belong. I'm sitting in Baghdad making complex networks actually work.

 

If you want to work in the aviation/aerospace industry, how about looking at development and support roles? I'm going through much the same process as I figure out what to do next. Avionics technician? Developer/Support for one of the EFIS companies? With the advent of SportPilot and the new crop of LSAs I think we're going to see heavy growth in those areas.

 

I always advise people to be able to answer the three magic questions:

 

1) What do you want?

2) What do you need?

3) What are you willing to give?

 

Maybe looking at all the various possibilities in the industry and those three points can help open up some new possible courses of action.

 

THX/BDH

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Thanks, BD -

 

I really wish I'd gone back and evaluated this earlier - as ROTC or something like that would have been a good choice I think.

 

Bottom line:

 

1) I want to be involved with aviation somehow. I love just about everything about flying. I just think that an Airline Captain job would get boring for me in the long-term.

 

2) I need a middle-class lifestyle (doesn't have to be fancy - just don't want to struggle to pay the bills month-to-month), with a semi-stable career that won't lead to repeated layoffs with long stretches of unemployment.

 

3) I'm willing to give up almost everything to get both #1 and #2 - I just don't want to get 1/2 way there and find myself stuck or struggling with bills/unemployment.

 

More info & advice is always appreciated! Thanks,

 

--Noel

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Noel,

 

One other thought that I forgot to mention previously, I worked with an engineer that had left the flight line. He'd loved airplanes as a kid and worked his way up after high school towing gliders to build hours (that someone else was paying for), flew right seat in multis for free to get time, the whole deal. Got fly the Citation for a charter business and found that it was like bus driving, and the hours were spotty, and you had to baby the engines, yada yada yada. His take was that it wasn't "really" flying, that was work, and it didn't meet his flying needs, nor his financial ones consistently, so he returned to engineering. For what it's worth, your mileage will vary.

 

Brett

---

Brett Ferrell

Velocity XL/FG

Cincinnati, OH

http://www.velocityxl.com

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IT - well...

 

I've been in IT for mumble, mumble years. I've done most to the roles, programmer, sysadmin, user support, systems analyst, network admin, manager, grunt, etc. I too was in Dallas at the end of the internet boom and had to shuffle jobs as one company after another folded.

 

If you're doing direct support you're probably ok, but the programming jobs and any other that can be made to fit are moving overseas at an alarming rate. I thought about getting out of IT and into healthcare but spending all of those mumble, mumble years in IT makes the payback unlikely especially consdiering I'd have to quit working for while to go back to college for another degree.

 

The IT jobs aren't bad and you can find them. It's just that the market is not as stable as it once was (like everything else I guess). Keep your eyes and ears open and your resume & skills updated.

Bob Hassel

Cozy Plans #749

Santa Fe, NM

 

http://www.cozyworld.net

http://www.hassel-usa.com

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Hi, Group

 

I have a suggestion: my example

 

I started to college (University of Texas, actually) when there were

jillions of returning veterans from WWII. LOTS Of them had flown,

many as pilots (ex: George Bush, Sr.) I wanted to be an aeronautical

engineer. Decided there were too many in the field already. So I

changed to chemical engineering. Calculus and other math were

difficult.

 

Then I discovered zoology was interesting. Then Microbiology was even

more interesting. Got degrees (3). Taught for 29 years (besides 5

years of teaching labs and 2 years before that in high school) in college.

 

Some people say "Those that can do, DO; those that cannot - teach"

VERY funny BUT I ended with a nice retirement and I built an airplane

on the side (just started awful late on the building).

 

GO back to college. Take lots of courses. Maybe the computer courses

will lead to lifetime employment. But keep your eyes and ears open.

MAYBE you will find ANOTHER interesting field. And MAYBE you will

become a college teacher.

 

Bruce Hughes

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Thanks, all.

 

Bruce - College is going to happen one way or another. If I stayed in the computer industry, I'd probably go part-time; and I've made that happen pretty well this past year so I know I can do it. I just don't feel "safe" without some more formal education / training in computers to make it a true career (and the Aviation I'm starting from scratch - so a degree would be a must).

 

I may never become a teacher (though my Mom and many of the people in my family are teachers)... But I know from my auto-racing and R/C flying experience that I will LOVE being a CFI!

 

I think the biggest questions now for me are:

 

1) If I get a B.S. in "Aviation Operations" and I'm not going to be an Airline Pilot - what doors does that open up that a normal "Computer-Science" B.S. doesn't get me?

 

2) If I go with that degree and I don't become an airline pilot - what kind of money can I make flying, and how long will it take to build up a decent salary? A $500/month loan repayment makes this a serious issue, even though I wish it didn't have to be about the money at all...

 

3) If I stay in computers, will I be totally burned out in 5 or 10 years like I have been over the last few? With a degree, perhaps I could (finally) get hired up in serious applications-development or something, instead of being stuck doing the same sorts of Web-Programming jobs for years and years.

 

*sigh*

 

Thanks again all for being a good "sounding board" and helping me work through this!

 

Take care,

 

--Noel

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1) If I get a B.S. in "Aviation Operations" and I'm not going to be an Airline Pilot - what doors does that open up that a normal "Computer-Science" B.S. doesn't get me?

Not much. CS is probably a tougher program, and many airlines are cutting back on their "Aviation Operations".

 

2) If I go with that degree and I don't become an airline pilot - what kind of money can I make flying, and how long will it take to build up a decent salary? A $500/month loan repayment makes this a serious issue, even though I wish it didn't have to be about the money at all...

You will make next to nothing. Seriously, I've had two CFI's go almost bankrupt trying to survive to pay off their loans, while building hours as CFI's. The payback for those programs is to get an airline pilot job flying really big jets. You can't do that out the door, it's a long and costly road. The best you can hope for is to get hired as a biz jet pilot for a company that coddles their pilots. Those are few and far inbetween these days.

 

3) If I stay in computers, will I be totally burned out in 5 or 10 years like I have been over the last few? With a degree, perhaps I could (finally) get hired up in serious applications-development or something, instead of being stuck doing the same sorts of Web-Programming jobs for years and years.

It sounds to me like you are burned out on your current job, with your current employer. I may be completely wrong on this, but I think you need to take a step back and try to objectively and rationally evaluate your roads forward. If it doesn't make financial sense, don't make a leap of faith. There is a lot of risk involved.

 

I myself am contemplating a fork in my career. I have a tremendous opportunity right now to move to the west coast and start a job that has all indications of being awesome and what I would love to do. The tradeoff for me right now is that I am very close to finishing a Masters degree that I've been working on for some time, and I'll have to move about 2,700 miles away. The job can't wait for me to finish. Will I go? Well, it depends on if I can support my family with this new job. I would move in a heartbeat if I didn't have to worry about paying the bills.

 

I should add that if you are going to change paths in a manner that requires another degree, you should note that job markets are not constant. What is hot today may be dead tomorrow. You've seen this with IT jobs in the last decade. My wife started her MBA at a top-ten business school when there was a lot of demand for MBAs'. September 11 and the finale of the dot bomb happened in her first year. The hit to the economy killed the market for MBA's. It was a tremendous risk that we took, that ended up not panning out for her or the majority of her classmates. Just remember that the grass may not be greener when you reach the other side.

 

-- Len

-- Len Evansic, Cozy Mk. IV Plans #1283

Do you need a Flightline Chair, or other embroidered aviation accessory?

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The other thing you may want to consider if flying is what you really want to do, is an airline sponsered flight school. I know of one in Farmington, NM affiliated with San Juan College.

 

The url is: http://www.flightcareers.com/

 

Bob

Bob Hassel

Cozy Plans #749

Santa Fe, NM

 

http://www.cozyworld.net

http://www.hassel-usa.com

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