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What is the cheapest and easiest method to become an airline pilot

I'm currently a junior in high school and plan to attend a 4-year university to get my bachelors in computer science. I know that most major airlines require at least a 4-year degree, but it doesn't matter what they major in. I could go to a more popular aviation school such as Embry-Riddle and do my flight training while going for my 4-year degree, but from what I've heard people acquire a lot of debt from this school. Knowing this, I would like to know the best method for obtaining all required licenses without acquiring too much debt from flight school. Additionally, I want to know what to expect salary wise as an airline pilot, and generally how long it takes to become one. #aviation #airline-industry #pilot

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Kelly’s Answer

Hi Ryan,

I did two degrees at ERAU, and I can tell you, none of the other universities that I have been to compare to it! How did I manage the cost, you ask? Find an employer that fully covers tuition. Look for open positions that are known for their tuition or educational programs, and the education you will receive will be worth every hour that goes into an employer. Current examples are Starbucks, RTX, Disney, and as others stated, US armed services but there are smaller, non-chains that offer funding as well. There are so many first officer positions within companies that are lacking applicants due to the impact of the pandemic, so anyone looking should do well. Pay ranges are completely depended on air carrier, union status, and flight locations.
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Kim’s Answer

Join the military. They will teach you to fly, and they will pay you while you are learning!

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Wayne’s Answer

Check around with various colleges that offer flight training. Some of then Colleges, have a program with the majors that if you complete their course then you are guaranteed an interview with an airline.
You are probably looking at about $20,000 to get your Commercial/Instrument and Commercial Flight Instructor (which allows you to teach and build hours).
The military is also an Option once you get your degree to become a military pilot, or if you go in as enlisted, with the right job skill you can acquire the necessary time 30 months to get your Mechanics Certificate. This will also provide you with VA benefits for schooling.

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Robert’s Answer

The cheapest way would be through the military. If you get an ROTC scholarship, college will be free also. However, you will be commited to the military for 10 years where the salary and quality of flying will far exceed the civilian route.


Another option is to acquire at least your private pilot liscense and perhaps CFI and/or commercial on your own while at college then apply directly to Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units. It is very competitive but if you have some flying time and good grades, they will send you to Air Force Pilot Training. You will get the same training and fly the same aircraft as if you were acive duty Air Force but you won't have to wait 10 years to apply to the airlines. You will spend about 2 years training full-time then you will have the option to do the remainder of your commitment part-time while you persue an airline career. In the mean time you will be getting top notch military flying experience and making more money then if you went the civilian route.
Good luck.

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Matthew’s Answer

Ryan,


When searching for a good flight school, you need to find out if they have a structured curriculum or is it more tailored to the student pilot. The airlines like structure.
As far as majors in college, the airlines DO CARE. They want to see science based degrees, not BA's. Computer Science is a great choice!
If you don't want a lot of debt from flight training then look at a public school instead of private. The most well known in the aviation world is the University of North Dakota. After one year living there you can claim residency in North Dakota and get in-state tuition, bringing costs WAY down. The major airlines do care where you do your flight training. They know the major flight schools and consult with them as to what should be taught.
As far as how long, that really depends on you. If you stay focused, get up to your Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) certificate quickly, you could be teaching and gaining flight time before you graduate college. The fastest I've seen someone go from 0 time to CFI is one year. That required almost total attention being given to flying.
Gaining flight time after getting your CFI depends on where you go and teach. If it's busy, then the time will build fast. Usually it takes 1-2 years of teaching to reach the magic number of 1000 hrs (structured flight training) or 1500 hrs. Once you hit that you'll be scooped up by a fee-for-departure airline, also know as the "regionals."
How fast you get out there depends on how fast you upgrade to Captain and then gain experience as a Captain. It also helps to talk to airline pilots now and throughout your training/career to get letters of recommendations. Currently that is taking about 2-3 years, but is getting less by the month. It is very possible you could be working at Delta, American or United by the time you turn 25.
Of course a BIG help is getting an internship with an airline while in college. This all but assures you'll get an interview once you have reached the required minimums.
As far as salary, starting pay at the "regionals" has finally risen. You can expect to make $40,000 - $50,000 per year starting pay and it goes up from there.
If you are looking at the military route, all branches are looking for on average 10 year commitments if you plan to fly. That's the bad news, if you want to get to the majors fast. But, if you want an almost guaranteed job at a major airline, the military is the way to go. Even if you don't fly in the military, put in enough time and the GI Bill will cover a majority of your civilian flight training costs.
Let me know if you have any other questions.
Matthew Wild

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