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Aviation Industry Retraining - Thoughts On Where to Begin?


TedsOnMeds
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Salutations Squadron!

Sorry for broaching a potentially very serious topic; but a lot of younger gentlemen such as I had to take up part time work after becoming unemployed over the last year due to the current Global Economic/health situation, and I'm looking for advice in as many different places as possible right now. I was wondering if any of the other squadron members were going through re-training or back to university or technical school during the downturn, especially if they can work from home while doing so?

Also, are there are any aviation related jobs/industries that pay a manageable, living wage and wouldn't be totally miserable that require minimal retraining or that I would qualify for with my current information listed bellow: 

My current situation and education/experience level is:

A.A.S Automotive Maintenance and Repair, Ford ASSET Automotive.

Ford Automotive Technician: 3 Years Experience.
Subaru Car Salesman: 1.25 Years
Customer Service Rep/Course Writer for Online Racing School:  1 year
Customer Service Rep/Cashier, Speedway Station Stores: 3 months

Current employment situation: Day Job

Cashier at local fuel station working 2nd/3rd shift on swings Mon-Fri. $10/hr/$1400 monthly, Net.

Current Employment situation: Weekend/Contract Jobs

I'm working at a Racing school online doing course writing, instructing and scripting for $20/hr on week days occasionally when I'm free and $30/hr on weekends, roughly $50/week during slow months with no students with a peak of $3-4,000/mo during summer months, made a 3-quarter income of roughly  $16,000 last Spring->Fall after taxes. The tax rate on this self-employment/contract work is atrociously high, about %50-65. 

Average of only about another $600-1200/mo, Net.


Going Forward:

I've been doing the part time Job + Contract racing school gig for a little while now, the stress and exhaustion aren't immense and overwhelming but are starting to build up over time. My certifications from when I was a ford apprentice mechanic are now expired as I left that industry in 2019, so going back is not optimal for me. I was performing pretty poorly at the job, anyway, and while the industry needs people, I don't need the industry.

In my current position of juggling the contract work with the day time Femininum wage job, I'm making a survivable income while living with my Mother and my Fiancé, Sarah, but she's in university and not contributing to household income so I don't really have a ton free for expensive schooling or acquiring my own property, currently. 

As some of you know, I have a Juvenile Bi-Polar Disorder/Autism spectrum Diagnosis, so I'm already permanently ineligible for flight school. But I was wondering with the potential shipping/aviation/transportation industry rebound post COVID lockdown, if anybody is going to training or technical schools for aviation industries right now, and if they would recommend I also do so?

I'm just trying to look for some 1-3 year plan options so that I don't have to keep two jobs going constantly and could work in a valuable industry I already have some cursory knowledge of. I'm located in Southern Minnesota and MSP international is 30-45 minutes drive away from me, with two smaller cargo airports and a Nat-guard/regional also close by. Aviation industries don't seem like a bad next step for a mostly technical worker such as my self.

Does anybody have any thoughts on this? Experiences, resources, school recommendations, job type recommendations or ideas for me to study are all massively appreciated. Sorry if this seems off color or hyper serious, or if it's in any way out of line. I'm starting to look at the next steps of my life into adulthood and, honestly, struggling a bit. 

 

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Sorry to hear of your troubles however there is good news. It sounds like your a young man so you literally have the world at your feet. The hard part is deciding on a course of action. 

1st thing, do a gut check on yourself, be brutally honest. What do you have an aptitude for (this is the most important, no point pursuing a career as a singer if you cant sing), what are your life goals (solidly middle class or live large & early retirement). Further things to consider are your personal drive (do you make it happen or watch it happen), communication skills (how well do you express yourself as well as listen), finally what are your home time requirements (many lucrative jobs require some travel) 
You will notice I didnt mention "What do you like to do". Allot of ppl will tell you to do what you enjoy because "you will never have to go to work" or some similar nonsense. I am here to tell you, if you chose a career field you enjoy at some point it WILL become work which will take the joy out of it. Far better to chose one that pays well so you can take some comfort in your misery :)

My own gig is logistics. I manage air, sea & truckload operations. There are a TON of jobs in my field most of which pay relatively well. From a lowly lumper who makes between $50-100 hand unloading a truck (mostly under the table & you can do 3-5 loads a day if you are a hard worker (do the math)). Its hard, dirty work but requires nothing more than a strong back to a material handler (forklift, crane etc) working docks unloading ships & trucks making $30-50k a year to a over the road truck driver who will see $60-100k a year. All of these jobs require just a modicum of training and are always in demand and that is just in my career field. 

There are many, many jobs available for those who are willing to work.
Find yourself a niche, have the courage to step our of your comfort zone then distinguish yourself by being on time, working hard & being respectful (all difficult tasks it would seem for the current generation) and you WILL succeed!

The old saying "Good help is hard to find" has never been more true than it is right now. 

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2 hours ago, TedsOnMeds said:

Aviation industries don't seem like a bad next step for a mostly technical worker such as my self.

@AngryGoat recently started on the road to A&P certification, and might be able to offer you some advice on the subject.

Additionally, you have great resources in @Vonrd and @Lipfert.  Both work / have worked in the field of aviation.  And I think @Ludwig might also be able to give some advice as well.

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Ted,

I started early on training to be an AME, it was restoring vintage aircraft with the Canadian Warplane Heritage. However, I did decide on an MBA course at University which took me out of town. I finished the BBA, but not the MBA as I secured a pretty good job at the machine shop that I worked at to pay for school. That turned into a Materials Management profession, then into facilitation of MRP, ERP & ERP II.

At some point while working for Atomic Energy of Canada, they needed and IT Manager more than a Materials Manager and they changed my business cards (100% true).

Been in IT ever since and have been running my own business now for twelve years.

I might be biased, but anything in the IT field is pretty bulletproof. With all the crazy this last year, we've had our best year so far and I executed a buyout of my business partner.

I'd take a look at Cisco Certifications, good place to start. IT Companies are always looking for Service Desk employees.

S!

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2 hours ago, Lipfert said:

 

I might be biased, but anything in the IT field is pretty bulletproof. With all the crazy this last year, we've had our best year so far and I executed a buyout of my business partner.

I'd take a look at Cisco Certifications, good place to start. IT Companies are always looking for Service Desk employees.

S!


Thank you, I will! 

Right now I'm sort of at the point that the stable income from an industry that provides a solid path and lets me reduce the amount of time spent on odd jobs/multiple income streams is far, far, far more important to me than the specific type of work being done, so this sounds like a good shout! 

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That is good stuff from Lipfert, I think he is spot on. 

The first thing that came to mind was if you were interested in mechanics work, getting your A&P would make a lot of sense. There are school opportunities all over the country. There is a definite pilot shortage and the airlines are hiring, but I can't say how that affects the maintenance side. I would have to think that there would be opportunities there. Larger schools have financing available so don't rule out something based on money until you have fully investigated.  There can be scholarships out there as well. 

ADX or aircraft dispatcher is something you might look into, training is not as extensive as A&P and it is an interesting career. If you move up into Part 121 air carrier you can put in your time and have a nice retirement set up. This is only one link I came across there are many more:

How to Become an Aircraft Dispatcher: From Start to Finish - Sheffield School of Aeronautics

I have known several guys that were dispatchers and they found the job interesting enough and lucrative when working for AA. 

You can always go to the airport and get a job working on the line (Line service technician) and from there you will make a lot of contacts and start networking within aviation itself. Probably pays as good as you are making right now and isn't a bad job and the tips can be fun pocket money. 

If not aviation, then Biomedical engineering is a growing field and you can get trained really fast. Working in hospitals on medical electronics is a satisfying job because you can and will make a difference in the care that patients receive. I went into the hospital which took me off flight status and I was not going to get back in the cockpit right away so I had to come up with a career overnight. I accidentally bumped into this because of a failure in my room which led me to "who works on this stuff anyway?"

You can make $35k starting out and move up into the $45-$55k range in a couple of years. If you get lucky, you can get that money and more right off the bat if you get on with a military medical facility and their requirements were not that steep. A civilian contractor working for the military can be challenging because of personalities and lifestyles you will encounter, but if you can keep to yourself and do you work you will be fine. One of the nice things about the job is you are pretty much working unsupervised. If you move into imaging CRT, X-ray, MRI you can make reasonable salaries in excess of $125,000 a year. I specialized in optics, cameras, scopes (endoscopic as well as OR Microscopes) and I was doing well. It kept me afloat until I was called back to AA.  Also, don't think that you need to be more than capable of applying common sense. Troubleshooting is a talent, but most of the clods doing this work simply go through the motions.  You might use an O scope once in 10 years and even then it would be at the most basic level. It is primarily board swapping and basic electronics. If it's burned, it's probably bad.  No one repairs boards anymore.

Look as some of those, if the Biomed interests you a friend of mine that I trained with now owns and operates his own school online. He is a top notch guy and his school is fully accredited and hours are even transferrable to other colleges and universities. Also they are approved by the Texas Workforce Commission and you can get a 2 years associate degree if you want to go that far. Otherwise you can get your initial training and an externship at a hospital and learn on the job which typically results in a job offer. I did a 90 day externship and was hired at $25 an hour and that was 15 years ago.  I really enjoyed my hospital and the staff there and I hated to leave them... but flying was always my first love so it was never a decision, they always knew that when I completed everything the FAA wanted I was leaving. 

 

Anyway... good luck with it and don't hesitate to ask.  

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12 hours ago, Ludwig said:

That is good stuff from Lipfert, I think he is spot on. 

The first thing that came to mind was if you were interested in mechanics work, getting your A&P would make a lot of sense. There are school opportunities all over the country. There is a definite pilot shortage and the airlines are hiring, but I can't say how that affects the maintenance side. I would have to think that there would be opportunities there. Larger schools have financing available so don't rule out something based on money until you have fully investigated.  There can be scholarships out there as well. 

ADX or aircraft dispatcher is something you might look into, training is not as extensive as A&P and it is an interesting career. If you move up into Part 121 air carrier you can put in your time and have a nice retirement set up. This is only one link I came across there are many more:

How to Become an Aircraft Dispatcher: From Start to Finish - Sheffield School of Aeronautics

I have known several guys that were dispatchers and they found the job interesting enough and lucrative when working for AA. 

You can always go to the airport and get a job working on the line (Line service technician) and from there you will make a lot of contacts and start networking within aviation itself. Probably pays as good as you are making right now and isn't a bad job and the tips can be fun pocket money. 

If not aviation, then Biomedical engineering is a growing field and you can get trained really fast. Working in hospitals on medical electronics is a satisfying job because you can and will make a difference in the care that patients receive. I went into the hospital which took me off flight status and I was not going to get back in the cockpit right away so I had to come up with a career overnight. I accidentally bumped into this because of a failure in my room which led me to "who works on this stuff anyway?"

Look as some of those, if the Biomed interests you a friend of mine that I trained with now owns and operates his own school online. He is a top notch guy and his school is fully accredited and hours are even transferrable to other colleges and universities. Also they are approved by the Texas Workforce Commission and you can get a 2 years associate degree if you want to go that far. Otherwise you can get your initial training and an externship at a hospital and learn on the job which typically results in a job offer. I did a 90 day externship and was hired at $25 an hour and that was 15 years ago.  I really enjoyed my hospital and the staff there and I hated to leave them... but flying was always my first love so it was never a decision, they always knew that when I completed everything the FAA wanted I was leaving. 

 

Anyway... good luck with it and don't hesitate to ask.  


Genuinely thank you for this advice, I started looking into the online dispatcher program and it seems like something I would be **EXTREMELY** interested in pursuing!!! It uses the firm, analytical communication skills I've picked up in the passenger seat as a contract race driving instructor the last 5-6 years, in my opinion, that combined with the quick education time seems like a perfect fit. 

If it wasn't too much trouble, could you maybe also get me the information for the Biomed tech school for me to potentially take a look at? A link to a program overview so I can call and talk to somebody as with the Aviation Dispatch info provided would be adequate, but if you had any additional more detailed info, of course I'd also be keenly interested!


Appreciate all the advice coming from the whole squadron right now. I just got off of a 3rd shift I was called in for at 11AM when I was on 1st shift the morning of the 19th and I've been up for 26-28 hours now and I'm feeling in a pretty weak place, mentally, and like I need a change in my life for the better. Coming home to read this has made a huge difference. Really I can't say thank you enough. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

How great is that...!  good for you man.

Do yourself a favor and get online and get the stuff you need now so you can start reading and go in ahead of the game. 

KING schools have been around forever. I used them for my FE written back in 1982. (VCR tapes back then!) 

Pilot Ground School (kingschools.com)

 

ATP (Part 121 / Dispatcher) Ground School & Test Prep (kingschools.com)

 

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21 minutes ago, Vonrd said:

That's great! Just curious why you decided for Dispatch as opposed to ATC. ATC has a higher salary range but is much more stressful.


As I have an Autism Spectrum diagnosis I'm automatically ineligible for ATC, or so I was told. I also wouldn't be able to afford the schooling for it until I had a better job than currently to begin with. 

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  • 6 months later...

Thanks for the suggestions everybody; but I have to say aviation educational and testing standards are putting a new meaning to "rigorous"


20211020_175344.jpg

I can for sure see where the wartime trend of taking previously rejected pilots, ground crew and flight crew comes from as demand increases for personell. This was more significant and exhaustive than my Auto Mechanics course and was considered "Long" for a dispatch certification course at 10 weeks of in-class days.

I have a two week break, then my instructor is going to have a few in person sessions with me after he has time to put some feelers out and we'll be making me a new resume and taking a look at his recommended operations to apply for. I will update when next steps start. :) 

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Hot Dog! That is really great buddy. VERY proud of you for getting down and making it happen. Not only as a dispatcher, but that leads to other things as well including as an instructor on the subject you just achieved. First you learn it, then you teach it. While you are in the habit of studying..... 🤪.....   you can also consider branching out to ground school instuctor. We have several dedicated BGI and AGI instructors that teach only ground school but.... they some how keep ending up in the sims when no one is around. It doesn't pay all that great. but I imagine that it constitutes a livable wage. Then too... the PUSH is incredible at the moment to get people through because NO ONE wants to fly commercial any longer.  .10 cents of advice....  put FEDEX on your refrigerator and think of that every day.... that is the top of the cake. You can't guess how well they take care of their people. 

Take a look at this... goes hand in glove with what you just starting learning and nothing says you can't do both.

You do not need to be a licensed pilot to become a ground instructor. You also do not need to have medical clearance, meaning you can still get the rating even if you are not medically fit to fly. 

7 Things You Should Know About Ground Instructor Certificates (redbirdflight.com)

 

Tear it up kid....

 

LL

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28 minutes ago, Ludwig said:

Then too... the PUSH is incredible at the moment to get people through because NO ONE wants to fly commercial any longer.  .10 cents of advice....  put FEDEX on your refrigerator and think of that every day.... that is the top of the cake. You can't guess how well they take care of their people. 

Take a look at this... goes hand in glove with what you just starting learning and nothing says you can't do both.

You do not need to be a licensed pilot to become a ground instructor. You also do not need to have medical clearance, meaning you can still get the rating even if you are not medically fit to fly. 

7 Things You Should Know About Ground Instructor Certificates (redbirdflight.com)

 

Tear it up kid....

 

LL


All good stuff to note. I was speaking to my dispatch instructor Elias and he mentioned that working maybe Part-time at FedEx slinging boxes for 1 day a week while working my 4x10s as a DX would be a great way to get my foot in the door after my first 1-2 years at a Subsidiary 121. What you say about companies needing instructors, pilots and DX bad is 100% true. I'm just trying to play my cards right, it will for sure be a topic of discussion when we're prioritizing first jobs to apply for with him in a few weeks.

For now, I just need to catch up on sleep and relax for awhile. :D

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I would walk on hot coals for a chance at FedEx.... if you have an in...  take it.  Flew with a guy Snags might remember, was in my hire class at Eagle and he quit Eagle after a few years and went to NorthWest Airlink and flew for them for a year or so and then quit and went and worked boxes at the sort center as he was already in MEM and said that if you worked on the ground for a year, you could get an interview in the flight department. He retires from FedEx in December after 25 years in the cockpit. 

It really does work. 

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On 10/21/2021 at 11:52 AM, Ludwig said:

I would walk on hot coals for a chance at FedEx.... if you have an in...  take it.  Flew with a guy Snags might remember, was in my hire class at Eagle and he quit Eagle after a few years and went to NorthWest Airlink and flew for them for a year or so and then quit and went and worked boxes at the sort center as he was already in MEM and said that if you worked on the ground for a year, you could get an interview in the flight department. He retires from FedEx in December after 25 years in the cockpit. 

It really does work. 


Seems like a good way to try. The other OP I wanted to try to get into was the new Amazon Air-mail SOC in Cincinnati, our assistant instructor who's a dispatcher for Endeavor out of KMSP for about 1.5 years now is trying to get lined up there.

Apparently it's a great job - and I mean it's amazon - and they're offering a 20,000 dollar sign on bonus.

But I have two major concerns

1.) Within 1-2 years of me working and being on the desk, they'll be full and there'll be a line 10 miles long to get that job. and

2.) I don't really trust Amazon will treat their Aeronautical employees any better than their packaging workers - that is to say they'll thrash them within an inch of what the FAR allows or straight up get exemptions for most duty-requirements. 

So maybe a Legacy air cargo company like a FedEx would be better. Also I hear American airlines treats their Pilots and Dispatcher's real well even if they treat their customers like Dirt, and the EU and Asian countries don't have a regulatory requirement for Aircraft dispatcher's to be Licensed so they pay through the nose to get US trained dispatchers. 


One of the issues will be train in cycles, of course. I might have to take the job at a less desirable company to start working before the year is over as the ground schools are all on different rotations for different companies. I missed Endeavor's October ground school cutoff so waiting until February without a job may be more costly than just packing up and moving for work. Hard to gauge. New experience for me, makes me very anxious.  

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  • 2 months later...

Update on Job Search so far - which sucks, by the way and I'm still unemployed which is getting bad financially. I'm starting to subconsciously think of PR-speech and canned answers for HR questions in my down time during the day whenever I'm not doing anything productive. 🤢

I'm not sure what the problem is, but most airlines seem to have two ground schools a year for Dispatchers, one around that January-March range and one in September-December, depending on the region. I may be running up against the Christmas lull so airlines aren't making decisions but I am a bit discouraged by the lack of communication from most places. 

In Progress or Stalled out

IL based Larger Regional: Never heard anything after applying in October
Breezy: Denied due to lack of previous experience
Delta Partner 1: Got two interviews in, last did a video interview with them in mid November and have heard nothing since, ground school is up in two weeks, expecting I was dropped from candidates
United Express carrier 3: Given an offer for $16.00/hr, non union, 1 week of time off per year and no benefits on December 5th- counter offered $18.50 or $3500 relocation and school reimbursement fund on flight instructor's suggestion, was never sent return communication. 
United Express carrier 2: Talked to them and really enjoyed it, did a General HR interview, then a technical interview with the SOC Manager and new Dispatch trainer on December 17th, they seemed to like me and I was told I'd have an offer Via email before Christmas and am yet to hear anything back.
United Express Carrier 4: Never heard anything, applied in November
CAN regional: Never heard anything, applied in November.

I can't remember anything else but I think I also applied for some 135's and a few air ambulance operations around this time. 

Recently Applied For

United Express Carrier 1: Has a very, very strong reputation among regional airlines. Fleet size is roughly 80 aircraft so it's in-between some of the MSP regionals and smaller non-legacy 121's and the small regionals in size, seems like a good idea. 

Idaho Cargo Op: There's a smaller Cargo and Turbo-prop op, 121, They have stated pay on their website I believe as a state mandate so may be less tricky to negotiate with, but the idea of moving to Idaho doesn't necessarily excite me, honestly.  
 

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Yeah, do keep at it. Don't wait for them to get back to you. Keep calling them back to follow up. It shows that you're really interested. Don't discount the 135s either. Charter flight ops have increased greatly during the COVID era. I'm sure that there are probably a few in your area. I'm not sure what their training options might be though and pay might be low. Here's a listing of Charter operators:

https://privatejetcardcomparisons.com/part-135-charter-operators-and-private-jet-safety/

I've worked consistently with Ameriflight, Delta Private Jets, Flight Options, GAMA and SurfAir and they seem to be pretty good companies.

When I started as a mechanic (early 90s) there was a dearth of job openings and I finally had to accept contract work which involved lots of travel, midnight shifts, motels etc. but it did include per diem so my housing / food costs were pretty much covered. It allowed me to network and finally find work in GA. But things should be different now because of the labor shortage.

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Check at local FBOs as well.  Here in Kenosha, there's a local FBO, that functions both as a 135 and a part 91 operation, who has needed a dispatcher for the last year and a half.  Last time I talked to the office person over there (couple months back), the only people to have applied for it so far is out of work pilots.  

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