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Pilot after 40 & other negatives Opinion

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Well-known member
Jul 3, 2002
I thought it would be a good opportunity to get back into aviation after being out 20 years since I had been out of work for 9 months and couldn't even get an interview etc. So with the wife's blessing I took out a govt loan and proceeded to work on my CFI. A few weeks ago I went to my checkride with FAA not a DE and failed during the oral when I presented a diagram of a multi-engine governor instead of a single engine one (provided by my instructor). I had chased everyone I knew down at the FBO where I was taking lessons to help with the governor prior to the ride and no one knew. The mechanic I talked with there didn't know how they worked. It was a bummer to say the least. After waiting a couple of weeks to think about it and try to be cool about it I have talked with the FBO and they are willling to provide the airplane free of charge for another ride and the instructor is willing to provide his time free (yes the same one) to prepare me again. I found out after I had flunked that I could have been better on explanations but hadn't ever taught ground to anyone inexperienced during the initial prep and I'm told it is the norm to do so. He said there was no doubt I knew the information sans governor (not my fault) but could be better talking through it. I agree. Anyhow it will have been a month and a half since the first one when he can do the checkride again and because of the FBO's deal I won't have flown in that length of time and also there was no role playing in the cockpit (instructor pretending to be student) nor did I fly with any students. I feel like I made the wrong choice but there isn't anything I can do about it now. The money is gone. There isn't any more money to dump into it. What I'm wanting opinons on is should I just cut my losses and get out? I really like my instructor but he has only prepared 3 prior CFI applicants and they all went to DE's. I have no options other than the ones above to finish. Were I to actually finish which I think will be a stretch after not having flown in so long and having the same type of preperation that caused me to flunk in the beginning what would be my options of getting a job say a few years (3 or more) down the road that would be in the at least $40,000 range? I don't have any college and my instrument currency is 20 years old. My prior work has been Network Admin type stuff which is worse than aviation probably at this point. I'd like to stay in but must also provide for the family etc. I'm not asking for anyone to be a fortune teller etc but just give an honest opinion. Oh the examiner did say that I was in the "above average" group for the folks he fails. har de har. I missed most of his de-briefing as I was in la la land just thinking about all the money I had just blown and knowing there was no way to put any more in. Thanks for any opinions. My main goal in this is not to put the family through more mistakes of mine if nothing good is ever going to come of it. Or if the odds favor etc.

Oh my Gawd....

...I soooo feel for you. I got my CFI 22 years ago and was prepared for the ride much as you were. My CFI hadn't done any CFI preps before. Luckily, I flew with a DE rather than the FAA and the guy (thanks Neal Karman, wherever you are) knew I was going to Riddle, wouldn't be instructing right away, and would have a chance to get some good CFI and CFI-I training at Riddle. He passed me but made it clear I was minimum standards.

FAA and CFI checkrides....the Seattle FSDO used to have a really high bust rate. My personal experience was with a very close friend who busted the oral on a stupid technicality. He went back a week later and passed the rest of the ride with ease. My thinking is that FAA guys just like to bust initial CFI rides to put the fear of God in you....show you who's boss sort of thing...it's sick. Things like this make me stay as far away from the federalies as possible....

You could either try to take the ride again with a DE or take it with the FAA guy. You should get credit for the portion of the oral you already passed. Too many variables to really make a educated guess for you.

Can you make 40K in three years....that's a tough one. Seriously, I've know guys who could make that free lance instructing..but only if you have the right situation and live in a big city. It all depends on what happens with the economy and the regional airlines. There are some 135 freight jobs that pay that kind of money but you'll need some pretty good experience to get one and some seniority to get one. For example, I have a friend that makes about that flying Caravans.

I sure hate to see you give up on the CFI after coming this far. You are so close.
In an aviation career, you have to understand that there will be many set backs. Furloughs, failures, divorces, etc. If you thinking about pulling out just because you failed a checkride then maybe aviation isn't for you.

What "money did you blow"? The FAA is a free ride. Saying that you blew money on training is a bad attitude. Did you learn anything at all from your training? You knew that the FAA CFI ride was going to be tough going into it, right? Re take it, you should do fine, and move on with your career. Trying to find other people (mechanics, CFI's, etc.) to blame your failure on is a defense mechanism... you should know that.

My suggestion - do plenty of self study to make sure you have everything down. Spend an hour or two with your instructor going over everything (that costs $80 or so?). Rent a plane, go back to the FSDO, take the ride and get your certificate and start instructing.
I went to my checkride with FAA not a DE and failed during the oral when I presented a diagram of a multi-engine governor instead of a single engine one (provided by my instructor).

Okay, I'll bite...is there a difference between the two. A governor is a govenor. What does it matter if it's installed on engine that happens to be on a multi vs a single engine aircraft.

About your decision. I really don't know what to tell you. I'd like to be optimistic but I feel I need to be realistic with you. You're 40 without a college degree with a family to feed and you now want to get started and make a living in aviation? In all honesty, I'd say your chances are slim at this point. Aviation is in one of the worst slumps in it's history with little improvement in sight. Also, one more terrorist attack could upset what liitle gains we've made since 9/11.

Time requirements to get on with an airline (those that are hiring anyway) have gone through the roof with many very qualified folks pounding the pavement looking for work. Upgrades at even the regional level have slowed to a crawl. I've heard folks are having trouble finding CFI jobs. Corporate? Forget it unless you know someone.

I ask you, what kind of job do you hope to find at your age, lack of college degree and low experience level that'll also support a family? CFI jobs pay squat. Regional airline f/o pay is below povery level. You could spent the next 10 yrs at those levels if you make it that far.

I think I would have stayed put at your old job and tried to get a part time CFI job as a hobby to keep your hand in flying.
single engine and multi-engine governors work in reverse. I'm not sure why but there must be a reason. I know that the theory behind the multi-engine governor is to drive the prop towards feather if the engine loses oil pressure. I haven't gone back to learn it yet but have gotten hold of some A&P study materials so that I can.


of course I learned some things. When I said I had no money to put into it that is what I meant. No one more dollar can I spend on it. Therefore there can be no more plane rental etc. What the FBO has offered is it other than self study which of course I would do anyway. I believed I had the correct information on the governor to begin with or I wouldn't have gone.

Single engine failsafe is to force prop to high RPM low pitch to aid in restart. Ergo, governor regulates oil pressure against the prop to drive the blades to high pitch (low RPM).

Multi engine failsafe is to force prop to feather (highest pitch angle). Governor drives oil against prop to create low pitch and high RPM.

They are complete opposites in a subtle way and this would have helped "technical knowledge" of the CFI candidate (even if the FAA guy was being picky and showing his superior knowledge).

The fact that you busted an FAA CFI ride should be no big deal. Like someone said it's part of life. Dust yourself off and go in there again.

As a career, flying is tough and is going to get worse. I sure wish that computers weren't in the tank right now because with this new stock market crash I need to go out and get a real job. This regional pay ain't paying the bills and CFI's and check haulers must be starving. You have a family - discuss with them. They are your support group. Be realistic - CFI's in Washington DC area can bring in $17K-20K a year with some work. Set a goal, let your family know and achieve it. Otherwise the two big jobs for hiring are the new TSA security screeners or Sky Marshalls.
Get back on the horse . . .

. . . . is your only alternative. Truthfully, although the FAA is here to help, it is inconsistent. Some ASIs are extremely fair and are, indeed, helpful. Some, and the entirety of their FSDOs, are not. You can say the same for designees.

Just the same, you have no choice but to chalk it up as a learning experience and go back.

I agree with Tarp 100%. Take it from someone who tried for the career ten years ago in his late 30s-early 40s (I'm 51 now). Read my other posts. Don't expect much luck at the commuters, despite what others say. They are a hotbed of age discrimination. But, believe it or not, there are other things to do in aviation. Corporate flying pays well, but you have to do a lot of legwork to get into a place. There are freight and fractionals, too.

(psst) Did I hear someone suggest full-time flight instructing? Why not? There are some good jobs for senior instructors. Two examples include Airline Training Center Arizona in Goodyear, Arizona, and International Flight Traning Academy in Bakersfield, California. Sorry, I don't have websites. ATCA trains foreign airline students, primarily Lufthansa. IFTA is a clone of ATCA and trains All Nippon Air and Alitalia students, among others. Both pay extremely well, in your salary range. Absolutely first-class equipment and facilities, and great benies. Just a couple of suggestions.

Just set realistic goals. In the meantime, get your degree. It is vital to your career success. It need not be in aviation, but it needs to be from an accredited college. Get instrument current, while you're at it.

Good luck with the recheck and good luck with your plans.
Dust yourself off and get back in the race.
A busted FAA initial CFI is part of the dues you'll be paying in this club for a long, long time. I've been paying and watching them be paid for over 30 years.
My findings on the pay thing is that you build your pay rate (reputation) one hour at a time, one student at a time. I did on demand, fly through wx you could walk on 135 for over 10 years along with flight instruction. Gradually I weaned myself away from the 135 I abhorred to full time CFI, which I love, by turning out the absolute best pilots I could. My reputation has now gotten me to the point that I manage an FBO and instruct full time and turn over $40k a year at a Podunk airport.
But rest assured I slugged it out a good many hours for what ammounted to less than minimum wage and for a while I'd instruct by day and tend a mini market by night. Somewhere along the way my first wife said so long. I've often said that if I'd worked this hard in any other industry I'd be on mahogany row by now.
So, if you REALLY want to be in this club and romance these aluminium mistresses you gotta pay the dues. A busted ride is just the beginning.
Don't get me wrong- I love what I do and I wouldn't have missed the ride for anything. BUT you will never get rich quick in this racket... the heavy drivers, big time corporate drivers, etc all started where you will be....at the bottom of the big, big pile and through hard work and enterprise rose to the top. If it's in your heart you'll make it....if not I'm sorry.

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