Blue Collar Pilots

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by GrummanBear, Feb 9, 2020.

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  1. GrummanBear

    GrummanBear Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I’m interested in hearing from others who also paid their own way into aviation...but not those who started out with trust funds, inheritance, or white collar jobs. Not whatsoever knocking those blessed with lucky circumstance, but just wanting to hear the other stories of those who ground it out on their own or are still in that process. I’m interested in the self-made, the successes and failures of the quixotic.

    Just for fun, and maybe it will encourage someone out there to slug it out (pursuing aviation).

    **Edit: Just interested in histories made or in the making, e.g “geezer” below. Not knocking the wealthy or privileged. Geeze.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2020
  2. mondtster

    mondtster En-Route

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    You appear to be implying that having a blue collar job impedes a person’s ability to earn a pilot certificate or an airplane. Is this your position?

    There are plenty of white collar jobs that pay less than many skilled trades, making it more of a challenge for those white collar folks to fly than a tradesman. In fact, of the local pilots I see at the airport who own airplanes and/or are flying regularly, I think the majority of them have or had blue collar jobs.

    As a glorified product development mechanic I’m solidly blue collar. I haven’t found it to be overly debilitating, but there are times when having a little more money to pursue some projects would be nice. Having more time to do all that I do would be of greater benefit to me than more money would be, work gets in the way of my hobbies.
     
  3. geezer

    geezer Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Definitely a blue color worker, power company technician.

    I flew a few hours while in the Army.
    I flew a few more when I got out.
    Ten years later, decided to get the PPL, and 3 months later, I had it.
    A few years later, decided to get commercial and Instrument, 3 months later, I had both.

    Skipping the breaks, about 8 months of pursuing the training. An engineering background, no degree, but a lot of classes was good preparation for the mental skills needed.

    With your own plane, and reasonable time to study the appropriate books, a few months of good weather and a good instructor should do it.

    I took a formal Commercial Ground School at the local community college to prep[are for the PPL written, because it was available at the right time. I self studied for the actual Commercial and Instrument writtens, but had been casually reading the books during the intervening years, so was ready before I restarted flight training.

    Good luck, it is a lot of fun, and your Grumman will be fine for a lot of cross country traveling when you get the PPL.
     
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  4. Brad W

    Brad W Pre-takeoff checklist

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    No disrespect intended here......I think the blue/white collar thing gets it wrong in many ways.
    I have what most folks would call a white collar job.... an education resulting in a Mechanical Engineering degree

    My first job out of school was a Maintenance Engineer at a large unionized pulp and paper mill. A few years in I saw a list of the starting salaries for all the hourly wage jobs in the mill. Mine was an entry level job I know, but still....I had worked hard for my BS and AAS degrees and in some regards was coming into the job with over 4 years hard work when compared to an equivalent entry level hourly job....
    now keep in mind I was looking at base wages...not counting for overtime pay which could be 1.5X, 2x, or I think even up to maybe 3x (which as a "white collar" I was not eligible for) and it also did not account for seniority raises....anyway, it was discouraging to see that the only employees that made less money than me were what they called a "Mill Extra"...the guys they would hire off the street to sweep the floors and just do odd little jobs as an entry level job.

    I do ok now, but I know that even now a tremendous number of "blue collar" jobs easily make more money than I do...

    So.... I paid my way into aviation as a hobby making "blue collar" wages....and over the years have had a hard time justifying staying current. The high prices were one of the causes for my 16 year break from it....
     
  5. Ravioli

    Ravioli Final Approach

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    Your premise is insulting, and is part of the perception that aviation is a "rich man's game."

    I'm by no means "blue collar." Many of us are not. But the trade off to fly was worth it and supported by those in our households.

    Read the threads... many people drive older used cars and live in smaller homes to have the funds for this hobby.
     
  6. GrummanBear

    GrummanBear Pre-takeoff checklist

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    It is a different path, and I think young or new aspiring pilots should hear the stories and discover the possibilities. The internet and pilot lounges are full of folks who spend a lot of time focusing on costs and opportunities to fail, without highlighting those who worked their way in from little or nothing. E.g., I have a friend who buys and sells jets on a whim, is a bang on incredible pilot, nice guy, and was able to do great things due to a substantial inheritance. Another friend is a salaried jet pilot for a prominent family, who got there by taking loans for school in Tulsa years ago, flying a 90s movie star around for free in an Aerostar to build time, and ultimately landing his current gig about 20 years ago....Just interested in histories along the lines of the latter. I grew up very poor, and it was too long before I finally ignored the advice of some wealthier naysayers and took hold of what I wanted to do. I think it is good for folks to hear.
     
  7. GrummanBear

    GrummanBear Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Relax friend, it isn’t a premise, just an interest in hearing about a different type of background for the edification of the young or under privileged who may be looking for inspiration or encouragement.
     
  8. wanttaja

    wanttaja En-Route

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    Traded janitorial work for flight time. Every week= 1 hour in a Citabria. Usually took me just ~5 hours a week to keep the place spiffy.

    Ron Wanttaja
     
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  9. rk911

    rk911 Line Up and Wait

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    sooo...what makes you think that someone with a "white collar" job wasn't also "self-made"? me? I've had what most would call "blue collar" jobs (steel mill, loading dock, iron foundry) but also I wore a tie to work for the last 17-years of my career, dispatcher, shift manager, senior manager, deputy director of the largest and busiest regional multi-jurisdictional 9-1-1 call center in Illinois.

    I started training for my PPL in 1982 but had to quit just shy of my solo due to an injury to my wife that kept her off work for 6-mos. it wasn't until I was retired in 2012 that I resumed training, this time for my Sport certificate. during the intervening 30-years we budgeted and set aside $X each month for the time I would resume my training so when the time came we had the cash.

    hard work, saving/investing, living beneath your means, no debt. the keys to building wealth for everyone...blue and white collars.
     
  10. AKBill

    AKBill En-Route

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    Highest level of education BSME, University of Illinois. Profession, maintain underground mining equipment, Greens Creek Mine, Juneau AK. Work moved me 3 times in the year and a half I was working on my PPL.

    I think I had 6 flight instructors before earning my PPL. It was a lot of work but I did get to fly in 3 different states during my training. Finished PPL training when I was working underground at Homestake Gold Mine in Lead, SD 1995....:)
     
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  11. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser!

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    While I had a "white collar" job as an engineer, i started my flight training the moment I got out of college so I wasn't making much. It was a scrape to get by. As I once told someone, I drive 12 years old cars so I can fly 30 year old airplanes. Not having a wife/girlfriend, not dining out a lot, not travelling on vacation, brown bagging, etc....
     
  12. GrummanBear

    GrummanBear Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I went through two my first day... on my way to the airport, I saw a CFIs plane he had landed in a field being towed :(...then CFI1 was visibly shaking, so I asked for another...and CFI2 porpoised on the runway like Free Willy after forgetting to get clearance to land...CFI3 was bang on solid--young and new, but professional and competent. All at a 141
     
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  13. mondtster

    mondtster En-Route

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    Your story is similar to mine. I was a “white collar” field service engineer for many years and didn’t make much more than enough to live acceptably. Between that and the business ethics for the company I was working for I got tired of it, left, and took a skilled trades position. I was gone all the time and worked 60-70 hour weeks as an engineer and now I’m rarely gone, work 40 hour weeks, and make close to double the wage I was before. I could make a lot more if I’d work overtime or relocate, but I really don’t want to right now.

    I learned to fly and owned an airplane before I was making decent money though, so the job was no factor in being able to do it. Making the job change/move gave me a lot more time to be an airport bum though, which gave me a lot of opportunities to make some great friends earn some certificates/ratings for less money, and fly and maintain some interesting airplanes. Perhaps a better thread would be married vs. unmarried, as I suspect that has more potential to be a limitation than having a blue collar job is.
     
  14. kath

    kath Cleared for Takeoff

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    I lived in Antarctica for a year, when I was just out of grad school. During that time, I had no living expenses at all (housing, food, electric bills), and so my salary just accumulated in a bank. When I got back to the states, I started spending it down... on flying lessons.


    Being "blessed with lucky circumstance" or not, or "self-made" or not, or having a "white/blue collar job", are culturally-charged archetypes that are wholly unrelated to each other, and will fail to describe a lot of people. All I know is, I consider myself pretty blessed and/or lucky.
     
  15. murphey

    murphey Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    After what I just paid a plumber hourly rate to replace 2 faucets, trust me, they make more than many white-collar engineers! When I'm not teaching college, I certainly don't get $150/hr as a software engineer!
     
  16. Half Fast

    Half Fast En-Route

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    Perhaps not what you meant, but your wording equates “white collar” with privilege. You lump white collar jobs into the same category as trust funds and inheritances. That’s BS.

    My dad was a high school shop teacher, my mom a church secretary. Not exactly a silver spoon upbringing.

    I worked my ass off to earn my degrees, working summer and part-time jobs and studying hard to earn scholarships. I took out student loans and worked hard to pay them off. My degrees, and the job I have now as a chief engineer at Lockheed, weren’t gifts and they weren’t sheer luck. They were hard earned, and I still put in lots of hard hours. I also have enough sense to stay out of debt and to save and invest.

    And if I can do it, almost anyone can if they’re willing to make the effort.

    Forgive me if this is too strong a response, but I get tired of crap about being fortunate.
     
  17. JOhnH

    JOhnH Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    To all those that got offended by the OP's question:

    Get over it. You can answer his question and if you think he's wrong, then just tell him that. Don't get your panties in a wad.
     
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  18. flyer770

    flyer770 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    >Forgive me if this is too strong a response, but I get tired of crap about being fortunate.

    You are fortunate, quite frankly, even if you don't want to hear it. Born in a first world country to good parents who instilled in you a good work ethic puts you well ahead of many people on this planet. I suspect that most people on this board have that kind of fortune which can make up for lack of money. Beyond that we make our own luck.
     
  19. Half Fast

    Half Fast En-Route

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    Yes, I’m fortunate I wasn’t born in a cave in Afghanistan. But that’s not what the OP asked, and a whole different thing than lumping together white collar work with inheriting a trust fund.
     
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  20. smv

    smv Line Up and Wait

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    I paid for my seaplane rating by doing solo underwater reconstruction of the floating mechanism under the chapel at the seaplane base at PHNL. My return on investment was a bit higher but the risks were a lot more substantial.

    o_O

    P.S. My collar was neither white nor blue because I wore a collarless/sleeveless shirt under my BC. ;)
     
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  21. benyflyguy

    benyflyguy Pattern Altitude

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    I have yet to meet a trust fund pilot.
    I’m fairly confident my plumber makes a lot more then me in my white collar job based on what I pay him.
     
  22. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

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    My Dad was an immigrant bus driver with a high school education.
    I grew up in a household with 5 brothers (alas, no sisters, Mom gave up after 6 tries); we darn near bankrupted the family with the food bill when we were teenagers (all of us except the twins are well over 6', and we were pretty rough and tumble, playing basketball, football, rugby and lacrosse).

    Usual kids-of-immigrants story. Parents emphasized academic achievement as a way to get ahead in the new country. We have 8 or 9 university degrees between us (engineering, forestry, law, MBAs), and every one of us had to pay our own way through as our parents could barely rub two nickels together at the best of times. The deal was we got to live at home rent-free as long as we were students. No gap years, pay for your own car, that sort of thing back then, LOL. Never thought it was a hardship, and shake my head when I see what some of my friends do for their kids these days.

    I was fortunate to win enough scholarship money going into my 2nd year of engineering school to pay all my tuition and books the rest of the way through. Engineering students can usually nail down some pretty well paying summer jobs if they have any ambition. The scholarships and good paying summer work meant I had money for messing with cars and to get my PPL one summer (of course my Dad thought both of those were a complete waste of good money). I fly only for the fun and the challenge. Never intended to make a living from it. However, my youngest brother decided to show me how its really done - went on after university to fly McDonnell Douglas Hornets, become a fighter instructor and now flies Boeing 787s long haul. He and I co-own the Dawg now.
    I was raised to believe that as long as you know what your talents really are, you can accomplish anything you want if you put your mind to it.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2020
  23. GrummanBear

    GrummanBear Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Thank you, friend. It sounds like you get it. Just looking for people like yourself and others on here to encourage others. I think those getting ****y on here need some thicker skin or self respect. I respect any man secure in who he is, be it blue or white, rich or poor, or wherever in between. My father was poor, as it sounds like yours was as well, but the best man I have ever known. Congratulations to you and yours, and to your parents for the values they passed on.
     
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  24. Kenny Phillips

    Kenny Phillips En-Route

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    My father was white collar, but the neighbor, at the same company working as a pipefitter, made more money.
     
  25. Brad Smith

    Brad Smith Line Up and Wait

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    Took my first lesson as a boxboy in a grocery store and every penny for flying/education/housing/transportation etc., came out of my own pocket. I also had parents that had more common sense than money and taught us all the right things concerning education and how to handle money. It may have been easier for me back in the 80's to pay for schooling (and flying) but making the right decisions and avoiding the wrong ones is what paid BIG dividends. I agree with others, if you really want to fly you'll figure out a way to get into the sky.
     
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  26. flyer770

    flyer770 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I don't get that reading the OP. He did separate out the trust fund chaps from the white collar high pay ones. And I know I'm fortunate to be reasonably physically fit and have a good blue collar job that covers flying. Of course when I started Champs were $20 an hour to rent. Bit harder nowadays.
     
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  27. JOhnH

    JOhnH Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Yeah, I noticed that part too. But you have to consider the context. I don't think he meant it with any malice. We all have our struggles. My three brothers and I were raised by a single mom (Dad killed in Korea), until she re-married to an alcoholic. But at least he helped support us and gave a goal (of what NOT to be). I struggled to get into Ga Tech (To Hell to Georgia!) because it was a state school with low tuition. I was the first person in my family to even attend college, much less graduate, even if it did take me seven years. My older brother also graduated, but after me, and AFTER he returned from Vietnam and had access to GI benefits.

    But I still understand young, blue collar workers that are struggling to survive. That doesn't mean you and I have not struggled. It just means he has different circumstances and he is reaching out to others like him. Give him credit where it is due. Too many people today want things given to them. He sounds like he is willing to work for his ppl, he just wants to hear from others like him that have done it. Perhaps to give him encouragement. And this old Boomer likes to encourage young people to stretch their envelope.

    So I still say don't get your panties in a wad over it. It is not only millennials that can act like snowflakes.
     
  28. RyanShort1

    RyanShort1 En-Route

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    The thing is, so-called "blue-collars" have often already figured out that they are going to have to pay for what they want. There's NOTHING wrong with parents helping their kids out, including education, which is what is offensive about the opening statement... but some parents can't afford much.

    I paid my way through flight school with warehousing, line service, mx help, beekeeping, and a few other jobs. I don't think my parents paid for more than oh, 5% of the actual flight training, but they let me live at home for free and fed me and of course raised me to get to that point.

    I couldn't see myself going into debt to go to college. My dad has 3 college degrees but my current job is better paying than his and that's honestly sad, but the way it is for many professionals.
     
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  29. IK04

    IK04 Pattern Altitude

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    I got up at 03:30 in the morning, six days a week for $20 per day as a milkman while I was managing 20 credit hours per semester in college. I slept on Sundays.

    While volunteering my time to do maintenance on club airplanes at night, I managed to squeeze in the time to fly and get my Private, Instrument, Commercial and CFI.

    The rental on a C-150 was $5/hour wet and the CFI was $5 per hour. When I became a CFI, I charged the same rate for my students and $10 per hour for everyone else.

    Besides freelance work as a Porsche/Volkswagen/BMW mechanic, that was my only income for three years until I built up 1,300 hours, went to Alaska and made the big bucks flying charters and bush.

    I paid my own way and never borrowed a dime from my parents or anyone else.
     
  30. Will Kumley

    Will Kumley Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Grew up poor, helped pay the monthly bills as a teenager once I got my jobs as it was the responsible thing to do if we wanted food on the table. I say jobs because while in high school I was working 4 jobs while also being a high school student. Luckily the work program that exists in many schools today was a thing when I was growing up so I left school at mid day to work at a doctors office filing records for about 3 hours a day. After that it was off to the grocery store to stock shelves until 11pm which was closing time. I got a small break until around 1am when the family would head to the newspaper drop off point to sort, stuff then deliver papers for our route. Homework was done when time became available on any of the breaks I got at the jobs. The newspaper usually kept us up until 3am unless the delivery was late so I'd get a couple hours of sleep before school usually. Forth job was helping start up and run a family owned locksmith business that failed pretty quickly but we hung onto it because my stepdad was determined to try and make it work. He was using my grocery store income to pay bills on the locksmith company for about a year before my mom found out and told him he needed to give up his dream of getting rich with his own business. Joined the military to get away from the writing on the wall and have my education paid for. Didn't join to fly, actually joined to fix planes and was damn good at it for 20+ years. Still in the military but no longer fixing planes. I'm one of the few Command Senior Chiefs in the Navy and hopefully on my way to Command Master Chief. Grew up with an uncle that flew but never thought I could afford lessons. For some reason, the flying bug bit me hard on a deployment about 2 years ago so I saved up money, somehow convinced my wife it was a good idea and am now roughly 50 hours in my PPL training. Been waiting on my checkride since November but weather and aircraft maintenance have delayed it so far. Proud to say that not only have I paid for all of it on my own but none of it was on credit. Well, I did use my credit card to rent the plane but it gets paid off monthly to avoid any fees and help boost my credit even more while I'm doing this. Fun fact, I'm an avid motorcycle rider and instructor. I told my wife last fathers day that I wanted either flight lessons or a fairly expensive motorcycle training course as a gift. The motorcycle course was a ton cheaper than flight lessons ever could be and I made sure to convey that to her so I actually thought the motorcycle course would be the easy yes. But the trick was on me when she took me to the airport and we went on a discovery flight. I'm not complaining but it really isn't what I expected to happen when I asked for one of those two things roughly a year ago.

    On a side note, not sure why others are getting upset about your question, if they don't like it they should simply move to the next thread.
     
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  31. k9medic

    k9medic Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Sold everything I could to afford my private fixed wing rating. Sold my favorite rifle to pay the DPE.

    Got three credit cards and maxed them out to get my helicopter ratings, cfii and ATP. Had to pay the DPE in installments since he didn’t take credit cards.

    Took a while to dig out but a turtle never gets anywhere unless he sticks his neck out.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
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  32. GrummanBear

    GrummanBear Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Will, I know you know how to work for a living...making senior in any rate in the Navy isn’t easy. Good luck in adding the second anchor star. Props to you...I did a lot in the Navy, but never seemed to accomplish a damn thing. o_O I got hooked on bikes while studying Arabic at DLI. Still ride a few hundred miles a week on a GS...
     
  33. sarangan

    sarangan Line Up and Wait

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    How about a college student getting his pilot certificate while also paying for college through part time employment? Does that count?
     
  34. GrummanBear

    GrummanBear Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I feel you...had to sell the rifle I went through sniper school with to buy our wedding rings... Curious if you’re glad you added rotary. I’ve always assumed the jobs go to former military WOs, but it looks like a lot of fun.
     
  35. wiregoat

    wiregoat Filing Flight Plan

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    I work in I.T. but my big secret was to talk my wife into getting her PPL. Now she does not protest me spending money on flying, but she hogs the left seat on low wind days.

    Sent from my XT1575 using Tapatalk
     
  36. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 Final Approach

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    Timbeck2
    I was born a poor black child...

    In rural Arkansas, the rich kids went to college and the poor kids went to work. I drove tractor and other related (sweaty) duties from the time I was old enough to reach the tractor pedals at about 12 until I was 19. I did this because my family could not afford to buy the school clothes everyone else had. I played basketball in K-Mart slide arounds (those gym shoes that the soles didn't grip anything and turned yellow in about two months) because my family couldn't afford the $12 for Chuck Taylor Converse All Stars. They only came in white back then. I wore a lot of hand me down clothes from my cousins and my mom sewed a few shirts for me. She even made a decent attempt at one of those chambray shirts with the western scene embroidery on the back shoulder part. But I still got laughed at. Nobody from the local colleges ever came to my high school and explained that student loans, grants and scholarships were available to kids like me. Nobody. I remember for Christmas money, my job when I got home in the fall was to pick up pecans from the 11 trees in our yard which we'd sell for $6 a pound. In the summer when I was too young to drive tractor, I'd mow other people's yards along with my dad and uncle for $5, of which they'd get two dollars each and I'd get one.

    I realized that I didn't have much of a future in Arkansas, so I enlisted in the Air Force; I wanted to see the world. Where did they send me for my first duty assignment as a jet engine mechanic? Columbus AFB, MS - 4 hours from where I grew up. I volunteered for world wide overseas and got Kadena Air Base, Okinawa when is where I started to fly in the Aero Club. After my goals of getting my bachelor's degree, making at least E-7. I cross trained into ATC after 10 years as a jet mech. I retired from the Air Force after 24 years and got a job with the DoD as a controller. Only then was I financially able to buy a plane and finish my pilot's license.

    I wanted my kids to have more than I did so I paid for their college educations, I paid for their first beater cars and insurance. Now that they're pretty much on their own, I am proud of them. Not all the apron strings have been cut but that's okay with me and I'm still about as blue collar as one can get.
     
  37. kayoh190

    kayoh190 Super Moderator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    Kayoh@190
    I consider myself lucky with my circumstances - my parents were middle class but I was brought up around computers. My Dad ran his own small computer consulting business, and while modest, it put food on the table and I got all the old hand me down machines that he'd bring home from clients after upgrades. So by the time I was in college I had a small portfolio of programming projects I had done since middle school (including the core of a custom logbook program I still use today). Anyway, that portfolio and a little networking led to a job writing code at a game development studio in Austin. That job paid for college and all my certificates after private (I paid for my private while back in HS by doing odd jobs over the summers). Once the tech industry collapsed in the late 90s and our studio finally closed in 2001, I got a job at a local flight school, finished up my CFI/CFII/MEI, and the rest is history.

    So it's not a hardship story by any means - writing code isn't exactly roofing! But I've always been happy that I was able to pay for college and all my flying stuff as I went along. With the increased cost of flying and the crazy cost of college these days, I doubt I would have been able to do it today.
     
  38. Aviatorbrew

    Aviatorbrew Filing Flight Plan

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    Aviatorbrew
    My day job, school maintenance carpenter/locksmith, was not enough to pay for flying, I have a small drafting service, (house blueprints) on the side, I worked at least 5 evenings on projects, I made enough to get my private, ifr and most of my commercial,

    It can be done
     
  39. Doctor Bob

    Doctor Bob Filing Flight Plan

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    Doctor Bob
    Hello everyone, first post here. The bottom line, as mentioned above, is living well within your means. I drive older (has been) cars that are nice and well maintained, but a fraction of the price of new. I keep cars for usually a decade, and we are still in the same house for almost 2 decades when everyone around us seemed to be buying bigger “better” houses. Having extra funds and avoiding debt any time possible allows for extra funds to do fun things with such as buy planes and go on vacations. It also makes life pretty stress free. I’d rather live in a small house no matter the income as large houses just suck down too much money. Money that can be used for money sucking planes!

    I’m “blue collar,” but income doesn’t matter as much as keeping your expenses as minimal as possible. Just keep in mind that $150/hr plumber has to work 40 hours to at most bill out 20 hours. Travel time, scheduling, down time, restocking, paperwork, etc. And out of those rates they must deduct their truck, tools, insurance, taxes, accountant, retirement, etc.
     
  40. kath

    kath Cleared for Takeoff

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    Katherine
    If you want to be encouraging to the next generation of young aviators, I will recommend one thing:
    Avoid using language that implies that only men read these threads, and can do the things that earn your respect.
     
    mcdewey, tiger, farangutan and 6 others like this.