Three Ways to Get Paid to Learn to Fly

What I Learned at Sun n' Fun 2024

May 2, 2024

by Chapter 234 Young Eagles Coordinator Jim Sorbie

I had the chance to spend a couple of days in Lakeland, Florida this past month to attend Sun 'n Fun (a.k.a. Oshkosh South) and had a great time. Lots of airplanes, many of which don’t make the trip to Oshkosh each year See pictures below of a few that got my attention.

I tried to meet fellow Chapter 234 member and longtime Sun 'n Fun volunteer Mike Woodley, but he’s a busy guy at this event and these old legs were dog tired at the end of each day.

I took the opportunity to talk various organizations about training opportunities for aviation positions and learned a few cool things, such as:

A Connie!

Did Ya Know #1: The various Air National Guard units offer pilot training to select members of their units. I spoke with the Air Guard unit from Charleston, South Carolina which flies C-17’s. They offer flight training to selected members of their unit in exchange for a six (?) year commitment to the Guard. Under the small world category of coincidences, it turns out that a cousin of mine is one of those selected for flight training in the C-17’s. She had joined the Air Guard as a means of paying for college, and after graduation from college she was offered a commission and a career as a pilot.

A 1936 Waco

Did Ya Know #2: NOAA (the weather people) hires pilots to fly their airplanes. These folks are also commissioned officers in NOAA. The young lady hosting the airplane tours (it was a King Air 360, which was the draw for me) was from Petoskey and was hired out of college with ZERO hours and sent to flight school on the government’s dime. NOAA officer candidates are trained at the USCG Academy in New London, Connecticut. She has a six-year commitment to NOAA and is building a lot of time flying aerial surveys in the King Air.

A PT-19

Did Ya Know #3: The US Army recruits pilots without a four-year college degree requirement. You can be accepted into their aviation program right after high school. This is their Warrant Officer Flight program and provides training in rotor wing (probably mostly) and fixed wing aircraft. In my experience a significant portion of the USCG pilots got started in the Army and then transfer into the CG.

So, with some investigation there are multiple ways to a career as a pilot (if that’s your goal).

I also recently discovered an interesting website called The Road to 1500. It’s a list of job opportunities for low time pilots. Check it out, it seems that there are opportunities for 500 hour pilots out there.

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