Regional Airline Pilot to IFR Controller, worth the switch?

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bearitus
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Regional Airline Pilot to IFR Controller, worth the switch?

Post by bearitus » Sun Dec 02, 2018 8:01 am

Hello,

I am a current regional airline first officer flying out of YYZ. I am entertaining the idea of switching careers to an IFR Controller. My main motivations are better pay sooner in my career and a better family life (less time away from home).

I have read the forums and spoke to several controllers and I think if I do take the plunge IFR would be the only stream I am interested in due to the higher starting pay and the fact that I would like to remain in YYZ.

My main concern is the low checkout rate for IFR controllers. I am about 5 years away from making good money as an airline pilot (if things continue as they are today) and from what I have read IFR training for Atc takes at least 2 years from the time the course begins to get fully checked out. If I do get accepted to Atc training and I fail, I will have essentially lost 2-3 years of time where I could have been building seniority with an airline.

If anyone has been in my shoes before or has any info on IFR checkout rates please let me know what you would recommend.

Thanks!
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Re: Regional Airline Pilot to IFR Controller, worth the switch?

Post by ant_321 » Sun Dec 02, 2018 9:03 am

I have 5 friends who made the switch (not in yyz). 1 doesn’t regret it, although flying was only ever a job for him, not a passion. 3 although they enjoy there job now they regret leaving flying and 1 hasn’t been doing it long enough to know yet. If you are entertaining the idea I would say you it isn’t so much about missing flying but more so whether you think the risk is worth it.
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Re: Regional Airline Pilot to IFR Controller, worth the switch?

Post by A346Dude » Sun Dec 02, 2018 5:19 pm

If your primary motivation isn't a burning desire to do the job, in my opinion you have a low chance of success. Nav Canada is not a shortcut to a big payday and cushy lifestyle. Financially, you are taking a risk if you accept a training offer because a lot of people don't make it through and the training salary is not that high (though better than it used to be). That risk was worth it for me, and many others, but only because it was a job I really wanted.
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Re: Regional Airline Pilot to IFR Controller, worth the switch?

Post by bearitus » Mon Dec 03, 2018 6:09 am

Thanks for the realistic answer. I have always thought of Atc as a good stable career that pays well. I think I would enjoy it but I never had a burning desire or passion to do it as I did with flying when I started. The reason for me considering the switch is that my priorities have changed. With a young family at home, I now value lifestyle and pay more than loving my job.
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Re: Regional Airline Pilot to IFR Controller, worth the switch?

Post by Yycjetdriver » Mon Dec 03, 2018 7:03 am

Cab driver, babysitter, janitor, waiter, retail sales associate, burger flipper, grocery store clerk, dog walker.... and many more would be justifiably/financially worth the switch from a regional airline f.o. nowadays.
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Re: Regional Airline Pilot to IFR Controller, worth the switch?

Post by Kjs » Mon Dec 03, 2018 7:21 am

Some good answers but I just want to chime in and say at the very least you may as well start the application process now. Even if you're still unsure, the process to even just get on course can be long and even with your flying background and a basic understanding of ATC, it still takes a bit of luck to get an offer considering the huge amount of applicants. I'd say keep doing what you're doing and just go through the whole process and see where/when it takes you.

There's also the chance of simply getting streamed VFR even if you specify an IFR preference.

I think it can't hurt to start now and use the time it takes to continue weighing your options.
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Re: Regional Airline Pilot to IFR Controller, worth the switch?

Post by Lotro » Mon Dec 03, 2018 6:18 pm

The risk is that you don't make it as a controller. If you're willing to accept that risk after 2+ years of work then go ahead. In the YYZ FIR qualification rates are Getting better, but still low depending on where you get placed. The last national average I heard of was 25% of those coursed. Some specialties are higher, some are lower, like, embarrassingly low. Caveat emptor.

It's a good idea to apply and see if you get in/get an offer.

I wish I took a leave of absence from my career before starting this new gig. It would have given me more options down the line having something to go back to readily available.

Controlling is the greatest job in the world. It's also the hardest job to get (IMHO).

Good luck.
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Re: Regional Airline Pilot to IFR Controller, worth the switch?

Post by Braun » Fri Dec 07, 2018 7:35 am

Hard job to get but worth it if you make it. I would never suggest to someone that they apply if they are only doing it to sleep at home at night and the salary. The training is too hard to if you don't have the proper motivation.

I love my job and wouldn't change for anything but it's not for everyone!
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Re: Regional Airline Pilot to IFR Controller, worth the switch?

Post by wanderlust_xx » Fri Dec 28, 2018 8:19 pm

did you end up applying?
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bearitus
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Re: Regional Airline Pilot to IFR Controller, worth the switch?

Post by bearitus » Sat Dec 29, 2018 4:43 am

wanderlust_xx wrote:
Fri Dec 28, 2018 8:19 pm
did you end up applying?
Nope, not yet at least. Still weighing my options between applying to Atc and going to grad school for an Mba or law school.
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Re: Regional Airline Pilot to IFR Controller, worth the switch?

Post by TheStig » Sat Dec 29, 2018 7:59 am

Wouldn't going back to school be a huge burden on your family? Life as a regional pilot can be demoralizing, and this is just my opinion, you've come this far, you're probably best off sticking with flying. The pay and lifestyle at the majors is better than you've been lead to believe even in the first few years.
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Re: Regional Airline Pilot to IFR Controller, worth the switch?

Post by navajo_jay » Sat Dec 29, 2018 7:23 pm

My girlfriend is an ATC, I work at AC, used to work at Jazz. I’m at home way more than she is. She works a lot of night shift, has to do mandatory overtime. Some months she gets 4-5 day off with the overtime. She’s jealous of my schedule sometimes. Yes we spend a lot of nights in hotel rooms but I have a lot more time off. She just left for a night shift with her sleeping bag as I’m typing this. Yes the money is good for her (200k with a lot of overtime) but long time I will make more. The grass is not greener. I also thought about becoming an ATC but the risk of failing is really high and she tells me pilots fail more than people from the street. Maybe something with thinking we know better than they do and the attitude, but the job is really different than a pilot. I’ve shadowed her a few times and it can get boring. My best bet would be to get a leave of absence so you don’t put your seniority in jeopardy if you can and try. It costs nothing to apply and see, you might not even get a call.

Good luck
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Re: Regional Airline Pilot to IFR Controller, worth the switch?

Post by bearitus » Sun Dec 30, 2018 9:51 am

Thanks for the responses. I do think that the risk of failing and ending up in a worse position than I am currently in is the major downside of trying the Atc route for myself otherwise I would be willing to give it a shot.
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Re: Regional Airline Pilot to IFR Controller, worth the switch?

Post by wanderlust_xx » Sun Dec 30, 2018 10:51 pm

navajo_jay wrote:
Sat Dec 29, 2018 7:23 pm
My girlfriend is an ATC, I work at AC, used to work at Jazz. I’m at home way more than she is. She works a lot of night shift, has to do mandatory overtime. Some months she gets 4-5 day off with the overtime. She’s jealous of my schedule sometimes. Yes we spend a lot of nights in hotel rooms but I have a lot more time off. She just left for a night shift with her sleeping bag as I’m typing this. Yes the money is good for her (200k with a lot of overtime) but long time I will make more. The grass is not greener. I also thought about becoming an ATC but the risk of failing is really high and she tells me pilots fail more than people from the street. Maybe something with thinking we know better than they do and the attitude, but the job is really different than a pilot. I’ve shadowed her a few times and it can get boring. My best bet would be to get a leave of absence so you don’t put your seniority in jeopardy if you can and try. It costs nothing to apply and see, you might not even get a call.

Good luck
Does your GF work VFR or IFR?
Does she enjoy her job for the most part?

I received a training offer for IFR course starting April.
I will be leaving my current job as a critical care nurse for ATC.
(always been a passion of mine, but never thought I was smart enough to do it).
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Re: Regional Airline Pilot to IFR Controller, worth the switch?

Post by Braun » Mon Dec 31, 2018 5:44 pm

navajo_jay wrote:
Sat Dec 29, 2018 7:23 pm
My girlfriend is an ATC, I work at AC, used to work at Jazz. I’m at home way more than she is. She works a lot of night shift, has to do mandatory overtime. Some months she gets 4-5 day off with the overtime. She’s jealous of my schedule sometimes. Yes we spend a lot of nights in hotel rooms but I have a lot more time off. She just left for a night shift with her sleeping bag as I’m typing this. Yes the money is good for her (200k with a lot of overtime) but long time I will make more. The grass is not greener. I also thought about becoming an ATC but the risk of failing is really high and she tells me pilots fail more than people from the street. Maybe something with thinking we know better than they do and the attitude, but the job is really different than a pilot. I’ve shadowed her a few times and it can get boring. My best bet would be to get a leave of absence so you don’t put your seniority in jeopardy if you can and try. It costs nothing to apply and see, you might not even get a call.

Good luck
Just curious but where is OT mandatory? If being at home more often is what you are seeking there are a lot of places you can work with no OT and you'll work 17 days a month, 8h per day. Also if you are IFR and work a lot of OT you'll be making a lot for than 200k per year. Also the leave program is pretty nice as an ATC. I usually can get the equivalent of 10 weeks of per year in vacation.
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Re: Regional Airline Pilot to IFR Controller, worth the switch?

Post by Alcoholism » Mon Dec 31, 2018 10:21 pm

FFS leave Jizz ASAP, anything is better than there, even slightly AC. Go for ATC, no regrets.
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Re: Regional Airline Pilot to IFR Controller, worth the switch?

Post by robshelle » Tue Jan 01, 2019 1:48 am

I made the switch in 97, left Borek at 1700 hours to go to ATC. It was a tough slog, but ended up making it VFR in Edmonton. No regrets, but do miss flying so now that my kids don’t need me as much, I am working on getting my flight instructor class 2 back, with the intention of part time flying.

The biggest thing I got was stability, which makes family life very good. In my opinion, VFR is the better way to go as the check out rates are better, qualification is quicker, just the pay is usually worse to start. But even in the smaller towers you can make 6 figures. You can then try IFR and train at your VFR salary, and have return rights if you don’t qualify. Also, YYC, YVR, YUL, YYZ towers make the big bucks too.

If you have any questions feel free to email me.

Robshelle
CYEG Tower
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