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Seaplane as a career?

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Seaplane as a career?

Unread postby JohnT » Sun Oct 11, 2015 8:10 pm

Thinking of getting my ppl and moving through the levels of instruction up to commercial pilot. This will set me back about 50 grand. Would i have a good shot at making a decent living as a seaplane pilot. I'm 50 yrs old and plan on making this a working retirement until I'm basically dead. ive worked construction the last 30 yrs and want to make the second half a little easier.
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Re: Seaplane as a career?

Unread postby KlausNW » Mon Oct 12, 2015 2:43 am

I would just think about one step at a time. Anything is possible but first get your Private Pilot License.

You may want to at least double your projected price though. :Mr.Money:
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Re: Seaplane as a career?

Unread postby RKittine » Mon Oct 12, 2015 7:25 am

John, A lot will also depend on what you consider "Making A Living". Things have changed a lot since I got into the game in the early 60s.

All the best toward that first step though.

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Re: Seaplane as a career?

Unread postby jjbaker » Tue Oct 13, 2015 3:36 am

Hi John,

I no longer answer questions via email but ask people who contact me to ask directly on the forum. Not only does this yield better responses, it also helps others who are asking the same questions and reduces my time spent on emails. Since you have not disclosed where you are located, I will try to respond with U.S. specifics.

I'd go with what Klaus and Bob recommended. Get the medical (Class II), get the private certificate and see if you like flying.

You will then need 50 hours of XC time before you can go for your instrument rating. Following this you try to get to the 250 hours total time for your commercial, do the seaplane commercial right away after that. Once that is done you add your CFI and start teaching. Some flight schools are great at quoting minimum time prices (means they assume you finish training with minimum required time) which greatly distorts reality. National averages for the private alone are 1.5 - 1.8 of the minimum time. There will be 5 Written exams for which you can attend ground school or self study. The CFI is probably the hardest one along the route. The practical tests cost between $300-500 each, again all depending on where you are located. It is very easy to shoot the budget.

There are some fast track schools looking for low wage instructors to teach on floats, usually whoever they like the most gets the job. This is an easy way to get a lot of float time into a logbook, which is the entry key to other, bigger opportunities. Outside of these quick shake n bake schools chances to instruct on floats are literally non existent, which means you would likely have to buy and insure your own aircraft to get time. Some seaplane ratings are issued after 6-8 hours, so you'll need quite some students to make time or money. Many peeps dream of flying twin otters in the Maldives, entry to those outfits usually comes through either knowing the right people or being willing to relocate and wait for them to flip pilots. Lots of turnover in this market with peeps who cannot afford to work or even pay for a right seat in one of those planes. Reputable and good operations are not easy to find, some outfits hire off the street, though. Most of the jobs easy to get are riddled with high turnovers and low pay (large cost of living) - meaning the airline/ operation isn't run well or burns through pilots. For most of the big stuff the MES (Multi Engine Seaplane) rating is required.

Job opportunities are somewhat limited due to the very harsh environment most operations deal with. A good estimate on time required to fly a seaplane commercially are between 500 - 1000 hours on floats, often with time in type requirements for the aircraft flown. Much of this work is seasonal so you may be looking for jobs abroad or do different things while the industry hibernates. Pay for gigs can go from less than minimum wage to peeps shoveling big money during the season and taking winters off or flying other contracts. Many jobs are not advertised, there's a lot more people looking for jobs than offering them, so being in the right place at the right time, knowing the right people seems to be the recipe.

I would not count on 50K getting you into the industry and working as you have to account for lost wages during training. You'll be looking at a full year start to finish if you clamp down + living expenses, relocations or travel and stuff. What constitutes a livable wage is subjective, but I know from my own experience that I would have greatly disliked teaching as a CFI making less than the schmuck who teaches the not so average housewife how to hit a ball with a crooked stick or how to play tennis. The bottom of the barrel is gone and you can bet there's a person flying/ teaching for a buck less.

The rule of the game is: Where there is a will, there is a way. None of the pathways I've seen was straightforward or easy.

Hope this helps some...
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Re: Seaplane as a career?

Unread postby TriPacer » Tue Oct 13, 2015 12:22 pm

Hey John - good luck to you! I'd be lying if I said it's not something I've fleetingly thought about myself. Keep us posted on what you decide to do and how you approach it!
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Re: Seaplane as a career?

Unread postby jjbaker » Wed Oct 14, 2015 5:49 am

A young pilot took some major steps toward his dream of flying for a living by earning three individual pilot certificates and two type ratings, all in a 48 hour period. But before Preston Allen, a 24-year-old private pilot with 1,200 hours, could earn each piece of paper, he had to crack the books. "He's a very motivated and very hard working young guy," said flight instructor Dan Gryder, who oversaw the process. In researching the FAA regulations, Gryder said it was Allen that discovered a lot of overlap in the experience and flight time requirements for commercial, Instrument, and multi-engine ratings. Then he designed a training path that in some ways was directly opposite to the usual way of progressing through the ratings. For instance, he got his initial instrument rating in a multi engine airplane, and then his initial commercial rating in the light twin, all before he got his single commercial. The multi-IFR automatically gave him an IFR rating for singles (but the opposite isn't true) and getting the multi-commercial ticket paved the way for a truncated flight test to get his single commercial rating. Allen also got second-in-command ratings for the DC-3 and Citation 500. "When he first approached me about it I didn't think it was possible," Gryder said, noting Allen's persistence paid off in his office and in the air. "It took him 60 days to convince me to do this in 30 days."

To keep costs down, Allen did most of the 70 hours of flying in a single, but he also had access to a Redbird simulator. While only 10 hours of sim time can be counted toward an instrument rating, there is no limit to how much unlogged practice time can be spent rehearsing. Allen spent most evenings alone shooting approaches in the multi engine configured sim, where he gained a real advantage over the traditional path. The local DPE was cooperative and conducted the tests in the odd order and Allen passed all three check rides given back to back. Gryder stressed that no corners were cut and all knowledge and flight requirements were met, yielding a better product in less time, and at a lower cost. He said the innovative approach could be used by individuals and flight schools to lower the cost of advanced flight training. Accumulating these three ratings in the traditional method could cost $100,000 or more but Gryder said this "full immersion, multi-first" style of training drastically reduced that. "You can think of it as a lean of peak approach for flight training. It really makes a lot of sense once you stop and think about it." he said.


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Re: Seaplane as a career?

Unread postby RKittine » Wed Oct 14, 2015 6:45 am

When I went to ATI at FIT in the early 60s, the regs were different, but they did something very similar. By 250 Hours, you have PP, CP, Instrument, ME, CFI, CFMEI, CGI and types in one heavy Turbo Prop and one light Jet. Then on the line with them as an instructor until 500 hours, plus 300 hours in a Beech 18 flying mail and then into the right seat of a Beech 99. At 1,100 hours you got your ATR the forerunner of the ATP.

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Re: Seaplane as a career?

Unread postby TriPacer » Wed Oct 14, 2015 10:58 am

That's a pretty interesting story, Jason. Seems that just by examining the overlap, schools could offer a curriculum similar to this and cut the cost to the student (and purportedly their own) by quite a bit.
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Re: Seaplane as a career?

Unread postby jjbaker » Wed Oct 14, 2015 4:44 pm

I doubt professional zero to hero flight schools care much for cutting student costs, its enough to be $100 cheaper than the competition.

But I think Allen isn't the off the rack student hoping to warm a sheepskin for minimum wages and Burger King food, either. With 1200 hours total time at age 24 he's certainly a go getter who has had a lot of "opportunity and access" to airplanes not usually accessible to peeps. Possibly just a tiny wee bit of parental sponsorship involved, too... What surprises me is that he didn't get his CFI/CFII and MEI done right away, as well. All of the training and checkrides can be done from the right seat and I think even the initial CFI could technically be combined with the actual COM/INST checkrides. Depending on location the FSDO gives the checkrides away to DPE's anyways - so why not. I am sure they would have loved to send an inspector along to observe the marathon orals and flight tests.

;-)

The Citation and DC3 TR's are nifty, maybe he'll get his initial CFI done in a 747-8 followed by CFII in Citation and MEI in the DC3......
The Sky Is The Limit. Onwards & Upwards for this young man!
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