Pilot to ATC


Hey all! New to the site. Been doing my best to find any information about the topic but no luck. As the title suggests, I am looking for any information (goods/bads/regrets/etc) of transitioning careers from the flying side to ATC. I currently work in the 121 world (airlines). Being that I’m 26, I’m not sure I want to spend another 40 years on the road. With a new baby and wife, spending hours in airports waiting on flights and sleeping in hotels is getting really old. With that said, I’m afraid to fully commit. Have that feeling that the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side. 15 days off a month and a future of 300k/year pay is a hard thing to pass on. Any info from people who have made the swap, or just simply those who want to add their 2 cents would be appreciated. Thanks in advance!


I ♥ pointSixtyFive
I don't think there's anything specific I can add. I know lots of controllers who were/are pilots, some of whom are CPL holders, but I'm not one myself.

As far as the mechanics of applying go, you apply to the yearly off-the-street bid and get a chance to take the aptitude test like anyone else. I assume that by the time you get to the airlines you have three years' worth of progressively responsible work experience, which qualifies you to take the test, but if you don't then having an instrument rating is another qualifier. Make sure you indicate that on the FAA's AVIATOR website you'll be taken to after completing the USAJOBS application.


Assistant to the Regional Moderator
I ♥ pointSixtyFive
I’ve worked with a few pilots turned controllers who had legit careers ahead of them as a pilot if they wanted it and they all say they wished they would have stuck with flying. Not sure how much of that is the grass just being greener going the other way. Just a small sample though.


Staff member
The only two pro-pilots I've worked with both left ATC to go back to flying. Lifestyle I think was a primary factor for both.


Trusted Contributor
I think life is great. This is fac dependent but i have fun coworkers, decent mgmt, 40 hr weeks, no take home work (all), lots of spot leave, 2 days in a row off.

Day 1 - 5 is: 2:30-10:30, 1-9, 9-5, 7-3, 5-1


Trusted Contributor
If you get the opportunity to go to OKC for ATC and are truly considering it I would give it a shot. I was in a similar situation. Flying corporately and doing interviews for regionals when I got my FOL for ATC. I bounced back and forth a lot on it. Was a tough decision to make but what pushed me to give ATC a shot was it was a once in a life time opportunity, it’s pretty hard to get picked up. That… and it’s only 4 months out of your life. I knew I could pick up where I left off flying and do interviews again to get hired.

Your situation is a bit different already currently in your career flying 121 but it’s something to consider.

I work with 3 past 121 pilots. All 3 don’t regret the situation. They all have families with children and we’re tired of grinding it out in the regionals back in the late 2000’s. Living out of a suitcase. For myself I’m glad I gave ATC a shot and stuck with it. Often wonder what it woulda been like sticking with flying for a career but I still go rip a Cessna around here and there.

You’ll be home every night, can call in sick for days you have friend/family events to attend, and have mandatory retirement at age 56. Being a controller is a pretty solid gig I think, you work 4-5hrs out of your 8hr shift. Make good money. Have good benefits.

Pay in the long run of being a 12yr delta captain is great sure, pulling down $300k/yr and sitting long call out reserve, knew a guy who did that. Life seemed great. Takes a bit to get there though. If you get center when you cpc (usually 2-4yrs depending on facility) you’ll roughly be pulling down $150k/yr. I’ve been in the agency just over 6yrs level 11 center and transferred to level 11 TRACON. I’ll touch $200k this year….. but I’m also working 6 day work weeks lol so there’s that.
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