Starting out in aviation isn’t the simplest of endeavors. In fact, that’s an understatement. Getting to the point where you become a commercial pilot takes discipline and hard work, not to mention passion.
Once there, however, everything changes. Suddenly you can get paid to fly (in certain cases). And, your life really starts to mold around flying because it truly becomes your career.
In this podcast we will discuss:
- Things That Define You
- My Journey to Becoming a Commercial Pilot
- What Happened After I Got My Commercial
- What Was The “Switch”?
- What Are YOU Going to Do?
Jump in and find out if becoming a professional pilot is something you’d really like to do, and how that can lend to living a fun and busy aviation life.
Chris Palmer: On this episode of AviatorCast, how going after your dream to become a commercial pilot will forever change your life.
Speaker 2: Welcome, aviators, to another episode of AviatorCast. Load up your flight bag with useful flight training topics, interviews and aviation passion. Let’s kick the tires and light the fires. Coming to you from Angle of Attack headquarters in Homer, Alaska, here’s your host and flight instructor, Chris Palmer.
Chris Palmer: Welcome, aviators, to another episode of AviatorCast. My name is Chris Palmer and we’re going to be getting into a really cool subject today that I’m passionate about because I went through it myself and I feel like it’s going to be very useful for you, at least those of you that are looking to fly for a living and those of you who want aviation as part of your life through the rest of your life. All right? Those of you that strive to fly every day.
Chris Palmer: Have you always wanted to learn to fly, always wanted it as a career, but you never quite found the time? You never quite found the money or maybe family life got in the way? That’s a really common one. The family life. Maybe you still feel like you have the opportunity to do it, but you don’t necessarily know where to start.
Chris Palmer: Now with the mix of all these things it’s a little bit scary maybe for you to feel this way that is it really going to work out? Is it too late? Is it too much? Lots of different question marks if this is going to be something that’s worth it.
Chris Palmer: Now, aviation isn’t one of those things that’s cheap to go in and screw up. It’s not like you can go in on a semester of a college like you can in aviation. It’s just so, so, so expensive. I guess it depends on the college you’re going to, but you don’t want to exactly become a commercial pilot only to then waste that education. Is it going to be worth it? Is it going to be fun? Is it going to be a career that you enjoy? That’s going to be something that we talk about throughout this podcast with the idea of what is it like? Where do you end up? Is it worth it? That sort of thing.
Chris Palmer: All right. I think a lot of you have this story that’s kind of in the making. All right? You’re like, you’re ready to be an aviation movie. You’re someone that treads through the mud and went through so much to get to where you’re going and really anyone that has made it in aviation has their own amazing story of the hard work it took to get to where they are.
Chris Palmer: I want to share a little bit about my journey, but keep in mind that you are ready to write your own story about aviation and I hope that you choose to do that if you’re on the fence about taking this leap of faith and doing this. Through this you’re going to see some of the challenges that I faced, what my life is like now, and maybe that’s something that you look forward to and maybe have a different idea, of course, on how that’s going to be shaped for you because my life is not going to be your life. You want things differently. That’s just the way it is.
Chris Palmer: But how getting to that point of becoming a commercial pilot, doing this for a living, commercial pilot means just the ability to take money for flying so you don’t … We’re not tiny airline pilots here but how getting to that point will forever change the trajectory of your life. That’s what I want to bring you through from my story and hopefully relating it to your story. Okay.
Chris Palmer: Let’s go there. Really quick, I want to go through my journey as a pilot. It was pretty fun to reflect back on this, but I think it’s really illustrative of a lot of the things that everyday people go through.
Chris Palmer: It wasn’t exactly easy for me. I didn’t just do it all at once when I was a teenager. It wasn’t paid for for me. Some of it was in the very beginning, but then it became very difficult later. I feel like this is very relatable for a lot of you that have those challenges of time, money, and family because I felt like I went through every single one of them. Okay?
Chris Palmer: I did catch the bug for aviation very early on. I started in high school with the thought that I would become a professional pilot. I had the dream of becoming an airline pilot and I didn’t end up going to college to become a pilot. Now, I only spent two semesters in college, started when I was 18, I got my private pilot license at 18. I went to what’s called a part 141 college, which is the training is very regimented and structured and and spent an okay amount of money. It was actually fairly affordable because it was a state college.
Chris Palmer: Really enjoyed the process. I actually really liked my training there. However, after that I went through several years of no further training other than just the remedial stuff from one airplane to the next. Ended up flying quite a bit in an airplane that my dad had purchased and at about 500 hours I ended up getting my instrument rating at the age of 23. About five years later I got my instrument rating at the age of 23. Whole lot of time in between, whole lot of cross country time, a lot of great experiences that taught me a lot about aviation and I was fortunate enough in that timeframe to to get a lot of flying for free because my dad was paying for it. That’s the place where I come from, a bit of privilege is kind of how I started out.
Chris Palmer: My private pilot wasn’t that way. I paid for a lot of my own private pilot license, but then some of my hour building toward my instrument rating was all paid for and I’m really, really grateful for that. I know what it feels like to know what it feels like to get that gift of having someone help you. All right?
Chris Palmer: However, just several years after that I moved to Alaska and I was 25 at the time when I moved here and then a lot of things got in the way. I ended up getting out of aviation for about five years.
Chris Palmer: Life, money, I went through a divorce. I went through the process of healing from that divorce and that was a whole different story for another time, over drinks if we ever meet up, but not really something I focus on.
Chris Palmer: I was just kind of rewriting my life here in Alaska and I think that’s something that many people go through at some point is they maybe disconnect from who they were as a child and then eventually become an adult. I feel like when I came to Alaska I was emancipated. I didn’t have any family here. I grew my life kind of on my own here. Ended up, of course, meeting so many great people and great friends that helped me along the way.
Chris Palmer: I started connecting with that new community. I ended up getting married to my wonderful wife, Chelsea. She is my world. We started a family together. We grew our relationship together and that was my focus for quite a long time.
Chris Palmer: I continued to grow my business. Angle of Attack is actually 13 years old. I’ve been in the business of training people for that timeframe. Started out in simulator training, did some business to business with a famous or a well known aircraft manufacturer that I don’t want to name. Didn’t have a good time doing that. It was soul crushing, that corporate life.
Chris Palmer: Even though I was kind of moving back in the aviation in a more serious way at the time and doing these high dollar projects, it taught me so much about what I didn’t want to do in aviation. I was looking forward to the fact that I had a family and I really needed a business that needed to grow and have some prospects there.
Chris Palmer: I thought that the business to business thing, the high dollar thing would work, but it wasn’t for me. I’m never going to do it again and decided that I needed to do something else. I’m very grateful for that bad experience because it taught me what I really kind of knew all along, but I was avoiding and that was that I love to teach and I needed to become legitimate in my ability to teach, which meant that I needed to get my commercial reading and I needed to get my flight instructor rating.
Chris Palmer: Sure. I had had years and years of experience doing my business and training people and doing these training products, but I wasn’t actually a flight instructor even though I had a lot of flight time and I really wanted to do that. Interestingly enough, I decided that on the tail end of that project that I had such a horrible time in, that I was going to do this, that this was the way ahead. This was what I was passionate about. This was going to be my calling and aviation.
Chris Palmer: That’s where I’m at today and I absolutely believe it and I can’t see an end to that calling of wanting to teach people and make a difference that way. I talked about that in the last podcast, the one about where I’ve been and what’s ahead.
Chris Palmer: Long story short, continuing and finishing off kind of where I’m at now is I decided to get back into my training to get that commercial and see if I had done it the worst possible time. I started my commercial training right after my first baby was born and then left home to go focus on that when he was four months old. I literally left Alaska, went down to California, started that commercial training and it was gut-wrenching to have to do that.
Chris Palmer: Now I just knew that I had to do what I had to do. Right? Like if I didn’t do it right that second I knew the writing on the wall because I had been doing this podcast already, I’d been mentoring people in aviation already, and I knew that I would not be able to progress forward if more things in my family life and my career started to fall in place that would be roadblocks and prevent me from moving forward.
Chris Palmer: Even though I’m really blessed to have a family I knew that like right away it was only going to get busier, it was only going to get crazier. I also knew that as I switched the focus on my business it was only going to get harder and money was going to get tight eventually.
Chris Palmer: I really wanted to start allocating funds to my own professional development and I knew that there was no better time than now. I think in my story, if there’s anything you pull from it, is that that is the key figure is that there’s no better time than right now. It’s never going to be easier than it is right now, you know, with a little bit of wiggle room to be smart about when you start and how you start in aviation, but you just got to do it.
Chris Palmer: I realized that kind of had this aha moment that if I didn’t do it now it was probably never going to happen. I knew I was getting older, I was a rusty pilot, and I just had to go in and do it. Now because it had been, at that time, five or six years since I’d done a check of any kind and really any serious push in aviation training I struggled so hard in my commercial training.
Chris Palmer: It was tough. I was very rusty. The knowledge that I thought I knew was very much gone and I had to repeat a lot of that stuff that had just left my brain from being this spry early twenties guy to someone that was slowing down a little bit into my thirties and I know that sounds silly, but just recognizing that those cognitive things do change.
Chris Palmer: I struggled really bad and I actually documented this pretty well with a YouTube series I did. I think I ended up doing three or four videos on my commercial training. You guys can see visually what happened there. It was a complete disaster, but it taught me so much that I needed to push through and I really wanted this dream and no matter what I was going to make it happen.
Chris Palmer: You know, money was becoming an issue. Time was becoming an issue. Weather was an issue the entire time. Literally the DPE … Who a DPE is someone who does the checkrides who kind of passes you off from the FAA. Literally the DPE got hospitalized and I had to reschedule my checkride. Like everything wrong that could have gone wrong happened to me. Unlike before where I had someone helping me out, say, with my instrument training, this was all on my own. Like this was my own money, my own business, my own family and that was it.
Chris Palmer: Now I say that tongue-in-cheek because there were so many people that were good to me and helped me and gave me free flight time and friends of mine. I can’t say that I did it completely alone, but I think those things are more common than not. If you build a community around you and you do your part to make that community better, there’s some reciprocity there.
Chris Palmer: I had earned that reciprocity in a way from some of those people and still feel like I’m paying that back today. But long story short, it was a very brutal process to get through my commercial license.
Chris Palmer: Then I immediately wanted to go into my flight instructor training. Now I did my commercial training in such a way and worked with a CFI, his name is Michael, that knew that that was my eventual goal and so really a lot of how he was churning me through the process during my commercial was already getting me ready to do the CFI.
Chris Palmer: When I went into my CFI several months later it was a fantastic process. I had a great time doing it. I had the help of many great people through that process, different CFIs than Michael, namely Trace Clinton, Dave Herwig and the big one, John Dorsey, who helped me so much. It was a smooth process. The CFI checkride for me … Because I’d already been an educator, because I had prepared so well, I buckled down so much at the end here and really just changed my mind about where I was going the CFI checkride was one of my easiest checkrides, if not the easiest checkride.
Chris Palmer: It was just so natural and felt so good. I remember driving away from the airport in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin … I went down to Wisconsin for my training and it was during May. I remember driving away from Fond Du Lac Airport headed north and off to the side I saw this 170, a Cesna 170 taking off, you know, just kind of at a normal smooth climb. The sun was setting and I just had this overwhelming personal moment where just felt like everything was right in the world. This is exactly where I needed to be. I worked so hard to achieve this and I knew I was on the right path. It’s one of those times when the universe just kind of comes together.
Chris Palmer: I absolutely knew this was what I was going to be doing if I hadn’t already had the proof before. But it was just such a special, special moment for me and just really helped solidify what I was doing.
Chris Palmer: As I look back on this entire process and as I look at my life as it currently is, I am incredibly blessed to get to do what I do. I get to fly a lot, I get to do some amazing experiences here in Alaska with an airplane. It’s just totally opened up and changed my life. You know, I get to help people and help them along the journey, help them become pilots, get to be part of that, get to share experiences with them. It’s been amazing. I can go and theoretically take the flight school airplane whenever I want, any time I could go out there right now and fire it up and go somewhere if I wanted to. That’s a really cool feeling.
Chris Palmer: When I do fly, typically, I get paid for it now. I became a commercial pilot. I’m a CFI. I get paid for the flying I do. Aviation is a part of my everyday life. You know, with this podcast, with everything that I do, the online ground school, my flight school here, aviation is my life. That’s what I do.
Chris Palmer: Now, of course, above that is God and my family. Of course, that’s most important. But aviation is my vocation. It’s what I do every single day. It’s what I’m passionate about. It’s what keeps me going and it’s what gets me excited to come to work every day and I’m living my dream. This is what I wanted and I’m really still pretty young. To be honest, I almost had to pinch myself because sometimes I get bogged down in the financials of things or how well I’m putting out content like this podcast or how fast the community is growing or how much or how good sales are doing.
Chris Palmer: Sometimes I get caught up in that but when I really take a step back and look at it I have an amazing opportunity here and an amazing life. I really don’t need to change anything from what I’m doing now. I could do this forever. I’m really loving it and I have a trend upward that I’m just so, so grateful for and it looks like that’s a great possibility that this is kind of the status quo of what I’ll do the rest of my life. I really, really love that.
Chris Palmer: I went through this journey, I became a commercial pilot and then it completely transformed what I did in my life. Before it was like all about business and all about growing the bottom line and all about the big dollars and having a big team and having more employees and I wasn’t really passionate about it.
Chris Palmer: Like I still love flying and I was getting enough of a fix talking about flying every day too to kind of get enough to keep me going. But it wasn’t enough. You know, when I really went for my commercial and then my CFI it’s literally this piece of paper that you’ve earned a lot of hard work for but it’s this piece of paper you earned and then it completely changes the paradigm of your training or your life or your aviation life.
Chris Palmer: From then on out, everything was different. I flew a lot more, I had many more opportunities. People paid me to do it. It just completely changed my professional life, my aviation life. Really, that’s what I want to get across today in this podcast is that for those of you that are trying to get to this place, you have this dream, you want to become a pilot. You’re not sure what it’s going to be like, if it’s going to be worth it.
Chris Palmer: I can tell you right now, if you’re passionate about aviation and you want this to be part of your life, there are so many opportunities in aviation right now that if you work hard and get to this point where you’re a commercial pilot, it changes absolutely everything. Really, it’s like this fork in the road. Okay?
Chris Palmer: You’ve been down this regular path. You can choose to go one way, which is what you’ve still been doing. Keep going down that long road of wishing you were going to become a pilot someday, wishing that was your career. Keep going that direction. You know, life is good there. It is. I realized that not all of you are going to do this, but not all of you will become pilots, at least not commercial pilots.
Chris Palmer: Life is pretty good there. You can have amazing careers that are maybe more fulfilling than this. It depends on who you are. Okay? That’s not a bad direction to go.
Chris Palmer: But if you really feel that pull the other direction down the path of becoming a professional pilot, becoming a commercial pilot, going that direction, making it your everyday life, your vocation, what you do, then I don’t think you’re going to regret it. It’s an amazing journey. You get to fly all the time, you get to have these amazing experiences.
Chris Palmer: I’m just kind of dumbfounded how much of a shift that was for me from where I was to where my life is now. As I was going through the motions, kind of taking my own advice and pushing through that process, I’m so big on encouraging you guys to do that, I ended up at this place where I couldn’t have placed it any better. I couldn’t have written it up any better on where I was going to be.
Chris Palmer: All that happened kind of without me knowing it, but also working toward it, if that makes sense. It was a complete paradigm shift, a complete life shift because I went that direction to become a commercial pilot.
Chris Palmer: The real switch in my mind to get me to go there is I felt like … And these could be your own words. Okay? Maybe you put yourself in this place if you feel like this is you talking, like this is you saying these exact things. I was sick of wasting my life on a tomorrow. You know, “I’ll get my training done” or “I’ll start ground school in two months” or, “I’ll save up the money and I’ll start next year” or “I’ll schedule my checkride for this time.”
Chris Palmer: Like I just kept feeling like I was putting things off for a better time, whether that was family ,time, money, those are kind of the big three things. I felt like I kept putting it off, putting it off, putting it off.
Chris Palmer: I knew that also I wasn’t a legit educator. I couldn’t really tell people and train people well in aviation, which has always been a deep passion of mine, until I had actually taken real people through the process. I knew I had to become legit. Again, I had those terrible work experiences that showed me that I needed to do something else. I just had enough. I knew I had to make the change and I started taking little, little tiny steps, just little steps all the time.
Chris Palmer: I didn’t stop taking those little tiny steps. You know, those phone calls, those Google searches, those dollars that I was saving, those conversations with my wife, whatever it was, I kept taking those little tiny steps to get to where I was going to go.
Chris Palmer: I didn’t stop until I got where I needed to go, which was being a commercial pilot, having that amazing moment right after my checkride, after my CFI checkride, and just kind of knowing that. Now I’m living that life and I have that validation all the time that I am where I want to be and it’s so, so helpful.
Chris Palmer: What are you going to do about it? If this podcast has spoken to you at all, if you feel like you want to go for this dream and you just kind of need a kick in the pants … You know, I don’t know what it’s going to take for you to get going but I hear a lot of excuses about money and time and family and I just feel like, man, if you’re going to do it, do it. Like crap or get off the pot.
Chris Palmer: You’ve got to do something, you’ve got to change something. You got to change your mindset. You got to get moving again. I don’t know. Are you going to keep promising yourself that you’re going to do it someday? Are you going to keep saying that you’re going to save the money? Are you just waiting for like your career to change or things to settle down in your career or maybe your family situation to change?
Chris Palmer: Because I can tell you right now when something else gets fixed, like your money or your time, then something else falls off. Like, again, you have to decide that you’re going to do it and start to model your life into that path that takes you down the direction of getting where you want to go. Otherwise it will not happen. It will not happen unless you make a deliberate and absolute decision to get this done. You’re going to get it done now and you’re going to get it done at all costs. Okay?
Chris Palmer: I would say the one cost for me that I was never willing to pay was a family. I wasn’t willing to pay the cost of a family, but any other costs to get to where I was going was worth it. I can tell you unequivocally that is correct and it’s true. Again, it will not happen unless you make a deliberate and absolute decision to get this done, get it done now, and get it done at all costs. This will completely change the path of your life.
Chris Palmer: Please reach out to me. Let me know if this helped you. Let me know what your journey is like. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to encourage you and your particular situation you can reach out to me. One of the best ways is just through messages like on on Instagram. Okay? Write me there. My phone number is also on my website. Text me. Don’t call me, text me. I’m happy to have a conversation with you and help you along the way.
Chris Palmer: Let me know how it goes. You have to put in the work, you have to make this decision and make it happen. I wish you all the best luck, all the best blessings, and hopefully it’s smooth sailing in the skies for you ahead once you make this decision. That is it for this episode of AviatorCast. Until next time, throttle on.
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