Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Bachelor: On The Wings of Love?

The Captain of Her Heart?

When I first heard that the new season of ABC's The Bachelor was going to feature an airline pilot, I thought it was a joke. Knowing what I know as the wife of a pilot, I was baffled that any woman would willingly thrust herself into the pilot wifestyle. Then I realized that most of these women probably DON'T know the reality of being a pilot wife.

This is what I know so far about the Bachelor, Jake Pavelka:

"31-year-old Jake Pavelka is out to prove to the world that nice guys don't finish last. No, they finish in love. Fasten your seatbelts and leave your relationship baggage at the door as this handsome commercial pilot from Dallas prepares to take flight as The Bachelor.

"Jake knows himself well enough to know that he's not made to live alone. He just needs to find the right woman -- his best friend and soul mate - and that's whom he'll marry. Searching for a woman who is intelligent, confident, energetic and spontaneous, he admits that he can't wait for fatherhood.

"Jake Pavelka grew up in Denton, Texas and attended University of North Texas and Embry Engineering University for Aerospace Science. He discovered his passion for flying at a young age, as he started taking lessons at age 12. As an accomplished pilot, he was fortunate to discover his passion at a young age, Jake started taking flying lessons at age 12. An accomplished pilot, he became an airline captain flight instructor at 23. On his days off, he has fun flying acrobatic planes, taking dance lessons and woodworking at the home he owns near Dallas." (

"In person, he's feeling nothing but love from fans, many of whom are passengers who greet him as they deplane. (Pavelka is a captain and airline flight instructor for Atlantic Southeast Airlines, a Delta Connection carrier.) "Everything's been so flattering," he says. "I'll go to different airports in different parts of the country, and there are really great people going, 'Hey, so glad you came back.' That's really humbling."(Dallas News)

This first thing that hit me was the fact that he attended Embry-Riddle Engineering University for Aerospace Science. Within the first few minutes of episode one, Jake mentions that he was fortunate to have a "storybook childhood" and that he was the only one in his family to not pursue medicine. For anyone who knows anything about flight training and education, Embry Riddle is typically where you go when your family is rolling in the big bucks. According to the Embry-Riddle website:

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is the world's oldest, largest, and most prestigious university specializing in aviation and aerospace. It is the only accredited, aviation-oriented university in the world.

Undergraduate Cost of Attendance
Tuition and Fees$28,600
Room and Board$8,500
Books (estimated)$1,200
Total, non-flight students$38,300
Estimated annual flight costs*$15,000
Total with Flight$53,300
* Flight Instruction: Embry-Riddle's flight program is designed to allow students to earn their ratings in just three years (unlike many other schools). Flight students can estimate average annual costs for the first and second year at approximately $15,000 per year. The average cost for the third year of instruction is $10,000.

From what you see, Embry-Riddle's program appears to cost a little over $53k. But when you read the fine print, it says that flight instruction is $15k for years one and two, and $10k for year three. Add that're looking at $78,300 to attend the "Ivy League" flight program. To achieve comparable training at a state university (such as UND or UVU), your undergrad studies would be slashed by 2/3rds (plus flight costs).

The next frustration was the wording of the bio on the website: "An airline captain flight instructor at 23." To quote Jake in the introduction of episode one, "I've been in the pilot seat for most of my life...I've been a commercial pilot for 10 years. My office is at 37,000 feet. There's really no word to describe my passion for aviation." He goes on to talk about his obsession with aerobatic airplanes (another luxury of the wealthy pilot)

Now what exactly is an airline captain flight instructor? Oh yeah....there's no such thing. To paraphrase Wikipedia for a moment; One cannot become a commercial pilot (CPL) until age 18, nor an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) until age 23. Although one technically could become a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) once completing one's CPL, it is highly unlikely that said instructor would be airline captain flight instructor at age 31. A more appropriate description would be "a regional airline captain who flight instructs on the side."

One thing ABC did get spot on, is the typical pilot obsession for fitness and staying in shape. Pilots must be evaluated by a medical examiner frequently, and many common ailments can disqualify you from flight. My pilot is very concerned with his health and appearance, which can be difficult to keep up with rigorous schedules and limited availability to fitness centers during trips.

So what about the lucky ladies? What advice do I have for them? If you want to be a successful pilot wife, these qualities are a MUST:

: Despite a pilot's seniority. there will ALWAYS be hiccups in his schedule. Flight mixups, freak weather, maintenance delays, etc. Or he just may have a crappy schedule in the first place. Be prepared for birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays without him, year after year (and always celebrate the ones you DO have together) Don't expect to live in the same domicile (or country!) for the rest of his career. He could be furloughed, displaced, or downgraded with no notice. His payscale may stagnate, or cut in half (if downgraded from captain to first officer)

Trust: No matter what career your man is in, there WILL be temptation. The persona of an airline pilot is suave, debonair, and powerful, which will attract both flight crews, passengers, and airport employees. Cheating happens in aviation, just as it does in medicine, finance, education, etc; but it is enabled by the provided access to hotel rooms in random cities. This isn't to say that your pilot will cheat, but you need to keep your relationship strong, and the communication often and honest. If my husband and I don't talk at least 3 times a day, we really start missing each other. When he's home, smother him with affection to help him remember why he's working so hard to support you.

Independence: The pilots who hold fabulous lines will still be gone several weeks per month. If you have children, you'll have to act as a single parent. At some point, you'll have to go to parent teacher conferences, recitals, and sporting events alone. You will likely have increased daycare costs (if you work outside the home). Cultivate your talents and begin new hobbies to fill up the time that you'd otherwise sit around lonely. Realize that you may be sitting on the church pew, week after week, without your man at your side. Take advantage of your flight bennies and visit a friend out of town whenever you get a whiff of jealousy of all the fabulous locales he flies to (Evansville, South Bend, Dayton, Wausau...definitely worth getting jealous over!)

Debt Management: Few pilots are as fortunate as Jake to have a "storybook childhood," with a family able to finance flight training. My husband is a 3rd year first officer at a regional airline, with his take-home pay BARELY able to touch his monthly student loan payments. Most of the pilots I know have well over $100,000 in debt to cover plane rentals, instruction, insurance, exams, and travel expenses. Gone are the idyllic days of extremely wealthy pilots, especially as they start our their careers (except the high-seniority captains, like Sully, who have taken significant paycuts as well). You will probably have to bring in supplemental income to cover the inevitable living expenses beyond his paycheck. Many pilots have to take on second jobs on their off days. Learn how to budget and live within your means.

A good support network
: There are many cities that you pilot may be based: MEM, JFK, DTW, LAX, CVG, MSP, DFW, ATL, etc. Sometimes you will have no control over where you'll be assigned, and it can be VERY lonely to be in a new city with no friends and family (just look at my posts from Detroit and Atlanta....lonely times) Or your pilot may commute, as mine does, and that is even more time that you are without your significant other. Make it a priority to establish a great LOCAL network of friends, family, neighbors, and church members . Join some of the established websites such as Pilot Wives Club or Wives and Girlfriends of Pilots Facebook page.

Now that I've said my two bits, I'm going to sit back and enjoy the romantic reality drama!


Summer said...

GREAT post!!! Love it! Spot on! Share this with the ladies on the site!!!

Misty said...

I'm glad you addressed the "commercial airline pilot for 10 years" thing-Brett and I were both counting on our fingers and thinking-wait a minute, that doesn't calculate!

-SPW said...

Great post. The only thing I can figure with regards to being an 'airline captain flight instructor' is that he is both a captain with his airline, and a flight instructor with a private flight school (where he can rent a plane in his spare time to tool around aerobatically). This is the closest thing to plausible that I could come up with. LOL.

Anonymous said...

wow! great post. I wondered what the practicalities were for this show. It kind of makes you question why Jake doesn't already know why he's not married yet...

Runblondie26 said...

His DOH at ASA is January, so he must have been fresh out of ERAU when he started. Wonder how many passengers asked if he was old enough to drive...

Anonymous said...

Great post! What a dumbass to allow the BS job title. As a CFI he would have had 'Captain' status I guess, and he was training CPL people, maybe... Seems a bit of a push to call himself "airline captain flight instructor".

That said, he's quite a hottie. I would probably watch if I were bored! LOL

Nicole said...

I think ABC should reword Jake's bio to say "An airline captain, who is so low in his seniority, that he moonlights as a flight instructor to fund his obsession with acrobatic flying."

DOH in January? Seriously?

Runblondie26 said...

January of 2000 that is...he's been there almost 10 years. Not sure if that's something to brag about or not.

Nicole said...

January 2000 all makes sense now...

I was trying to figure out how on earth he'd already be a captain if he were hired last January. NO airline in the US has been hiring street captains for a while...

Runblondie26 said...

Yeah, so he started when he was 22-23. That's what gets the ERAU name dragged through the mud. (Really, you pay six figures to get your training no matter where you go).

The flight experience is there, but the life experience is a bit short.

Gina said...

And a pilot's wife must know how to fix things and not be afraid of tools.

Hi, Nicole! Thanks for stopping by my blog. We have several things in common.

You are right-on with your advice to potential pilot mates.

I'd like to follow your posts. :)

Kristina P. said...

I was just talking to a coworker about the cheating thing. We saw "Up In the Air" last weekend, and while, like you said, cheating happens in all walks of life, the fact that they are on the road and lonely, so much, much make it that much harder.

I just like the show because the girls say things like, "You can land your plane on my landing strip."


Erin said...

I know I already commented on FB, but I really do love this post. I showed it to my mom, and will show it to Mike (you know, when he gets back from that FOUR DAY TRIP). He'll get a few laughs out of it, for sure.

I've only watched bits and pieces of "The Bachelor" over the years, but it makes me roll my eyes every time. How romantic: competing with other catty women for some guy, on national TV! Sign me up! Not.

Quixotic Healer said...

Fabulous and interesting!

Anonymous said...

The fact that he's a captain was so frustrating for me, since The Pilot has 10 years with his airline, is an FO and is on the line for the next furlough. I figured it had to be a commuter, but then, how could he afford that nice house and the nice car, as well as the nice plane (same one The Pilot has, if I'm not mistaken). I figured he MUST have plenty of Family Money to allow him to live that lifestyle.

That said, I wouldn't mind a highlight reel of him shirtless. ;)

Flying High said...

Great post!

Just wanted to add that you clearly also want to steer clear of a man who's obviously spent the GDP of a small African country on the whitest set of dental veneers he could find!

Kind of creepy!

haeffelin said...

you're obviously a moron. if you didnt notice, the cost of attendance already has the estimated flight costs built into the 53,300 dollars. So that means for the first two years, they estimate the cost of being 53,300 and the third year, that drops by 5000 dollars to 48,300.
Also a note, that IS only for one year and a college degree normally takes four years so it is fairly expensive to attend this school. However, I know many people who begin flight instructing their senior year and thus make money from the school. Also, I had one friend who celebrated his 1000th hour of flight time during our senior year, he flight instructed his senior year and for the last two years, has flown for a regional airline, surely bringing him over the minimum of 1500 hours for an ATP. Assuming 22 at graduation, hed be 24 now. so pretty much on par with jake.
If you're going to criticize, get your facts straight.
Last note, there are 34 colleges/universities with a cost of attendance over 50,000 dollars for the year 2009-2010 and that does not include any flight costs. No plane rental, no gas, no instructor fees. NOTHING. ERAUs cost per year without flight time is 38,300 dollars which doesn't even put it in the top 100 for most expensive colleges (number 100 costs 46860 dollars per year).

Nicole said...

@haeffelin Why yes! I am a moron. Thank you for so rudely pointing that out. May I add, it takes one to know one?

The intent of this post was to give a little background on Jake (with a whole 15 minutes of research), but more so to talk about the realities of being a pilots' wife. These girls have no idea what they are getting into.

As far as schooling costs, my husband's aviation training through UVU was approximately $7,000 (mostly funded through Pell grants). His flight costs were paid through private signature loans for education, and we'll be paying those off for 20-30 years.

FlyingHorse2 said...

For Nicole...cute post, I quite enjoyed it. As for the batchelor, I'm old enough to be his mother and that's just too creepy for me to fantasize about! LOL! Dan, Dan, The Pilot Man and I are just two great peas in a pod! AND, we met over the radio....I vectored him, he screwed up his readbacks, the rest is history! LOL!
To haeffelin....who said " ERAUs cost per year without flight time is 38,300 dollars which doesn't even put it in the top 100 for most expensive colleges (number 100 costs 46860 dollars per year)."

While this statement is true, you have to consider ERAU alumni train for jobs that do not have a high rate of pay unless they are lucky enough to become FAA controllers such as myself. BUT even that is faulty ..... I have a degree from UF in accounting....didn't use it to be an ATCS and again, ERAU alumni that do become FAA ATCS's, will still have that huge tuition bill hanging over them through their first couple of years at lower grades of pay. The most expensive colleges in the US for the most part, train you to do something that will earn you a high dollar income. ERAU degrees will rarely direct you into an industry job with a high rate of income. That's the reason ERAU is a good school but for the line of work they're training you to do, the return just isn't there. I'd rather spend a gazillion bux on a law degree with a high rate of income than a gazillion bux on a degree that will get me less that minimum wage in the right seat of a regional turbine!
I just hope that not all ERAU and ERAU associated alumni are as bitter about it as you seem to be. Nicole is hardly a moron. At least she knows how to write and credit her quotes. Your information seems to have only come from your own imagination. Your grammar and puncutation do not show me that an ERAU degree is all that functional in everyday life if in fact your are the bearer of such a degree.
May you meet the wind sheers of hell in an upright attitude.

Anonymous said...

I work in the ERAU Alumni Association office. Jake Pavelka went to Embry Engineering University for Aerospace Science, not ERAU. Confusing I know, but he didn't go here.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I take that back. Maybe he went here. He's not in the alumni database, still in the student database but I have a "Jacob Lynn Pavelka" graduating in 1999 and being born in 1978 which would be correct for the timeline he gave on ABC. So, maybe ABC quoted the school wrong since I can't find anything when I google that school name...???

Anonymous said...

Ok, Jacob Lynn Pavelka, born in Denton and lives in Lantana. Yep, it's him. Ok, I'm officially excited to be working here now :-)

Joanna said...

love the post!

fortunately, we don't have any debt from DH's education (not the same for me however...haha!).

DH is very into working out and fitness...I wouldn't have thought that about pilots. But, now that I think about it a lot of our pilot friends are into fitness.

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