Like many, Dale Aliberti’s aviation career dreams began early. “The best part of vacations was always going to the airport and seeing the airplanes,” he says, his infatuation stoked by a flight in a GA aircraft at age 12. “I fell in love.”
But his love wasn’t blind. “As I started to think about college, I wondered how I was going to afford an aviation career,” the Connecticut native says, especially after being accepted to a university with a good aviation program. “When I saw the first [prospective] bill” — $37,000 for one semester — “I quickly realized I needed to start thinking outside the box. That’s when my career took off.”
Aliberti enrolled in a state university in Massachusetts with a flying club and began flight training, passing his private pilot check ride “on the last day of finals my freshman year.” As a sophomore he gained the school’s approval for an aviation management degree curriculum he designed for himself, and completed his instrument rating. But his path took an abrupt turn that same school year.
“I found out from my flight instructor that Embry-Riddle had an online [degree] program.”
Eschewing campus and classroom, Aliberti plunged into the online courses. “That gave me more time to fly, and that’s what I did.” He got an internship at a charter and management company. How? “I met their director of operations at an airshow the previous summer, and stayed in touch via email. That’s how I discovered how important networking is.” He added his commercial and multiengine ratings while interning.
Is Aliberti concerned how a degree earned online is perceived in the industry? “At the end of the day, having the education is most important,” the college senior believes. “In corporate aviation, the type of person you are is what counts. “
He left his internship for a job flying second in command in a Cessna Citation and Turbo Commander for a company in Nevada, and was building multiengine turbine time. But he left after eight months to fly right seat in a Pilatus PC-12.
“It was a bit of step down,” he admits, “but I knew the opportunity back East would take me to the next level.” In addition to the PC-12, the company operates a Gulfstream GV, a Falcon 7X, and has a 5X on order. “I’ll get my first real type rating in a couple of years,” Aliberti says. “I just turned 20 years old, so I feel I’m in pretty good shape.”
Aliberti pays $10,000 a year for his online studies. He earns $50,000 annually as PC-12 SIC and has no debt. “It would have cost probably $240,000 for a degree and a multiengine commercial rating” the conventional way, he says. “I did it for $60,000, total.”
Now Aliberti has added another career goal: “To tell future pilots who are struggling the way I did that there are other ways to do it if you’re determined enough. I’ve matured exponentially over the past two years because of the opportunities I took advantage of,” Aliberti says. “I hit the lotto.”