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Comment Huntsville, Ala. (Score 3, Informative) 464

We have lots of engineering jobs in Huntsville, Ala. Most are with government contractors (the Army and NASA are very prominent in this town, along with every defense and space contractor you can think of), but there is a growing non-government tech sector here, too. Most of the contractors are in Research Park, while many of the non-tech companies are moving to or already are downtown. Downtown is quickly starting to become a really neat area.

Cost of living is extremely reasonable (I live in a 3,500 sqft house in a nice neighborhood and it runs me about $1,250 a month). Taxes are low, utilities are cheap, my commute is 15 minutes to and from the office. Great place to raise a family, too.

As far as things to do, we're never short of entertainment. If you like outdoors stuff, plenty of hiking, caving and water sports opportunities are nearby. And if you ever do get bored, Nashville and Birmingham are 1.5 hours in either direction. The beach is about a half-day drive too.

Comment Re:I'm a pretty nerdy computer guy ... (Score 2) 492

Yup, I'm a few miles south of you in Huntsville, and I live very, very well here. A 50+% pay raise to move to SF or SV looks nice until you really start to work the numbers and realize that you would actually come out worse off in many ways.

* A mortgage on a 3,500 square foot house, on a 1/3 acre lot in a very nice neighborhood runs me a hair over $1,200 a month. Including taxes and insurance. Everything except the HOA, and that's an extra $30 or so a month.

* I live in a nice family-oriented area with great schools. Don't have to worry about gang violence or anything. My biggest annoyance is the teen with the loud scooter.

* Utilities are dirt cheap thanks to TVA.

* Property taxes are dirt cheap. Income taxes are on the low side. Sales tax is a tad on the high side, but it's not bad.

* I have a 15 minute commute to and from the office every day, maybe 20 on a bad day. I'm home every night for dinner with my family.

And while Huntsville won't win any awards for high culture (although there is actually a surprisingly vibrant arts scene here considering its size, not really what I was expecting to find), Nashville and Birmingham are only 90 minutes away in either direction - great for a day trip. Atlanta or Memphis are weekend trips of a few hours away. And I can be on great beaches or hiking in the mountains in a few hours as well.

With my extra income, I can afford to save and do fun things. After our daughter was born, we needed a larger car, so we bought one and paid cash for it out of savings. We go skiing in West Virginia during the holidays. We did two weeks in Hawaii for our honeymoon, a week in London a few years and a week in Jamaica a couple years ago - all just because we wanted to. We're currently planning to go all out and go to Tahiti in a few years to celebrate our 10th. Also saving for the inevitable trip to Disney World once our daughter is old enough. A lot of this is possible because my cost of living here is so low that it allows me a large amount of discretionary income.

Of course, it's not without its problems. We have a real problem with severe weather here in the Spring, and it can be kind of rough sometimes (fun fact, Alabama at one time had more F-5/EF-5 tornadoes than any other state, and we're right in the middle of where they like to hit). Our politicians are really idiotic and can be counted on to say very, very stupid things. We have some pretty backwards laws. And, unfortunately, there is some level of truth to the stereotypes people have of Alabama (although they are pretty uncommon here in Huntsville - it's more of a rural thing), but it's also nowhere near the level people think it is either.

But, on the whole, every time I go to look at the tradeoffs, the math always works for me to stay put here. No one has yet shown me that I can live the equivalent lifestyle in SF or SV that I live here on an average developer's salary. People who live there ... it just looks to me like they're working their asses off just to stay alive. Which I find sad; work is just one part of who you are. You should bet to enjoy your life too.

Comment Pilot here. (Score 5, Informative) 473

I'm also going to chime in with the "it's too expensive" issue. Flying is amazingly expensive. It's always been expensive, but the costs of aviation have risen along with everything else (and in some cases, much, much faster) while real wages ... haven't.

At my local FBO, airplanes rent for between $110 and $170 an hour wet (with fuel) depending on the type and equipment. If you're a student, expect to pay between $25 and $50 an hour for instruction, and the average student (so I'm told) requires between 50 and 60 hours of instruction before they're ready to sit for exams. Add in about $200 for your medical and another $500 or so for leaning materials, another few hundred in miscellaneous costs, and the cost just get licensed is, at the low end, around $8,000 and can easily go in excess of $13,000+.

And then you've got your license. Then what? Have you looked at the cost of airplanes recently? There's a reason pretty much nobody buys airplanes anymore. Only clubs and flight schools own airplanes. You want something newer than 40 years old and seats 4 people, it will run you in excess of $50,000. And forget anything new. A new Cessna 172 currently goes for in excess of $300,000.

So yes. It's so expensive even to just learn to fly that it is effectively priced out of all the but (what's left of) the upper middle class and the wealthy.

But there's another issue, too, that I think warrants some attention: health.

So many things that are considered "common" diagnoses now and are easily treatable, such as high blood pressure, ADHD, depression, etc. are considered disqualifying conditions by the FAA. Even though many of these conditions are easily treatable by modern medicine, they're disqualifying for even a third-class (private pilot) medical certificate.

While the costs are what is primarily keeping people away from flying right now, the archaic medical certifying process used by the FAA is not helping.

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