Real Answers from Real Pilots

A childhood dream, that I need advice to pursue

Adam,

Thanks for the speedy reply and I’m more than honored to have served my country! I’ve been pondering a lot of what you’ve mentioned so it makes complete sense. I have to do more research about where I can use my VA for flight school. From what I’ve seen so far, I’d have to go through a college to utilize it. I have some funds available to start right away, and if needed I could get some financial aid. I’m not at all opposed to financing my flight school. Mainly because this day in age, it takes money to make money. As well as, to do things we enjoy and have passions for. As I’ve been doing research the last week I’m seeing the huge need for aviators. Which back in the early 2000s it wasn’t near what I’m seeing now. I’m quite ok with strapping into a ERJ/CRJ to get my airline career going and working up the seniority ladder. As I mentioned, I even love the rotary life, but there is nothing like the feel of thrust on takeoff!

Edit: My local flight school doesn’t have a VA endorsed program, unless I went through Kansas State University which for the fast track idea won’t work.

Tyler

Tyler,

I’d keep looking, but even if you can’t find one for your PPL I stand by my original advice. The initial outlay is small compared to the earning potential.

Adam

Tyler,

I see the advantages to getting your private now, but I don’t think it is necessary at all. I find that students do best when they do their entire flight training, from start to finish, in one big push. Flying everyday while not having to focus on other things really is the most efficient way to train.

I would not recommend going the college route for your flight training. This route will take way too long and likely end up costing you even more money because of the requirements that the FAA places on part 141 training.

My recommendation is to do the Fast Track program all at once as soon as you get out of the military. Once you are hired at a regional I recommend using your GI benefits to help obtain your college degree.

Chris

So I sat down with a local FBO about starting on my PPL training. I was very impressed by the training model the instructor laid out for me so I will very likely be starting with them with in a month.

I’ve been reading a lot of forums and watching videos on the best ways to start and progress my career up to Commercial/ATP ratings. I’m seeing quite a few horror stories about ATP being purely a pilot factory that really only cares about the money coming in. Not so much about whether the pilot is ready for checkrides, and receiving not so great CFI’s who just want to get hours.

I’m still leaning on going to ATP to continue on from my Instrument and up. Mainly because I feel I could handle the fast pace training, and catch on quickly with enough preparation to pass checkrides first try. Though, I do worry about whether I will get enough knowledge in the limited time then turn around and teach people how to fly. Now, I’m a very good instructor when it comes to things I have great knowledge of. I do enjoy teaching and helping people learn.

Also, I’m concerned about how this could affect my family. I’m not sure if moving them with me to where ever I train with ATP so we don’t have to split the cost of living expenses. I’m not sure I’d make enough money to support the family once I get my CFI job. However, I do know there are other CFI jobs around the country that pay well. Though, if there are other options that I could consider. Mainly, I’m just trying to make the right decision for myself and for the family. The reality is, I am going to pursue my dream to be a pilot. I just want to make sure I’m on the right path.

Thanks again guys for the help!

Tyler,

Not going to debate or defend on behalf of ATP but allow me to address a few things.

  1. ATP Pilot Factory and only cares about the money? ATP IS a pilot factory. Factory’s are often very efficient places that produce quality and CONSISTANT products. Why would that be a bad thing? That’s why ATP grads get hired by airlines. The airlines know what they’re getting. As for only caring about the money, that I need to vigorously disagree with. If they were would they guarantee their prices EVEN if you require some additional training? AND/OR if the course price OR the price of fuel goes up? Ask your FBO if they’ll do the same.

  2. Not Caring if the student is ready for checkrides? ATP was created BY airline pilots to train airline pilots and the program was designed to prepare students for the airlines. Let me ask you a question? When you get hired by Delta do you think they ask you if your ready for your checkride or if you need some more time? Trust me they don’t. The day you start training ALL you checks (systems, oral and checkrides) are scheduled and you WILL be ready or you’re gone. ATP does the same thing (without the gone). The idea is to prepare you for that environment.

  3. Instructors just want to build hours? Again Tyler let me ask you a question? When you finish your training and take an instructor job with ATP (or any flight school) why will you be instructing? For the love of it? Do you plan on being an instructor for life? I’m thinking not. Why should it be any different for anyone else? That said does that mean you’ll be bad at it or won’t care? I instructed ONLY to build time (just like everybody else). Didn’t mean I wasn’t good at it.

The reality is ATP is not for everybody in the same way not everybody with $60K can be an airline pilot. It takes a certain amount of skill, coordination, intelligence and a WHOLE LOT OF HARD WORK and not everyone is successful. Egos get bruised and it’s easy to point fingers. The truth is if you can’t cut it at ATP you probably can’t cut it at the airlines. It’s easy to dream but when you realize it’s not going to happen it hurts.

As for your family, expenses etc obviously you need to do what’s best for all concerned. That’s something best worked out by you and your wife.

Adam

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Tyler,

Before you commit to your local FBO, or any flight school, please ask them these questions: Questions For Any Prospective Flight School

I would strongly disagree with the notion that ATP only cares about the money coming in, in fact quite the opposite. Look at this forum, it is provided free to you and we don’t act as salesmen at all. You will see us recommend other flight schools to people and sometimes tel somebody that aviation isn’t for them. Sure, we all went to ATP so our experiences are from there and we share those with people, but we are not pushy.

ATP had an admissions department that vets all of their applicants, they don’t just accept somebody because the person has the money to pay for it. They want to make sure that the person will do well in flight training and be a good fit for the school, that is not an organization that only cares about the money.

ATP trains hundreds of new pilots per year, there are bound to be a few that don’t do as well as we would have liked, that is just the nature of the business. What those students should do is contact management and either air their concerns with their instructors or remove themselves from the program and take advantage of ATP’s refund policy that is in my opinion very fair. Instead many of them have chosen to go online and become keyboard warriors.

Lastly, look at the list of ATP pilots that have moved onto the airlines, this is a company that knows how to train airline pilots: https://secure.atpflightschool.com/AirlinePlacements/

As to your family, I would recommend not moving them with you for your training, it will be a huge distraction. Take advantage of ATP’s housing and ask the admissions department if they have any free housing specials going, sometimes they do.

Chris

Adam,

Thanks for the insightful response! This is why I’m asking questions with you guys and not other random forums. True professional responses.

  1. Great point about the factory aspect! Kinda the reason that most manufacturing companies like, the vehicle industry is so profitable and user friendly. I think that many people go into ATP thinking they will just lay it all out on a silver platter with out any real need to put forth their own effort! Luckily the FBO I am considering has a set cost for their flight training. I ask them if it would change once I make a commitment, they told me it would stay regardless. Granted, I would have to pay for more flight time if I did require more training.

  2. This makes total sense in the preparation aspect. This happens in the Army, we often have set training schedules which has alotted time for a reason.

  3. My answer to this question, is yes I would be doing it for the hours. However, for me it would also be a great learning experience for myself. As well, as I enjoy teaching and mentoring.

The fact that I have been through the military, I believe will give me the necessary thick skin to deal with the con side of being in an ATP/Airline. Egos get destroyed in the military on many occasions! I know I can cut it with ATP, and an Airline. I have the dedication and desire to continue doing great things. I am merely choosing to pursue the flight world because of my love for it. I’m all for hard work, I have worked extremely hard to be where I am now. I have no issues continuing to broaden my knowledge. I’m on this forum because I want to know as much as possible going into this as anyone smart would want to know!

Tyler

Chris,

This post you linked to me is beyond epic! The good news is most of the questions are a go for this FBO, however not all of them are. I’m looking at getting my PPL before I leave the Army for two main reasons. 1. I want to fly, I want to start learning asap about flying. 2. They are a Part 61 school which I think will be a lot of fun based on the schedule they set for their training. Answers to your links questions

  1. They have set pricing for base hours needed to meet the FAA standards. I realize that if I need more time to learn it could cost more for training.
  2. Based on my avalibility with the military I should be able to fly 2-3 times a week, so I think I could finish within 4-6 months pretty easy.
  3. See question 2
  4. Since I’m only going for PPL ME doesn’t apply
  5. See question 4
  6. I didn’t ask this question because I wasn’t concerned with it in this area. Maybe I should be, but they compete with a local college for flight school, though the school is a Part 141 program. This isn’t a huge school, so I’d imagine they may have 15-25 students.
  7. They have 4 full time instructors, then a few work part time that CFI for the nearby college
  8. Not sure exactly
  9. They have 2 C172s with another on the horizion
  10. Both 172s are essentially the same
  11. The school will rent, but the owner said that the flight training takes precedence over rentals.
  12. They own the ACFT
  13. They hire a local maintenance crew from the airport.
  14. They don’t have jets
  15. Payment is done in installments similar to ATP
  16. They do not
  17. I’m paying out of pocket, but they also refer to Sallie Mae style loans
  18. Didn’t ask this question as I wasn’t planning on progressing this far with the school.

Housing. I’m still in the Army so this is a non issue as of now.

I sat down for about 2 hours with the school owner, and he went through a lot of stuff I can’t even remember. He flies a Bombardier Challenger 300 for a company, then manages the flight school. He also mainly does ground instruction with the school. He talked about going through a cram course with http://aviationseminars.com to get the written completed prior to flight training. He described how the flight training would go, and what to expect. He also talked about what the cross country flying would consist of and where we would fly too. I was excited about this one! He talked about his experience and how he got to where he was. I liked what I saw from his presentation. Maybe it would be good for me to do this, maybe it would be best to wait until I get out and go with ATP for it all. Honestly, I just want to start flying! My goal with this is to get in the air, get my PPL, and just enjoy some flying until I get ready to join ATP after I leave the Army.

This forum has been the most help I’ve had since I started asking questions about my future endeavors! I just wanted to point out some of the “horror” stories I have read about. I wanted to see what you gentlemen had to say about these knocks people has on ATP. Everyone has a different experience. Just like the Army isn’t for everyone, I’m sure ATP isn’t as well. I have no doubts if I can deal with military life, that I can deal with ATP or the Airline industry!

Chris and Adam, thanks for your guys professional and thoughtful responses.

Also, I’m trying to decide between Denver and Scottsdale for my ATP training. I would imagine that weather in AZ would be better in general. Maybe way hotter, but no worse than Afghanistan that I’ve dealt with. However, high altitude, snow, crappy weather that happens in Colorado could limit my ability to build hours based on cancellations. Colorado, could be better because I have a lot of family there. Arizona, I would want my family there after I finished training. I’m just trying to make a solid plan well a head of time.

Great attitude Tyler and I’m sure you’ll do well. Keep the questions coming and keep us up to date with your progress.

Adam

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Tyler,

I am not trying to pick this FBO apart, I am really not, but a few things did leap out at me.

  1. You are not going to get your license in the amount of time that the FAA prescribes (40 hours). No way, it isn’t happening. Ask any pilot out there, I have never met one that did. I would say that the average flight time to get a Private license in 65-75 hours. There is just way too much to learn in that minimum amount of time.

  2. I would ask, I bet it is pretty high. This matters to you when you are trying to schedule with your instructor and you are competing with other students for set times.

  3. Big red flag here. Two airplanes is WAY too small of a fleet. Inevitably one will be down for maintenance, whether planned or unplanned, out on cross countries or just plain unavailable. I have a hard time seeing how they support that many instructors with just two airplanes.

  4. This means that that company is working on their airplanes right up until a corporate jet lands and breaks. Those mechanics will rush to the higher paying work on that jet before they can even put their tools down.

I understand that you are excited and anxious to get up in the air, we have all been there. I only caution you because I got my private at a small school in Chesapeake, VA and had a rather miserable experience. Their fleet was way too small, my instructor never seemed to be available and it ended up costing several thousand more than they told me it would.

I am not trying to talk you out of this school, just giving you a heads up of what might be in the future.

Chris

It took me 68.4 hours to get my private, I was probably ready a few hours before that, but because of some delays that’s where I was at! Most people at the FBO I was at were getting their PPL between 60-70, there was even an older student who was pushing 90 hours. It all depends on how fast you retain what you are learning and how much effort you put in. It’s an investment, the more you put in, the more you get out.

My flight school had 2 instructors and about 8 full time students and another 6 who were flying maybe once a week. They had 3 planes, but only 1 172. Flying the 172 there were a few times we had to cancel due to maintenance issues, they even put anew engine in it and it was out of service for 2 week with no other plane. If you wanted to pick your schehdal you had to book lessons awhile in advance. It got frustrating!

It was still a lot of fun and in the long run I am glad that I did it at a small FBo because I feel like Iike I got more of the general aviation experience as well as met many older pilots who have been flying for years. There are many pros and cons.

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For me I got mine in 41 hours. I ended up spending the last 5 hours just flying around randomly by myself to build the required time, as well as an hour flight to the testing location. I also put in over 3000 hours on Microsoft flight simulator running through maneuvers until I wa sick of them. Luckily, my instructor only had me as a student as he had recently taken a job flying for UNC. Every weekend he would drive to WV from Raleigh NC and I would drive 3 hours home to fly. During the weeks, at any point I didn’t have class or homework I was on the flight sim. A friend of my instructor has a baron and a 421 and he allowed me to fly trips with him as well so I was actually missing some classes to go on flights. I even took a tech elective for my major in my engineering schools full motion simulator. It took A LOT of work. And spring semester 2016 grades showed it as my gpa dropped from a 3.7 to a 2.8 from fall 2015. I wish I would’ve taken my time with the training because for the 80 hours I’ve flown after my checkride I feel I could’ve possibly learned some new things flying with an instructor compared to by myself (also my grades!). Like Tucker said, the time it takes is a function of how much effort you put in and how much time you can dedicate to it. But the time it takes shouldn’t matter to you (maybe your wallet but not to you), instead what should matter is that you’re learning everything you need to know and then when you know that learn some more. A certain instructor always says "a good pilot is always learning…

Chris,

Thanks for voicing your concern. I have asked some of the questions with the school. They actually have 3 active instructors, and yes two planes. They’ve only been in business for just over a year and a half as a FBO. Apparently, he doesn’t have as many full time active students that are taking full days for the need for more instructors or planes yet.

I have been bugging the school with questions. I threw some of them you mentioned at them. I also, over exaggerated how big I thought they were. Which, big doesn’t always mean better. I think that with them having more one on one with the CFI could be a great experience.

Also, I reaffirmed that their accelerated course already accounts for 50 hours flight time and ALL ground time is covered in their pricing. If it does take me more than 50 hours, I’d do what I had to. As for now the program starts at $7300. The cost is not all up front, it’s in installments as well. I think similar to ATP. They have many of the necessary publications and study material on hand that they lend out to students so they don’t have to spend more on that. I missed the hours inclusion of our initial brief, possibly because there was a lot to take in. Obviously any more than that needed would cost extra, which makes sense. His business model is based on giving people a different option with a quicker turn around than going through a university.

He reaffirmed to me that as of right now he wishes he had the need for a 3rd airplane, but just hasn’t reached that problem yet. He said he is close.

Chris, you have every right to pick the FBO apart, as it is imperative for potential students to understand the intricacies of what it takes to get the first step of flying covered. I thoroughly appreciate the concern! Yes I am anxious to fly, I do think from what I have seen that this school can be a quality one. Sure they are not a big school, but as long as they can offer me the skills, time, and ability to get through the training then I would commit to flying with them. Besides, I’m selling my motorcycle to help pay for this, so for now it is sort of going to be a weekend hobby for me as well as a educational experience.

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Kamrin,

Thanks for the insight! I have spent A LOT of time in flight simulators since Microsoft Flight Sim 98, FSX and now I utilize Prepar3d and Xplane11! Though I have plenty of armchair flying in my days. I’m really trying to go into this with an open mind. I get it that airlines use simulators as an intricate training tool. However, those setups are much more life like than my rig I have at home. I have high expectations for myself, and I typically catch on to hands on things very quickly. Especially in a subject matter I have a burning desire for. I think for myself that I can achieve my PPL in minimal time with great knowledge. However, I also have the awareness to understand that it’s ok to take my time.

Tucker,

Thanks for your insight!

I think the size of this school is similar to the one you attended. However they have 2 172s, and he said he could get another from an aquaintence if one of his went down unexpected. Where I am located I think it will be a great learning experience. The airport is tower controled 24-7, and we have quite a few other higher traffic GA areas around. It’s about a hour and 15 min flight to Wichita.

I’ve been “studying” aviation since I was 13, now 32, so I have a pretty good general knowledge of flight, navigation, etc. I have A LOT to learn. I’m going into this open minded, as if I haven’t ever set my foot, eyes or anything around flying. That way I can relearn things, hone my ideals that I have about it. I think this will help me catch on quickly with great understanding. Like I have said, I have no problems working hard. I love aviation so picking up a book or flight manual to learn about flying is just another night at home relaxing and trying to learn.

41 is impressive Tucker! Although the sim time helps for sure, unfortunately I didn’t get my sim setup properly dialed in until after my PPL. I took around 67hrs but with a 14 month gap in the middle…but a friend of mine, an older lady, took numerous breaks in her training and ended up racking up OVER 200hrs to get her private, and it took her nearly 6 years.

I feel my flight school is decent for a small school, roughly 5-7 instructors at a time, 3 152’s, 4 172’s, 1 182RG, and a Seminole (all owned by the school, and maintenance about 100yd from the FBO, so if you had an issue you could just walk over and ask a tech to come take a look). The schedule can be hectic when the flying weather is bad (book several weeks in advance and hope the weather pans out), since everyone wants to keep up their flying time, but when the weather is good I could book a flight with my instructor with a week or occasionally less notice.

I personally would shy away from a school with fewer training aircraft than instructors, but that’s just my opinion from what I’ve experienced locally…

Good luck,
James

Adam,

Thanks! I think my determination and attitude will make me a quality student and eventual airline pilot. This has been balling up inside of me for so long, and now my opportunity to embark on a major childhood dream of mine just gives me a huge boost of confidence!

I will most definitely keep you guys up to day on my journey!

Tyler

James,

Kamrin had his at 41, mine was 68 hours over the course of a year and a half but I was signed off the first time about 4 months before I actually got it due to bad weather and some really bad luck with check airmen (cancelled 5-6 checkrides for various reason). I started flight simmimg at age 8 and I defiantly think it helped. I was used to the controls and could practice on my computer at home and treat it like a real flight. I had the saitek yoke setup and it made it that much more real. It was a big help!

After rereading this thread a lot has happened in a year.

So a year in review. I am still strongly considering attending ATP. I have since then acquired my PPL at 40hrs, and currently sitting on 110 hours TT. I’ve done quite a bit of recreational flying, mainly because I love flying. I shouldn’t have any issues getting financed for ATP. My only concern is finishing up my degree. Though, with my perseverance, that shouldn’t be an issue. I created another post on the forums asking about that topic!

Tyler,

Congratulations on the PPL! That is a great accomplishment (especially at 40 hours), you are officially on your way to becoming a professional pilot :slight_smile:

Chris

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