Real Answers from Real Pilots

Considering a Career in Commercial Aviation

(Alex H. Trump) #1

Hi. I am considering commercial aviation as a career and I just have a few questions.

I am currently enrolled in multiple community colleges in Southern California and will be seeing an AME in a few weeks. I have every reason to believe I will qualify for a First Class Medical. I have also spoken with several universities and can easily transfer to their respected Aviation Programs/Schools.

Here are my questions-

  • Which Schools do Airlines prefer? I’m assuming Purdue, UND, Embry Riddle, or WMU.

  • Is it possible to be taken seriously as a pilot without flying in either the Navy or Air Force?

  • I recently met someone who claimed to be a First Officer for Westjet. He told me he didn’t even attend an aeronautical program and simply accumulated enough hours to earn a Commercial License. He than taught aviation for several years. Is this possible?

  • Would it be best to fly for charter companies prior to applying at airliners? This is another recommendation from the person above.

  • Lastly, I have only just started to learn aviation and I’ve only really used simulators on a desktop. Any other recommendations?

Thank you,

Alex in California

(Tory) #2


Let’s broaden your perspective.

  • Airlines don’t prefer one school over the other. They want to see appropriately rated pilots with experience. How you choose to fulfill those requirements is up to each individual. That said, accelerated flight school programs do give airline applicants a slight edge because airline training is accelerated too.

  • Absolutely. The majority of airline pilots have no military background.

  • Yes. This is the most common route, and the one that I would recommend.

  • It’s an option, but it’s not for everyone, just like how being a CFI is not for everyone. Depends what kind of experience you want.

  • Treat your desktop sim as a game, nothing more. Take as many written tests as you can.




  1. As Tory said it doesn’t matter. Regional airlines don’t even require a degree and the Majors simply want you to have one. If you look up and to the left you’ll clearly see the ATP logo. This is ATPs forum and all the mentors are former students and instructors. It’s safe to say WE prefer ATP.

  2. Not sure anyone takes me seriously but I’m a Capt at a Major airline and I never served in the military. The fact is the vast majority of airline pilots come from the civilian ranks.

  3. As with question 2, most pilots don’t have aviation degrees and yes flight instructing is the most common way to build flight time.

  4. You need to build the required 1500hrs. There are many routes but flight instructing again is the most common.

  5. START FLYING! There’s no better way to learn than by doing.

Btw, you should also take a look at the FAQ section as there’s some very good info there.

Adam in Hawaii

(Alex H. Trump) #4


Thank you for the quick replies.

I’m surprised that airlines do not require an aeronautical degree and that becoming a CFI is a common route to commercial aviation. This is awesome information.

I searched “airline pilot schools/training” a few weeks ago and ATP did NOT appear. I was unaware this form was connected to ATP or any other flight school. You might have just found a new student.

Let me reword the last question- I am fully aware that desktop computer games are not considered flying hours or legitimate training (nor should they be). Should I find a local CFI that uses real simulators or find a CFI who teaches directly from a smaller aircraft?

Thanks again,




I see absolutely no value at all in computer based flying programs. At their very best, they are inaccurate games. At their worst, they teach some really bad habits. If your goal is to fly airplanes, then you should start taking lessons in a real airplane.

Even the simulators that the airlines use are not the same as actually flying an airplane.




Simulators will come later. In the beginning you need to actually fly.


(Alex H. Trump) #7

Thank you both for the advice. It has been very helpful. ATP seems like an awesome school.

You might be hearing form me in a couple months,




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