Real Answers from Real Pilots

Deciding between schools

I am strongly considering going to a flight school for training to be an airline pilot, but I am torn between two options as far as which school to attend. I currently live in the Northwest US, so I’m primarily interested in potentially flying for Horizon/Alaska Air as this is the region they primarily operate in. The schools that I am considering are ATP (I would likely go to one of their Seattle locations) and Central Washington University in Ellensburg, WA. I currently have my private pilot certificate and some college credit, but no degree. I spoke to someone at Horizon/Alaska and they informed me that technically neither airline has a requirement for a bachelor’s degree. Horizon also does actively recruit pilots from both schools.

I’ve done some research of both schools and attempted
to weigh pros and cons of both, including the type of schooling it would be, ATP being exclusively flight training under Part 61 and CWU being a college including general education courses (which some of my current credits may cover) and flight training under part 141. ATP also guarantees a CFI job after training, whereas CWU does not, but I am under the impression that CFIs are in high demand as well right now and finding such a job on my own should not be difficult when needed, but I could be wrong in that impression.

What it seems to boil down to in comparing these schools is that ATP would likely be quicker and cheaper, but CWU would result in a Bachelor of Science degree, which would also include eligibility for a restricted ATP certificate at 1000 hours.

If any of the pilots on here could share some insight or wisdom on this potential decision, that would be greatly appreciated!

-Kyle

Kyle,

It seems like you have a pretty good understanding if the differences in the two options that you are weighing. One thing though, I wouldn’t let the difference between a part 141 or 61 school affect my decision one bit. Nobody will ever care or ask what type of training you went through.

I can’t speak to the quality of the flight training at the school you mentioned as I don’t know anything about them. However, I would encourage you to look at my “Questions For Any Prospective Flight School” post in my “Flying the Line” section and ask them those questions.

Chris

Kyle,

I suggest selecting the most affordable option. Get your degree first even
if that may require you to attend a less expensive 4 year college that
isn’t CWU. I’m not telling to you avoid CWU. I’m just saying just because
Horizon recruites from CWU, it doesn’t matter. Regional airlines will take
just about anyone that meets the minimum requirements with a clean record.
A degree is a degree as long as it is obtained from an accredited college.

Tory

Kyle,

A couple of things. First, other than Delta, no airlines specifically “require” 4yr degrees. The reason for that is if the CEO’s kid wants to be a pilot or a Congressional Medal of Honor winner applies and neither has a degree, they’re not violating any formal policy by hiring them. That said degrees are always “preferred” and will make you more competitive.

I generally recommend people complete their educations first (as it’s challenging to get back to school for many) but I’m also not a fan of Aviation degrees. They’re expensive and you’re putting all you eggs in one big aviation basket. Obviously you should do what you feel is best for you but know that ATP WILL (without question) get you to an airline considerably faster. The average ATP student/instructor (who enters with their PPL) is flying for a Regional in approx. 2yrs. You wouldn’t be graduating from university for 4 and then it be another year to build the 1,000hrs. That means the ATP student would be upgrading to Capt when you’re just getting hired. I don’t know how much college credit you have but many pilots successfully complete their degrees online while working for a Regional in time to make it to a Major.

Just some food for thought.

Adam

This is all incredibly helpful information and I really appreciate it as I have been contemplating this decision pretty heavily for a while now.

As I have looked over CWU’s course timeline, it appears Year 1 is Private (which I already have), years 2/3 are Instrument and Commercial, and year 4 is Multi/CFI, and each year would include general education classes mixed in with that. So potentially I could complete a bachelor’s degree and the necessary ratings to get a job as a CFI in 3 years instead of 4, but I suppose that still would not be as time/financially efficient as completing a degree through online courses and completing flight training through ATP.

I suppose the best course of action at this point would be to decide whether to pursue a degree before training at ATP or, as Adam mentioned, do so while flying for a regional airline if I get to that point in this process.

Kyle,

It sounds like you have a pretty good understanding of the options that are available to you. I personally would stay very far away from any aviation universities, but only you can make that decision.

Chris

1 Like

Kyle,

Another consideration is if you complete flight training at ATP and instruct at ATP you will be eligible for Tuition Reimbursement with Horizon Air. https://atpflightschool.com/airlines/horizon-air-alliance.html
In this program you would receive $11,000 in Tuition Reimbursement and Horizon sign-on bonus.

And…If I am not mistaken, Horizon has increased the signing bonus to $25k
for pilots that choose the Q400 and $20k for the ERJ.

Tory

1 Like

Danielle,

Does that tuition reimbursement apply to the cost of the flight training at ATP or to education through a college if I take courses after ATP while flying for a regional like Horizon?

Thanks,
Kyle

Tory,

Horizon lets their pilots choose which aircraft in their fleet they wish to fly? That’s pretty cool! Or will they assign you based on need?

Kyle,

Tuition Reimbursement only applies to loans taken out for training at ATP.

Chris

Kyle,

I can’t say for sure. It depends on company need. I had a choice when I was
hired, but I’ve heard different stories from FOs that were hired after me.
Some were given a choice and some weren’t.

Tory

That’s really interesting. What made you choose one aircraft over the other? At the top of my head I was thinking pay/destinations, but maybe there are other reasons?

Moustafa,

The pay scales are actually the same for both aircraft.

The number one reason I wanted the jet was seniority. Since the ERJ was new
to Horizon, I knew that I was going to be one of the first FOs at Horizon
to get typed in the ERJ. I’m currently number 10 out of 100. I’ve been able
to hold a line ever since I got off IOE and I usually get exactly what I
ask for.

The destinations weren’t really a factor; although, I do enjoy having the
ability to stay on the west coast if I want or fly east to the Midwest.

Another deciding factor was the ERJ trips vs the Q400 trips. ERJ trips are
anywhere from 1-4 legs per day. The Q400 trips can have up to 5 or 6 legs
per day. Even though the Q may fly more legs than an ERJ, the flight time
in the ERJ tends to be higher.

Tory

1 Like