Real Answers from Real Pilots

Flight school and loans

Hi, I am currently working for delta airlines as a ramp agent. Being around airplanes all of the time and seeing how fun & rewarding the job can be, I have decided to pursue a career as an airline pilot. I currently don’t know where to start or what to look for in choosing the best flight school. I really don’t have the money to pay out of pocket for my flight training, so a loan is probably what I will have to go with. I have no problem taking out a huge loan to pay for my flight training because I see that not as being in debt, but as an opportunity to become what I want. What can I do to choose the best flight school? I don’t want to keep wasting anymore time. Hopefully by the middle of 2017 I will have begun my flight training. Any tips on what can help me get started?

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Cesar,

Welcome to the forums and thanks for posting! It is great that you already have an inside view of the airlines and how they work.

As for choosing the right flight school, that really depends on you and what you are looking for. I recommend talking with several flight schools to get a feel for what is out there. A while ago I came up with a list of questions that I think is helpful, you can find it here: Questions For Any Prospective Flight School

Most importantly of anything I would find a school that quotes accurate prices. A lot of schools quote based not he FAA minimum, but most pilots take longer than the minimum, thus making the costs higher. Take a look at that list and let me know what questions you have.

How long have you been with Delta? What is your work and education background?

Chris

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Hello Cesar and Welcome!

As you said this is an investment in your future and a fairly large one at that. Chosing the right school is a huge and not a decision to be taken lightly. As many school as there are out there you’ll find opinions, ultimately the best school is the school that’s right for you.

I did my training with ATP and I attribute much of my success to that decision (that’s why I participate in the forum. That said I am NOT a salesman and receive no incentive if you sign up or not). ATP was created by airline pilot to train airline pilots, period. You can’t got to ATP and just get your Private etc. That said it does require a 6 mos, fulltime commitment. And while there’s no question full time is the best way to train (which is why that’s how the airlines and the military do it), for some people that’s just not possible. If that’s the case you’re basically looking at your local flight school, but again if you can, you should. There’s simply no better more efficient path to the airlines. That’s why they’re as big as they are, why they have the relationships and agreements they have with multiple airlines, and most important why their pilots get hired. Flight training is a process and every lesson builds on the one before. If you spend too much time out of the cockpit, you actually take backward steps. That’s not only frustrating and counter-productive, it’s a waste of money.

I just saw Chris responded and included his list of questions which is great. For me the bottomline is can they provide the consistency you need to be successful.

Adam

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Hey Chris,

I’ve been with Delta for almost a year now stationed at Lga and I have an associates degree. This is my first job in the field of aviation. Other than this I have never had any other aviation related jobs. I will be speaking to a few representatives from a different flight schools to see which school would be the best choice for me & I will definitely ask all of the questions you have written down for me. Thank you!

Hey Adam

I’ve read your story and its so inspiring to see how you were able to accomplish your dream at the age of 39. I’m only 23, but I tend to think that if I wait any longer to get started on my flight training, I will be too old by the time I am done. I see you attended ATP, from what I’ve read, it seems like it could be one of my top schools. Did you become a full time student at ATP & did you do the fast track program? If so, how long did it take you to finish the program? Right now due to my financial situation, I don’t think I wold be able to sign up for the fast track program. I have too many bills plus student loans that have to be paid monthly. Do you know if ATP has a self paced program? If so, would I still receive the same level of attention and education as someone that’s doing their fast track program?

Hey Cesar,

First and foremost, you are no where near the universe of being too old. I was young once (hundreds of years ago) and I have 3 children 20, 22, 24, so I understand the sense of urgency.

When I completed the program only the Fast Track was offered. I already had my Private and I competed the course in 87 days. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your take?) ATP is again no longer offering the Self Paced Program. While ATP understood there are people who aren’t in the position to take 3 - 6 mos off from life and tried to create a program to accommodate them, they also recognized that dragging the training out makes it very challenging to produce a consistent product (ie, good pilots). I applaud them for their decision as I’m sure they had to walk away from a ton of potential students and money but delivering quality and maintaining their reputation trumps profits.

I understand it may not be practical for you to enter the Fast Track at this point but there honestly is no more efficient method of training available (again which is why the military and airlines train daily). It took me almost 2 yrs to get my Private and a ton of money and it wasn’t because I was a bad pilot. It was a lack of consistency. If I could do it all over again the only thing I’d change is I would’ve gotten my Private at ATP also.

Adam

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Hey Adam,

Thanks for taking time out of your day to get back to me. Hopefully I can look more into the fast track program and maybe some time down the road get started. Since I do not have my private pilots license, would you know about how much the program will cost? I will without a doubt have to take out a loan, whether its from sallie mae, wells fargo or some other bank. Would you know about how much I would be needing for the fast track program?

Cesar,

ATP’s Fast Track (incl your Private) ranges from $64-74k (depending on the version you chose, details are on the website). Many pilots often take out loans for a higher amount to cover ancillaries and living expenses.

Adam

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Hi there Gentlmen I’m working on the first steps of my goal. I’m 37 and have a family. I would love to fast track but that’s not my reality, due to the financial impact. Could you guys help in providing possible institutions that may finance as I work through my local flight school? I plan to complete my training as fast as possible but continue to work full time to take care of my family. I haven’t found much in the financing relm as of yet. Thanks for all your advice and insperation on this site!

Hi Mike,

Honestly I’m not aware of any? The problem is training on your own is somewhat nebulas as far as total cost, completion times etc and most banks don’t like uncertainty. Don’t know if you could maybe get an equity line against you home or something of the kind but that could be an option?

As long as we’re talking, listen, I’m honestly not trying to be a salesman and trust me I understand how difficult (if not impossible) it may seem to just take 6 mos off from life. I wanted to do things on my own as well and I ended up taking 2 yrs and spending WAY TOO MUCH money on my Private license alone. When I made the decision to make aviation a career I recognized that there was no way that would work for the rest of my training. It wasn’t easy, my wife was not very supportive and it required a tremendous amount of sacrifice for me and my family but when all was said and done there was no question in my mind I made the right decision. Again I’m not trying to talk you into anything I just encourage you to give it some serious thought. Maybe give it a try locally but if it’s not working out don’t do like I did and just keep hoping and throwing money at it. If this is really what you want to do you’re much better off sucking it up hard now than kicking yourself later.

Adam

Adam thanks for the swift response. Being a Pilot is something I want bad, but uprooting the family is not. I will plan to fly 3-4 times a week to meet my goal. ATP is just to much out of my reach in order to keep my family from complete upheaval. I will work on creative financing as nothing will get in the way of my dream my friend. Thank you for sharing your experiance and I will adjust if I have to so I don’t push it out to long. Cheers

Fair enough Mike,

As I said I honestly do understand where you’re coming from and I wasn’t trying to sell or sway you. I’ve been doing this a while and unfortunately I’ve seen too many aspiring pilots suffer from taking the wrong route. That said I sincerely hope you’ll come on here in a year or two and tell me how wrong I am.

I do strongly recommend you sit down with the school of your choice, explain your goal and make sure they have sufficient resources (instructors and airplanes) for you to be successful. If not find another school.

Please keep us posted and as always we’re here to answer any and all regardless of the school you chose.

Adam

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Thanks buddy I’ll keep you informed. I have talked to the school I’ll be training at and they understand my goal. Its owned by current commercial pilots in the industry, so they know what it takes to make it into the industry. Stay safe and thank you again for.your insite!