Real Answers from Real Pilots

Flight School & College

Hello pilots,

I am a new member to this forum and I was wondering what the best option for me is. Currently, I am a senior in high school applying to colleges, and I would very much like to become an airline pilot in the future. However, I plan on starting my flight training at a local school this summer while attending a 4-year college pursuing my bachelors, and am worried as to how long it would take to reach regionals while doing this. Additionally, another route I am thinking about is a Cadet program through specific universities / campuses offering flight training whilst getting a 4-year degree. For example, PSA airlines is offering a cadet program through a few universities, but the university isn’t clear as to what or how this connection works or costs. The Cadet program from PSA is only available to schools that aren’t in my state (California) but they ensure a spot in the regionals. So, I am torn between two options and would appreciate a pilots perspective on going about it.

Ryan,

The best route is the route that works best for you. Personally I’ve never been a fan of college aviation programs. They’re often very expensive, after you graduate, while you may have your licenses and ratings you’ll still need to build the required time to get hired (as you said the university isn’t even clear how it works) and most important you’re putting all your eggs in one aviation basket. In the event you have a change of heart, have medical issue or suffer an accident or incident then what? Right now ALL the Regionals are desperate for bodies and are offering many gateway and cadet programs which is great but the reality is if you get the training and build the time, you’ll have your choice of Regionals and will have no issue getting hired.

My advice is to find a college that works best for you location and cost wise. Study something you like (it can be aviation but need not be). As for the flying if you want to get started and get your PPL that’s fine but ideally after you graduate you can start training fulltime, build your time and get hired. This allows you to focus on your education first and then focus on your flight training by training everyday, the way the airlines and the military do. Again, unless something dramatic happens you will get hired.

Adam

Ryan,

Welcome to the forums and thank you for the introduction.

I am not the biggest fan of the cadet programs. To be clear, I am not against them, I just do not see where they offer much beyond what the normal progression of applying to the airlines does.

I also understand your desire to get up into air as soon as possible, but I would really recommend that you focus on your college, then attend a fast track program after college to get all of your ratings. I have found that this is the best path to the airlines as you really need to do well in college and then later be able to focus on flight training. Also, getting your private license in a few months is possible, but it will likely take longer and will then begin interfering with your college classes.

As to the Cadet programs, they might offer some pass travel, but you will find that as a non active employ the benefits are not worth a whole bunch. I would focus more on getting ready to apply for the airlines via the traditional route.

Chris