Real Answers from Real Pilots

Going Through Flight School

I have a quick question. I have recently become aware of ATP Flight School and it sounds like a great deal. I just talked to one of their representatives over the phone and all I’m lacking to get in right now is 2 years of college to get the 60 credits they require before signing on with them.

I have wanted to be a pilot ever since I was little and I really want to go to a major airline. My plan to make that happen was to go directly to the Air Force Academy and then serve my time and get hired onto a major airline (Delta is my preferred airline, but I’d be fine with United or Southwest). If I went that route, however, it would be 14 years with the Air Force (4 years in school and then 10 in service) and I realize that there is a major, major demand for pilots now and within the next ten years.

Now I have found ATP Flight School and know there are other schools like ATP out there. With ATP I would have to finish 2 years of college and then go through training at the flight school for 9 months. Then I would be a flight instructor for them for about 2 years to get my 1,500 hours to get hired onto a regional airline where I would spend 4 years until being able to transfer to a major airline. This would be a total of almost 9 years before getting into a major airline.

Now my question for you is, “What do you propose I do?” Do I need to worry about financial stability if I were to get married along the way going through the flight school? I know that if I went Air Force, financial stability wouldn’t be a problem, but I don’t want to miss out on the huge demand for pilots that we have over the next 10 years. With the Flight School (from my limited perspective), I wouldn’t miss out on the demand and would be able to get farther in the aviation realm than if I went Air Force. And finally, Do you think it’s wise to jump on the gun with the Flight School route and give it my all right now?

Thank you so much for your time. Your answer will be much appreciated.

Jesse Allen

P.S. If you would prefer to answer this over a phone call, feel free to call me at (626)-297-5808. Thanks!

Jesse,

Another option is for you to attend a small flight school at your nearby regional airport and earn your Private Pilot License. This would be the fastest option to meeting ATP’s entrance requirements. Depending on how often you are able to fly you can finish your Private Pilot License in 3 - 6 months then join ATP with “Credit for Private”. From there ATP can help you earn the remainder of your flight ratings in 6 months - 18 months of flight instruction and you’re off to a Regional Airline in 25 - 28 months from starting your Private License.

Danielle

Jesse,

No one has a crystal ball but sooner is always better than later when you’re talking commercial aviation. EVERYTHING is based on seniority, so the sooner you start building some the better. You don’t say how old you are or where you are in life? (are you currently working?). The reason I ask is because ATP will except “equivalent work experience”, but know the Majors do want a 4yr degree (particularly Delta) so you will need to get that at some point. While flying for the AirForce is definitely admirable and the training and experience are extraordinary, there’s no question it’s not the most efficient route to the airlines.

If you’re looking for “financial security” you might want to become a postal worker. While I love my job and things are excellent right now in the industry, I don’t think you’ll find anyone who’d tell you being an airline pilot is a secure career. Price of oil goes crazy. major terrorist attack like 9/11, being on the wrong side of a merger and your career could change in a heartbeat. You also mention getting to a Major in 9yrs. While that’s possible you need to know there are no absolutes or guarantees. There are pilots who’ve done it in less and I know pilots who’ll never get there or who have been waiting for 15yrs to get the call. Bust a few checkrides or struggle in training and your career prospects can change dramatically.

I apologize if I’m painting a dark picture but I think it’s important people know what they’re getting into. This is a great time to get started. The Regionals are desperate for pilots and are hiring like mad. Earn your licenses and ratings, build your 1500hrs and you will get hired at a Regional. Because of that many pilots are shocked or disappointed when Delta doesn’t call them the day after they apply. The Majors are the Big Leagues and they can be and are selective. Work hard, do well and keep your nose clean and you “should” be fine but again there are no guarantees.

Ultimately the choice is yours which route is best for Jesse but again sooner is always better.

Adam

Thank you so much guys! I really appreciate your input, Danielle, and your perspective, Adam. This is the industry I want to get into, so I’ll do what I can to get in. I have just turned 18 and this has been my passion for many years. I am currently enrolled at The University of Northern Colorado as a Freshman and was going to spend a year there before heading off to USAFA. But now, I realize, is the prime time to get into the industry and I would like to go a different, much quicker route. Thank you both so much for your help and advice!!!