Real Answers from Real Pilots

Intro & Questions

Hello everyone,

What a great site for looking for help regarding anything aviation related. I am currently 28 serving in the USAF stationed overseas in the United Kingdom. I have 2 years left on my enlistment in which my wife and I are considering getting out of active duty and potentially serving part-time (guard/reserve) to maintain some benefits. I have had a life long passion for aviation and until recently, I have made excuses to not fly or life got in the way. Its to the point where my age would be restricting me from flying in the USAF. To realize this life-long dream, I have been considering many flight programs across the USA. The plan is to move back to Tulsa, Oklahoma and get situated there. What lands me here on this site and looking at ATP is there location in Tulsa.

I love the fact that it is fast-paced and provides a career guide to being a professional pilot. My ultimate goal is to become a commercial airlines pilot. I realize that this will require low salaries and large debt. I’ve been doing alot of research and it seems that these factors, along with various others, can potentially create a negative atmosphere. I just finished my masters degree from the University of Oklahoma in Criminal Justice with a 4.0 so staying focused and studying will not be an issue. I think my biggest concern is making money while attending flight school. I have a very supportive wife who wants to work (she has her masters as well) to get us by while I’m in flight school. As far as being away from family, that is not an issue, and something I have had to adapt to since enlisting. I’ve been stationed in Europe since 2012 and just being in the United States close to friends and family will be a dream come true.

Does anyone here have any experience with being in flight school and serving part-time? I would love to serve in the Air National Guard which requires one weekend duty a month and two weeks out of the summer. Would that be something I could do while attending ATP? Of course, deployments, activations are things I have some control over but you never know when it comes to the military, hence, I would have to stop flight training temporarily. I see that as a potential issue but not much else.

What are you guys’ opinion on the debt accrued from flight school? Obviously ATP wont take most of my VA benefits so taking out a loan is looking like what I’ll have to do. In my eyes, its an investment in my future, something I have to deal with to do something I love. It sounds like the first few years will be tough but I’m not exactly rolling in the dough as a staff sergeant either, which I’ve managed to get by living in Europe. I was luckily enough to get my undergrad and graduate degrees without taking out any loans.

It seems as if the benefits outweigh the negatives when it comes to being a pilot. I’m not sure where my passion for aviation came from (plane-spotting with my dad as a kid or flying FSX on my home computer) but it has never been stronger. Feel free to comment, I would love to hear back from people in the industry. Thanks!

Robert,

Welcome to the forums. To begin with, thank you for your service to our country. Secondly, thank you for the detailed introduction, it really helps us to answer in the most thorough manner possible.

You are correct in that ATP is not able to accept GI benefits as the government requires a different form of training, which takes much longer to do and delivers the exact same pilots licenses, so you will have to finance your flight training. Keep in mind the Tuition Reimbursement Program when thinking about the debt repayments, especially for the first two years. This program will pay you up to an additional $500 per month towards your loan payments, it can make a huge difference. You can find more about that on ATP’s main web page.

I financed my flight training. While the loan payments were substantial, I was able to make them and still have a bit left over at the end of each month. I even paid off the loan considerably early.

I don’t see your potential guard duty as being a big deal during ATP, but I would try to avoid having ATP and the two summer weeks coincide.

It sounds like you have really done your research and pretty much know what you are looking for in a flight school, I think that is fantastic. Also, your master’s degree will be a nice plus when applying to the majors.

Feel free to post any questions that you may have here. I look forward to working with you.

Chris

Robert,

I got out of the Air Force as a Staff Sergeant and went to the Reserves for just over 3 years. I started my flight training at Louisiana Tech but I let life get in the way. Finally after 6 years I received my Private Pilot License with a local flight school. I will be pursuing my dream of flying as well and debating if ATP is right for me.

My question to you is what benefits do you want to keep by going into the part time role of the military? In my opinion, you would probably benefit more from just focusing on making it through the flight training without the distraction of training. To be honest, the paychecks aren’t that much and you can get great health insurance elsewhere. If you are serious and able to invest in your future take the step. Enjoy the fact that you did something that not many people are able to. I am sure with the support of your wife you will be just fine for that first year.

If I can give you anymore insight about becoming a civilian or weekend warrior, please let me know.

Josh

Thank you Chris! When you have to make big decisions like this, it does/should require alot of research. It would be a dream come true if I could fly for a living. I appreciate all the help here on the boards, there is a great deal of information.

Josh,

I honestly think it the idea of being in uniform still. Whats the typical schedule like for a weekend warrior? I think it would also bring in a few hundred bucks to offset some costs while I’m training in flight school. Yea a few hundred bucks isn’t much but it could pay for something if I only have to go in for 2 day a month. Maybe I’m wrong. Whats your thoughts on guard? Worth it? Are deployments purely volunteer or do you get tasked with a say? My main concern will be any break in training while in flight school. Since I’m shooting for a fast track, it will require all my attention. If I can manage ANG, then I wold consider it. Its not a must, just something to do with a skill I’ve already learned and mastered. Thanks man, I appreciate the info.

Robert,

Let me start by saying I have no personal military experience BUT, I fly for Hawaiian and half our pilots are (or were) in the service. I agree with Chris other than the 2 weeks in the summer, getting the 1 weekend a month shouldn’t be a problem. There are other major benefits (from what I’ve been told by other pilots) that make staying in the reserves a great idea. First off obviously it looks great on the resume. More important, I’ve seen a number of pilots get hired, and almost immediately up their involvement in the reserves. What they’ve done in effect is begin to build seniority BUT bypass a lot of the typical first few year complaints of crappy schedules and pay by taking month long assignments etc. Once their seniority is good enough to get the base they want or schedule they go back to weekends etc. Kind of a slick move if you ask me?

Joshua, not picking on you but just the fact it took you 6 years to get your Private should be a pretty strong argument for training with ATP.

Adam

Robert,

If it is something you feel you want to do, go for it. I can say from the Reserve aspect you got to pick when you deployed anywhere. From talking with ANG guys, they are all trained up and ready to go if needed. They like to take the volunteers with them before they force you to go. Most of the time there are plenty of people to go. The typical weekend is two eight hour days. That is sometimes adjusted depending on your job. Usually your annual tour can be schedules at your convenience. They do like to try to work it into a TDY. I guess it all depends on what unit you end up with. I did get to spend a month on Waikiki Beach. I think that you could work it out with the fast track program.

Adam, I agree that ATP is probably my best bet to get through to the airlines. I am working through a few things at the moment but they are still very much an option. I have to admit that I am envious of you getting to live in Hawaii. The island flying sounds like a pretty nice gig.

Best gig on the planet!

Adam

Hey Josh, what experience do you have using the GI or Post 9/11 Bill for flight school? The big thing for me right now is determining if I want to go the ATP route which means not using GI benefits, or going to a part 141 which will cover costs but in a lengthier timeframe. Its a decision I’m not taking lightly as our GI benefits are quite substantial. I still have more than a year of Active Duty left to determine which route I want to take. Thanks for the help.

Robert,

I know flight training is expensive and I also know if I had the means to have all my training paid for that would’ve definitely been an attractive option. The only point I want to throw in is this, ATP will cost you $50-60k (depending), a lot of money no question. BUT, if that part 141 school takes you just one single year longer (it’ll probably be more but let’s be optimistic) that’s one year less you’ll have at the airlines (since your airline career is a finite number) making $300k, 5-6 times that cost of training. Factor in that the sooner you start the more money you’ll have in your 401K, sooner you’ll gain some seniority, upgrade, better schedule etc. While I appreciate it’s hard to see the future and you’d be spending that money now, I think it worth some consideration.

Adam

Hey Adam,

I appreciate the insight. I would have to agree with you on all points. Going to a Part 141 who accepts my GI benefits would be nice, but at the same time, take a whole lot longer. I have my masters, and to be honest, I’m done going to any type of college, 6 years is enough. I’m ready to fly and get on with my dream. I’ll be 30 when I separate so the difference between ATP and a Part 141 is flying at a regional at 33 or potentially 35/36. I’m not an expert in the field or anything but that seems like it would be a substantial amount of time given the fact that seniority is huge in the airline industry.

Robert,

Two or three years can be a massive difference in the airline industry. For example, when we furloughed pilots in 2008 I was not furloughed, pilots hired just a few months after me were and were out for three years. On the positive side, it can also be the difference between upgrading to Captain, flying a widebody jet, or holding a desirable schedule.

I am not an expert on GI benefits, but isn’t there a way to pass them onto any children you may have?

Chris

Hey Chris,

I agree, the time saved via ATP is justifiable. Unfortunately, to transfer the benefits I have to have 4 years of service left, which in my case, would mean I would have to re-enlist. That is not an option as I am ready to get out and start flying. Now, I talked with an ATP Admin and I was told I could apply $7000 worth of GI benefits to ATP. While that’s not a lot, it’s something. I am not sure to what extent they get applied. If I do the 40ME option from Zero, we’re looking at $63k. Subtract $7k and the potential for a regional to offset some with a loan repayment program, now we’re looking at mid 40s worth of debt. That’s a very very reasonable price for what I can tell from all my research.

It sounds like you have really done your research on this. Remember that you could also use your GI money for a type rating if you decided to apply to Southwest some day.

Yea, lots of research and ATP sounds and looks the best. What do you mean by a type rating? Is that something Southwest requires you to get on your own? I thought the airlines provide all the training you need to fly any of their aircraft?

Robert,

All of the airlines pay for all of your training, except Southwest. They require their pilots to get their own 737 type rating. A type rating is specific training that is required to fly a certain kind of jet. For example, 737s, 757s, 777s, etc all require their own type rating.

Chris

Gotcha, didn’t know that. That’s good to know. I appreciate it Chris.

Anytime. Feel free to ask any other questions that you think of.

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Robert - You are able to use the GI Bill to reimburse for FAA examiners fees which will total around $6,600. The GI Bill will not provide reimbursement for the program cost. Sorry for any confusion.

Ok great. Thank you for the reply.