Real Answers from Real Pilots

Looking ahead slightly

(Joe FRAZEE) #1

I am currently halfway through a BA in music performance at Ball State University in Indiana. I have been heavily considering ATP and flying as a career as my father and grandfather were both private pilots. My impression of the field right now is that the “gettin’ is good” so to speak due to the pilot shortage. But after I graduate and enroll in ATP will it still be worth it? Or will the shortage still be severe enough to provide decent job placement? I realize I’ll never just waltz into the left seat, but at this point anything is better than trying to get into an orchestra as they fall to bankruptcy left and right.

The ATP branch I’ve been looking into most heavily is Jeffersonville, IN at Clark airport (JVY)





I have a friend who graduated with the same degree that you are getting and also had a hard time landing an orchestra job, he ended up getting a masters in finance and is now working in the insurance industry.

For years I did not think that the pilot shortage was coming, but it is here in full force and shows no signs of letting up. Even before the shortage there were plenty of jobs to go around, so I don’t think you have anything at all to worry about in regards to your timing. Right now almost every pilot is getting hired by an airline when they hit the FAA mandated 1,500 hours of flight time, I don’t see that changing.

Have you scheduled a tour at that ATP location yet? I highly recommend that you do that so you can get a feel for the school.

What other questions do you have about the industry or flight training?



Hey Joe (“where you goin’ with that gun in your hand?”, sorry),

The big 3 Majors have retirements literally projected in the thousands for the next several years and commercial aviation is also expected to increase 70% by 2030. Both very positive signs the shortage will continue for a while. That said as always there are no guarantees. 15 yrs ago next month this country suffered the 9/11 attacks. Before that tragedy things were also very good in the industry and in one day that all changed. Hiring stopped and many pilots found themselves downgraded or out on the streets. It took a while but the industry recovered.

And while getting picked up by a Regional is really pretty easy these days moving up to the Majors is not. Despite the fact they need pilots there are plenty of Regional pilots who aren’t able to make the move. Some have failures or other blemishes in their records (DUI’s etc), some people simply don’t interview well. I know many fine pilots who’ve been passed over.

I’m not trying to be negative or paint a dark picture. I do believe it’s important for people to know what they’re getting themselves into. Aviation requires some intense training and commitment. If this is a career you believe you would excel at and enjoy I definitely say go for it, but easy it’s not.


(Joe FRAZEE) #4

Thank you for the fast and informative replies gentlemen. The fact that I can speak with you in real time about my concerns is an immense help. I am going to schedule a tour at my ATP campus over my semester break. What should I expect once I am enrolled and after. I understand that the training is very intense and the hours are long. I am up to the task. Could you give me a brief overview of what my progression will be through the various ratings and certifications up to and including being hired by a regional airline?



I could literally write a novel on this one but here’s the quick and dirty:

Most of your training will follow a similar pattern. You’ll have ground school, practice in the sim and then in the airplane. ATP has state of the art simulators that facilitate you practicing maneuvers without wasting valuable (and expensive) flight time. You’ll have homework and quizzes to complete every evening that will be reviewed daily. In addition you’ll be responsible to self-study for all the FAA Written exams (side note, many pilots try and bang out as many as writtens as possible prior to beginning training to get them out of the way). All licenses and rating require a written, oral and practical (flight) examination. Here’s an overview:

First 2 mos you’ll be working on your Private license. Even though this is the most remedial level it’s really (IMHO) the biggest step as you’re going from “0” time to being a licensed pilot. LOTS to learn and skills to hone.

Multi-Engine Rating: You just got your Private so the ME add-on is fairly simple (when both engines are turning there isn’t much difference). About a week of training focused on what happens when a twin loses one of it’s engines plus operating a “complex” airplane (and airplane with retractable gear and a variable pitch propeller).

Instrument Rating: This most pilots will agree is the most challenging. Learning to fly solely with reference to your instruments (no peeking outside). LOTS of rules and regs but more important your skills need to be tight as tolerances get very small. Failure to do so will cause a checkride bust AND more importantly in the real world the reason most pilots end up on the 6 o’clock news.

Commercial License: The Commercial checkride is really no biggy, just some more complex maneuvers to perform. Problem is you won’t have the required time so ATP will send you flying (this is the really good part). This is the cross-country phase (about 2-3 weeks). You and a partner will be sent flying. Depending on which course you chose (40 or 100 hr ME) you’ll go out in either the single or the twin and fly (if you’re in the twin you’ll go farther). ATP will tell you where but you’ll be responsible for the how. You’ll plan the flight, check the weather and go. Not just fun but a great confidence builder.

CFI’s: This is the Instructor training portion: This one is a bear. There’s really not anything new here, you’ve seen it all but now you’ll be flying from the right seat and doing a whole lot of talking. You’ll learn how to build a lesson plan and actually teach and on your checkride you’ll give the examiner a lesson in whatever. The biggest challenge on this checkride is as an instructor you’re responsible for knowing EVERYTHING and EVERYTHING (from day 1) is fair game.

You’ll then clean up your remaining ratings as add-ons (ie, CFII, MEI, etc).

Take a break and then go to JAX for Instructor Standardization. ATP wants to make sure every student is receiving the same level of training regardless of location so here they’ll make sure you’re on the same page as everyone else and further hone your teaching skills.

Begin teaching at you location. Actually fun and challenging (sometimes scary). At some point (500hrs) ATP will set up an interview with the Regional of your choice where you “should” receive a conditional offer of employment. Build your 1500hrs and voila! Congrats you’re an airline pilot! :grin: