Real Answers from Real Pilots

Making the Right Decision

Hey everyone!

My name is J.D. and I’m new to the forums. I’ve read through some of the posts to make sure this isn’t a redundant thread, so apologies if I missed something similar.

Quick introduction: I’m 24 years old, I have my bachelor’s in Philosophy/Political Science, and I took an intro flight through ATP a few weekends ago. It was great!

I’m new to flying without any logged flight time, but the idea of ATP appeals to me from the standpoint of getting the most experience in the shortest amount of time. It’s also a big (and nerve-wracking) decision and I wanted to get some other opinions to make sure that ATP is the best option for me.

My question then is should I choose ATP over any other flight school, and if so, why?
The instructor that I took my intro. flight with said it would be a no-brainer to choose ATP in my situation since I already have a college degree. I understand that part of the appeal is that you’re guaranteed a job with a regional airline upon completion of hours. Are there other perks that I’m not thinking of?
My last question, somewhat unrelated, is what does the pay look like once you complete the 6 month program and start instructing? I got a pretty vague answer when I called ATP somewhere between $30-40,000/year. This seemed a bit high to me, and I wanted a realistic expectation of how much I’d be making in the 1.5-2 years instructing to cover the initial tuition costs (around $75,000 if I choose the 100hr ME). Any guidance in helping me make this decision would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers,
J.D.

J.D.

Welcome to the forums and thanks for your questions.

You will notice that none of the mentors on here sell ATP, that just isn’t how we role. That being said, we are all successful graduates of ATP that believe in the program and like to share our past experiences with future pilots.

I do think that in your situation (which is very similar to what mine was) a fast paced program makes the most sense, especially since you already have a college degree. There is just no point in dragging your training out any longer than need be. I recommend that you go to my “Flying the Line” section and look at a thread called “Questions for any Prospective Flight School”. It is a list of questions that I came up with that you should ask to each and every school that you speak with. I recommend printing out a different sheet for each school so that you can easily compare answers. Being able to compare all of your various options in a common format will help make your decision process easier.

Keep in mind that while the CFI job is guaranteed, you have to work very hard to get there. ATP, just like the airlines, will give you the training that you will need, but it will be up to you to make sure that you truly dedicate yourself to your studies and to working hard.

I will let Yarden speak to the CFI pay as he has just recently completed his time as a CFI.

Again, welcome. Feel free to ask us any and all questions. That is what we are here for.

Chris

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Hello JD and Welcome,

I do want to clarify something right off the bat, ATP does not guarantee you a job with a Regional airline. If they did that wouldn’t be “part of the appeal”, that would be the GREATEST REASON EVER and the conversation would be over. ATP does a fantastic job training pilots and has an extraordinary record of getting pilots hired but frankly there are ZERO guarantees you’ll ever become an airline pilot. If you bust a bunch of checkrides you will have problems getting hired. Not saying you are, but if you’re a jerk, have an attitude or simply don’t interview well the airlines may not want you. Does Harvard guarantee you’ll become a lawyer? No, they can’t.

Ok so why ATP? First off they DO guarantee you an instructor position and that’s huge. Not only is it an instructor position BUT it’s an instructor position at the busiest flight school in the country. The idea is to build time and build time FAST. Busier school, more flying, more flight time. Not only are you building more flight time but since ATP does much of it’s training in multi-engine aircraft you’re not only building time, you’re building valuable multi/complex time. While we’re on the subject you mention the 100hr Multi program. That program exists for pilots who aren’t planning on instructing for ATP so they’ll have the 100hr ME min most Regionals require. If you plan on instructing for ATP you can save yourself $10k and go with the 40hr program since you’ll be building more than the required 100hrs ME instructing.

Another big reason is ATP’s reputation. ATP was created solely to train airline pilots. You can’t go to ATP and just get your Private. The training was modeled after airline training programs. It’s accelerated and requires ALOT of hard work and dedication. Honestly it’s not for everybody. But if you are successful it demonstrates to the airlines that you are capable of handling that kind of training which is why they hire ATP graduates. I currently know about a dozen airline pilots who have sent their children to ATP to start their careers. A good friend of mine who’s father was a Presidential pilot and later Chief Pilot at a Fortune 500 company sent his daughter to ATP for her career. There are dozens of other pilots I know personally who all trained at ATP.

As for pay it’s gone up considerably since I was there but I think Yarden can give you a better answer on the current figures but I have been hearing around $30k (for real) from others.

Adam

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Hey JD,
Just my .02
I am currently enrolled at ATP and will be starting in the next couple months. I plan to CFI with ATP , but i also chose to take the 100ME . I think alot of this is based on what your mind set is. I am motivated to get to the regional’s the fastest way possible and giving myself a leg up on others. Yes its a savings of 10K if you chose the 40ME route and yes you will exceed the 100ME "Minimum" ( if you CFI w/ ATP ) that most regional’s are looking for. However when you start looking at different airlines, alot of them will tell you that they Prefer 500ME .

I own a construction company and i deal with alot of homeowners that call us to fix what other contractors screwed up. We get the answer of " it was done to code" and we hear this alot. The fact is, code is a minimum requirement , and most contractors are just looking to do the minimum amount of work to get the most money they can. I have successfully ran my business for almost 10 years going above and beyond whenever possible and not just stopping at what ever the minimum is, but providing a service beyond that.

Now back to flying… With that mindset, i have told myself that while 10K is a nice chunk of change, it will get me 100ME and then flying as a CFI with ATP will just keep on adding to those numbers. and when i start interviewing with the regional’s, its going to make me look that much better.

Again just my .02 Hope that helps !

Thanks a lot for the quick responses. This stuff can be tricky to navigate if you’re like me and pretty new to it all. That said, I appreciate the feedback!

Chris and Adam- Thanks for the clarification on the CFI spot that ATP provides. That makes a lot more sense now. I read through the “Questions for Prospective Flight Schools” post as well and found it very helpful. Cheers!

One question that’s been lingering is the quality of the CFIs if you go through ATP. It seems to me that a 6-month intensive program won’t be enough for a lot of people to make them good teachers in the classroom. Even though you don’t have to instruct at ATP after this period, it seems that this is the logical next step. I worry about learning to fly from instructors that are still somewhat new. Is this a logical concern?

In addition, what are some other ways that aspiring pilots build hours to fulfill the minimum flight time requirements (mainly at the regional level) if they want to do something other than instruct? I can see there being both benefits and drawbacks to instructing once you have the necessary ratings, and the decision to do so would definitely shape some decisions leading up to that. I’m curious what other options are out there once you have your ratings.

Reagon- I have the same mindset. Don’t do something if you are only willing to do it halfway. Still, I can see where it might make the most sense to save some money (10k is substantial) doing the 40 hr ME if you’re sure you will be getting those hours up in the future.

Thanks for your input,
JD

JD,

That’s a valid question and concern. There’s no question experience is always a good thing but the reality is there are very few career, professional instructors. Flight instruction doesn’t pay well and the vast majority of flight instructors are there to build time and get to an airline. Does that mean you’ll be receiving poor quality instruction? Definitely not. ATP has developed their program over 30 yrs and have gotten it down and standardized. Part of that system is your participation. In addition to the instruction are all the required manuals and texts. There is a large amount of self-study involved. Your instructor will not be reading chapters to you daily, they’ll be assigning you the reading and then you’ll be reviewing for clarification, questions and confusion. Together, as a team you’ll be making sure that you’re receiving all the knowledge and skills you require. Simply put it works and has been working for a long time.

There are other ways to use your Commercial license other than instructing. Banner tow, traffic reporting, small cargo/mail routes. Problem is these jobs are few and far between which is why most people instruct but hey if you can find something, go for it.

Adam

JD,

In regards to jobs other than flight instructing. They do exist, no question about that, but I am not sure how much you will benefit from flying banners or traffic watch. Those types of flying are mostly routine, visual flying, you will not be as challenged by it as flight instructing. Being a CFI will expose you to instrument flying and further learning as you learn how to explain complex ideas to your students. I felt that I learned so much from being an instructor, I am really glad that I did it.

Chris

I really appreciate the feedback. It definitely gives me something to think about, but I have a better sense of the direction I’d like to take over the next few years now. Thanks for the insight!

JD

Anytime, my friend. Let us know how else we can help you :slight_smile:

Chris

Hey JD,

I will just add some info about the financial situation.

Since the change that was made last October, there has been a MAJOR increase in pay. But that is only if you are determined and are willing to work a lot.

I’ll start by saying that I worked A LOT!! and by a lot I mean that I rarely took weekends off, and probably worked more than the normal 8-9 hours most days. I used to average 50 hours every pay period and that would mean that I reached the high pay tier ($20/hr), which equates to roughly $1500 every two weeks. Add on some proctoring of written exams ($15 per exam), tuition reimbursement (~$250 per pay period) and later on as a more senior instructor you can also do evals (each one can be up to $190) and you made yourself a pretty nice paycheck. I’m sure there were months when I was making north of $5k, which is pretty nice in this industry.

In most cases though, I saw that instructors would hit the second pay tier (starts at 40 hours in the pay period and is paid @$15/hr). Which is significantly less but still is in the ~$2500 range (not including tuition reimbursement).

Hope this helps, let me know if you have any other questions.

Yarden

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Hi Yarden,

Thanks for this breakdown. It’s really helpful to see some actual numbers. Maybe I’m missing something, but when you say you flew approximately 50 hours per pay period at the highest $20 rate, wouldn’t that be $1000 per paycheck? I’m wondering where the extra $500 comes from, since you say you made $1500 every two weeks from flight hours.

I may be overlooking something very simple, but could you explain? Thanks!

Of course Elaine, on top of flight hours you are guaranteed $1000/mo that is referred to as a “ground guarantee”. This is paid as compensation for all the work done outside of the airplane such as ground lessons, briefings, meetings etc.

Does that clear it up?

Yarden

Yarden,

Thanks for clarifying! That makes sense.