Real Answers from Real Pilots

My ATP experience 0 time to CFI's to Airlines

(Mike Henry) #1

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything but wanted to chip in how ATP went for me. I’m now a first officer with Boutique Air flying the Pilatus PC-12. For a while I was instructing with ATP in Ogden, Utah and loved the location. Not a boat load of students and instructors that makes you feel like a number. Our facilities like I’ve mentioned in other posts are likely the nicest in all of ATP. Multiple export students have brought that up and we even had a few who tried to transfer to KOGD though I don’t think any have been successful. Not just because of the facilities but the current instructor crew can hold their own with any instructors out there and actually care about their students. KOGD also has full time A&P mechanics now which keeps the airplane count higher…though that comes at the cost of some being very near the 100 hour inspection.

Last I mentioned anything was that I was happy with the overall training program but that was before CFI school. CFI school sucks. The initial training and ride was done in Vegas and to my knowledge that has since been closed…at least the CFI portion. I’ve had multiple visits with multiple ATP execs (over the phone and in person) and all agree CFI school needs some serious work which they are actively trying to improve which I can respect. I was exported to Long Beach for my CFI add on and CFII. It was awful. ATP knew my family had purchased airline tickets to visit my wife and I in Utah for Thanksgiving but corporate insisted I export to LA for my addons and have my family cancel the tickets. I passed my CFI add on Thanksgiving morning…away from home and family in a seriously dingy hotel with homeless people sleeping in the hallways and stairwells and an environment that didn’t aid to learning. During initial CFI school you/we learn about Maslows Hierarchy of Needs and they were not provided for me and a fellow export in LA. I can go on and on and on why if I were to do it again I’d refuse to export. It is hard for instructors to invest quality instruction into a student they know will be gone in 3 days when they already have their normal student load to tend with. It is way more expensive for the student due to higher check ride costs, eating out 3 times a day, having previously budgeted for a lower cost of living during training, and and and. I’ll get off my soapbox I think you get the picture. Exporting for a quicker check ride is not always the best answer and if I knew then what I know now I’d refuse to export (though corporate is not above cutting you from the program if you don’t dance to their tune).

Stands was interesting. Not a terrible experience but anything but standardized. 2 different instructors wanted me to fly the final approach and land differently and were adamant their way was correct. You simply have to eat humble pie and fly as they tell you to in stands.

Instruction was good over all. While instructing I feel my knowledge improved greatly and my confidence in my stick and rudder skills increased as well. Some people dig at ATP for “not paying their instructors” but I don’t find that to be true. They fail to remember there is a 1,000 dollar per month guarantee that is really hard to overcome at other schools who might pay a flat rate of 20 dollars an hour. Do your research before jumping at the first school who promises “better pay.” I never broke the $10 dollar an hour mark but I still did ok. I never had a big student load but personally I didn’t want one. If you are flying 100 hours a month you aren’t giving quality ground. I not only wanted the hours but I want others to succeed so if that means not flying as much every month then so be it. If you are an hour grabber it will show in your students. Not long before I left ATP they restructured the pay scale to $1500 monthly guarantee with $20 per hour flight, sim, and group ground with 100 and 250 dollar bonuses if your students passed checkrides on the first go. If I remember correctly you got the 1500 or if your hourly flight/sim/group ground/checkride pass bonuses added to more than 1500 then you got whichever was higher. This new pay scale greatly helped out the instructors that didn’t regularly fly 50 hours a pay period. Again…those who fly more than 50 hours a pay period make more money on the 1st pay(original) scale (you can choose which pay scale you use…at least when I was there) but I personally don’t believe you can give quality ground instruction if you’re in the air 100 hours a month.

ATP has an INCREDIBLE safety record which was a major selling point for me…and it should be 1 of yours. There are 3 other schools here at the KOGD airport and all 3 have had crashes or multiple engine failures within the last year. However, ATP’s safety can some times restrict the instructor from helping a particular students weakness or struggle. One small example: If we could have landed at an airport with a narrow runway it would force the student to land on the center line vs always landing on runways greater than 60’ wide most being over 75 even 100 feet wide. I watched it happen to students (and myself) get sloppy and roll off center on the roll out. If you enjoy instruction and want the best for the student you will eventually run into one of ATP’s safety SOP’s that will tie your hands. It’s a catch 22 because their safety record speaks for itself and I can respect that.

ATP promotes and really pushes people to instruct to 1500 hours then the regionals then to the majors. Though a quality career path and a solid choice it is not the only path out there and not always the quickest route(if you’re even in the race at all). Flying Part 135 will give real time experience flying a line, flying paying passengers, flying into international airports and small non-towered airports in all weather conditions, while gaining real CRM experience. The quality of those hours is worth considering in comparison to flying right seat while your student does touch and goes at the same airport he/she did them at yesterday and the day before. The aviation industry is so much larger than “instruct to 1500, regionals, majors” that we should open our eyes to see all the options out there. Boutique Air gives me the experience of flying scheduled service and if I can move to the King Air I’ll end up with a type rating and my ATP rating. The Pilatus and King Air both keep the corporate and charter world of aviation open to me while the airlines are still a very valid option. We have had multiple captains interview and hire on to the majors direct from Boutique Air. So don’t drink the Kool-Aid that instructing to 1500 is the only way to a career because there are many many options out there.

So to wrap it up I’d say overall I’m happy with my experience at ATP. Could training have been better? Yes. Could it have been worse? Yes. Did I get paid loads as an instructor? No. Did I expect to get paid loads as an instructor? No. I still recommend people who are interested in aviation to come to ATP because to my knowledge it is the very best overall school out there. I hope this doesn’t sound too negative toward the school because it isn’t intended that way. It is just how the cookie crumbled during my time in training and how it happened as an instructor. All the best to everyone who took the time to read my entire epistle! Tailwinds to everyone!

(JCH) #2

Thank you for the thorough and candid review, greatly appreciated! It would be unrealistic for any prospective students, myself included, to go into this large undertaking without knowing that it isn’t all going to be unicorns and rainbows. But, the ending that you would still have chosen ATP is definitely reassuring!



Thank you for posting your detailed and candid review. Feedback like yours is what enables ATP to improve their program. It is my understanding that since you went through the program, the CFI program has been completely revamped and improved, based largely on feedback like yours.

How do you like Boutique Air? I am in Denver now and saw one of their signs on the way into the airport.


(TX) #4

@Michaelp, thanks for posting that. Appreciate it.

I’m really interested in hearing more about Boutique. I’m looking at them after I wrap up training here. You mind sharing how your experience has been with them, any tips for a prospective applicant? Via PM is fine if you don’t want to do it publicly.




Good post and thanks for sharing. Not sure I agree with the Thanksgiving debacle being ATPs problem (but I wasn’t there). Not sure how things are at Boutique but at the airlines missing holidays is commonplace. I also don’t believe you need a narrow runway to teach centerline control but to each there own.

Glad you’re doing well!


(Kyle) #6

Thanks for sharing your experience.

(Mike Henry) #7

You are correct that through feedback such as this ATP continues to improve the program. Unfortunately the CFI portion is still lacking but it is improving. I’ve only been gone for 2 months. Boutique Air has been great thus far. I’m sitting right seat but gaining some valuable experience.

(Mike Henry) #8

I respect that you disagree and will leave it as that since like you say you weren’t there. It wouldn’t benefit anyone if I were to share the details of that experience. Standing on ATP doesn’t make me any taller. I also agree you don’t need a narrow runway to teach landing on centerline but it is simply one of the many methods out there. Like you say to each their own.

(Mike Henry) #9

My experience has been good with them. It is a growing company so there are growing pains that go along with that. That will be the case with any company though no matter how small or large. It’s the same with ATP, some people love it some people not so much. Our owner is very aggressive at bidding new routes which keeps us growing. On some of the routes we have we’ve more than doubled the amount of passengers flown than any other previous carrier. Also, we are the only Part 135 carrier who code shares with a major(United). That is huge for a small company like us. CRM, IMC, flight into known icing, etc is valuable experience. I’m grateful to have the job that I have and it is largely due to ATP’s accelerated training that I have the job thus I’m grateful to have trained with ATP.


I would never take a student who is struggling with maintaining centerline to a narrow runway, that sounds like a great way to end up in the grass.

Not to rain on your parade, but a PC-12 is a single pilot airplane. I know the ways that people try to justify logging right seat time in single pilot airplanes, such as “the second pilot is required by the insurance company”, or “part 91 sole manipulator of the controls” on empty legs, but none of those hold up. I am sure you are gaining very valuable experience, but be careful about how you log flight time in the right seat. I would recommend against logging any flight time in a single pilot airplane that you did not sign the release for as Captain.


(Kamrin) #11

Hey chris!
I think he is good to go with logging now. After much debate, the FAA finally cleared up the issue with multi engine and single engine turbo props that were originally designed as single pilot airplanes. I thinks it’s one of the A0xx OpSpecs that changed the ruling. I remember my company briefing over it for the SICs in the beech 99 and 1900 during my indoc.

(Israel garcia) #12

Thanks for posting this. I start in KOGD December 10 from 0 time and reading your candid review reinforces my selection. Every area has its pros and cons. Knowing what you experienced has set me up to succeed, although I never try to have expectations. Boutique Air had the EAS contract here in Moab for a few years and I only heard great reviews about them.