Real Answers from Real Pilots

New Aviation Enthusiast

Hi Everyone, my name is Joe and I am 26 years old (will be 27 next month.) I am an established professional and have been working in the Grocery Retail industry for 12 years. I make a very good living supporting 20 retail locations as a Regional Specialist and own a home with my wife and 11 month old baby. I have always been fascinated by aviation, and have recently engaged a local training academy to get my behind the controls of a Cessna for the first time. I have been reading information online almost ad nauseam, until I stumbled upon this forum. I am interested in hearing what everyone has to say about the following: 1.) If I wanted to work for a major airline, what would the time, educational, and financial commitment be starting from my age with zero flying experience? 2.) Is it realistic to plan on earning a college degree while attending flight school and working full time (I do not have any degree, only some college.) I really look forward to everyone’s feedback. Thank you!

Joe,

While we’re here to answer any and all your first question is basically “tell me everything I need to know to fly for a Major airline”. I’ll cover the basics but I recommend you spend some time reading through some of the other posts as they go much more into detail on many of the subjects.

  1. Time frame: would be a minimum of 5-6yrs (2 for training and time building + 3-4 at a Regional) to never. The Majors are the Big Leagues and there are many pilots who never get there.
    Education: Major airlines desire a 4yr degree. While it’s not formally a requirement is HIGHLY desired and “competitive” and a big reason many pilots don’t get there.
    Cost: Depends where you train. ATP will take you from 0 time to all your required licenses and ratings for $69,995. There are of course less and more expensive routes.

  2. Impossible to answer. If you train full-time with ATP you will not be earning a degree or working as ATP is a full-time commitment. If you train on your own sure you can do all 3 BUT that 2yrs for training and time-building could easily become forever? Would you be flying once a week? Twice? Working full-time? Part-time? School at night? Online? The possibilities are infinite.

Again I recommend devoting some time on the forum for more expansive answers.

Adam

Adam thanks for your fast response, I look forward to taking more time to look through this forum. As you can tell I am very green in this field. Is ATP flight school the only route to take to qualify for Regionals or Majors? (I realize majors are the extreme but I am pointing the question this way to understand he full scope.) Are there other options to become an airline transport pilot? I was looking through the ATP flight school website and there is not a location close to me. I plan to ask my instructor a lot of these questions when I begin private pilot training next month…

Joe,

No, ATP is not the only route to the airlines. BUT, if you look at the top of this forum you’ll clearly see the ATP logo as this is ATP’s forum and all of the mentors are ATP grads. So if I said we weren’t partial I’d be lying but the fact is all of us did our research and we all came to the same conclusion. That there is no better more efficient route to the airlines than ATP. That said I always encourage everyone to do their own research and make their own decisions. Ask your instructor and Google is a wonderful thing.

Adam

Hi Joe,

While I’m not a mentor here I am someone who’s tried to do all three at once and to answer your question I don’t think it’s realistic to think you can accomplish all three at once. When I tried doing it there just isn’t enough time in the day to do all three. In my case my schooling suffered and I didn’t end up getting the degree at the time. I did however end up with a private pilots license. I do think you could do two at once depending on the programs/work schedule.

A few years after trying all three I was able to go back and finish my undergrad degree while working full time. I went on after that to get two additional MBAs while working full time. It takes a lot of time management skills, communication skills and pre-planning to make it happen though. I can’t count how many times I was doing homework/writing a paper in a hotel room, proof reading it on a flight home (as a passenger) and then turning it in that evening, or having to work extra and convince my group to do our presentation a week early as I would be traveling during the week we were supposed to present, or having to work out deals with my professors or bosses on getting everything done on time. Just with doing the two (work and school) I really had very little social life outside of school and work. There was absolutely no time to add learning to fly in there.

There are plenty of people on here who’ve asked about going to ATP and working, or going to ATP and getting a degree at the same time, so do a few searches and you’ll get answers for those.

Thanks Jason, I am came across this forum less than 24 hours ago and have learned more about the scope of becoming a pilot in that time than I ever imagined. I realize a few things now, 24 Hours later, college (which I am currently attending) would have to go on hold during ATP training and resumed once completed, I would have to resign from my full time career to devote my time to this training, and I would have to relocate my family to complete this training. Once the training is completed, I would be assigned as a CFI to any of the ATP locations in the US and would have to potentially relocate my family again. The relocation would be a challenge as my wife and I are established career people, own a home, and have an 11 month old son. Needless to say this commitment would go way beyond my personal interest and goals at this point in my life. I have a lot to consider and the feedback and support here is priceless, I appreciate it!

One question, is working as a CFI (the guaranteed job) considered working at Regionals? Or are Regionals a job you acquire on your own after 1,500 Hours?

Joe,

Working as a CFI is just that. Some ATP CFIs accept conditional job offers
and receive tuition reimbursement from regionals while they work towards
their 1500 hours, but they are still considered CFIs. Your date of hire at
a regional is considered your first day as a regional pilot.

Tory

Joe,

First to answer your easy question no flight instructing is not in any way shape or form considered working for a Regional. CFIs are flight instructors and instructing is the most common means for building the required 1500hrs to work for an airline. Regional pilots are airline pilots who fly for Regional airlines.

Now as to the rest. IF you really want to fly there are again other routes. They’re less efficient and will cost you considerably more in both money and time (not to mention lost future wages) but it can be done. The really question is if this is truly something you want to do or just a passing fancy?

Adam

Joe,

Being a CFI is just that, it is not working at the regionals. The regionals are smaller airlines that fly smaller sized jets on behalf of the major airlines, such as how ExpressJet flies on behalf of United. You will need 1,500 hours to work at a regional, which most people obtain by flight instructing.

Chris

You’re welcome Joe.

To help clarify what regional’s are, as I just had this conversation with my brother the other day because even though he has been a platinum flyer at Delta for a few years he also didn’t know, they are the smaller planes you fly on when flying on Delta, United or American. If you are on Delta Connection, United Express or American Eagle then you are on a regional airline.

For example the Delta Connection plane in the header picture of this page is actually flown by regional airline Compass Airlines. It is not flown by Delta pilots and the flight attendants are also not Delta employees. Compass flies for American too so the pilots and flight attendants could be flying an AA flight one week and a Delta one the next.

Tory, Adam, Chris, Jason,

Thank you all for answering my questions about becoming a CFI, it is great to have a place to go with these kind of resources. To answer Adam’s question, I have my first flight ever set up on January 7th at a local aviation academy to get a taste of what it is like to be in control of a small aircraft. I think that I will be able to really gauge my passion for this after a couple of introductory lessons, after all I could love it or hate it. I may find myself settling with a PPL and enjoying recreational flying as well. ATP seems like a great choice if I decide to go all the way, learning about the process has been great so far. I really enjoyed Ryan Huber’s video documentary of his experience at ATP.

One more question that doesn’t seem to come up as often is: What were your experiences when becoming a CFI? Did you instruct for ATP? Did you have any say on your location?

Thanks!

Joe,

I did instruct for ATP. I was fortunate as I wanted the TTN location and no one else did so they gleefully said “NO PROBLEM” it’s yours. Overall my experience instructing was positive and I learned a ton. Instructing definitely makes you sharp and helping others reach their goals is very rewarding. The only aspect I didn’t enjoy was there was the occasional student who was just going through the motions. They’d show up unprepared and unmotivated and were wasting both my time and theirs. Sure I got to build the time but I wasn’t just there counting hours. Personally I don’t think there’s a better way to build time.

Adam

Joe,

I did instruct for ATP, all of the mentors did. I did not initially get my desired location, but was transferred there within just a few months. I actually really enjoyed my time as an instructor, I met some great people and had fantastic experiences. I learned more as a CFI than I ever did as a student.

Chris

I had a positive experience, both as a student and instructor. All of my
instructors were top notch.

I got my preferred location (Sacramento), but there weren’t any students
for me to instruct for about a month. I volunteered to transfer down to the
Riverside location. I instructed there for a month, and then I moved over
to the Hayward (now Livermore) location. I spent about half of my time
between Hayward and Sacramento.

Tory

Tory,

Was there an ATP location at Hayward before? Is it still there and why is it Livermore now?

Gerald

Hello Gerald,

The Hayward location moved to Livermore because Livermore is a better
location. The airspace is less congested, the training center is in a
larger, updated building and student housing is in a safer neighborhood.

Tory