Real Answers from Real Pilots

New Career

Hey Dan,

Reagan addressed his email to Chris so I was laying back to give him the chance to respond first, BUT since you invited me to the party here goes. First off it’s been quite a while since I was an instructor (over 10 yrs). But I have a few questions of my own:
For the Senior CFI, how many hours does he have to date and has been a CFI for 2 yrs or has it been 2 yrs total including his training? Have they been getting the “barely 40hrs” the entire time they’ve been there or only recently? And how long have they been there themselves? As for the pay it’s not really making sense to me as even at the bare minimum $1000 a month and 40hrs and zero other add-ons (writtens, sim, etc) you’d be making more than the $460 they quote?

Ok let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say everything they said is accurate. Many people hear and read things then turn them into promises in their own minds. ATP does try to supply each instructor 3-4 students but obviously there will be highs and lows as in any business. If no one signs up to train in RIC for next month should they send the RIC instructors home that month? Make them move to a new location? Or should the instructors maybe suck it up? The reality is while I truly understand and appreciate that everyone would love to have guarantees, this life (and career) offers few. ATP can no more guarantee anyone a minimum amount of flight hours anymore than they can guarantee you’ll be able to pass all your exams and become a pilot. Further more they also can’t guarantee the fact that an airline might really have a problem with a particular individual and not offer them a position at all. If you get accepted to Harvard do they guarantee you a law degree and a position with the firm of your choice? No, they don’t. I’ll tell you what ATP says, they say they will provide you top level professional training for a fixed guaranteed price. They then promise you if you are successful as a student you will have a guaranteed instructor job waiting for you and on the average (based on past performance) most pilots find themselves at a Regional by year 2. That’s it and I’ve never heard them promise more or less AND they’ve been successfully doing what they do for over 3 decades. If you can find a better job, hey go crazy but ATP says if not we’ve got one for you and we’ll try and get you out asap. Trust me it’s not in ATP’s best interest to keep you around, paying you a guaranteed salary any longer then they need to.

I have to be honest, this is kind of a sore subject for me so I apologize if I sound bothered. A little history, back when I decided to pursue aviation as my career 13 yrs ago I visited virtually every flight school I could including ATP in Stuart FL. When I arrived there were 2 very young peckerhead instructors who basically blew me off. They told me the training was incredibly tough, no one helps and they’re not paid to show me around, oh and btw I was too old, bu-bye. I crossed ATP off my list. I continued my search with little success and decided to maybe go to a local flight school. I was very fortunate that the manager at the school I visited was an ATP graduate and told me ATP was where I needed to go. I asked why he wasn’t there instructing or at a Regional and he informed me due to personal reasons (divorce, small children and other issues) he needed to be close for now but would be soon. I told him what I encountered during my visit and he said unfortunately while ATP does an exceptional job training pilots, they have no salesman and often the instructors you encounter at their locations don’t feel it’s their job to sell or even welcome/encourage new students. He encouraged me to give them another shot so I visited the ATP in HEF (no longer there) where I met an exceptional instructor/person named Royce. While Royce also wasn’t a salesman, he took some time and told me what ATP was and what it wasn’t. That ATP prepares you for the airlines and airline training and many people don’t like that. The airlines won’t hold your hand and let you work at your own pace and neither will ATP. Some people, even those that get through don’t like that and find it cause to complain. Royce told me ATP would deliver on every promise they make and offer me the opportunity to be successful BUT I had to work for it. Sounded fair so I signed up. I was given my first choice of locations, Trenton NJ (not a particularly popular site). I was told the average hrs were 75 per mos. One month I flew 100, some 60, one winter month with a lot of snow I only flew 25. The other instructor at my location cried the whole time “they promised me!..”. I stayed late, worked weekends, welcomed new students who visited and volunteered to proctor all the tests. He complained none of that was his job, no problem, his right, his choice. Well ATP also told me I’d probably instruct for 1 year (this was prior to the 1500hr Rule), I was hired by ExpressJet (again my first choice) after 5 mos. and now I fly the A330 for the oldest Major airline in the US (again my first choice). The other instructor? He eventually quit after a year and went to work in the printing business with his in-laws. BUT, if I had only listened to the first guys, I honestly don’t believe I’d be a pilot right now, hence my tone.

While again I understand and appreciate that Reagan and his wife would’ve have much preferred to hear a very rosey warm and fuzzy picture, I’m almost glad they didn’t. The prospect of being successful are the best they’ve ever been in this industry but it’s definitely not easy and no one is going to just hand it to you (not saying Reagan believes they will nor am I directing this at him in particular). There will be set backs and possibly disappointments which is why I personally believe (and others don’t) that you really need to have a passion for it. I’ll tell you an interesting phenomenon I encounter far too often since I’ve been flying (and I’m talking from when I was a student all the way till now). You will be sitting next to pilots at the same company as you doing the same job, some will swear it’s the greatest job on Earth others will swear it’s one step away from indentured servitude. Blows my mind. The question is which one are you going to be?



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I can see where you would have more questions after your tour. I am not involved in any of the day to day, so I cannot comment as to how much flight time instructors are getting. Forty hours per month does seem on the low side. My bet is if this continues to be the case the company will reduce the amount of instructors at that particular location. When I was an instructor I averaged about 80 hours per month.

5.5 months to do the program seems long to me, I would have to ask more questions about why it was taking that long and I would certainly follow up with the admissions guys on that one.

I am not sure that any flight school anywhere will be able to give you an absolute guarantee on getting flight time. All flight schools are subject to the ups and downs of trainings.

You are right in that it there are a lot of uncertainties in the industry, there are in most. The first few years are not the most financially rewarding, but the payoff in the end can be pretty darn good.

Have your wife take a look at my “Flying the Line” sub forum, that might give her some idea what the industry is really like and why you want to join it.


Thanks Chris, I decided to go all out and I am starting at ATP in Riverside CA on October 3. I am really excited. Thanks for the info.


That is great news! I am so excited for you. If you have time during your training please come back and let me know how your training goes.

Good luck!


Adam, Chris , Eric,

Thanks to all that are contributing… I am very appreciative… Adam, dont feel like you need to wait to chime in. I appreciate everyone’s words of wisdom.

Let me first say, i hope i didnt come off as dumping on ATP. I agree with all of you, they seem to have a great program. I am still going to ATP, its just a matter of when. The school loan has already been approved, im just going thru the process of figuring out personal finances to get me thru my training time with ATP.

As i expected ATP admissions did contact me after my visit to ask how everything went. I explained much of the same concerns that i stated here. The gentleman at admissions that i spoke with said yes, he sees that they have a shortage of students at that location and that most likely ATP will be making some adjustments to accommodate. He also said that with his experience most people do take approximately 120 days to finish the 100 day program.

I wanted to clarify something from my previous message as well. My meeting was with the Senior CFI , however there was another CFI in the room while we were there and he was partaking in the conversation as well. He was the one that stated he was only getting about 40 hours and around $460 every two weeks. But i believe he is also paying for housing from his check, so maybe that accounts for an additional $300 a month… not sure. Also you asked about how long the Senior CFI was there. He told us that he had been a CFI for just over 2 years, and that he was at another location previous to this one and was expecting to be completed with his hours sometime around November of this year.

I fully agree and understand where each of you are coming from. It has to be a passion ! And it is ! I have no doubt that once i start on this journey it will have its lows… sometimes its very lows… but in the end… hopefully a very rewarding life for myself and my family. I agree with your comment Adam. I am glad as well that they didn’t paint a rosey picture. I want the truth. I want to hear and know everything that i can about whats to be expected.

Again, I am not upset at ATP or anyone for that matter, and i dont want to come across as complaining or whining about anything. It was just a small step back from the hopes we had set in our minds and based off ATPs website of 100 days, and “ready for the airlines in 2 years” vs what we heard and experienced during our tour. With all of that said and as previously stated. I still have every intention of going thru ATP, it just may take me a little longer to set aside that security blanket of funds to offset my time with ATP. While the regional pay isn’t the greatest, i can at least manage based off of that, and most of them have guarantee minimums per month which adds some comfort.

As for now, time to head to the airport and hop in the left seat of a 172 and go get some hours in before the sun goes down :slight_smile:


You didn’t sound like you were dumping on ATP at all, you were just conveying your experience and expressing your concerns (and btw if you were dumping on ATP that’s cool too. This is America my brother). If you didn’t have any concerns or worries I’d be worried about your sanity. As I said this is just kinda of sore subject with me. As much as I want all prospective students to have a VERY clear and honest vision of what they have ahead of them, positive and negative, there also needs to be some BIG picture thinking as well. Unfortunately this life (and industry) is full of optimists and pessimists (I’m more of a realist or at least try and be), extremes on either side don’t really help anyone.

While again I appreciate these guys may be in a bit of a slump, I also think they need to remember that they’re getting paid to do something they enjoy and are closer than the majority of the people on this planet to fulfilling their dreams. Also not trying to bash any particular generation, but I almost believe that before you can be a pilot you should have to spend a few years at a REAL job, just for some perspective. I did the 9-5 in an office, was a construction laborer and a restaurant owner. My WORST day flying airplanes beats my BEST day doing anything else.

Peace out!


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Adam… or anyone for that matter,

How long does the Instructor Proficiency Program in Jacksonville take once you have completed the 100 hour course and looking to be a CFI for ATP ? 1 week ? 2 ? just trying to work out a timeline still and i cant recall asking that question when i was on the phone with ATP

Thanks for your input.


It’s been a while but when I attended it was 2-3 weeks. Good fun too. Lots of useful info and polishing maneuvers. There were also a few senior instructors who’s job was to “rattle” you like a new student. Personally I thought it was hysterical but one guy started crying. “You sure you wanna be a pilot? Maybe you should be driving a Pepsi truck?!” That’s an actual quote! Good times :grin:


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Hi every one i got to say it to. thank you for the info because all this conversation describe my exact situation , 2 kids my wife, 36 years old and a bunch of questions, like, do i going to make enough money to fide my family wile making hours? how fast ill be able to make the hours? after i graduate do i going to be hire fast? if i get hire what would be my income the first 1 or 2 years? and you know that hold me up because i feel like when i ask these questions to A or B school they just go like, yea dont worry youll be ok and is hard because i feel that they just want my money and they dont care about anything else. but i guest that i have to make my decisión . i was looking to go to a different school beside ATP. what is the difference between ATP of the rest off the others? does the ATP pilots have more chances to be hire? the program is better? thank you for you help and i hoppe you understand me cos as you see englis is my 2nd language. thank you again.



All flight schools are different and offer different programs from each other, but at the end of the day they all lead you to the someplace, to taking various check rides that are administered but the FAA. Now some schools are better than others. Take a look at the link below, it is a list of questions that I can up with that I think you should ask any flight school that you are looking into. If you ask everybody the same questions you will be able to more easily compare the schools.

Since you brought up the English issue, I am happy to work with you here as I am sure the other coaches are, but speaking, reading and writing English clearly is important to the airlines and to the FAA. In fact to get an FAA pilot certificate you have to be certified as being “English proficient”. The same is true of the foreign carriers as English is the official language of aviation world-wide. I would suggest that you make sure that your English is top notch before your pursue this career as it will help you both in training and in getting hired at an airline.


Hey Chris thank you so much for you help, working hard on my english.

Hi guys sorry that bother you again, I am planning to start my training early next year but in the mid time i would like to get start reading some books, as a beginner what books would you recommend me?

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I like the Jeppesen Private Pilot Manual. It is a great introduction to what flying is all about.


I’m with Chris, I like the Jeppesen manual. I like the format and better pictures!


Eric, Chris, Adam, you guys are amazing thank you so much for you help, i wish somo day I have the oportunity to meet you guys that will be amazing but for now thank you for you help


No problem at all, that is what we are here for. Let us know if you have any more questions.


Thank you, thank you very much (That was my Elvis impression)


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