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?