Real Answers from Real Pilots

PPL vs No expierence

Hi,

I am currently a Sophomore in engineering, and plan to get my bachelors degree before pursuing flight school. However, I am debating on pursuing my private pilots license before I graduate with my bachelors. I have already flown a bit, but have less than 10 hours logged. Would you recommend getting my PPL with my local flight school (I’m from Iowa) or waiting to get my PPL until pursuing my commercial license and do it all through one school?

Thanks,
Gavin

Hello Gavin,

Totally your call but since you asked I’d wait. There’s really no advantage to getting your PPL early unless you just want to go flying a bit and build a few hours until you graduate? If you plan on training at ATP I believe you’ll find the process more enjoyable, economical and “seemless” if you do all your training within the program. There’s something called the law of primacy and basically it states that what you learn first will stay with you the longest AND will have the DEEPEST impact. ATP’s training is very procedurally oriented and will get you started with good habits that will carry you throughout your training. Working as a crew, flows and running checklists are done from the beginning and you’ll continue using these habits your entire career.

Adam

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@GScroggin I am currently in my final semester of aerospace engineering and I got my private finished up last April by going home to fly on weekends. It’s doable, but always keep engineering first, obviously you know how difficult it is and how much free time (haha. Free time) it takes up. I would make sure that if you decide to get your private while in school that you get yourself set into the engineering rut prior to starting flying or else your school work will suffer (aka my spring semester sophomore year).
I agree with Adam to an extent. I’ve had to spend the last few months flying trying to prepare myself for atp compared to how I learned to fly in the empty West Virginia mountains. However if you go into your training and plan to discipline yourself the way atp will require it will make your training go much better and you’ll learn more and learn it quicker.
Like these guys always say, the education is the priority because it’s needed for career advancement. So keep that in mind and don’t dig yourself in too deep if you don’t feel comfortable doing both. Best of luck!

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Gavin,

I would recommend waiting. The best thing that you can do right now is focus on your studies and do well in college. After you graduate go to flight school and knock out all of your flight training. This way you will be more in the pilot mode and better able to focus your efforts on your flying. I understand the desire to get flying as soon as possible, but generally waiting is the best course of action for people in your shoes.

Chris

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Thank you all for your replies. I really appreciate the insight! I do have another question though, maybe some of you have experience with this, maybe not. Is it worth it to take a few years to work and make money before going to ATP? I’m thinking of it from a student loan stand point, that when I finish my bachelors, I’m going to already be in student debt, and adding another $75,000+ makes me feel like I will be digging out of the whole for a while. Does anyone have any advice on this? Thanks again for the insight.

Gavin,

Again your call but I’d be cautious about waiting too long for a couple of reasons. First off the industry is experiencing a pilot shortage which has created a very favorable hiring environment unseen before in history. While the shortage is forecast and should continue for a while things could change quickly with little notice. Second virtually everything in aviation is based on seniority and the sooner you’re hired, the sooner you begin to build it. Your seniority will have an effect on the quality of your life, your ability to upgrade and of course your pay. Sooner is always better.

I appreciate debt is scary and the fact you’re aware of it and don’t want to be buried by it is a good thing. That said many of the Regionals are offering tuition reimbursement which will help. On a “bigger picture” note I offer you this. You’re a young man and will not only have the opportunity to have a long career in aviation, in the current environment you’ll have the opportunity to advance quickly. Top salaries for Capts at Majors is over $300k and there’s no reason you can’t get there. While it may be tough in the beginning every year you delay removes one year on the backend of you making that kind of salary, 6 mos worth would clear all that debt. Make sense?

Adam

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Yes, It does. Thank you!!

Gavin,

I would recommend against any additional time waiting for flight school. I certainly understand your desire to have less student debt, that is a good thing. However, a few years can make a major difference in your career because of the way that the seniority system works. The guys and gals that are 777 pilots at United are all pilots that got hired very young. Those that waited a few years can still have great careers, but they will miss out on those top earning years.

Also, even a few months in seniority can make the difference between being a captain and being a first officer, or between being a line holder and being a reserve pilot.

Chris

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Add to Chris’s last sentence “being furloughed or not being furloughed.” (furloughed is an industry term for being laid off based on seniority)

I also recommend starting as soon as you can. The interest on the loans is a small pittance compared to 2 years worth of seniority with the hiring going on. When I made the jump to great pay, I paid off $65K in student loans in 13 months.

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