Real Answers from Real Pilots

The best way to finish flight training?

(Luke) #1

I’m at a crossroad and need guidance from someone who has been through a similar situation.

Background: I’m 23 years old and will graduate college with a bachelor’s degree in business marketing in August 2017. I have been working on my private license for about 7 months. I currently have around 70 hours of flight training through a local club and private flight instructor. My instructor is top notch as far as private instructors go.

He has over 10,000+ hours in a Cessna, was a previous military pilot and safety is top priority. I’m a few weeks out from taking my tests and I’m sure they will go smoothly. After I have my private, I am seriously considering moving to a more fast paced school that will advance my career more efficiently.

However, I can’t go to college and go to a flight school like ATP at the same time because classes conflict. I’m thinking if I take an entire year off from flight school to finish my college then I will loose a lot of my flight skills I posses at the moment.

I see that ATP’s program is only about 3 months to get all the ratings for a CFI, if starting from private. Once a flight instructor, do you have to work full time or can you work as a CFI and finish college? This is a difficult decision and I want some insight. What recommendations do you professionals have?

Thank you for your time,



Hi Luke and Welcome!

Obviously this is a personal decision and only you can really decide what’s best for you BUT since you ask. My first choice would be IF you can get the summer (or 3 mos) off and complete ATP’s program then find an Instructor gig at a local flight school that would be a great idea. That way while you’re finishing school but also working at building time. If that’s not possible I’d just finish your degree first. While yes you may lose some of your skills it wouldn’t be anywhere as bad as trying to go back and finish your degree later (also there’s no reason you couldn’t go up on weekends to keep sharp).

The idea is the sooner you can get in the position to get hired at a Regional, the sooner you’re a) getting paid and more important b) you’re building seniority which will be critical throughout your career.


(Luke) #3

Hi Adam,

Thank you for the quick response your insight is appreciated. I’m wondering after graduating from the ATP program, they won’t let someone be an instructor for them part time for a few months? (Later moving to a full time instructor once college is complete).




Unfortunately no they won’t. Just as the training is full time for the students, it therefore must be for the instructors as well. The training is generally done one on one and it wouldn’t be fair to the student to only have their instructor available part time. That said once you do finish college you could contact ATP and if there are any available slots you could then come over.

Legit question.




My situation was almost exactly identical to you. I graduated with a degree in business administration at the age of 23. At around the age of 21 I got my private license through a local flight school. I wasn’t terribly pleased with hat school, but they got the job done. I decided to take a year off of flying, finish college and then go to ATP for the three month program. Right before I started at ATP I bought a few hours of flight time to polish up my skills, then jumped right into training. I found that the year off really didn’t matter that much as I had used the time to study for and take all of my written exams, which really kept my mind in aviation.

After I graduated from ATP I immediately began to flight instruct for them and did so until I was hired on at ExpressJet.

Given your situation, I would recommend that you take the same path that I did. You will most certainly need a degree to get hired on at the majors, so go ahead and finish it up now. The go to flight school, followed by instructing full time to get your hours. I like the idea of focusing on one thing at a time, I think your chances for success are better that way.

Let us know what other questions you have.


(Luke) #6


This makes a lot of sense. Again thank you for the response and I look forward to reading more into this forum. Also, I enjoyed reading some of your stories and path to flying the Airbus 330.

Talk soon,

(Luke) #7


I appreciate the knowledge on your path to aviation freedom! During your time off you studied and took all of the written exams for instrument, commercial, & CFI? How did you enjoy going to ATP?




You got it, I took every single written exam during my final year of college when I was not flying. Many of them are similar to each other, so it isn’t quite as bad as it sounds. As you know, flying is every bit as much book work as it is having your hands on the yoke. I found that by staying in the books I really didn’t feel like I was that far out of the flying loop. Also, having all of my writtens complete before I started ATP made a huge difference as it allowed me more time to study for other things and even get an occasional walk in at a nearby an aside, if you take your writtens before attending ATP keep the receipts as ATP will reimburse you for the cost when you sign up.

I enjoyed ATP, especially the cross country portion of my training. I got to fly up and down the east coast as well as out to Chicago and down to Dallas. That part alone made the whole process enjoyable. Of course there were days when I got frustrated, but I had great instructors who really cared and wanted to make sure that I did well.

I had a great experience with ATP, both as a student and as an instructor.


(Luke) #9


That is impressive, mad props. I really enjoy reading about your experience. It is so helpful to hear from another pilot about their journey. Couldn’t agree more that flying is just as much book work as yoke work. I will keep the receipts, that is a great idea. What did you use to study for all of these? What books/courses would you recommend studying? Any helpful techniques?

Those cross countries sounds quite enjoyable! I can’t wait to see most of the United States from the sky. So true, with frustrating days comes glorious ones. Thank you for the help.

Talk soon



I used the video series put out by John and Martha King for all of my written exam prep. ATP will provide you with the Sheppard Air courses once you commit to the program. The Sheppard course is more of a rote memorization course, but it sure gets the job done.

The cross countries really are fun and give you a good glimpse into what it is like to fly all over the country for a living. I got to go into some really neat airports in some pretty remote areas and some rather large areas. It was really a great experience that I look back on fondly.

Anytime on the help, that is what we are here for. Keep posting your questions as you think of them.




Sorry I was MIA today (was teaching class) but it looks like Chris took care of you.

Keep the questions coming.


(Jasson) #12

Hi im jasson, right now im working on my aeronautical science bachelor degree, when I graduate I will have my private pilot license and commercial pilot licence, but I won’t have enough hours to be hired for an airline, so I was wandering if I could finish my career as a pilot with ATP and also get other certificates that I would need.



ATP’s career programs take you from your Private thru CPL, Instrument, ME and all CFIs. You don’t say if you’d have any of those other ratings? Thing is if you were to enroll and you didn’t have those ratings that would make sense (I suspect you could just do the flying portion and skip the CPL checkride). But if you’re going to get all the ratings it really wouldn’t make much sense to repeat all that training and unfortunately that’s the only program they offer.