Real Answers from Real Pilots

What does an ATP student need to do to be successful?

Any form of flight training requires, among other things, self-discipline, persistence, and organization. Attempting to complete ATP Flight School’s accelerated Airline Career Pilot Program (ACPP) requires all that and more. The time and financial commitment causes many people to wonder if they are even capable of completing such an immersive program. Or, perhaps current students may be reading this article because they still wonder if they’ve made the right decision.

One of the most valuable lessons that I learned as a student, and then again as an instructor, was that the most successful students are the ones that take initiative, hold themselves accountable, and leverage all of their resources until they have a correlative level of knowledge. On the contrary, the students that expect to be spoon fed information and are not motivated to learn more than the bare minimum, struggle to keep up. This indifferent behavior causes a number of these struggling students to not be as successful as the others.

For those that are interested in learning how to to succeed in ATP’s ACPP, this comprehensive article, addressed to prospective and current ATP students, is a good place to start. Your fate depends on the amount of effort you put in, but what does that effort look like? Keep reading to learn how to maximize your learning potential by properly utilizing your resources and effectively preparing for your checkrides.

The main resources required to maximize a student’s learning potential include the instructor, Self-Study Lessons, ATP supplement booklets, aircraft checklists, written exam test prep software and the Airmen Certification Standards (ACS). Each of the aforementioned resources will now be discussed in more detail.

I wanted to begin with the instructor because I want to make it clear that the instructor is just one of many resources that a student has available to them. Students need to understand that an instructor can only do so much. There will come a time when you will be an instructor and you will be transferring your knowledge onto your students. The sooner you start thinking like an instructor the better off you’ll be, not only as a pilot, but also when you will be required to demonstrate your abilities as an instructor.

Self-Study Lessons are accessed via the student’s Extranet account. Under “Program Outline” you will find a list of upcoming flight and simulator lessons. Each flight or sim lesson has a list of required Self-Study Lessons that need to be completed prior to beginning the associated flight or sim. Some Self-Study assignments are also accompanied with textbook and/or Advisory Circular readings. Don’t skip those. Plan ahead and hold yourself accountable. Complete the Lessons on-time, or even better, ahead of schedule.

The supplement booklets are used to help a student become familiar with the airplane currently being flown or prepare for a particular phase of flight training. Memorize the supplement booklets cover to cover. Additionally, the aircraft specific supplement booklets are summarized versions of the aircraft’s Pilot Operating Handbook (POH). After you’ve gone through the aircraft specific supplement, challenge yourself and read the POH.

I don’t want to spend too much time on checklist procedures, but I strongly suggest, at the very least, memorizing the emergency procedures for each aircraft flown. In a real emergency, a pilot should be able to perform the appropriate emergency procedure from memory. After the memory procedure has been accomplished, altitude and time permitting, the checklist should be used to verify that the correct actions have been performed.

If the certificate or rating sought requires a written exam to be passed then it is necessary to spend a few hours per day studying for the written exam using the online test prep software. For time’s sake, it is okay to memorize the answers for the written exams. The knowledge will come later as you prepare for the checkride using the next, and most important, resource: the ACS. For those that have not yet begun the ACPP and want to get ahead by taking one or more written exams, more info can be found here:

Read the entire ACS as early as possible. The ACS is not only what the instructor uses to prepare students for checkrides, but also what the examiner uses to administer checkrides. As previously mentioned, don’t rely 100% on the instructor to teach you everything. Being a skeptical and resourceful student will boost your confidence during the checkride because you actually took the time to research the origins of the material.

The ACS also includes flight standards/acceptable tolerances. The examiners aren’t looking for perfection. The examiners are just verifying that the applicant can safely operate the airplane within the specified tolerances. Ignorance can lead to a preventable checkride failure. So, students need to take it upon themselves to memorize the acceptable tolerances.

In closing, don’t allow someone else to decide your fate. ATP instructors do the best that they can do to prepare you for success, but relying on the instructor alone is not enough. Take initiative, hold yourself accountable and leverage your resources.

Safe flying,



Great points and tips raised by Tory. For those who are thinking of joining the program, or are already in it, pay attention to this article.