18 years old and worried

Hello Everyone, I am 18 with no current plan to go college. I have been researching part 141 schools for about 8 months and the only thing holding me back is that I am 18 and if I do a fast track school will I still be able to go into airline cadet programs. Ideally I would love to go to ATP for the frontier program. Does anyone know if these programs are a possibility if I graduate the school at 19…??


As much as we love your enthusiasm to jump in to the program so soon, we recommend you go to college first. You will be severely limited in your career potential without that degree.

If going to college isn’t financially feasible, you need to at least have two years of work experience to satisfy the program admission requirements. The program is highly accelerated and high school is not typically enough to prepare a candidate to be successful.

Your age is also a limiting factor because you can’t get a R-ATP until you are at least 21. So two years of work experience or working towards your associates would help you satisfy the admission requirements while also setting you up to start the program at 20. Then you would be hitting ATP mins at 22 years old.


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Your statement “no current plan to go to college” speaks volumes and also validates the reason ATP has a work/education prerequisite. You don’t mention any flight experience so I’ll assume you have none (and no, sitting in the back going on vacation doesn’t count). You’re basically saying you want to put all your eggs in one basket with the hopes of a cadet or flow.

Can you fly a plane? Maybe you can but maybe you can’t. Unlike other vocations there’s a physical component to flying that frankly not everyone gets. Further the intensity of the program will make HS seem like learning your ABCs. You also state you’ve been researching for 8mos. During that time you should have come across the fact that after the program you’ll still need to build time which will probably take you 1.5-2yrs so your concerns about not getting hired at 19 really don’t make sense.

I encourage you to do more research and to see if you can’t somehow make college part of your plan.


I believe I may have worded it in a negative manner. I have 10 hours in a piper 140, I work full time so proof of jobs is no worry. I also have lived in 4 states in the past year. I travel heavily and have done many introductory flights. I have many airline pilot friends and family. I am just concerned that once a graduate at age 19 and build my 1500 hours (age 21) what will I do.


For clarification, ATP is a part 61 school.

You won’t be 19. You must be 21 to be eligible to fly for an airline. The program is 7 months, but after the program you need to accumulate 1500 hours before you are eligible to be hired by an airline. By that time you will be approaching 21 if you haven’t already reached that age.

In order to be accepted into ATP’s program, you need 2 years of work experience, or 2 years of college, or a private pilot license plus 78 hours.

At your age, I recommend college first. You will want to have a degree if you aspire to fly for a major airline. Plus, having a degree serves as a potential backup plan in case you can’t fly before you reach the mandatory retirement age of 65.


Ummmm, get hired at a Regional?


Like Adam mentioned, flying for a Regional is an option, but you may explore other avenues like Part 135 work. Or stay under Part 91, it just depends on what your end goal is.

You should consider attending college and getting some sort of degree, as a backup plan. Just like in recent years, we had a pandemic and individuals lost jobs. While some attended other flying gigs, many were furloughed without opportunity and probably relied on their backup plans (or I would like to think and hope so).

There are prerequisites so you want to make sure you can check the boxes for attending ATP: