18 years old aspiring to be airline pilot

I just graduated high school in may, and have been looking at the airlines since. I am currently attending community college and was wondering if it would be best after to obtain bachelor online. Then go to ATP. I would like the cheapest route possible before ATP. Also, after ATP and all certifications how long would you guys think it would take to complete flight instructor hours along with being a regional pilot before making it major. Lastly, I know I would have to take out a serious amount in loans, but if you think of it as an investment its not as bad. How hard is it to handle the loans working as a flight instructor and regional pilot. I know this is an ATP website but is ATP the best route or are there any alternatives that I can obtain same certifications in same amount of time?


Just as a disclaimer, I am currently doing a ton of research since I am looking at starting ATP myself next year, but this is what I found out.

Based on what you said, I would start with contacting a local flight school now. This has the benefit of not only obtaining your Private Pilot License now while your geting your AA, but also tends to be cheaper then starting ATP with the Zero Experience route. You save 3 months and $17,000, so as long as it cost you less than $17,000 to get your Private Pilot License WITH 78 hours, than it would save you money. There will be cons though with getting your PPL at a local flight school though. For example, it will take longer due to aircraft and instructor availability plus getting a loan for the training might be harder but costs are usually $8,000-$14,000 so you could save a good amount.

Then transfer to ATP after you get your AA and PPL. I would not advise doing online courses and ATP at the same time. You will have 4-8 years at the Regionals to get a Bachelors since Regionals don’t require it, only Majors. From what I read, instructors usually reach their 1500 flight hours after 18 months or so but depends on how much work you put in. I’ve read as early as 12 months and some after 24 months so 18 months is a good average. I cannot talk about the loans since I obviously have not taken them out yet but there are threads on here about loans.

ATP is the fastest route for sure so I doubt there will be some that can do it faster, at least big schools. You can call around at small mom and pop schools at local airports. There are some who can teach you everything that ATP does, the only thing you have to do is research the hell out of them. ATP is so big that there is a lot of research material for them. Smaller schools are harder, but you can definitely save money with smaller schools but as I’ve stated above, they may have issues with instructor and aircraft availability if they aren’t large. Good luck with your journey.



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Sam, with all due respect the above really doesn’t make much sense. The ONLY way you can save $17k and 3mos is if your flight training is free and the time it takes is zero. Otherwise you’re taking about POSSIBLY saving some money and since the average pilot takes anywhere from 3mos to a year to earn their PPL and build the 78hrs there’s a really good chance it can and will cost you the same if not more AND all most definitely more time as well.


Right Adam, what I was trying to convey when I said “savings” is from ATP’s own zero time course vs their with PPL course, so I should have emphasized that more. It definitely is not a guaranteed total savings in the long run. When you add the fact it will cost you time and money with a mom-and-pop, it may end up costing you more in time and/or money…though at least in my research it seems to be slightly cheaper but not by much.

A local flight school instructor did say he had a student finish his PPL in a little over a month, but I’m sure that was the stars absolutely aligning, and I’m not that lucky. The cost was about $10,000 for a PPL with 40 hours plus $140 per flight hour so another $5320 for a total of $15,320 for the extra 38 Hours. While not much of an absolute savings, I could live closer to home which adds even more savings and convenience, but for me, the potential cost savings is definitely weighed down by the unknown timeline and just wanting everything to be streamlined from start to finish with the same aircraft, instructors, and routine like I would at ATP.




I got my private at a mom and pop school, it was a disaster. Despite their promises, it took much longer than I was told and considerably more money. I am not saying that they are all like this, but it does seem to be a consistent theme.



That is definitely a fear for me as I’m one of those “older” types now who can’t afford extra time. I’m basically learning from other’s mistakes, like yourself unfortunately. :sweat_smile: While I did hope to knock out my PPL with a small mom and pop before ATP, FOR ME, it just made the most sense to go with ATP for the whole thing. It definitely took me months of research and “sleeping on it” to come up with my decision since I went back in forth. Everyone’s situation is different and I’m sure it won’t be an easy or quick decision for anyone, as it shouldn’t be given the commitments, but everyone really does need to research and see what is the best option FOR THEM.


Just to throw this into the discussion since it doesn’t always get factored in, but if you start from zero time at ATP you get integrated into their SOP’s from the outset instead of having to jump head first into instrument training while also learning how ATP functions. There are many benefits I’ve seen from people starting at zero time vs PPL credit.

It may look as though you are coming in just under ATP’s price, but just one extra month of training towards your end goal is as much as 30k off the end of your career. Maybe more. You save 2k now but that’s still a loss of 28k in the long run. Aside from the numbers, as people have mentioned above, it’s invaluable to be trained at an airline standard from day 1. Lots of other factors here but just wanted to make sure you look at big picture as well. Good luck