A few lingering questions re: ATP & this career path

Hi there,

First I’d like to thank everyone’s time for reading and responding to this extensive post. I’ve read quite a few articles on the accelerated ATP curriculum already and spoke with a few family friends that are pilots, but figured I’ll field my questions here as well to get a comprehensive set of answers. I’m pretty new to this so please excuse any language misuse.

I’m 26 years old (female) with a pretty good job in management consulting for a large firm earning close to $100k a year and with a sizable bonus every year. With that said, I’ve decided that if I have to spend another Christmas on a 3 hr conference call I might just rage-quit my job with no backup plan. Becoming a pilot has always been a dream of mine–I’ve flown in the Dreamliner, the A380, 777 all over the world, and I finally believe I’m ready to take the plunge with this career shift after taking a discovery flight and a brief stint in a simulator. Here are a few questions I have:

  1. I’m 4’11" – I know this might sounds like a rather silly question but I’ve been receiving mixed responses on whether this will be an issue as a trainee and as pilot. Responses I’ve received range from “not at all” to “yup, you’ll never fly for a major since they all have height requirements(?)”

  2. I’ve been reading that the majors are not as desperate as regionals in hiring new FOs, and thus there is no real increase in probabilities of being hired a few years from now. Do you think this is true? If so, assuming that I do well in my training, earn my hours, etc. am I still potentially looking at never making my current amount since I’ll be at regionals for a very long time?
    In calculating the ROIs and making this decision, I’ve already accepted and planned for the fact that over the next 5-7 years I will be making considerably less, but I have a hard time predicting what earning potentials are like 7+ years from training.

  3. Is it possible to instruct at a different ATP location than the one I did my training through? I’m a military spouse and we will almost definitely be at a different duty station a year from when I complete my training if I do it in 2019.

Is there something to be said about diversifying my flight hours as far as accumulating them doing different things (and I have no real concrete examples here, just wondering) rather than flying the same 100 hrs ten times, for example?

  1. Being a female + a pilot. Given that females make up less than 5% of the current pilot pool, are there any potential barriers that are unique to being female and flying? I’ve read that the airline industry can still be pretty archaic when it comes to things like maternity leave and safety reasons + FAA rules make things breast pumping difficult while flying–any insights from female pilots who have started a family after becoming a pilot would be greatly appreciated.

  2. Will my non-aviation degrees contribute to my pilot career to any extent? I have a BA from UC Berkeley and a Masters’ from an Ivy League school in a field that is completely not related to aviation.

  3. What are the critical factors that determine/maximize someone’s chances of being hired at a major airline? For some industries its purely connection, is this the case?

  4. Are there any unexpected costs that the loan doesn’t cover which I should be taking into consideration?

  5. If you had to do your ATP experience all over again, what would you have done differently/wished you had known?

Again, thank you so much for answering all of my questions. With this switch I’m trying to balance potentially less earning with fun and greater satisfaction. I greatly appreciate the insights you guys are providing here!

Kindest Regards,


Lots of good questions, here’s some answers:

  1. The airlines have no height limitations or requirements. I know a couple of women pilots your height and they’re fine. They do have seat cushions they use but as long as you can reach the controls comfortably, there’s no issue.

  2. They’re not and whether or not they will be is a question. That said I would never make a career decision based on the desperation of this industry. The fact is there are no guarantees any pilot will make it to a Major and I do know quite a few who have been trying unsuccessfully for years with no luck. That said yes there are things you can do to set yourself apart in this industry and the majority of the “good” professional pilots I know have had no problems making the cut.

  3. ATP makes no guarantees as to where instructors will be locating. Upon completing your training you’ll be given a list of available locations at which point a) hopefully there’s one that works for you and that’s that, b) you can accept a different location and suck it up and hopefully get transferred to location you like in the future (again no guarantees) or c) look for an instructor position at a local flight school near where you’re husband is based. That btw is one of the reasons I like instructing as a means of building time. While it may seem repetitious, no 2 students are alike and flight training helps hone your skills which is why ATP (and many flight schools) partner with Regional airline as a source for newhires.

  4. In and of itself being a female isn’t a barrier at all. I know many many female pilots who all have very successful careers. Funny you mention maternity because I was recently elected to our union and that’s one of the issues we’re addressing. It’s not so much the airlines being archaic, it’s more an issue of everything at the airlines being seniority based and not created any “special” situations for any group. We’ve actually been looking at the breast pumping issue which is really more challenging than you may think. As you said FAA rules present a problem and if you start allowing preferences for certain trips then again you’re violating seniority. The truth is most women take extended leaves until it’s not a issue but that’s clearly not a solution.

  5. Major airlines want to degrees. They don’t care the field of study and while Ivy league schools always look good on a resume, it won’t help as much as you might think.

  6. Connections are huge but so are your records as a pilot. Training failures and checkride busts are always frowned upon. Any blemishes on your record (driving, DUI) are also problems. You want as clean a training record as possible. No accidents or incidents, good attendance, union participation, other company roles at the Regionals (training dept, Chief Pilot office work, etc). All these things can help but again no guarantees.

  7. On the ATP website they cover other costs https://atpflightschool.com/airline-career-pilot-program/ but it’s mainly checkride fees and required gear (ipad, headset, etc).

  8. Honestly my only regret is not having started sooner. This was a second (actually fourth) career for me and I didn’t start until I was almost 40. I love my job and I honestly don’t believe I’d be where I am now (a Capt at a Major airline) if it wasn’t for my decision to train with ATP.



Let’s get to your questions:

  1. Airlines in the US do not have height requirements. As long as you can reach the pedals, which you should be able to, you will not have an issues. The military is a different story.

  2. The majors will never be in the same need as regional pilots, that is just not how the industry is structured. That being said, the majors are forecasted to hire a sizable number of pilots in the years ahead, so there will continue to be growth and hiring at the major level. I cannot promise you that you will make it to a major, but if you check the ride boxes and play your cards right, you should have a pretty good chance at it.

  3. Yes, but positions are filled on an as needed basis, so there are no guarantees that y9our desired location will be available.

3B. Not really. The airlines very much like to see flight instruction time as they know that it takes a great deal of knowledge to be a flight instructor. There are other ways to build time, but in my opinion, they all fall short of flight instructing.

  1. All airlines to my knowledge grant maternity leave or FMLA. Breast pumping in the cockpit would be a huge distraction from flying an airplane.

  2. Your degree will help in that. you need a degree for the majors, but it will not get you any further than that. The airlines will be looking at you to be a pilot, while your other education will be great, it will not really be relevant to flying airplanes.

  3. Flight time and experience in aviation are the biggest factors the majors look for. Beyond that, they are looking for somebody who is decent to be around for several days, is customer oriented, follows rules, and will be a good representative of the organization. Of course connections never hurt, but they are not mandatory.

  4. Check with he finance department on this, they are the experts on all such things.

  5. I got my private license at a small, local school.If I had things to do over, I would do all of my training with ATP as the local school took twice as long as it should and cost significantly more money than I was quoted.



I’ll add my two cents.

  1. None of the regionals or majors have height requirements.

  2. True. Majors aren’t as desperate. And your estimation is in the ballpark.

  3. Yes, but the location is based on company needs.

3b. Not really. Having a diverse background is good, but not that good. Flight instructing, especially CFII, is a highly respected achievement. If you want to have a more well rounded background, it’s not a bad idea, but not necessary.

  1. Not from what I’ve seen.

  2. Not as much as you would hope. Looks good on paper. Ratings and flight time is more important. Aviation knowledge, flight proficiency and teachability is what makes all the difference.

  3. Connections help. Good record is essential. Having a genuine desire to fly for the airline you’re interviewing for is a must.

  4. https://atpflightschool.com/financing/

  • click “Loan Tips”
  • scroll down to the Cost of Attendance section
  • check the boxes that apply to you and note the difference in the total
  1. I wish I would have completed my written tests beforehand.


Adam, Chris, and Tory–thank you for your insights and time! I have a call scheduled with an ATP admissions person today to further discuss.

The PPL should take no more than 3 months, but that’s if you’re flying a minimum of 3 days a week. If you have the ability to dedicate that kind of time, or more, then you could, in theory, get your PPL and take the written tests in 6 months’ time.


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I’m with Tory, if you can do both then by all means. That said many people find training locally to be very frustrating. Success depends completely on consistency. If you can find a good local school and train a HARD minimum of 2 days a week (3-4 is better) and earn your PPL in a few months tops then do it. If however you see you’re not progressing or can’t maintain your consistency due to your life or the flight school then cut your losses, just complete the writtens and start ATP without.



I think you will find it very difficult to get a PPL in such a short amount of time, especially while working a full time job. I would suggest completing the written exams as that can be a huge help in the program. Keep in mind though that the results are only valid for twenty four months, so do not get too far ahead of yourself.



I agree :100: with Chris. I’m actually in a very similar situation as you. I too make mid-high 100’s annually in my current career etc. Your writeup sounds exactly like me, except I’m 5’7.

As for going to flight school while working full time. It’s one of the most difficult situations I’ve ever faced. You can’t compare it to going to school full time and working full time. Flying in another ballgame and is way more intense then sitting in a classroom and taking finals. I attended an accelerant program for my degree and it’s doesnt even compare to flying and working full time.

However, my experience might be different then your experience. Maybe give flying and working a try before you completely quit a career that you realize isn’t so crazy after all. I’m contemplating this myself after my flying experiences. Though, maybe me flying while working full time hasnt given me the most positive overall experience and maybe gave me a more negative experience.

All something to consider.

Good luck. You’ll do great whatever you decide to do

Rachel, Chris, Adam and Tory–thank you for your prompt and candid responses. I do agree that getting a PPL while working full time might not be the best idea given that I work upwards of 55 hrs/week and often have to take work home/catch up over the weekend as-is already.

I have about 3 weeks worth of vacation time that I can take early 2019 to completely dedicate to getting the PPL that I might do with a flight school nearby that claims they will work with me to curate an intense training schedule so I can get a lot done during that 3 weeks (of course weather conditions etc. will be another factor). Still have more research and thinking to do as to whether this is going to be a wise choice. I’ll most likely not meet ATP’s 78hr requirement for the 6mo program when I get my PPL so I’ll have to factor in the extra cost to get up to 78hrs as well. But either way, I’m looking to start at ATP in July for a better financial posture heading into the program.


Reading your thread about training and wish to interject. Getting a PPL in 3 weeks, while possible (and I assume not the record for a dash course) is about as close to impossible as you can get. Consider this, if you don’t complete, but are really, really close, what’s your options related to returning to work? If you stop for even a week, you could mess with the whole plan and possibly have problems finishing; and I assume returning to work after a your break would not afford you the option to just get back on track a week or so later. The minimum flight hours at an approved (FAR 141) school is 35. That means you have to fly 1.7 hours every day on average to finish in 21 days, and thats assuming you could complete in the FAA minimums. The national average is way above that. You are setting yourself up to fall short, unless 3 weeks can be extended to something more.
Don’t even think about doing this in the time you suggest. Even ATP would be hard pressed to meet this goal, and accelerated is what they do.

Hi Donald,

Thank you for your input. This may not be very clear on my post, but I’m considering using the three weeks not necessarily to complete all the requirements and get my PPL in its entirety, but to get as much of it done as I can and continue to work on it afterwards, flying at least 2 days a week. The 3-week plan would simply give me dedicated time to jump start on this and get as much done as possible rather than try balancing it with work over a longer period of time.

As I’ve read on this forum, consistency is key and if I do decide to do this I will time it between my work projects so that I have a few more weekends afterwards to complete the rest (I’m in consulting so there’s some degree of flexibility in working hours–I can fly in the morning and shift by work day back, split my work day in half and fly in the middle then work late, or fly during the week and catch up on work over weekends etc.)

I do have a bit more research and planning to do and gauge how much of a buffer room I’ll have following the three weeks to preserve consistency. That would require gauging project cycles and other factors unique to my job.

Thanks again for your insights, and happy new year!


I could not have said that any better myself. Thank you for chiming in.