Real Answers from Real Pilots

A write-up on my time at ATP

Just a forewarning that this excerpt of my time at ATP will be long, so I hope that I do not bore anyone and I apologize in advance if that’s your conclusion.

I started ATP on the week of My 23rd birthday back in late February of 2020. I had just graduated UCF the spring prior with a Health Sciences Pre-Med degree. My intention was to be a doctor, as per the wishes of my parents; however, as I was studying for the MCAT, I verbalized to myself “I don’t want to do this with my life”. I knew at that point that any further effort towards medical school would be a mistake. Becoming a pilot was always what I knew deep down I should be doing. I took lessons at KCRG when I was 12-15 yrs old. I also flew model airplanes and became sponsored doing aerobatics with those at events. It has always been my passion to participate in aviation at any capacity. More towards the end of my high school career, I became more busy with the idea of college admissions and put aviation on the back burner. Its funny how everything came full circle, I’m just glad it did sooner than later.

I did well at UCF and enjoyed the “college experience”. I wouldn’t have changed anything as far as the demeanor and sequence in which the events in my life transpired. Aviation wasn’t an escape or an easy way out for me, it was what I was always supposed to do with my life, and when I worked up the courage to pursue it, a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders.

Getting into my ATP experience, I started right before the COVID-19 pandemic really became an international crisis. The KCRG training center in Jacksonville was BUSY. I had an amazing instructor, Grace. She was very patient and calm with me. I never had the Macho or antiauthority mentality, so Grace and I had a great relationship. my private stage took me about 4 months unfortunately. I took a month off in April before I even soloed as I was living in my parent’s house and I had to respect their rules, and they were very uneasy about COVID and me being at the training center. After that month passed, I got back into training. Before I knew it, I was sitting in my PPL oral exam. I was nervous, but the examiner did everything in his power to calm me down. It was a challenging oral exam but very fair. I discontinued the flight 4 times for aircraft maintenance issues and weather. Once the day finally came where I could do my flight, I passed, although it was very stressful.

I then proceeded to have Grace for instrument training as well, which was relatively uneventful, but very fun. This was my favorite phase of the program. In my checkride for IRA, I flew through a small cell, but the examiner was nice enough to pick up a pop-up, indicating that he wanted me to fly through it rather than discontinue, but I had better not screw this up. Once we got into the storm, he was asking me about my primary and secondary instruments, thankfully I was able to multi-task. We were in and out of the cell with decent amounts of turbulence and precipitation the entire time while flying approaches and doing holds. In the debrief he said “you flew very well, but next time I’d rather you do better on your weather briefing and NOT fly us through a storm”. I was ready to get the checkride done, but I should have discontinued knowing that build-up was coming towards KCRG. Thankfully I passed, but only by the grace of the examiner and a little bit of skill and luck.

My crew phase was interesting to say the least. I flew back from DALLAS with an instructor for 10 hours in a spin plane to KCRG. The instructor I flew with was good company. Once I got back, I was assigned to an actual crew partner, who is my good friend to this day. We flew all over Florida in all kinds of weather. I was putting my instrument rating to use when I flew down to Gainesville to 200 ft above MDA for a diversion. A lot of PIC decisions come into play in this phase, as well as interaction with a pilot of equal experience. I enjoyed this phase and learned a lot from it.

Very briefly I should say that I was generally a slacker when it came to the written exams. I didn’t take my PPL written until right before I soloed, didn’t take my IRA and II until after my instrument eval, waited until after crew to do my COM-written(I had to study for it and take it within 3 days!) but then I picked up the pace and knocked out the last two within a week. My lowest score was oddly the FOI with a 90%, but procrastinating these writtens, while doable, is NOT ideal and didn’t do me any favors.

As far as the studying goes, since I know A LOT of people ask this question, it really just boils down to how you learn best and how much time YOU need to get the information necessary for success. For every checkride aside from the CFI, I would say I would only study 1 hour a day about 4 days before each checkride. So a total of 4 hours study time for each checkride aside from the CFI. I did not study aside from this. I do not retain information well over extended periods of time. College helped me tone my studying habits. That is what works for ME, this is not a suggestion on what anyone else should do.

For the commercial single engine phase, my instructor changed. He was a phenomenal instructor and really prepared me for CFI more than I even knew at the time. He was tough on me, but said that he isn’t judging my performance against other students, he is doing it against what he knows I am capable of. In that moment I knew he was someone I was very lucky to have as an instructor. I passed the COM-SE without issue and the examiner saying I performed one of the best chandelles he had seen. It was a good feeling.

On to CFI, as a product of COVID, I had 10 days of 8 hours each day of ZOOM ground school. It was an intense overview of everything I learned (and some things I was supposed to already know, but didn’t). My ground instructor was a wonderful guy and I texted this man relentlessly asking questions, but he never made me feel like an imposition. I made lesson plans each day and modified them until eventually I had concocted a 700 page lesson plan book. The expression “it takes a village to raise a child” comes to mind with the CFI initial considering you use all the instructors and students to help you get through this. The right seat flights were no issue for me, but I must admit that I had to re-do my mock oral as I was unable to go into depth on the regulations. Once I had studied up on that, I got to the real checkride and I was actually teaching the DPE some things he didn’t know about student pilot solos; he was a little surprised. My CFI initial consisted of a 7 hour oral and a 3 hour flight where every single maneuver was taught to commercial standards. It was a two day ordeal, but I actually passed this checkride on my 24th birthday if you can believe that. What a birthday gift to myself, right?

CFII was done in 3 flights and one week. It was probably my best and smoothest checkride to date. I got to take it with the famous Ernie Strange. He was very calm and fair. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

COM-ME was FAST. I had 7 hours and one week of training in the seminole when I was endorsed for my checkride. The oral exam was roughly 45 minutes of rapid fire questions from the DPE. I had this DPE for IRA, COM-SE, and now COM-ME. He’s a wonderful guy, but he sure lit me up for not doing the flows how he wanted. Thank goodness I flew well to salvage my poor performance on the flows. At the end of the day, I was rated in an airplane I was no expert in. It was not a time for celebration…yet. My MEI was scheduled for exactly one week from that day so my instructor and I thought it best to fly the same day after my COM-ME. I really enjoyed doing XCs in the multi, I began to feel like a real pilot. My MEI with Mr. Ernie Strange went well. I took the oral exam (about 1 hour) and that went well, but discontinued for weather. My checkride was rescheduled for one week later (today). I took my MEI this morning and finished the program today. It was not the smoothest flight as I was trying to memorize checklists instead of USE them. The examiner did not take too fondly of that, but Ernie truly is a phenomenal pilot, DPE, and person.

I’m writing this still somewhat in disbelief that I have finished this program. Yes, it took me a little longer than 9 months, but I don’t blame ATP and they don’t blame me. I honestly didn’t know that I could work so hard for something, but when you want it that bad, you go for it. I trained at KCRG in JAX, regarded as the location with the most difficult examiners, and have come out with the knowledge that those rumors could not have been any further from the truth, and I am sure this is true of other locations that are said to be more difficult or unfair than average. Every single checkride I have taken, I was treated with nothing but respect and fairness. If you hear different from someone, stop and question if they did everything they were supposed to do. So many people are in this for the money or look at it as an escape form their lives and that it should have been easier since they’re the customer and they’re paying for this. Content of character, presentation, and putting the work in actually plays a much larger role in this industry than I would have guessed, and I am so glad that it does. ATP does a fantastic job of training their students and providing them with a plethora of resources to succeed, it is up to you from there.

I hope this write-up helps or at the very least entertains some of you. There is so much more I could say, but I think this does it for now. There has been no greater feeling of reward than that which has come from completing this program. Thank you to the mentors for helping me along the way by answering my questions on this forum.

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Arman,

Thank you for the great write up and congratulations on completing the program!

What is next for you?

Chris

Thank you, Chris!

In all honesty, I can say that I am not entirely sure what my next step will be. Believe it or not, I still have the instructor guarantee seeing as though I started so long ago, but there is limited availability even with that. I will be looking vigorously for GA jobs in the very near future. I am flexible and am willing to relocate if it means a great experience!

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Arman,

First, congratulations on completing the ACPP. It was a pleasure reading about another success story from ATP!

If you can find a local airport that has some GA airplanes and continue flying, it’ll keep you consistent and proficient. Hangout at your local FBO, find some pilots that maybe want a safety pilot or actually continue their training. The more opportunity you get to flying will help you stay consistent yourself while waiting for indoc if that’s your next plan.

Brady

Thank you, Brady! I’ll definitely take your advice on that one. I want to stay as proficient as I possibly can. Hopefully something becomes available soon.

Arman,

Please keep us up to date as your progress throughout your career and remember that we are always here to answer any questions you may have.

Also, remember to sign up for the ATP Alumni Association, it is 100% free and there are some great benefits to it. www.atpalumni.org

Chris

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Congratulations on graduating! And I wish you the best in the future here. Please keep us updated on your next steps for you. Very nice write up you did here too! I’m looking at a career change and your write up was done extremely well and very thorough. Thanks for providing info on what to expect with the program!

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I’m glad this could help you, Chris! I’ll definitely keep you guys updated. I wish you the best in the program; let me know if you ever need anything.

Hi Arman,

Congrats on your journey!! I am very excited for you and your future.

I am currently in high school and will be training at L3 Harris at the KCRG location in the fall. Do you have any knowledge about them? Do they use the same DPE’s? I am a bit nervous considering you said the DPE’s were one of the most difficult examiners around. However, I understand if I do my part and am proficient with my material, I will be just fine.

Hi Nishal,

I know the program you speak of. Jacksonville University is partnered with L3. My sister goes to JU (not the flight program) and has friends in the flight program. To my knowledge they do use the same examiners as us and maybe even a few additional. Don’t be worried at all. KCRG ATP actually has one of the highest pass rates of any of the locations. I wouldn’t say the DPEs are necessarily more difficult, it’s just the common perception. I haven’t experienced anything else so I really don’t have anything to compare them to. They were all more than fair with me. JU has been doing this for a long time as well and I’m sure they have a very good program and set you guys up for success, or they wouldn’t be in business any more.

Nishal,

I’m curious? Any reason why you chose L3? Also while we’re here to help any and all I am curious why you’re on ATPs forum asking tons of questions? Shouldn’t you be talking to the flight school you plan on attending? Don’t they have a pilot forum to help you on your journey?

Adam

Hi Adam,

I’ll be attending Jacksonville University to get my aviation management degree while also getting my flying licenses. The university has a partnership with L3 Harris with whom I will be doing my training with which is also a flight school at KCRG. When I saw Arman mention KCRG I was just curious if he knew anything about them cause they’re literally next door with ATP Jacksonville. I could have asked L3 those questions but I feel comfortable with the people on this forum and I also believe you get a more fair/sincere answer when you ask someone who has experience/knowledge about it over a business. With that being said I don’t mean the people at L3 are terrible but just my preference. ATP does get bashed for a lot of things but providing this platform can’t be one of them since no other competitor has such a thing. :slight_smile:

Nishal,

Fair enough but I have to be frank. The fact that you feel more comfortable asking us vs the school you plan on giving your money to would give me pause. Further I hope the fact that the people providing you with the answers to all your questions are just a few of the THOUSANDS of successful ATP grads would dispell any and all the bashing you’ve heard. The fact none of ATPs competitors feel providing this type of communication to not only their own students but at all, at no charge, speaks volumes about who they are.

Adam

Adam,

I feel like I might have worded it wrong then. I have talked to multiple students from L3/JU who have went on to the majors in as little as 3-4 years after graduation!! In addition, the program has been around for more than a couple years and also has partnerships with JetBlue and Delta in addition to the regionals which should speak volumes about the program. I think all the mentors on here are great and provide valuable knowledge but there are only a couple of you guys here in contrast to the numerous other graduates on other social media platforms (reddit,youtube) who are thankful for the quickness of the training which worked out for them based on their life circumstances and the job market at the time but nothing more. Now some of those might not be a verified ATP student /graduate which is definitely not fair to you guys. Regarding your statement about ATP and this platform, if I was a competitor I would argue this is just another source of marketing essentially…it not like you guys are bashing them lol…and kudos to them for that. I don’t mean to disrespect ATP or any of its graduates and have the utmost respect to all the mentors in here providing value on their own will/time but this is just my perspective and each to their own.

Have you ever been on ATPs website? ATP averages over 500 pilots placed at airlines per year. That’s more than any other flight school in the country and they’ve been in business over 35yrs. ATP not only has partnerships with virtually EVERY Regional in the country but United, Delta and American. ATP actually pioneered the airline partnerships long before the pilot shortage when every other flight school jumped onboard (today that doesn’t say much today let alone volumes). They also partnered with a number of 135 operators during the pandemic when no airline was hiring to give their grads even more options. Btw, while JetBlue is a fine airline, they’re not a Major.

Nothing more? What more do want?

And I would argue you’re just taking shots as an excuse for the fact you have nothing of the kind to offer your prospective students. For someone who’s been on here asking questions for weeks, this “marketing platform” where you say “I feel comfortable with the people on this forum and I also believe you get a more fair/sincere answer when you ask someone who has experience/knowledge about it over a business” seems to be working pretty well for you.

How about kudos to US for always taking the high road?

Listen you’re right to each their own and I apologize if I seem a little bothered but your post is giving me flashbacks. You see many years ago I owned a pizzeria on the boardwalk with a beautiful deck and views of the ocean. One day a bunch of people showed up at lunchtime with boxes of Domino’s and took up several tables on my deck. Despite my desire to do physical harm to them I refrained until we started getting busy so I simply asked them to maybe hurry up and free up the tables. They got annoyed and started saying how my pizza probably wasn’t very good despite my numerous awards. This kinda feels like the same thing.

Peace out,

Adam

Nishal,

Getting back to your question about the DPEs. Don’t let a DPEs reputation get to you. You either perform within the standards or you don’t. So it’s on you to prepare yourself. Make sure you use your PTS or ACS in conjunction with your training. The DPEs use the same book to test you. If you’ve done your job to prepare yourself for the checkride, the checkride will be easier than the standards that you held for yourself. When I was a CFI all of my students said that I was harder than the DPE. We shared a laugh, but they thanked me for it after.

For the record I welcome any and all questions no matter what school someone chooses. It’s no secret that we are partial to ATP. All the information about ATP is out there for anyone to read. ATPs record and reputation speaks for itself. Obviously you made your choice based on what you thought was best for you. I’m not here to judge. I’m here to answer questions.

Tory

Just to update everyone, I just got offered a job that I have accepted with an aerial imaging company. I had an interview with the chief pilot last week and a flight interview today with the assistant chief pilot in a Cessna 206. I could not be more excited. Although my interview was in the 206, I will be flying the Cessna 310 and the Aztec solely. Really excited that I am going to be getting so much multi PIC time as I will be the only pilot in the aircraft. I should also say that I was offered a job with ATP, but they were unable to confirm a start date due to the low student flow as of right now, which is understandable. I feel very fortunate and happy that my flying career is about to begin. Cheers to my first pilot job!

Way to be a go-getter, Arman!

I have a friend that flew Aztecs for an Aerial Photography company based in Florida. He loved it. He flew all over North America and to my surprise also experienced a lot of actual IMC during ferry flights.

Keep us posted.

Tory

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Thank you, Tory! I’m very excited that’s for sure. Also very excited to see the country.

Arman,

Congrats and kudos! I’ve always been a fan of the 310! There was actually a TV show in the 50s called Sky King (even before my time) and it featured a 310. Pretty sure the reruns helped fire my passion for aviation.

sky-king-tv-series-kirby-grant-1951-18-dvds-17

Adam

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