AA Cadet Academy

I have a question regarding their new cadet academy. It only costs $70k-90k to finish the program, not to mention you get the hours and you get certified in everything. They also give graduated cadets an interview to the regionals. (But no guaranteed job) This seems to good, so I did some research and people call this “just another scheme” for the airline. Can someone please tell me what they mean by that?


I am not sure I would call the AA Cadet Program a “scheme”, but it is not anything special either. Their training costs are comparable to other schools, but they are using relatively small flight schools as partners that do not have track records of expeditiously producing pilots.

The guaranteed airline interview is absolutely nothing to be excited about. In today’s environment, a pilot with a good record will have all sorts of regionals dying to interview and hire them. Some will even interview you when you have as little as 500 hours as they want to secure your place at their airline.

The AA cadet program is a way for AA to lure people into working for their wholly owned regionals (Piedmont, PSA, and Envoy). Now these are not bad places to work by any means, but a pilot from any educational background can interview there, be hired, and still be part of the flow through to mainline AA.

They put a shiny face on the program, but their program can take longer than it should, thus delaying your entry into the airlines.

I would look around at other options before committing to them. Kudos to you for doing your research.



ALL the Regionals are scrambling to grab pilots as early as possible in the process due to the shortage. Def not a scheme but frankly I don’t see the benefit either. In today’s environment get your licenses and ratings, build your time and there’s no question you’ll get an interview.

Since all the Regionals keep trying to one up eachother I’d be reluctant to lock into anything until I was much further along in the process.


I know this is the ATP site, but American Flyers (one of the preferred training programs for AACA) is hardly a little flight school with no track record of producing pilots. Around here (Dallas) and in the airline pilot circles I’ve been in, they’re better known than ATP.

Are they as big as ATP? No. But I don’t know of any program that is on the same massive scale…maybe ERAU?

The biggest benefit of the AACA is their financing. No co-signer and all the deferment benefits of the SallieMae Wells Fargo programs.

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I’m going to go somewhere between what you and Chris said. There’s no question American Flyers is a fine school, has been around for years and has produced a fair number of pilots (the vast majority being PPLs and Instrument ratings). BUT, this foray into producing pilots for airline careers is a relatively new product for them. The fact is when I was investigating schools I visited AF (they were close, convenient and yes well known) and THEY sent me to ATP because they simply weren’t equipped to get me to where I needed to be. They offered no multi-engine training, could not accommodate the consistency of training I desired, nor did they have the means for me to build the time to complete my Commercial. I’m not going to dispute your claim but frankly if “they’re better known in the airline pilot circles” you’ve been in, you need to broaden your circles. Do many pilots know AF? Sure, because we all signed up years ago for their free for life CFI renewal, but not for their training of airline pilots.

Sure the AACA does offer some favorable financing (IF you’re accepted and IF you’re approved) but as Chris said, NONE of their schools has a fraction of ATPs record for producing pilots ready for airline careers.


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Fair enough. With the exception of one professional pilot friend, all of my contacts/mentors are Captains at American & Southwest. So they’re at least 20 years removed from the flight training process, and AF is where some of them trained, or their kids have trained. The one that isn’t is now an FO at Envoy, and he did all of his training and worked as a CFI at American Flyers.

I’m guessing that American looked at all of the training programs out there and found AF to be a good solution for this program. But as you said, it’s fairly selective so you can’t just self-elect to hop on the train. ATP has a lock on the market when it comes to relatively accessible financing and a full-time accelerated program.


None of us are knocking AF, but I can tell you that in all my years of flying, I have never once had a pilot tell me that they trained at AF, not one single time.


“Maybe you need to broaden your circles.”


And you’re a Capt at which Legacy airline?



I fly with pilots from all sorts of backgrounds, military and civilian. My experience is very broad. I have yet to meet a pilot that trained at AF.



First of all, I was quoting your condescending comment from earlier. What’s wrong with a little levity in here?

Second, 3 of my 4 mentors are captains at legacy airlines (one very recently retired chief pilot at WN) and while generally aware of ATP, they’ve strongly encouraged me to look at programs other than ATP.

I realize I’ve been feisty in a couple of forums, but a couple of observations:

  • the mentors here are on the whole much feistier, dismissive and sometimes just rude
  • I’ve been following this forum’s topics for about a year and while most everything here is true, it’s incomplete. There are more ways than the “ATP way” that lead to long satisfying and financially rewarding careers in aviation. I know the mentors here are paid to push the “ATP Way”, but in the interest of making this forum a useful informational source (and not just a marketing propaganda machine for ATP) I’m choosing to chime in here and there and offer different views.
  • if I remember correctly some other disparate forums, most of the “mentors” didn’t even have to do the current “ATP program” as they came to the industry prior to the 1500 hour requirement. Being an instructor for 500 hours is vastly different than instructing for 1100-1200 hours. I’m frankly daunted by the prospect even though I know it’s possible. (I expect I will want to jump out of the plane by the 900th hour teaching DME arcs!) So, in the interest of self-preservation, I’ve worked hard to vet other flying opportunities (135/135C/freight/etc) that should have some if not equal time to this idea that you have to be an instructor to be an airline pilot.
  • there are lots and lots of professional pilots who have never and would never fly for an airline. That’s okay and necessary for a thriving aviation industry. You may still go to ATP and have that be the beginning of a wonderful and satisfying career. Period.
  • I’ve been digging very extensively into this topic, and I hope to share some of my learnings with other people on this forum (who may or may not even realize this whole site is a glorified advertisement.


Nothing wrong with levity you just seem to take issue when it’s directed towards you, and if you take facts as condescending that’s on you too sir. While it’s great you have 4 mentors are you serious? You can discount and dismiss what we say all you like but both myself and Chris ARE Capts at Legacy airlines and have been flying for airlines since 2005. I’ve never done the math but conservatively figure 4 trips a month x 12 mos x 13yrs that’s over 600 pilots we’ve each flown with. Factor in I was an instructor for 10 of those years and am currently a union rep. Does that mean I’m smarter or a better pilot than any of your mentors? No but if we’re talking about “circles” of contact, well the numbers don’t lie and without pausing to think can give you dozens of current airline pilots who either went to ATP and/or have sent their own children. You want us to be impressed by your retired CP BUT if they are a retired CP that probably means they did their flight training 40yrs ago. Great pilot I’m sure but familiar with current state of flight instruction? Perhaps not. I know most aren’t and the only reason I am is because I participate in this forum.

IF you have been following this forum for over a year you know we frequently say there are other routes than the “ATP Way”. We’re clear and honest about our bias. There’s an ATP logo on the top of this forum and yes all the mentors are successful ATP grads. We all did our research, all chose ATP and all are glad that we did. Nothing more, nothing less.

Yes Chris and I both were hired before the 1500hr rule and yes you’ll be doing whatever it is you’re doing to build those hours longer. You’re also going to get paid 3-4 times as much as we were AND more important unless you’re a mass murderer there will be multiple airlines fighting to hire you. I know more pilots than you have mentors that did all their training and never got a interview simply because there was no hiring for years and they simply couldn’t find work because there was none. That’s daunting.

Icing on the cake, as always, don’t like ATP, don’t go there. Think this forum is a glorified ad? Don’t participate, but facts are facts. ATP placed OVER 600 pilots with airlines in the last year alone, ATP had airline relationships and their pilots were getting hired when most pilots couldn’t get an interview. There’s no other flight school or program that’s come close.


I’m sorry you feel like I’m dismissing you. I’m disagreeing with you, maybe on a few things, but we probably agree on much more. By my count…I have two pilots on here that say they’ve never flown with anyone from AmericanFlyers, while over here I have 4 experienced “legacy airline captains” plus one new Envoy pilot say they’re aware of a different school and really prefer it to ATP.

So if you add all that up, I have 7 pilots with strong opinions. This isn’t really a matter of “facts.”

By the way, if you multiply my combined mentors years of experience using your formula, they’ve seen a lot more pilots than you. So I’m not sure that’s the best argument. And I’m not trying to impress you with anything, I can tell I could never do that.

I like this site a lot. I found it in August of 2017 when I got back from Oshkosh, having newly (for the first time since I was 16) considered a future as a professional pilot. I’ve been reading since then, participating much more recently as I narrow in on making a move on that dream.

ATP has managed to develop one of the more active and informative forums on the topic, not to mention it’s a brilliant way to drive prospects into their sales funnel. Other sites generally have ancient information…ATP could have the most relevant and impactful forums for aspiring pilots in the industry, but I often get the feeling you’re bothered by my and other posters participation. I think we can all benefit from open and honest dialogue about these opportunities people come here to learn about, even if it’s more than just ATP programs.

I’m not anti-ATP. It’s on my very short list.

Question: out of the 600 pilots placed, how many students who start ultimately fail to complete the program through CFI/II?

And then how many CFI/II DIDN’T get placed with an airline?

Back when I was shopping for my MBA program, one of the big stats the schools are ranked on is graduation rate + job placement rate. They even go so far as to report average and median salary increases as a result of the program.

This would be fascinating in the flight training world. But there’s probably not industry appetite to want to share those stats. Flight schools are first in the business of recruiting students, not getting pilots hired.

Pulling the topic back to the AA Cadet Academy, I would be willing to bet their graduation/placement rate will be much higher as the candidates are pre-screened and have completed skills evaluations. Certainly it won’t be 100%, but it should be solid. If you can get in the program, you likely have a statistically significant advantage over any program where you can just walk in from off the street.



ATP quotes a completion rate somewhere in the low 80’s and yes I’m sure prescreening would probably improve that some. There are many factors that go into flight training success and some aren’t immediately apparent. Obviously the school and their curriculum and methods come into play as well.

As for the rest let’s just agree to disagree.


2 points I wanted to chime in on here:

While you may consider my “circle” to be much smaller than the legacy CA’s on your list, in my years of 121 experience I have only come across a handful of people who went to AF. And when they did, it was for a single rating or an add-on. While on the other hand, I meet other ATP grads on an almost daily basis. Not saying things are one way or the other, just stating my own personal observations to your list.

Also, ATP grads who get placed ANYWHERE are listed on their placement tab. Whether it’s corporate, cargo, charter, 121, etc. I’ve seen loads of graduates who decided not to instruct and ATP continues to celebrate their accomplishments. There are definitely many routes this industry can take you. But if you come to a flight school–>airline “pipeline” (airline training - it’s in the name…) forum and expect people to be experts on other facets of the field, then I think it might be your own fault for coming to the wrong place for information. Obviously the mentors do their best to provide accurate and valuable answers to every question, but my point is you can’t EXPECT them to have all of the answers you might be looking for if it falls outside of the realm of the forum.

@Adam @JLascomb If I got accepted to AACA and financing is not an issue (I will not need a loan or anything) you’re saying I should go with ATP?


We are saying that you should compare the two programs on their own merits, not just jump into one because it has an airline’s name attached onto it. I would look for a school that has a proven track record of producing airline pilots, which school has the largest fleet and newest fleet, which route to 1,500 hours will be quicker, and which has the best financial package and set pricing. I think of if you remove the “American Airlines” from the cadet program, you will find that it is deficient in many of these.

Keep in mind, you aren’t training with American Airlines, you would be going to a third party school that has contracted to use their name.

The AA program takes longer than ATP, which means that you will get to the airlines later, this even flowing to mainline American later as the flow is based on when you start at one of their regionals. Once you have your 1,500 hours, you can always apply to any of American’s regional subsidiaries and enter the AA flow through that way.



I would never presume to know what’s best for you but as we’ve beaten to death this IS ATPs forum, we all chose ATP and are obviously fans. I would encourage you to look at the 2 programs and compare.

Your goal is to be an airline pilot and you need to get trained. ATP has been training pilots for 3 decades, has state of the art equipment and locations around the country. They also have a proven track record and is one of the best known and respected flight schools in the country. Factor in the time frame and personally I stand by ATP. Ultimately the decision is yours.


Thanks Jordan.

This thread is about the AACA which uses American Flyers (as well as CAE & CTI). American Flyers was chosen by AA for this program. Not sure what the criteria was. Don’t know if they approached ATP. Don’t know anything but that the largest airline in the world chose to place their Cadet Academy program with someone other than the largest flight school in the world.

In the course of this discussion about the AACA Chris (ATP mentor) said that “they’re using small flight schools that don’t have a track record of producing pilots”. That’s where I took issue and jumped in because while the first part is true, the second is not. American Flyers (as well as CAE and CTI) is smaller than ATP. Every other flight school on the planet is smaller than ATP. But that has no direct correlation to quality or their ability to produce pilots.

Put this in a university context. Texas A&M University is one of the largest public universities in the country. I live and work in Texas and at literally every job I’ve ever had, there’s been at least 1 Aggie that works there. They’re ubiquitous. On the other hand, I’ve never worked with anyone that went to college at the University of Pittsburgh. I don’t really know anything about the University of Pittsburgh. Google shows it’s more expensive than A&M. It’s about 25% the size of A&M . It’s older than A&M (founded in 1787).

Wouldn’t it be a little ignorant to say that Texas A&M is a better school than the University of Pittsburgh with my only arguments being “I’ve never worked with anyone from Pittsburgh”? Maybe Pittsburgh is better. Maybe A&M is better (this is where Aggies would start making annoying whooping noises). Maybe, just maybe, it’s not a black and white answer that one is “better” than the other. Perhaps they both produce qualified graduates.

My own personal investigations have found that not only is American Flyers a legitimate school, they’ve been in the flight training business since 1939 (only had 3 owners in 80 years), and current airline pilots I personally know and trust recommended them (over ATP). American Airlines chose them as their training parter for the cadet academy. Is it more expensive? Maybe. Is it slower? Maybe. Both are good arguments against that program. But there is no lack of a proven track record. That’s just false information.

As far as the second part of your comment about “expecting people to be experts on other facets of the field” I don’t expect that. Again, I just chimed in when I saw patently incorrect information being shared. Wasn’t in this thread, but I saw mentors telling aspiring pilots something to the effect of “you should never work for a 135 operation because they’re all shady” and “you can’t fly a Pilatus PC12 as an SIC and log time”. Wrong and wrong.

I find humility is rarely a defining character trait of pilots, but if someone asks a question it’s okay to just say “I don’t know” rather than spout off a wrong answer that could cause people to unnecessarily limit their options. Or at the very least, don’t get upset when someone corrects you, or god forbid, offers a differing opinion.

*final note: I don’t work for or attend American Flyers. I’m not an AACA cadet. I’m a prospective career changer who is actively considering ATP, American Flyers, and every other flight school on the planet.

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Since this last post is a direct response to mine, I am curious where I ever said that one was better than the other. All I stated was the likelihood of running into graduates from each school. I didn’t imply a single thing about the quality of education. I understand what you are saying though.

Since you seem to be implying my opinion - I will just outright say it. I would lean to agree more with the mentors on this one. I would trust a program with thousands of successful graduates over one with way less. I have no idea what American Flyers training is like, and for all I know it could be better than what I received. But I personally will HIGHLY doubt that.

As for some of the comments you refer to, I would take those with a grain of salt. I can’t recall a single time a mentor illogically wrote off a suggested path. It is a FACT that many time building jobs advertise as being able to build PIC time when it is not legal towards a rating. I was a recruiter and interviewer for my airline, and we came across it many times where applicants actually had hundreds of hours less than what they thought they had because an employer was having them log SIC hours in a single pilot airplane. That is not the case with every company. And I don’t think a single mentor would suggest that unless they had facts to back up the information they are providing.

I agree with you on a multitude of your final comments. I would never imply that my word is the end all be all, nor would most who post here. Each individual has different quality of life preferences and their own dreams when it comes to aviation. No 2 paths will ever be the same. The mentors will tell you whether or not ATP is the path that makes sense for you, answer the questions you have about their paths and the company advertised here, and then attempt to aid in other topics outside the scope of this forum. I think you are reading into a bias that may not be there in some cases. But I appreciate how much thought and objectivity you put into your research. Good luck with your career!