Real Answers from Real Pilots

Actual CFI Pay Expectations

I apologize if this has already been answered, I’ve searched for a while and haven’t seen it address so I thought I would ask. I’m starting ATP in McKinney this May and I’m trying to work out the living arrangement details for after graduation when I start instructing (hopefully in McKinney or Addison). Can any current or recent instructors chime in as to an actual expected monthly income? I know its always going to vary when it due to weather and students and aircraft availability, thats why I’m trying to get a few answers so that I can come up with an average ballpark. ATP website says “up to $41k” but I know that is usually a best case scenario number. I’ve spoke with two CFI in the Dallas area and one guy said he’s lucky to get 60hrs. a month and another said he would love to hit 60. Anybody want to jump in with your personal experience?

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were the CFI’s you asked from ATP? I’m sure that makes a big difference.

Yes, one is currently at ATP here and the other just left a few months ago.

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Hi Chet,

While I cannot give you exact numbers, I can tell you that how much you fly (consequently how much you earn) is largely based on your motivation as well as your students’. Of course airplane availability and weather play a role as well, and there is not doubt about that. Within the last 30 days, we have had a few instructors from the Dallas area who have reached the 100-hour mark. One even with 150+ hours!

Anything is possible as long as you are motivated and utilize all available resources.

Best,

Jess

Hey Chet,

This article breaks down the current pay scale:
https://airlinepilot.life/t/how-much-does-a-flight-instructor-earn/8061

Tory

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How does income tax work with CFI’s being self-employed contractors? I assume ATP doesn’t withold any tax and you have to pay taxes in a lump sum at the end of the year?

Also, the ATP website is very confusing about the payscale. I thought it went something like this:

Say you flew 45 hours. Payscale being 0-30 @ $7.50 | 30-40 @ $10 | 40-50 @ $15

For the longest time I thought your pay would be (30x7.5)+(10x10)+(5x15) coming up to $400 for 45hrs
But you’re saying that it’s just 45x15? Totaling $675?

I think it’s nice that all of your hours count in the higher paygrade, but I’d be pretty mad if I was stuck at 40hrs when just one more hour could put me in a higher paygrade and lose 35% of possible pay just because of one hour… There’s got to be a workaround for this, right?

Efe,

Your understanding is correct. Moving into a higher tier affects ALL of your flight time; not just the flight time in that tier.

Look at you. You’re not even a pilot yet and you’re already sounding like some of the captains I fly with that just want to complain about pay scales :joy:

The only workaround is to fly more. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but until the pay scales change that’s how it works.

Tory

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Is the pay increasing? I read the increase in ATP tuition is to increase cfi pay.

Don,

As of now, CFI compensation remains the same.

Chris

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Thanks for all the input, I think I’ve got a decent idea now. Trying to figure out how to keep the ex wife happy for the next couple years.

I know this is an older topic, but I didn’t want to create a new one for this question. In Colorado the state minimum wage is $10.20 /hr, does ATP adjust these pay scales based on state minimums? If so, and I assume they would have to, do they adjust all tiers proportionately or just the lower tiers to meet the state minimums?

W,

Flight instructor pay is the same for all CFIs at ATP. ATP is not obligated to adjust pay for minimum state wages because CFIs at ATP are independent contractors. This also means that the money earned is not taxed until the end of the year.

Tory

W,

ATP instructors are independent contractors and as such minimum wage laws do not apply in these instances.

Chris

Your logic doesn’t add up. The current pay structure only has an upside and no downside that I can see, if you surpass a certain number of hours.

If it was indeed tiered, where by you only get paid extra for the hours in a particular bracket, then not only would you get paid less at the end of the month, but you would stand to gain nothing in the example that you gave.

One concern that I have coming up is slowly getting hours as a CFI. There may not be a lot of students where I am instructing, or there may be a surplus of instructors and that is a little worrisome. I understand these are out of my control, but I was wondering how being a CFI totally works. If I meet a student and he really enjoys my teaching ability, can he exclusively fly with me so that I can get a lot of hours that way? Is it like a competition where students pick their instructors each day?

Some people in this thread mentioned motivation being an issue. As a CFI, would you not just be at the airport daily ready to help students that are in?

If you guys could just shed some more light on what a flight instructors daily routine may look like I would greatly appreciate it. Also if you are a currently, or recently finished, ATP instructor I would love to hear what you have to say.

As always thanks to all.

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Cameron,

Instructors are assigned specific students to train, for example I currently have 4 and perform all of their training. There are special occasions (evals, filling in for vacations, etc) where a student can fly with a different instructor but generally it will all be with their primary. You don’t get a random person each day.
That said, you can imagine how both of your dispositions will affect how much training can be done… if a student is eager and you have time multiple events a day are possible, if a student is struggling then just one (not necessarily a flight) is all you can do.
An average day for me would be:
Flight 6:30-9:00, Flight 9:15-11:45, Simulator 13:00-15:00, Flight 15:30-18:00 with each event being interchangeable and possibly ground sprinkled in.

Ok that is exactly what I needed to hear. Those are some full days haha. If you don’t mind me asking, how many instructors and how many students does your location currently have?

If you know, do you think that 4 students per instructor is a typical amount nationwide or would you say that number is high or low?

Cameron,

You need to understand that ATP does it’s best to “share the wealth” throughout all their locations. That said student enrollment is dynamic and obviously ATP has no control over how many people sign up and/or where they chose to train. EVERYONE wants to build time quickly and no one wants to sit around wasting time. Chose a location that works best for you.

Adam

Cameron,

ATP instructors are assigned students and are expected to primarily work with those students as this provides the students with consistency. It is certainly not up to the students to pick, although if they have an issue with one, they can complain and have that fixed.

CFIs are assigned to locations based on the need at the location, so there really shouldn’t be any sitting around at the office.

Chris

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Do you know, is it common for instructors to remain at the location they train in or more often than not, they get relocated? I have been considering the living situation, and I wouldnt want to sign a 12 month lease for 9 months of schooling then a transfer with 3 months left on the lease…