Airforce to Airline pilot

Good afternoon everyone. I am 19 years old been in the Air Force for almost a year. I signed a 4 year contract. I am an avionics technician for the f-16. My dream is to become an airline pilot but I don’t know where to start. What would be the fastest way for me to become a pilot? I have around 50 college credits from just going to technical training and I’m thinking about studying online towards a degree in aeronautical science with embry riddle since I think all those credits will transfer towards the degree. I been researching and found out that I need to pay to get my PPL but my 9/11 GI Bill can help pay towards flight training. I still have no idea what would be the best route to become a pilot for me any help would be appreciated. Thank you!


Welcome to the forum.

As for the college degree side of things, yes, you will need one for the majors, but you will not need one for the regionals. Many people chose to work on their degrees while they are at the regionals. In addition to speaking with Embry Riddle, I would also consult Utah Valley University.

As for flight training, yes, you can use your GI benefits towards flight training, BUT, and this is. a huge but, it will really slow you down and will not cover a huge chunk of your flight training. I would suggest using your GI benefits towards your degree (which you will need anyways) and financing your flight training at a school that offers accelerated flight training . This is by far the quickest, most efficient path to the airlines.

Now all of the mentors on this website went to ATP and we were all successful, there are many paths to the airlines, but we chose ATP because of how quick and efficient it is, combined with a reputation for producing quality airline pilots.

I recommend taking some time to look around this forum, particularly the FAQ section. Let us know what we can help you with.


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While I understand it’s very tempting to have the VA pay for your flight training, they only will allow so much per year which, as Chris said, will slow you down dramatically. Use you bennies for your degree and when you complete your service then do your training.

As a side note, while I do not recommend military service as a route to the airlines, since you’re already in I would seriously investigate completing your degree during your enlistment and then look into a flying position as an officer in the Air Guard. While that might not be the fastest route the training obviously is fantastic and it will offer you the opportunity to fly some very cool equipment.


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Thank you for your comment sir. For my degree I will be using tuition assistance and when I get out I’ll be using the Texas hazlewood act. So since I won’t use my GI Bill should I use it to cover flight training?


Like Chris said, you could use your GI benefits to cover the cost of training at a school that accepts GI. This approach will reduce your total regional eligibility flight time minimums (R-ATP), but take a lot longer despite the R-ATP flight time reduction.

The fastest way to earn all of your ratings is to join an accelerated flight training program like ATP (no surprise there). Not a salesman. This forum is sponsored by ATP and we’re all grads.

Thing is, with your 4-yr AF contract, will you have the availability to train full time?


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I was able to finish all my ratings, get a degree, R-ATP, all while working the flightline in the AF using TA and GI Bill. The great thing is being able to work different shifts so I could get all my flying done in the morning while working swings and go to mids or days to get my night hours in. I had some great supervisors that really worked with me and gave me the time I needed to finish everything. Once you’ve been in for 24 months then you can start using your GI Bill while on active duty. If you time it right you’ll be able to get to CFI in the last 2 years of your commitment and then knock out your CFII, ME and MEI while working as a flight instructor. You’ll have to pay for your PPL up front but I just got a personal loan that covered the costs and paid it off before separating from the military.

I was on a 6 year enlistment so I finished everything in my last 4 years of service and did skills bridge my last 6 months as a CFI. The timing worked out for me and I couldn’t have planned it any better.

Since I’ve done it I know of at least 3 others at my old squadron that have all finished their ratings the same exact way. A lot of flight schools are starting to pick up these college training contracts that allow them to get military students who have guaranteed money and good work ethic. You might get lucky and find something near you that works.

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Typically going to a school that takes the GI bill option, it will take you much much longer to complete your flight training. You’ll learn that in this career, time is money. The faster you can get qualified for your ATP and getting a regional job, the better. If you take an accelerated route like ATP you can use your GI Bill benefits to be reimbursed for the FAA examiner fees ($6,000-7,000), as well as the $3,795 cost of the ATP CTP training for a total reimbursement of over $10,000.



I am the old man in the room, and a Veteran, too. I would listen to all these suggestions and comments, if you want to be successful from the start. My take on all the comments is to research, research, research, and take serious consideration what the mentors had told you here. We all had been there, done that, and have the t-shirt.

Definitely, you should start working on your certificates and flight hours as soon as possible. Depending where you are station, you should try the flying club at any military base, except Army since Army does not have them. Make emphasis on quality flying, however, any flight time is good flight time. Just make sure your enjoy and learn from those experiences.

As for college degrees, I agree with the mentors. However, please keep it on your long term goals. You want to be ready to move to other aviation opportunities. Even worst, you want to be ready for whatever opportunity shows up in your path. That happens a lot! Way better to have it and not needed it, than needed it and not having it.

ATP is a very, very good option. I am NOT a paid spokesman. One note, be aware of the aviation universities as they might burn some of your hard-earned benefits before you even have what you need to begin your journey to the regionals, charter or the majors.

Another pearl of wisdom, please make sure you start converting your military training into college credits or vocational certificates. Specially, converting your aircraft maintenance training into an A&P Mechanic or Avionics Tech certificate. Please do not get target fixated on the pilot certificates. There are other things right now that will make you more competitive for any path.

Good luck,