Airline Direct Track - Disadvantages?

I’m considering the Airline Direct Track (Airline Direct Track for Airline Career Pilot Program / ATP Flight School)…Even though it’s much more expensive, it seems to be the fastest and most direct way to get a job with a regional airline. I’m paying more to get time flying rather than spending time as a flight instructor.

Are there any disadvantages to skipping flight instructor time? Could not having time flying in the right seat be seen as a disadvantage?


This is a new program to me. I’m doing some research and will get back with an opinion.

Chris F


First off becoming an airline pilot is not a race. The reason for all the requirements is so you gain knowledge and experience before you’ve got a whole lot of people putting their lives in your hands.

Personally I’m not a fan of the Direct Track. Getting hired these days is easy, passing newhire training is not and you want a much skill and experience as you can get before that training. Nothing prepares you better than flight instructing.



I did my research and my answer is 99% No.

  • it’s $170k on top of the $90k Career program ($260k total :sweat_smile:).
  • It’s $170k cash only. No loans available.
  • Has same WX restrictions as Career program crew XC (IMO overly conservative causing training delays).
  • It is the same flying as Crew XC.
  • Yes, you can get tuition reimbursement.
  • Might require no more than 2 checkride failures to join (same as being a ATP CFI).
  • No you cannot have a job during this time building.

IMO this program does not make sense for multiple reasons.

  1. As Adam said, being a CFI or joining a 135 op will give you more experience.
  2. That’s $140/hr per pilot rental rate (280/hr wet). If you want to “time build” doing XC only you can rent a c152 and split it for $70 per person, or buy your own plane (allows loan options) and fly it then sell when done. Both of these options are cheaper and just as fast.
  3. As a CFI you are at least making money, same with 135 or time building on your own you can have the flexibility to have a side job.
  4. The CFI route allows you Regional & Major LLC pathways too, so I don’t see a huge advantage in opportunities.
  5. Because you’re not making money time building this way compared to a CFI job, you are essentially paying $200k ($160k + $40k potential wages) for 3-9months faster to Airlines.
    I see a niche market ATP is servicing with this program but I really don’t see advantages given other options regarding time and or money.

Chris F


If you have tons of spare cash laying around and want the easiest path to the airlines, sure this program is for you. I don’t recommend it for a few reasons: it’s like buying admission.

You’re buying your time when there are dozens of jobs you can get the hours and get paid for them. So why buy them unless you don’t think you’re good enough to get hired on your own skills and merit and want to work hard at a job.

You’re going to have an incredibly limited skill set and will not be properly prepared for the rigors of airline training once you get there. Part of being a CFI is continually learning both in ground knowledge and decision making in the airplane. Every day, every student, every flight is different strengthening you as a pilot. If you pay for your time, you’re doing hundreds of hours doing the same thing over and over. You’ll be good at an IFR cross country flight but in a very limited bubble.

Plus when you go interview at regionals and eventually the majors, they will ask why you have such a massive gap in work experience. Anything over 3 months is a red flag. Being in training will explain 5-7 months of that time but after that you will explain that you were unemployed and paid to build all your time. It’s still valid time, but it’s not a great look.



I am not as against this as my peers, I just do not think it is necessary. I think you could develop a sufficient skill set through all of the cross country flying, but it will just cost so much money, when you could be getting paid to fly. But hey, if you have the money and are willing to spend it, have at it.


Hi all,

I think an even better plan if you have a bunch of money lying around would be to just buy your own plane. For the same money, you could buy a $90,000 plane and 1250 hours of fuel, but still have a $90,000 plane at the end of the day. Thoughts?



Yes, buying a plane has been done and has its merits. It’s very fun to own a plane but does have its own unique headaches and costs as well. And if you put 1200hr on a plane, it’s gonna lose $10-30k in value due to needing an engine overhaul

Owning your own plane and doing real cross-countries to aviation events and other awesome places will give you great experience as well. One of my TMAAT stories is about flying a Citabria from Miami to LA, amazing experience.

Being a CFI or flying 135 gives more experience geared towards airlines, crew environment and really grounds you aviation knowledge.

Chris F

Hey Chris,

I was mostly being facetious. An airplane is a hole in the tarmac that you throw money into for fun. But for $170,000, it might be worth it to some people. It was for one of my project managers, who is getting ready to retire early and join a regional airline!