Airline Pilot Program

Hi there!
I am considering enrolling in the Airline Pilot Program but my hesitation comes as I have never stepped foot in a cockpit before. I was thinking about doing an introductory flight and even getting my private license outside of ATP before I jump in head first.

  1. Does anyone know if I will have to pay to re-take the Private Pilots course upon admission to ATP?
  2. It seems like this is all just a dream to me as I have wanted to be a pilot for so long, but never took action… what made you decide to go this route, and what made you jump head first into the ATP program?

Thanks in Advance for your help!

Hello Harvey and welcome,

Harvey not only do you make sense, I have to tell you this is actually my biggest pet peeve. I cannot fathom how someone can consider a career in aviation if they’ve never been up in a airplane (and no sitting in the back of a Boeing going on vacation doesn’t count). I understand it looks “cool” and the though of travel is great but the reality is if you’ve never been up you simply don’t know if it’s something you’ll enjoy let alone do for the rest of your life. ATP won’t even take your money if you haven’t at least taken an intro flight. Bottomline, before you spend another minute pondering flying the friendly skies you need to go up.

  1. ATP has multiple programs, some take you from zero time, others for those who already have their Private license. Short answer is no, if you already earned your Private you would not have to repay. That said that begs the question should you get your Private first. Personally I believe that’s a really good idea. Spend some time, get some education and accomplish a goal before you commit to the whole program. Problem is getting your Private at your local flight school can be very time consuming and costly. Don’t misunderstand, there are many fine local flight schools, the problem is learning to fly is a process which is best served with consistency. This is why the airlines and the military (AND ATP) train their pilots every day. So there’s no backsliding. Most people who go for lessons locally will take a lesson maybe once or twice a week. Without more frequency many often take one step back before they take 2 forward. As I said this can be frustrating AND expensive. My best recommendation is if after you take an intro flight (which you must!), if you’re not sure you’re ready to commit, maybe take a few lessons and possibly solo. The first solo is a tremendous accomplishment and also a frequent gate those who aren’t successful never cross.

  2. Flying is a second career for me. I owned a restaurant and did well financially but I was very unhappy. I had gotten my Private years before but like you making it a career didn’t seem possible (I had always heard you had to be military etc). I decided I wanted to fly, even that meant just flight instructing. It took me almost 2 year and ALOT of money to get my Private locally so that was out. I started doing ALOT of research and settled on ATP. Why? First off there was no more efficient route out there time and cost wise. Second (and most important), their reputation was beyond exceptional. Everyone I spoke with pointed towards them and their students were getting hired at the airlines.

Lots to think about, great questions but again before you get too wrapped up you MUST GO FLY A PLANE!



Based on what all the pro’s on here recommend, definitely take an intro flight first. Flying in a GA airplane is way different than sitting in row 15 of a 737 lol. If you choose to obtain your ppl outside of ATP you would start the program with your ppl. However, you need at least 80 TT before you would start the program. The ATP website shows the timeline for for both options, no ppl or ppl.

I also looked at getting my ppl outside of ATP but chose not to. I will be starting ATP with zero flight hours in a little less than 2 weeks. The reason I chose this route was for one, timing. I did not want to drag on the process by going to my local flight school. Also, I knew that I was going to ATP regardless so why not start from ground zero. I understood that this would be a fast paced program so why not become accustom to that from the beginning.

As Adam stated, “GO FLY A PLANE” first before you do anything else.


1 Like

Great insight, Adam!
We probably have a lot in common considering you too were in the restaurant business.
As I was reading you mentioned a 2 day a week program. That is EXACTLY what the program I was looking at said they had time to do. After reviewing the requirements to solo on my own (via google) I noted it is a minimum of 10 hours to solo on my own, is this really the case or how many hours do you think are realistic to reach that achievement?

Thanks for the help Adam!

Hey Raymond!

Sounds like you understand where I am coming from!
What do you mean by TT? total time?

Congrats on your admission! Do you by chance know how often they start new trainees? Is it only 1 time per month, every quarter, etc?

Thanks for your response!

Yes, TT = Total Time

Thanks, I am super pumped! For class start dates if you have your ppl classes begin every other Monday. If you are starting with zero hours classes begin on either the 1st or 3rd Monday of every month. However, I would contact the admissions department for the exact start dates for each location.


1 Like


I was in college with the intentions of going into the business world when I decided to instead pursue a career as a pilot. I remember the day so well, I was sitting in class listening to a lecture about something that just didn’t interest me when I decided that I had to go out and follow my real ambitions. I finished the business degree, but I also started flight school at the same time. I have never looked back on the decision to fly for a living.

I attended ATP because I had a cousin who had gone through the program a few years ahead of me and had very positive things to say about it. I followed his advice and was very pleased.

To answer another question, most people take several more hours of flight time before they can solo. I believe that I did so around 17 hours. That was perhaps the most nervous that I have ever been in an airplane, it didn’t help that my rater, a 737 Captain, was standing there watching :slight_smile:


1 Like


See that question of “realistic time” is exactly what I was talking about as far as consistency. For example I’ve been bored and went up for a glider lesson a few weeks back. It was a blast and I want to get my rating. Now the min required time for the add-on rating is 10 hrs. Now I could go once, twice a week and pretty much guarantee you it’ll take me at least 15, maybe 20 hrs. BUT, based on my experience I’m not going to do that. I’m going to take a week off and bang it out in 10 hrs. There’s simply only so much you can retain when it comes to new information and skills BUT if you can keep it fresh it’s much easier to build. Make sense?


1 Like


That makes total sense! I asked the question due to the cost estimation the school came up with to get to that point. It’s nerve racking getting up the courage to spend a lump sum of cash on something you aren’t sure about. But like many have said before- no risk, no return.


Great insight, Thank you! I can relate to sitting in business class. I too graduated with a degree in Business Administration. Do you have any businesses on the side? I’m sure you do something to keep you busy with all those days off. :wink:


I worked on my PPL during highschool at a local mom and pop school and I am very glad I did it, I was in no rush and it was nice to experience general aviation in a less intense setting. I have friends that went to UND who had flown a few flights before and loved it get frustrated because it was not as fun as their other experiences. Again, it cost me more money and took a lot longer than ATP would, but I am glad I did it that way and got to dig in at my own pace and have a lot of fun along the way.

1 Like