Another Career Change Post

Hey everyone, I’m new around here, I’m 32 going on 33 and I’m ready for my life long dream of aviation. I currently work as a Juvenile Corrections Officer and have had a few flight lessons which puts a huge smile on my face every time I’m up in the air. I really want to make the transition into the airlines but have a few questions.

I’m really trying to avoid ATP school due to the price of the loan and would rather use my local mom and pop instead as It would be a lot cheaper than ATP, not to mention it’s literally only a 3 minute drive from my house. Where I live aviation is huge so I have no worries about our FBO closing (I19). What are your thoughts on using mom and pop vs ATP?

With my age and wanting to get to the majors I was looking into Spirit initially because it’s supposedly only 1500 hours and then you can get on with them. My question here is should I take the traditional route and go with regional and then to the majors? Or should I just go straight for Spirit due to my age? I don’t care if Spirit pays less than the others.

As far as after I get my ratings, would it be better for time building to go with a part 135 gig with 500 hours or just flight instruct until I reach the minimums?

I do not have my degree yet but after I get my ratings I plan on going to WGU and doing their online work as I could get my bachelors degree in less than a year because I’m very knowledgeable in the Computer Science field.

Any advice would be wonderful.


If you know this is another “career path change” post, then you’ve spent some time on this forum and you should know this is ATPs forum and aren’t fans of the mom and pop route. This however isn’t because we’re trying to “sell” ATP. It’s because we all were exactly where you are (some of us even tried the mom and pop route) and we determined the best route is ATP.

While I completely understand and appreciate your desire to save money and not incur debt, the reality is flight training is expensive and there’s really no way around that. While many believe the local route will and them money, the reality is it often costs much more money (and time) and worse many just quit due to frustration. David I’ve been flying professionally for 17yrs and I’ve never met a single pilot who trained locally. Not one. Military? Sure. Riddle? Plenty. ATP? 1200 in the last 12mos alone!

What you need to understand is for a long time the military trained most airline pilots. When that number started to decline universities started aviation programs and a few academies opened. Your local flight school in most cases is an FBO. They’re there to sell gas and charts, give scenic tours, and yes many have a couple of Cessnas and a CFI or 2 to give some instruction for people who want their Private license. Those planes are usually rentals and instruction provides some more income. That’s it. I’m not dissing the mom and pop school, just explaining what they do.

A few years ago do to a series of events (1500hr rule, age 65, etc) our industry started experiencing a pilot shortage. Right now it’s the worst ever, it’s on the news daily and EVERYONE started thinking “hey I want to be a pilot! I can push the autopilot button and get paid $400k a year! Sign me up”! People started going to their local flight schools and asking what do I need to do? They figured there’s money to be made (and why should ATP be making it all?), let’s create our own program! Now everyone has a Pro Pilot Program, Career Program etc etc etc. Problem is they don’t have the resources. Flying planes again is expensive. You need planes, insurance, instructors, sims, fuel. Can you do it with less? Sure but the student will suffer and they do. I recently met a kid who’s training at a local flight school. He’s up to $25k and still doesn’t have his license. Successful flight training requires consistency and consistency again requires resources. Ask your local school that’s 3min away how many success stories they’ve had? Not to beat a dead horse but again ATP has had 1200 in the last 12 mos and literally thousands over their 35+yrs training pilots for the airlines.

Saving money is great but if it doesn’t get you where you want to go you’ve saved nothing. Further even if you are successful the money you’ll lose by delaying your start will be significantly more than you saved. You say you’d like to go to Spirit. ATP has a program that will give you the opportunity to go straight to Spirit when you reach your 1500hrs. While that’s their minimums trust me, no one is getting hired there with min time without the program.

It’s you choice but Id encourage you to do your research.


Im not opting out of ATP fully I just wanted opinions about the local route. Now I do have an atp close to me maybe an hour away but is in Class B airspace, that’s kind of what put me off originally. Also if i was to go the ATP route would it be okay to knock the written tests out before I go?


I would not let a Class B airspace deter you. If the airspace was prohibitive to training, ATP would not have a location there. Which location are you referring to?

It would be great if you took the written tests before starting flight training, but it is certainly not required and I would not delay a start date for such.


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I’m referring to the KLUK location. I have been studying for a few months now for the written. My main thing is if I go the ATP route I would definitely want to finish paying any debt off I have which I figure I can do within the next two months, then I’ll use my savings to survive during flight school. So by the time I start flight school I’ll be 33.


I wouldn’t let Class B deter me. I’ve always felt the busier the airspace you train in, the better your comm skills will be.

That said KLUK is Class D.


KLUK is itself Class D, but it is underneath the Class B for CVG. This will not be a factor for you.


I trained at the KJQF location which is similar. Class D airspace tucked beneath CLT’s Class B. Your instructor will know how to navigate the airspace easily so the responsibility isn’t on you. It actually provides a wonderful opportunity to learn the differences of navigating it different airspaces. Once you get to the instrument phase, it will provide great practice.



You have lots of time to decide if you want to build time flying part 135 and if you’d rather fly for an LCC vs a regional.

Flight instructing is the best choice, in our opinion. If you are not opposed to instructing you can’t go wrong.

Flying part 135 to build time is a different story altogether. Is it better? In my opinion, no. It’s a means to an end, but the diversity of 135 flying is vast. You need to really be careful with which job you take. Some provide good experience flying IFR. Other 135 jobs treat the FO as a glorified monitoring pilot, assisting the CA on every flight with little opportunity to fly the plane.

That said, some have figured out a way to use 135 as a stepping stone to the airlines. My sim partner flew 135. No regional experience and he is at Alaska now. Technically Alaska is a legacy, but it’s more like an LCC/major. So keep that in mind.

Flying for Spirit is a fine choice so long as you think you will be happy there. Whichever you choose, be it regional to major or LCC to legacy, choose an airline that you think you will enjoy working for because you never know what will happen in this industry. Whichever airline you happen to be flying for when the next downturn happens (one happens on average every 10 years) might be the airline you stay at until you retire.