ATP 18 Year Old

Hi, my son was planning on attending a residential commercial aviation collegiate program but has now found out that he is waitlisted for a prerequisite class because the school seems to have overbooked new students and can’t handle the amount of students who want to become pilots. He is finishing his PPL now locally and was planning on starting his aviation degree this fall. With the waitlist he won’t fly for a full year which is obviously less than ideal. In addition, they have very limited spots for students to get their CFI and CFII. Not sure how they expect students who don’t get into the CFI and CFII class to actually get their CFI and CFII ratings (I am waiting on their response). If students do get into the CFI and CFII class, they are expected to become a CFI at the airport near the school.

All of these factors are leading me to consider ATP as a viable alternative wherein my son would attend ATP as an 18 year old, work as a CFI until he hits 1,500 hours and then apply to regionals. After being hired by a regional, the plan would be for him to take online courses to get his Bachelor’s degree. I son is very focused, disciplined and also very responsible. My question is what are your opinions on the viability of this program for an 18 year old? Is it doable? An ATP rep said there is an 84% success rate for ATP’s fast track program. Any thoughts on the success rate % for an 18 year old? Are there other 18 year olds that any of you have known of that have succeeded? Failed? I do love all that ATP offers and we have a site next to our house so he could live at home for the parts of the training where that is possible understanding he will have to go away for CFI Academy and possibly other parts and may move for a good CFI position where weather is most accommodating. Looking for guidance, thoughts. At a crossroads here…



For many years ATP wouldn’t accept anyone as a student unless they either had a degree, military or comparable work experience. The reason was many 18yo simply lacked the maturity to really buckle down and complete the accelerated program which I promise you will be more challenging then anything he’s done to date. A few years back they made the decision to be more flexible and accept younger students with less “life” experience on a case by case basis (having his PPL will definitely help) because there are 18yo who are capable. Is your son one of them? Obviously I have no clue to who your son is as a person, his work ethic or his level of maturity. That said I have to be honest, you say your son is dedicated, responsible, etc, yet you’re the one on this site asking the questions for him? That doesn’t scream maturity for me and again that’s a requirement for success. This is not a criticism, just an observation. I have 3 grown children and their maturity levels are very different.

Personally Ive seen it go both ways and this is a decision only you and your son can make. If you truly feel he’s up for the task then it’s definitely possible but you both need to be very honest about who he is and what he’s capable of right now.



Whether your son is ready or not, something to keep in mind is the timeline of his training. He could be done with all his ratings in 5 months, and completing 1500 hours within a 1-1.5 years. Two years from right now, (depending on when his birthday is) he would be about 20 years old. He wouldn’t even be eligible for a Restricted ATP certificate until he is 21. He needs to hold an ATP to work for a regional airline and as a First Officer only. He wouldn’t be eligible for an unrestricted ATP to allow him to upgrade to Captain or apply for major airlines until 23.

Due to these age restrictions plus the maturity and study skills that comes from the college experience, we typically recommend he pursue at least some college first. He could get his associates degree and start ATP with two years of college experience. Then finish just those last two years while at a regional. With this plan he would be starting ATP at 20, at a regional by 22. It will take more than a year to accrue the hours required to be eligible for a captain upgrade. By the time he does, he will be 23 and able to secure an unrestricted ATP.

Review the link below for more information on the R-ATP vs ATP requirements:



ATP can absolutly be done at 18! I’m currently in the program and started just before my 20th birthday. I’ll be honest, it is a lot of work. I came into ATP already having my bachelors’ so I’m used to accelerated learning but ATP will stretch anyone to a new limit. If your son is disciplined (I mean able to study 10-12 hours on the regular) he’ll probably do quite well. I’ve seen instructors younger that I already through the program and building hours. Personally, I’m a fan of getting at least two years of college out of the way first but that is in no way necessary.


Ok, so trying to understand the realities of both the collegiate route vs. the ATP route via Andrew’s scenario.

Andrew turned 18 in May of 2022. He will have his PPL in July 2022 and holds a 1st class medical already.

ATP flight school route:
August 2022 Start ATP Fast Track

February 2023 Finish ATP Fast Track (allowing for some weather, etc.)
March 2023 Begin working as a CFI
March 2025 Finish CFI work with 1,500 hours (this allows 2 years to accrue the CFI hours needed which should be more than enough time)
May 2025 (Turns 21, but since he didn’t go to a collegiate program or military he isn’t eligible for a R-ATP and has to wait 2 years to be eligible for his ATP so can’t apply to a regional for 2 years and isn’t flying as a CFI since he completed his hours so what does he do at that point for 2 years?)

Collegiate Route:
August 2022 begin collegiate Aviation program (I know people on this message board advise against an aviation degree for lack of a backup plan but it is the degree he wants and he could pursue an aviation mechanic degree in 1 additional year if things don’t work out as a pilot for whatever reason.
December 2024 Finishes year round collegiate program in 28 total months with @ all his ratings and certificates and @ 250 hours of flight time
January 2025 begins work as a CFI (possibly at the airport affiliated with the university in Virginia but if not there, where should he go in the country and with what flight school to give him @ 75 hours of flight time/month?
November 2025 completes 750 CFI hours for a total of 1,000 flight hours at the age of 21 1/2 years old and applies to regional airlines with an R-ATP qualifying him to fly as a co-pilot until he earns his full ATP at age 23

December 2025 and beyond (hired hopefully by a regional)
May 2027 turns 23 and earns his ATP and works his way up to Captain at a regional

May 2030 turns 26 Hired by a Major with 4 1/2 years experience at a regional???

I know nothing is guaranteed, far from it, and anything can happen but having a plan is key at least, so help me think this through and let me know what I am missing in the above scenario, please as it looks like at his current age, 18, the collegiate route is best for him based on the rules about not being hired by a regional until age 23 with ATP whereas the ability to be hired by a regional at age 21 exists if he goes the collegiate route. Thanks, all.


Your ATP route is incorrect. Whether he goes the collegiate route or not, he can still get his R-ATP (1500 for ATP, 1,000 for an approved BS degree program, AND fly for a Regional at 21. The only difference is the hour requirement. Either way he can’t get his unrestricted ATP till 23 as that is the min age regardless of anything.


Ok. Thanks. I see now that at age 21 he can have his R-ATP with 1,500 hours and no college, no military. Question now is if he goes the collegiate route where can he go in the country and with what flight school to accrue @ 60-75 flight hours/month as a CFI? Are there realistic opportunities to get hired by a flight school and accrue 60-75 hours/month as a CFI beginning January 2025? I am assuming ATP only hires ATP flight school grads as CFI’s as opposed to collegiate aviation grads, right? The college does hire collegiate grads as CFI’s but they have limited spots available and it is Virginia where winter weather will be an obstacle to accruing 60-75 CFI hours/month beginning in January 2025.


No one can tell you for certain what CFI positions will or will not be available in 2025. That’s said you are correct, ATP only hires their own students (which is more than fair) and has been doing so consistently and steadily for over 35yrs. That was one of the main reasons I chose ATP. I recognized getting trained was only part of the equation, you need to build the time which the vast majority of schools (collegiate or otherwise) really can’t promise. While ATP does not guarantee an instructor position (frankly not everyone should be an instructor), with 70 locations the odds are far far better if he qualifies for one he’ll get it.

The other thing Id just like to throw into the conversation is the degree itself. While I’m certain you’re son is certain this is what he wants to do, he is 18 and sometimes things change. The airlines neither desire or require an aviation degree and should his situation change (either by choice or circumstance), there’s not a whole lot you can do with an aviation degree. It’s always good to have a plan B.



If you and your son want the most efficient path to becoming an airline pilot, here it is:

We recommend he get his associates after graduating high school. If possible, a college with in-state tuition, or community college to keep the cost low. He should major in something generic but useful like business, finance, IT, etc. Something that will provide job opportunities outside of aviation in case of future furloughs that way he has a back up plan. Then start ATP fast track credit private at 20. He’ll be done in 5 months, instructing to build time and has the opportunity to join cadet programs and collect tuition reimbursement to pay off his loan. Once at a regional at 22, he can complete the last two years of his degree to have a bachelors when applying for the majors.

Everyone’s situation is different and you can adjust how you like however, this plan checks every box. He will be younger than most but still old enough that there won’t be any delays on getting his ATP. He will have some college experience to help him with the rigors of the program but doesn’t delay a full four years. He’ll have a degree that provides a plan B. Doing flight school with ATP provides an efficient training footprint, high likelihood for an instructing job and pathway programs to secure conditional employment with airlines upon reaching 1500 hours.