Real Answers from Real Pilots

ATP CFI Salary

Hey guys,

Current CSA with Horizon Airlines preparing my interview in their Inner Pilot Development Program. Anticipating a start time at ATP in either May or August of this year very excited.

One question that was brought to my attention that I didnt quite no how to answer as I sat down and went over flight training information with my family was about the ATP CFI salary. As we all know, the demand for pilots now is very much present and people have been deterred on a career of aviation because of the astronomical cost associated with flight training. ATP discusses a CFI job with ATP upon completion of their program earning UP TO $42,000 annually. My question is that, with so many individuals choosing to not embark on a career of commercial piloting, who’s even to say that as a CFI we would have a good enough flow of students to teach and reach a salary of $42,000. is my salary with ATP based upon students I instruct or is there other ways to earn money with ATP (Admission, administration, maintenance, etc.) that would allow me to reach set wages?

Alex,

Valid question and as you pointed out ATP clearly states “up to”. Keep in mind ATP is also including Tuition Reimbursement in that $42k figure. Now ATP does a fine job of balancing staffing throughout it’s locations but sure there obviously needs to be students. I believe currently the average instructors are making in the upper $20s- low $30s which is considerably higher than it was when I was instructing. It’s also not bad for what’s essentially an entry level position for a career that can pay over $300k.

Adam

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Alex,

This post should answer your questions:
https://airlinepilot.life/t/how-much-does-a-flight-instructor-earn/8061?source_topic_id=11451

Pay is based on how many hours flown, how many sim lessons conducted, how
many written exams proctored, and how many hours you have when you
interview to receive Tuition Reimbursement.

A CFI’s student load will fluctuate. No one can guarantee you a fixed
salary. Some months you will make less, other months more. My suggestion is
to look at the pay scales in the link above and take the average. Making
ends meet as a CFI can be hard. Sometimes sacrifices have to be made. If
you’re planning on taking out a loan, asking the bank for more money on top
of tuition costs to cover living expenses is always an option.

Tory

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Alex,

Your salary will be based upon the amount of flying that you do. I can assure you though, that ATP is in need of instructors and you will be busy.

Chris

Hey Chris,

Thanks for the quick reply. Going off of your previous statement that ATP is in need of instructors and that I will be busy, I would like to clarify is that for all stations or just some? From my understanding as a CFI at ATP there may come a split in the road where ATP might need me to instruct at a different location than the one I got my training at due to higher demand in some areas. Have you seen a respectable enough stream of students at all locations or just some? I guess what I am asking is will there be a probable possibility that I will need to move once I am a CFI to wherever a trainer is needed? I would like to stick around the Pacific Northwest Area if at all possible as that is where Alaska Air Group is primarily located, the Tacoma and Everett locations are my 1st and 2nd choice training centers

Alex,

ATP now lets New CFIs choose their location, so there is a possibility that you could be at a location that has more than the staffing necessary, meaning less flight hours than if you were at a different location.

While I understand your desire to stay in the Pacific Northwest, doing so because of Alaska Airlines is thinking a bit far ahead. You are lookin at at least six years, and probably ten, before you will even be applying to them.

Chris

Alex,

Normally I don’t get preachy, but hear me out.

You are talking about something you can not control. All you can do is make
a decision, when it is time to cross that bridge, with the information
provided to you at that time. The more flexible you are, the better off you
will be.

When I became a CFI for ATP, I was allowed to provide my preferred
location, Sacramento, but if ATP didn’t need me there, I would be sent to
where I was needed. I got lucky. I got assigned to Sacramento. Great!..Not
so great, actually. I had zero students assigned to me for the first month.
I was able to pick up some flights from other instructors, but it wasn’t
enough. The excitement of being at my preferred location started to wear
off.

An opportunity opened up to fill in for an instructor in Riverside. I took
it immediately. I knew it was only temporary, but the flight time is what
mattered. Two weeks later, I was no longer needed in Riverside. I had the
option to stay, but another opportunity opened up in Hayward (now
Livermore). So I went.

My student load was light, but at least I was able to have a student all to
myself and help them receive their PPL. Shortly after, I got ANOTHER call,
saying that Sacramento was desperate. FINALLY. Leaving my student in
Hayward was bittersweet, but I packed my stuff and relocated to Sac.

I’m done right? I’m in Sac with 3-4 students, flying 70
hours/month…Wrong. Some unexpected events occurred across several
different ATP locations that required ATP to temporarily change their
policies and procedures. ATP was in need of Designated Solo Evaluators. I
was hungry for extra flight time, and I felt like I would be a good
candidate. So, I jumped on it. As I assumed my new role, I started
commuting between Sacramento and Hayward on a weekly basis.

Do you see what I am getting at? Did I know that Sac was going to be slow
in the beginning? Did I know that Riverside was going to need help? Did I
know that I was going to be commuting 2.5 hours one way to help ATP
maintain a safe flight training environment? Absolutely not. But I
recognized the win/win situations that were presented to me as they came
along.

I was lucky enough that I was in a position to capitalize on them. I know
that not everyone is in a situation to be able to do what I did, but for
you and everyone else reading, just something to think about. Your
preferences may change over time. Your main focus should be to provide
quality and safe instruction in the quickest time possible to launch you
into the career that you always wanted.

Tory

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In your experience and opinion, have you seen or heard of ATP instructors not getting 1500 hours in 2 years? If so, is that rare? I don’t have any preferred location. I just want to be a good pilot, fly a lot, and share my passion for flying—not to mention fly for the airlines.

I only know of one other instructor. It took them 2.5 years. Everyone else
I’ve met has been able to reach 1500 in less than 2 years.

Tory

Hey Tory,

Thank you for sharing that, I feel like that was the insight I was looking for. My next question to you would be during your time as a CFI when you were moving location to location to meet students, was ATP able to accomadate your housing? on their website they speak of offered housing at certain locations. I would think it would make life with ATP as a CFI very difficult if you not only had to relocate frequently but also had to find housing frequently too. I am in my early 20s with very few other obligations besides flying so I don’t mind necessarly relocating frequently, Im just worried that I will have to figure out a new housing arrangement every time I leave

Thanks Again

Hey Alex,

Yes. ATP offers discounted housing for CFIs. All I had to do was contact
the Housing Coordinator and notify them that I would be relocating. Airfare
was also covered by ATP. So was a rental car when I was in Riverside.

Tory

2 Likes

Hi Adam,
I have to share something with you that I have noticed. Now, I am not certain how far removed you are from your time at ATP, but I venture to guess it has been awhile. I have noticed in several posts, including this one, you mention how much better things are now than when you went through. I can appreciate that you are attempting to offer some perspective to those who may only see things one way, and perhaps in a negative light. Shedding perspective can help some through those inner concerns.
However, it can also be discouraging. I get it, things are better than they were, but that doesn’t mean they are great, especially in comparison to things like cost of living hikes, medical insurance premiums going up, a poor (but improving) job market, etc… One cannot deny the level of sacrifice embarking on this career requires, and we should all be made abreast of it. But offering “it’s better than it was” advice leads me to question if that’s the only positive light you can shed on a situation, and that can be scary.
Please don’t misunderstand, I don’t mean to be critical or belittle your contribution. I have benefited with many others from your experience and advice. But perhaps sharing some positive thought rather than less-negative thought would be helpful.

Respectfully!!
Rich

2 Likes

Richard,

While I understand what you’re saying the reality is things are pretty great right now compared to when I started. Now if you’re saying that you find it discouraging that I’m not telling EVERYONE to dive in the water’s great and you’ll be a Capt flying a 777 to NRT making $300k in no time then I’m sorry but that’s not going to happen. I believe in honesty and I believe that anyone who’s entertaining a career in aviation should do so with their eyes wide open. This is not an easy career, not everyone who decides to be a pilot is successful and this industry as a whole can be very volatile at times. What I am saying is 15yrs ago when Chris and I went through our training pilots were sacrificing chickens and light candles HOPING and PRAYING just to get an interview at a Regional, ANY REGIONAL. And IF (and that’s a BIG IF) you were fortunate enough to get a call the interview was a BEAR and more pilots than not got the “thanks but no thanks” that same day. Speeding tickets? Gone! Busted checkrides? Bye! There was one pilot in my interview group that was immediately sent home because he handed in his paperwork and 2 of the documents were in the wrong order. All for a job that paid $18k a year. NO sign on bonuses, no tuition reimbursements, no retention bonuses, no travel or health benefits for 6 mos AND no $40k base salary. Has the cost of living increased since then? Sure, but it hasn’t tripled and salaries have (btw the cost of training wasn’t much lower than it is now either). With all that those of us with the desire sucked it up and went for it. Is it perfect now? No but the fact is if you’re successful in your training and have a clean record you WILL get a job, and one that pays a livable wage, so yea, things are ALOT better than they were. Again if you want me to tell you all you need is $70k and ATP will make you an airline pilot I’m sorry but the reality is not everyone can or should be. If you find that discouraging then honestly you might want to consider a different career.

Adam

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I think that what often gets lost in these discussions is that a CFI is essentially an apprentice and a regional FO is an entry level position into the airlines, the salaries can only be so high. Pilots in these positions are not bringing the skills and knowledge to the table that experienced airline pilots are, so salaries will be lower. That being said, I think new hire, regional FO pay is pretty darn good these days.

Chris

Adam,
No, I’m not discouraged at all. I have weighed all the options, the great level of sacrifice, and the potential outcomes. I have determined to move forward in my career, and to give my best effort. If I give my best and fail, so be it. If I succeed, even better.
What I am saying is right now is a good time to get going, and there are more reasons to consider this career than just being better than it was 15 years ago. An honest evaluation says yes, “income will not look good at the beginning, so assess your finances accordingly before embarking. Here are some ideas to do that…a,b.c.”.
I have to believe that everyone here is searching for information and answers. I am also not naive to think that everyone hear has given the consideration due thought. This is a big life decision, and it is nice when career professional share tangible advice, more than just the “it’s better than it was”.
Now, don’t misunderstand. I am hugely appreciative of much of your advice. You have a very straightforward,call it as it is mindset. I like that. I just don’t see much value in comparing to times of old as reasons for or against making a decision to move forward. It is an apples and oranges comparison. As you’ve stated, the industry is ever changing and could implode with something like a 9/11. No guarantees. How it is now will be different than 15 years from now.
No harm done here. And if my decision rested solely on advice on this forum, I would doing myself a huge dis-service.
One more time, hear me when I say I am not criticizing, only offering perspective as a user of the forum.

Regards,
Rich

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Rich,

Not sure you’re hearing me but that’s fine. Let’s just agree to disagree. Peace out :slight_smile:

Adam

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The pay scales are posted here for ATP CFIs: https://atpflightschool.com/airline-career-pilot-program/guaranteed-cfi-job.html

I would plan on flying around 75-80 hours per month.

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Beautiful, thank you kindly…

It should also be noted that you are not forced to accept a job with ATP. If you don’t like their pay structure, or find a job you’d rather have - there’s nothing stopping you.

'Merica.

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