Real Answers from Real Pilots

ATP Debt

Good morning everyone,

I am currently looking forward to beginning flight school within the next two months. However, there are a couple of questions I would like to hear opinions about from different people.

Would you guys recommend getting my PPL on my own (to save up some money!), and then proceed with the rest of the training with ATP or should I start with ATP from zero all the way to commercial? Also, I am fully aware of the additional costs that flight school may imply. That being said, I am kind of worried that a salary as a CFI won’t be enough to cover the monthly payments. I have heard that there are some options to postpone the payment or at least get a lower monthly payment until you reach 1500 hours and become a regional airline pilot, is that correct?


First, the only reason I would get my PPL locally is if you’re not 100% certain this is what you want to do. If that’s the case then sure, get your feet wet and do some training locally until you are sure, maybe up to your PPL. The 2 things to keep in mind are a) despite what you might think, it’s not really going to save you any money and more important b) there obviously a reason you’ve decided ATP is the right school and path for your career, why would you want to begin and do the foundation of your training somewhere else. Wouldn’t you want to begin I the right foot with ATP methods and practices you’ll be using throughout your training? I would.

Next yes, it can be tough for some making the tuition payments but you do have some options. First sacrifice and budget is key. Next yes you can defer (I did). While you will build more interest sometimes your have to do what you have to do. Finally provided you do well and accept an offer from a Regional partner you may be eligible for Tuition Reimbursement which will help tremendously.


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I got my private pilot license at a small, local school. It was nearly a disaster. My CFI only wanted to work week days, the school had two airplanes and it seemed like one of them was always down. I had to schedule lessons weeks in advance, only to have them cancelled at the last minute. What should have taken six months took well over a year.

Keep in mind that if you do get your PPL outside of ATP, you will still need to start ATP’s program with 78 hours of flight time, with eight of those hours being cross country time. This is to meet other requirements for later in the program.


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