Real Answers from Real Pilots

ATP school without CFI

Hi guys, I’m new here. I just want to know if there’s a path to the airlines for someone who does not want to instruct. Is ATP school still interesting without the CFI ratings? What about the total cost? I already know the good things about being able to instruct but not everybody is made for that. Any thoughts? Thks.


Welcome to the forums. ATP does not currently offer it’s programs without the CFI portion. You could call the admissions department and ask though as in the past the program was sometimes offered with the CFIs as a separate add on.

There are other ways to build flight time, including banner towing, traffic watch, parachute jumpers and so forth. The problem with these jobs is that they can be hard to come by and do not provide a steady source of flight hours. Instructing is far and away the best method of building flight time and you will learn so much from it. I wasn’t sure how much I would like it, but I ended up really enjoying it as I got to meet so many interesting people and really learned a lot from them.


Hello Youssef,

It is possible to get to the airlines without instructing but it can be a challenge. The problem is you’ll be a low time Commercial pilot who’ll need to build 1500 hrs (the minimum for the airlines) and there are few jobs other than instructing. There are a few Part 91 commuter or cargo operations that can hire low time pilots but those jobs are few and the demand is high. There’s also traffic watch and banner towing but to build time like that could take forever. Those are the reasons most pilots instruct.

ATP does not offer their Career Pilot Program without the CFI’s but I’m not sure what you mean “still interesting”? I’m also curious what you mean by “not made for that”? While it might not be the most enjoyable flying it is very valuable to build your skills.


Thank you Chris. I’m planning to go visit ATP Tampa this month and I will
see then. I made up my mind and I won’t be instructing. What do you think
about getting experience by flying cargo airlines until 1500h?

I think that you are going to have a difficult time finding a cargo airline to hire you right out of flight school with less than 300 hours of flight time. Ameriflight is one of the cargo airlines that quickly comes to mind, a visit to their website shows that their minimum flight time requirement is 500 hours total time. Wiggins Airways requires 1,200 hours of flight time

There might be some that will hire a 300 hour pilot, but I do not know of them.


You will not be able to sign up for the program without CFI. You will however be able to opt out of the program after finishing the commercial ratings, and get either a refund of $2000 or 15 flight hours for the CFI program. Both are worth much less than having your CFI ratings.
I too had my doubts about flight instruction before I began the program, but as you progress you will see that it is not what you think it is. I actually ended up enjoying it (most of the time:).

Now with regards to going somewhere else for time building, I will just say that most of my buddies that tried it out, came back to flight instructing very quickly. They just weren’t building much time.


Thank you guys. As you said I might change my mind once I start the program. Any info to help me choose which ATP school is the best in the nation as far as new planes and best instructors? I narrowed it down to 4 states. Florida. Texas. Arizona and California. What do you recommend?


All of ATP’s instructors go through the exact same standardization course, so there is no one place where instructors are better than anywhere else. As to the airplanes, you will fly a mix of both older and newer airplanes no matter which location you go to. I personally preferred to fly the 1979 model Seminoles, but they all nice airplanes.

I would recommend picking a location that works best for you, your experience should be similar no matter which location you choose.


The only 2 considerations you should have when choosing which ATP location to go to are personal convenience, and weather. Aircraft and instructors will be the same anywhere you go.

If you don’t mind relocating, I recommend that you choose one of the AZ locations. You will have good flying weather year round.



While having lovely weather is a wonderful thing (I live in Hawaii so I know) there is something to be said for training in not so lovely weather. It’s one thing to log instrument under a hood (vision limiting device) but flying in ACTUAL IMC (instrument meteorological conditions) is a whole other. I’ve flown with new FOs who never saw actual, or ice or big t-storms and you can tell they get a little uncomfortable. Personally I don’t believe the first time you do it shouldn’t be with passengers in the back.


1 Like