ATP start to finish or Part 61 PPL then ATP?


I just recently joined this page as I’ve wanted to be an airline pilot since I took Aerospace classes in high school. I’m currently a senior in college, graduating with my Bachelor’s in the Spring. I intend on using my degree as a fallback option if aviation never worked out for some reason, and also many airlines require a bachelor’s degree. The issue I’m having is whether I should attend my local flight school and get my PPL part 61 first, or do the start to finish program at ATP. The main reason I want to do this is that I want to lower the loan amount and not be as crippled in debt. I would pay my way through part 61 and stay with my parents in the process until I transfer to ATP. I talked with the local flight school, and to get the 78 hours required by ATP to transfer with a PPL, it would cost almost 12k. Yes, I’ve heard of some of the troubles people have had with local flight schools, but the one I would attend has great ratings and very few issues with flight trainers and airplane shortages. I would appreciate any insight on the pros and cons of each decision. Thank you!


My question for you is why did you make the decision to do the majority of your training with ATP? The usual answers are the time frame of the accelerated program, the quality of the training, ATPs reputation in the industry, ATPs airline placements, the list is long. Regardless the the question then becomes why wouldn’t you want to train in that environment from day one? There’s a concept in education called The Law of Primacy which states what we learn first stays with us the longest. All flight training is built one lesson upon the next. The more solid the foundation the stronger pilot you’ll be.

From your post it sounds like your concern is financial which I completely understand. Money is a concern for all of us. The difference between the zero time and PPL credit at ATP is $17k. You say the local school quoted you $12k so we’re talking about $5,000. Definitely not peanuts but we’re also talking about your career here. This is an investment and busting one checkride or taking a year vs 3mos can impact your career. There’s a reason why ATP has literally had thousands of their students hired by the airlines. It’s because they get the job done. I’m not bashing your local school but the fact is there are far more people who have had trouble earning their PPLs locally than haven’t. Local schools simply don’t have the resources (instructors, airplanes, maintenance) to provide you with the consistency you need to be successful. Listen, I tried. I went to one of the top rated schools in the state for my PPL. It took me almost 2yrs and almost double and it wasn’t because I couldn’t fly. It simply didn’t work. Hopefully if you choose that route you’ll be more fortunate.

Those are my thoughts but it’s totally your call.


Hey Adam,

Thank you for reaching out. I see what you mean about the resource deficiency and the time it takes to get a PPL at a local flight school. It’s one of my primary concerns. I’d love to do the ATP start to finish program, but it’s a substantial investment. I’ve done research on the Sallie Mae and Wells Fargo loan financing options as well. I feel like it’s a tradeoff between paying more for a guaranteed path or paying a bit less but not having as much support and path guidance. I am planning on visiting the local flight soon and will take your words of caution whenever I’m surveying their resources and program. The start to finish program is definitely my favorite choice, but we shall see. I very much appreciate your support Adam and I think you guys do a great job here on the forum.



Thank you Jacob and again the choice is yours. I simply wish I had more insight when I started. I wasted wayyyy too much time and money I’ll never recoup.

Feel free to come back should you have more questions. Also here’s a handy dandy list of questions Chris put together when you’re considering flight schools. Might help.



I didn’t think about asking some of these questions. I will without a doubt print out this list and bring it with me whenever I go to the schools. It should be very helpful and point out some of the benefits and flaws in the programs. You’re awesome and thank you again for the help.


Thanks Jacob,

I am awesome! :wink:

All kidding aside it’s our pleasure to help.

Good luck and let us know how you make out.


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