Real Answers from Real Pilots

Becoming a pilot

Hello everyone! I have a few questions before I make a huge decision. I’m currently 21, turning 22 in may, and I have 2 years of college before deciding college wasn’t the route to go and dropping out. I have always been intrigued with becoming a pilot as my grandfather was a pilot for eastern airlines and his stories encouraged me to give it a shot. I took some lessons to try it out before Covid hit and loved flying! Now I am trying to decide if this is the route I want to continue on. I would love to realize the dream of becoming an airline pilot however I’m conflicted with the current covid climate and taking out a 110k dollar loan to complete my training at ATP. They told me now would be the perfect time because after training and building up my time the climate should be recovering and in need of more pilots. Which sounds great, I’m very dedicated and passionate about completing my training and becoming a pilot but the loan scares the shit out of me. I’ve heard many horror stories with the loan and the last thing that I want is to be left with 110k of debt and nothing to fall back on. ATP has also taken out the guaranteed CFI position out of their program (which may be a good thing because they pay you nickels and dimes for it) so I would be leaving the school with no guaranteed position to acquire my hours in time. My uncle may be able to connect me to a job through his friend flying private jets for clients but that is a maybe. I also know it’s not impossible to find a CFI position or another aviation job that will help me get hours. However it worry’s me not having something concrete or having to pause my flying progression for an extended period of time just to pay off a loan. Any help or thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated, it’s a risk and I’m just trying to outweigh the pros and cons of everything before making the best decision in my life or leaving me in financial jeopardy. Thanks!

I don’t think insurance will like the idea of a 200 hour CPL holder piloting jets just yet (if you plan to defer cfi and etc).

I also had these thoughts when taking out the loan for atp.

I joined at Covid’s peak, with the mindset that when I complete the program, everything will be better.

We’ll, here I am nearing the program’s ending and things still don’t look good. They’re better for sure, but still not at great levels.

If you go through all ratings, and get a CFII+MEI, it will make you very competitive, and I’m sure if you are willing to RELOCATE, and apply everywhere, you will find something. The key thing is that you must be willing to move.

So yeah, I’m planning to either

A) move temporarily for a cfi job, or

B) work any job near home and put my second resume/psychology bachelor’s to good use to pay down the loan, while renting a plane here and there to keep current/profecient. Then get a cfi job when things are better in another year or so.

Thats just my experience
Good luck.


Welcome to the forums. A few things here:

  1. You will absolutely need a degree if you plan on flying for the major airlines and at 21 years old, that should be your goal. One way or another, you will need to finish your degree.

  2. The guaranteed instructor position was a relatively new concept and quite frankly, I am glad it has gone away. ATP seeks to hire the best of its graduates. Do well in the program, mind your manners, be a good pilot and you will have a very decent shot at being an ATP instructor. There is still turnover in the instructor ranks and new positions are being filled.

  3. Yes, the cost of the program is a lot, so is any kind of advanced training. When somebody attends medical school, they are often several times more in debt than this, with no promise of a guaranteed position, the same thing with law school applies. I cannot think of a single profession that guarantees a job after training. The industry has returned to what it always before the shortage, the best pilots will advance while some do not. I like it that way.

  4. I do still think that now is a good time to get into flight training. Yes, Covid has taken longer to go away than we all thought it would, but the vaccine is here and things are turning around. I feel that air travel will rebound and will certainly have done so by the time you are eligible to apply for the airlines.


1 Like