Real Answers from Real Pilots

Buying a plane to learn on before ATP?

So i’ve recently decided to pursue a career in aviation. Trying to decide if its worth it to try and get my ppl privately before ATP. On a side note curious how I might be losing out by doing so. They say it will take 20k off the total which of coarse is a plus but can easily spend 20k on an alternative course… Decisions
My thought was if I could consider these savings an investment toward a plane? Thought was to buy a little Cessna 150 and hire a cfi looking for work to get hours and take an online ground school. It’s a lot of hoops I know but in the end with the low cost of av fuel I feel like I might be onto something. Then when it comes time to start ATP I can have a much more significant amount of hours experience prior to starting. I also am planning on doing the work at your own pace plan so by having my own plane I’d hope it would be easy to find fellow students/instructors looking to pitch in or offer training for flight time. Long term goal of coarse is to graduate ATP then be cfi at there PNW location or anywhere for that matter and rack up hours in the meantime. Aiming to have closer to 2000 hours before applying anywhere in hopes for a better company. Alaska Airlines would be cool! Not sure if theres much of an organized question in this but I guess if you got time to share your thoughts on this rough plan id very much appreciate it! :pray:

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Jeff,

I hate to break it to you, but you’re not going to find much, if any, support on here in regards to that idea.

We’ve seen people do this. I’ve flown with a few. It’s just not a great idea. The reality is that I have yet to meet a pilot that has done what you’re proposing and thought, “Wow. I wish I had done that.” Nope.

While it MAY save you money in the long run, it may NOT. Planes need maintenance, parts may need to be replaced, avionics may need to be upgraded, and there really is no benefit from learning from the same instructor.

The bottom line is that this is not how airline pilots train. We receive annual training and we see different instructors virtually every time. The fact is that a pilot should be able to demonstrate their abilities to anyone. It’s hard to do that when you’ve only ever flown one way.

My point is, if you want to be an airline pilot, train like one. No need to reinvent the wheel by buying your own plane and hiring a private instructor. Cost savings (maybe) aside, go for quality not quantity. Pick a school that’s right for you with the right track record. Let the school deal with the ins and outs of running the school. This will allow you to just focus on your training.

Tory

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“I have my annual recurrent training (CQ) coming up. This is my sim partner’s first CQ. He is NERVOUS. When I asked him what his background was he said, “I bought my own airplane for my training and then I did pipeline patrol to build time.” He boasted about the ROI he got back after selling the plane. But did I mention he was really nervous about CQ? Wonder why?

I’ve always preached quality over quantity when it comes to flight training. To say that buying a plane with friends is worth it is a stretch. It is and it isn’t. It depends on what you do with it, how you use it, who your instructor is. Until it breaks, which it will. Is it worth it then? You’re stuck on the ground waiting for your plane to get out of the shop while student X is doing laps in the pattern in his school’s 1 of many planes.

Flight training is expensive period. A plane is only as good as the one using it. I’ll take a school with good track record’s plane over my own any day.

Tory”

This was a post from an earlier thread regarding the same topic. I thought this was a great real-world illustration of why he doesn’t think it’s a good idea.

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Makes sense. Im just nervous about being ready for ATP and a bit intimidated by getting back into a school schedule as im very rusty. I am leaning towards just starting 0 with ATP for some of those reasons. Either way I want my own plane and it’s a possibility. Just the thought or maybe illusion of the money saved being better spent since I plan to get one for hour building at some point any way. Especially with the wait times and uncertainty of getting on as a cfi after is iffy…

Jeff,

First off I don’t know who “they” are but there’s no way you’re going to save anywhere near $20k if you get your PPL first. Since ATPs cost difference is only $17 that means you’ll need to find someone to pay you $3,000 to get your PPL.

Can you save a few dollars? Maybe but maybe not you won’t actually know until you try and most find it costs more in the end and I can almost guarantee you it will take longer. I assume you want to do the bulk of your training will ATP because you’ve heard good things about the program. The quality of instruction, the equipment, their reputation and that fact they’ve literally gotten thousands of pilots to the airlines in their 35+ years in business. Do you really think it’s worth possibly saving a few thousand to sacrifice all ATP has to offer? If that’s the case why not do all your training elsewhere? The answer is because you want to be successful and become an airline pilot. Are their cheaper routes?Maybe but there isn’t a better one.

This is your career and your future. Do your research and make a decision based on facts, not simply on what “they” say.

Adam

Agreed. “They” being ATP say on their website that 20k is deducted from their program if you already have your PPL leading me to this idea. Think I’ll just stick with ATP from 0 and figure it out later without skipping steps or inventing new ones. Thanks for keeping it real

Jeff,

They mean IF you already have your PPL.

Adam

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That what I meant. Thinking I’d get PPL first and have a plane for hours but ya I see where that could easily backfire… I’ll stick with quality over quantity for now. Do you go to ATP?

Jeff,

I did about 17yrs ago and also instructed for ATP. I then went to work for ExpressJet (Continental Express) and was a Capt and Instructor. After that I got my dream job at Hawaiian Airlines where I flew the A330 worldwide and am now a B717 Capt and Union Rep and Officer.

Not trying to sell you but honestly none of this would have been possible had I not trained with ATP. I had gotten my PPL locally and it took me far too much time and money. Had I continued down that path eventually I would’ve given up and would most likely still be making pizza, yelling at customers and being a genuinely unhappy unpleasant person instead of the delightful man I am today :slight_smile:

Adam

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That’s awesome man! Thanks again for the advice and sharing your experience which has now been deduced down to wisdom… And ya your alright, don’t care what Tory says about you your alright! :laughing:

Both you and Tory need to think of me as preparation for the old crusty Capt’s you’ll be flying with some day :wink:

Adam

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For the record I have no beef with Adam and I am very proud of how much restraint he has demonstrated these past few years. He may not always say things nice enough for millennials like me, but he’s always right and it comes from a good place. I appreciate that keeps the standard high and this forum would not be nearly as valuable without him.

Tory

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I was only kidding, something I say to my workers on the job site… Really happy I found this group and joined. Been scavenging for information and have gained more from this group in a couple days than I’ve covered in the last month!

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Not even a little beef? :wink:

All kidding aside I appreciate the kind words. You guys are still peckerheads but as Jeff said “you’re alright”. Now enough of the warm fuzzy, makes me feel very uncomfortable.

Adam

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With you? No. Your choice of words? …Maybe :smirk: but I’m just a peckerhead so what do I know?

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Jeff, I wanted to toss a couple thoughts out since I have been a little bit down the road that you are describing. I completed my Private with a club in KC, then Instrument with my preferred instructor in the plane from another (cheaper and better equipped) club in KC. After instrument I bought a high time plane for $15k and built time for commercial with another pilot who was on the same path as me in training. I have also flown with ATP in Arlington, TX after I got my Private when I was considering attending.

I would say the most important thing that I learned along the way is that if you are not in a position to commit the serious funds that are required to attend ATP, then find other like minded people who are serious about training and team up with them to keep one another moving forward and reduce the costs, in particular in simulated IFR… the only real opportunity to “share” costs while both pilots log time during flight training. The other pilot I flew with and I sat down with a spreadsheet and figured the number of hours we needed to fly each week to finish in about the same time as ATP’s program and we got through Commercial in about that amount of time (he stopped working to train, I did not).

As for buying an airplane, don’t do it unless you want to OWN an airplane…one that is most likely a flying antique. There’s a pretty significant difference between piloting an airplane and owning an airplane. The financial reality is that if an engine requires a rebuild, it will cost ~$20-25k even for the 150 you mention. I had several maintenance learning experiences with my plane, and I am glad I owned the plane because I learned a lot, but I would not recommend it as a way of saving money unless you have a partner involved, which shares the risk. I will admit there were times it felt great to think of the last hours just flown as costing only $15/hour (50% of fuel), but then the pitot system starts to leak and the ASI needs replaced and you learn all about what can and cannot be done in a certified (antique!) aircraft. Including the feeling of paying thousands of dollars to replace very inexpensive (but important) tubing!

Anyway, don’t buy a plane unless you want to own a plane, there are plenty of options out there for people that just want to fly planes. I think the hourly costs are likely to end up being similar between renting from an affordable flight club (in my area that was $87/hr wet for a decent IFR w/GPS 172M wet) as owning a plane. Flight clubs can be a great place to train, and many are poorly advertised so you may have to network to find them. In many flight clubs you can fly with their instructors or bring your own. The one I was a part of had an A&PIA founding member and was serious about maintenance. If you buy a plane, stay in a club too… then you can fly when it is down (that is what I did). Another way to fly cheaper is work at an FBO… it is great for networking and they often let you fly for gas which is a serious savings (I did not do this).

As for ATP’s planes, they have nice new well equipped airplanes, for sure! That is part of what you pay for at ATP. But with a personal commitment to not take loans for anything but houses I made the decision to complete training on my own locally in older airplanes (which log exactly the same in my log book), and are also less expensive. I am not sure of the total cost of my training, but it was dramatically less than ATP, definitely less that 50% (even with the costly tubing)… if I recall my calculations right from the past it was ~$25-30k.

I see a lot of posts about ATP vs. mom and pops and the moderators are right that instructors at mom & pops are not typically available full time and scheduling can be an issue at times. But it is also good to know that the factors which slow training down at mom & pops diminish significantly after private pilot certification. At this point you have more independence and the most inhibiting factor is weather, which affects all training equally. As for local PPL training, I’d strongly suggest getting multiple references from former students (ideally those that went on to be CFIs or are professional pilots). New student pilots are not in a great position to make a judgement regarding the quality of the school they are receiving training from. For reference, I’d bet the median cost for a locally acquired PPL is ~$10k (I paid ~$7k but a Cessna certified school will be significantly more than median cost).

In the end, the real factors of success come down to self discipline and motivation. If you are smart about it you can save money without cutting corners and training locally… but it will depend almost entirely on you to make it happen. For some that is a good thing and others can’t handle it.

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Ben,

Forgive me for the knee jerk-like question. I appreciate the insight, but which ratings did you earn in your airplane? $30k is a terrific achievement, but are you comparing apples to apples? ATP includes all three CFI certs and a multi engine (for those that want it which also includes 100 ME time).

Tory

Ben,

If that plan worked for you that’s great. Are you currently working as a pilot?

Adam