Choosing a Flight School


I’m new to the forums and have been reading quite a few of the topics which have been very helpful! I’m juggling quite a few things that are pretty specific to me in my decision making process so I figured I’d start a new thread.

I currently have a great career, however, I’m at a point in my life where I need a change and I have decided to make a career move to commercial aviation. I’m working on getting my PPL and should have that finished in about 2 months. I’m 33 years old so while I know that isn’t too old, I understand that I need to start working towards my 1500 hours pretty aggressively as I’m not exactly the ideal age to begin this career. That is why the Airline Career Pilot Program at ATP is very attractive to me, however, there are a few factors in my life that make this challenging.

  1. I will be newly married by the time I start the program and the closest location is 3 hours away. While not ideal to spend a ton of time away from my better half, she is very supportive so I don’t anticipate that to be a major problem. That said, I’m curious how others in similar situations have done. Since you have to be available 7 days a week for the program, did you find that you had any time to travel home to see your significant other during the course and eventually after becoming a CFI?

  2. This scenario is probably extremely specific to me but I’ll it’s a large factor in my decision making process. My mother passed away earlier this year which is probably playing a large factor in my reassessment of my career and life in general. The reason I bring that up is my dad who is is just almost 70 has decided he wants to thru hike the Israel National Trail which takes about 2 months. I really want to do this with him because I feel it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and at his age I don’t want to say “Hey, I want to do this with you but can we wait 2 years?”. My concern is that if I start the ATP program and finish it, then take 2 and a half months off to hike (due to the hiking season), would I be able to come back and work as a CFI with ATP? I read the job is only guaranteed for a week or two. Would I be better off to wait to start the program and then teach as a CFI all at once? If I choose that route, I would have to wait until May or June of next year to start.

  3. I can get my commercial license through the local school. While not as quickly, I feel I can still complete it reasonably fast as I would plan to quit my job once I started the commercial portion. Training through a program like this would offer me the greatest amount of flexibility and allow me to stay home so that I wouldn’t be separated from my wife. However, I’m concerned about finding a way to build my hours to get to 1500 in a reasonable amount of time as there’s no guarantee I would get hired as an instructor at the local school.

I know there isn’t one correct answer but just curious on how other pilots have navigated similar situations and what some of the consequences of might be of taking a 2 month break after obtaining CFI ratings to come back and instruct.

Thanks for your input.


Hey Mike,

I am new here as well so I can’t really speak to questions 1.

As far as 2: I would suggest waiting until after your hike with your dad. The program will still be here and that sounds important to you. That way it would give you time to stabilize with your new wife and spend that valuable time with your father. Afterward you can focus on the program and transition (hopefully seamlessly) into your new CFI position after completing the program, open positions permitting.


  1. You will have some occasional down time but you need to understand the program is accelerated and does need to be your primary focus. Yes you’ll see your wife but not as often as you both probably would like (it’s only 6mos). Also understand if you choose to instruct with ATP you may or may not get the location you desire.

  2. Go on the trip before or after you start the program. You could apply after you get back but the position is no longer guaranteed.

  3. That’s a legitimate concern. Talk to your local flight schools and see if there are opportunities? Again there’s no guarantee you’d get to stay where you are instructing with ATP either so I check that out either way.



  1. While you won’t be spending as much time with your family as you’d like, there will still be opportunities to see them. I found that I was busier as an instructor than as a student. I saw my family less often as a CFI.

  2. I would go on your trip before starting training, but if you decide to do it after you can apply to teach at ATP by applying the old fashioned way, or you can teach somewhere else.

  3. Nothing wrong with wanting to spend more time with your family. Self-paced programs are good for that. Just know that self-paced programs have pit falls. If you allow it, life will take the place of your training. Your training will be extended beyond what you planned. It will cost more as a result. Make sure you do thorough research before selecting a school and hold yourself accountable because your CFI won’t. It will be up to you to complete your training within a reasonable amount of time.

No. There is no guaranteed CFI job waiting for you at self-paced schools. Plan for the worst. Hope for the best. Talk to the schools. Ask them what their turnover rate is. Figure out what most of your flying will entail. Single engine? Multi? VFR? IFR? Will that be enough? It’s not just about gaining 1500 total time. There are a list of other flight experience requirements within those 1500 hours that can be found in FAR 61.159.


Thanks for the input, everyone!

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Welcome to the forums!

  1. Yes, I was able to sneak home a few times during the program and she came to visit me once. Although none of them were long visits.

  2. You can always reapply to ATP, but there is no guarantee. This is one of those issues where you will have to prioritize for yourself. Beyond that, I think that taking two months off from aviation as a newly minted CFI is a bad idea as your skills will immediately start to fade.

  3. You could apply for a CFI job there or at any other local school. I have to warn you, local schools can be a nightmare. I got my private at one and it was full of absolutely ridiculous delays. Just be careful.