Commuting to ATP/Flight Training

Hi Guys,
I’ll do my best to condense the post and clarify the advice I’m seeking. I’m 41 and contemplating a career change to aviation. I’ve been hooked on flying since I was 4-5 years old and my dad let me take the controls of our 175. Fast forward several decades and dad is now a retired SWA Captain, I’m a retired firefighter and have a 5 year old and 2 year old. I have a Bachelor’s from ASU and a Master’s from Grand Canyon. I also have my PPL with just shy of 400 TT-most as PIC in complex aircraft (Bonanza and Navion). I had my instrument written done and never got the rating completed. I haven’t flown in about 10 years (since Dad retired and sold the Bonanza). My kids are amazing and my son is special needs so family relocation for flight school isn’t the best option for us, although wife and I both know relocation may need to happen for a career. I live in Tucson and ATP at Gateway/Mesa is about 1.5 hr drive. My main questions are 1) does the average day allow for an extra 3 hours of drive time? 2) does ATP have an option or parking on the ramp (considering purchasing plane to commute and help accelerate building time)? 3) is the format flexible/tailored as apprehension increases (class time increase/decrease)? I’ve also been a paramedic for 20 years having gone through an accelerated program of 60 credit hours in 6 months…fast paced learning is ingrained in me.

I also saw mentioned in another post the advice to get as many written knowledge tests done before starting…should I be working on getting knowledge tests done in addition to getting re-current?

Tons of great info in all the threads and many of my questions have already been answered!

Thanks, Heath


I think that three hours per day (in good traffic) is pretty significant. I am not saying that it isn’t possible, but that is a lot of time to spend in the car. Some of the days can be pretty long and you might need to be back early the next day, so you could get yourself into a situation where you are spending a lot of time in the car and not having a lot of time at home. Also, that is time that cannot be spend studying, it is simply wasted time. Again, I am not saying that it is not possible, just that I would not recommend it.

You would need to contact the FBOs at Gateway to ask about parking an airplane on the ramp. I would also recommend against commuting via airplane to ATP, the time involved in a flight like that is extensive and there will certainly be times when weather further complicates that flight and possibly prevents you from getting to your lesson on time, or from getting home.

The program has a syllabus and for the most part, it is followed. That being said, your instructor will work with you to make sure that you stay on pace.

I would recommend getting current, which should really only take a few days of flying, then starting on your writtens once you have committed to a class date with ATP. Once you put your deposit down to hold a class date, the material to study for the writtens will be provided to you.

At some point, you should think about moving from Tucson to a base, as you mentioned. Commuting is tough on you, tough on the family and will result in you spending far less time with those two children on yours.



Here goes:

  1. I won’t lie, 1.5hrs is on the longer side for a commute but there are people who’ve done. You will obviously have some very long days. Up to you if you can handle it but again it’s been done. As long as we’re on the subject there will be weeks when you will need to be away from your training location. Both during the X-country time building and CFI school you should count on being away 1.5-2 weeks each.

  2. No. If you were to commute via plane you would have to investigate and secure you’re own tie-down etc.

  3. While I appreciate your confidence, ATPs program is already highly accelerated. You’re talking about years worth of training compressed into 6mos. 6 mos is the program length and that’s how long it will take.

Yes we always encourage people to complete as many writtens as possible prior to their start. As you’re aware the writtens expire in 24mos so as long as you’re certain you’ll be starting and finishing within that time then yes. ATP provides all the training material required once you select a start date and pay your deposit.