Real Answers from Real Pilots

Considering becoming an airline pilot

Good Afternoon,

My name is Gabby Maramara and I’m 20 years old. I’ve always found an interest in flying, but never saw aviation as a career until recently. I went to one year of college at a university and can’t find exactly what it is I want to do, so I took time off. I’ve done some research about what is required to become an airline pilot, but I’m much more of a visual/hands on learner. Do you have any suggestions as to which schools I should visit? I’m not sure how open a lot of them are about tours and giving out information until I’ve applied. I want to call but I have no idea which questions to ask. Any help would be great.


Good afternoon Gabby (actually it’s morning here in Oahu but whatever),

As for what schools to check out that really depends on your goals (both long and short term) and priorities? Are you looking to stay close to home? Are you looking to continue working on your degree? There are a few aviation specific universities and many others that offer aviation degrees and training. There are also aviation academies (like ATP) who’s sole purpose is training you for a career as an airline pilot. ATP is very an excellent route (and the one I chose) but you need a degree or your Private Pilot’s license before you can attend. Then there’s always your local flight school where you can go and get your feet wet before you fully commit. If you’ve never been up in a small plane and taken a lesson I STRONGLY recommend you do before you do anything else. Many people think flying is cool (it is) but if you’ve never been up in a small plane (no going to grandma’s in the back of a 737 doesn’t count) you really don’t know if you’ll like it or have any aptitude for it. Flying isn’t rocket science but it does require a certain level of skill and knowledge.

All schools generally welcome visitors and I encourage you to do some Googling until you get an idea of the questions you need to ask.


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Here is a list of questions that I put together for use when interviewing any flight school. This might help get you started, you can check it out here: Questions For Any Prospective Flight School


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You said above that you have to already posess a private pilot license to attend ATP? Is there any way to obtain that throught them as well? Also, after their training, how long did it take to get a job?

Thank you, Aurora


To clarify, you need two years of college or equivalent work experience, or a Private Pilot license to enroll at ATP. ATP does offer PPL, it is part of the Airline Career Pilot Program and many students take part in the program.

The answer for Adam and I on how long it took to get a job with the airlines after training will not be reflective of today’s environment because the FAA regulations were different a few years ago. But to answer your question, I flight instructed for a year before I was hired by ExpressJet. In today’s environment I would expect to flight instruct for about a year and a half before moving onto the airlines.



The average time it takes nowadays to obtain the time requirement (1500hrs) is between a year (if you really work hard) and up to 2-2.5 years (if you decide to take it easy).

I got in and out in just under 13 months.


Hi Yarden,

13 months for me sounds amazing for getting 1500 hours from the time you started. I remember reading somewhere that you instructed at ATP at Mesa, which I hear is a very busy location for ATP. Will it be faster to hit 1500 hours at a busier location, like Mesa?

I live in the DC area so PHX is quite far away from me, but if it gives me the opportunity to get done faster, I might consider attending ATP in PHX.

Hey Eric,

Definitely recommend PHX if you are in it to win it. :wink:

I started flight training in October 2014, and PHX allowed me to train through the winter without any delays. (I think I only had to cancel 1 flight due to frost on the wings on an early morning flight in early January)
I finished in April 2015, went to JAX for a few weeks of standardization, and came back to instruct in June, 2 months later. Although the heat can be tough sometimes in the summer, the weather in PHX allowed me to get in and get out in the minimal amount of time. But I will also add that I rarely took weekends off, always made sure that I have a full load of students on my schedule, and pretty much always volunteered to pick up extra flying from other instructors, so I wasn’t exactly the usual case.
The average time it takes an instructor to build time at KIWA is roughly 18 months.


Thanks for the detail, Yarden. I’m absolutely going to consider training in PHX.

One more question for you. If I am to finish building time early (let’s say 13 months from the start of training, as with your case), even though that’s probably an optimistic number for most people. If I were to interview with an airline in the tuition reimbursement program at 300-500 hours, and end up reaching 1500 hours within the following 8 months, let’s say, would you still be stuck with waiting until you reach 2 years with ATP to begin training at the airline, or would they take you earlier since you reached flight minimums? I don’t know if you’re assigned the class date right after you pass the interview so that’s why I ask.

Thanks again.


There is no minimum time that you need to flight instruct in the tuition reimbursement program. The payment is by the flight hour, so the more you fly, they more you get payed. Once you are at the airline though, the payments come in with time (monthly) instead.
Once you pass the interview and receive a conditional job offer, the airline usually gives you a few class dates to choose from. Since you will be pretty far away still, it will be a tentative date and you will be able to adjust it as you progress with hours.

There is a minimum flight time in the Tuition Reimbursement program, only
25 hours a month. This is typically no problem for ATP instructors since
they work full time with students who are full-time flight students. ATP
works to get a student / instructor ratio that will give instructors the
opportunity to fly 80 - 100 hours a month.

Danielle Calnin

Airline Transport Professionals - ATP
Office 904-595-7989

Hi, I am from Costa Rica and I have 16 years old, I really want to be a international airline pilot so I am thinking to study in ATP Flight School, I want to know what kind of visa I need to study at United States, I already have a visa.:airplane:


Not sure about visa requirements but more important is a background check and clearance from the TSA. Here’s a link for more information:



You would also need to look into the International Flight Program that is offered at ATP. It requires you have an M-1 student visa for training.




Kevin here from Manila, Philippines. Is the Airline Sponsored Career track available for international students?


Hi Kevin,

There is an International Airline Career Pilot program but it is not “sponcered” by any airline. For more info check here:


oh i see. what’s the difference between the FAA track from the FAA plus EASA Conversion?

The FAA track is for foreign students who want to work in the USA. The EASA conversion is required if you want to work for a European carrier.


I asked a question earlier about the salary of a regional airline pilot. Some further questions I have are, is the same license required for a regional airline as is a bigger airline? And what is the maximum and starting out price for a professional airline?