I am in prep for my first solo flight for my PPL at a local Part 141 school. I initially was looking at ATP but was concerned about the full time schedule as I am a working parent. I had also heard you can get pushed into check rides you don’t feel ready for, and I was really nervous about that!
My progress has been so much slower than I anticipated. Part of it has been weather related flight cancellations, but a huge part is plane availability. It’s a busy school and people often book months in advanced. I book as much in advanced as possible, but again–working parent here!
I am thinking about switching over, maybe after I finish my PPL. I am still concerned over the daily schedule requirements but I can figure it out. My two main questions are:
I am hoping to hang out as a CFI for a couple of years. Is there a time limit where ATP wants to send you on your way or can you stay around as long as you like?
Will I really be forced to schedule check rides if I am not feeling ready?
Maybe? As a general rule ATP expects (and most people do) move on as soon as they reach 1500hrs and get hired by a Regional. This of course makes room for another grad who wants to start building time. On occasion ATP may have occasion or need for a 2yr instructor (a requirement to train CFIs) but there’s no guarantee and that’s not at all locations. Not really something you can count on.
Let me clarify this, and it’s important. ATP will not force you to take a checkride you’re not ready for (they can’t make you do anything). They WILL STRONGLY ENCOURAGE you to take a checkride your instructor knows you’re ready for that you might not feel your are. This is at the core of ATPs program. ATP is not simply a flight school. ATP was created by airline pilots to train pilots for the airlines and the program was modeled after actual airline training. The question for you is do you really believe the airlines will wait until you’re warm and fuzzy before they have you take your checkrides? The answer is they absolutely will not. Just like ATP, the day you begin your training at an airline, your checkrides are all scheduled and it’s you to make sure you’re ready. There are no excuses. Its literally sink or swim. While ATP isn’t quite as harsh, they try and create the same environment. You’ll actually have a hard time finding an ATP grad who felt they were 100% ready for every checkride. Frankly if you’re looking for comfortable, warm and fuzzy or someone to hold your hand, ATP probably isn’t for you but then neither are the airlines.
ATP will expect you to move on once you get to 1,500 hours to make room for people behind you.
I have never felt fully ready for any checkride I have taken, to include those that I still have to take today at the airlines. Now clearly I have been ready as I have never failed a checkride, but I have never had that farm fuzzy feeling of “I got this” before hand.
Just to make sure we are one the same page, you still will not be able to work while enrolled at ATP, so if that is your plan, you will need to find a way to wrap up your other career.
The guys answered your questions well. Just a few things I want to add:
Check the student experiences section here. It’s unfiltered posts from student going through the program right now. Maybe this will help you envision what the accelerated program pace is like on the day to day. My concern is that you’re in a very slow pace now and ATP is anything but that. Being a parent is already an extra stressor in your hours available to be studying and training per week. It is doable, but it’s going to be challenging. As Chris said, you’re also going to have to quit your job and go all in.
Once you hit your 1500 hours, you’re going to need to progress somewhere whether it’s an airline or another flying gig. Occasionally there are office positions ATP allows instructors to apply to but you’ll need to vacate a CFI position to allow newly graduated students an opportunity to build time as a CFI. Besides, regional pay is great now. You’re going to want that salary asap.