Does it make sense to try and get PPL first?

So I’ve been lurking here for a couple months, just trying to digest as much info as I can as I consider making a career change.

Long story short, I’ve always wanted to be a pilot, but had some detours along the way and never really took the time to research options like ATP.

I just turned 38, work as a physical therapist, and unfortunately, still have a significant amount of student debt from that program. I’m also seeing the writing on the wall right now in health care, and am genuinely concerned, that despite the growing demand for PTs, there simply may not be enough reimbursement from insurance to sustain a reasonable QoL in the profession. With that in mind, and with my long-time interest in flying, I’m considering continuing in my current profession to possibly pare down that debt over the next year or two, and attempting to get my PPL on my own in that time. However, I’m still going to owe somewhere in the ballpark of $65-70k by the end of that time.

Did anyone get their PPL prior to joining ATP? Did you find it worthwhile to do so? For those who have completed the program either way, does it make sense to hold off on applying given my above situation, attempting to complete my PPL in that time, or moving forward with an application now to get on the ladder somewhere sooner to progress to the left seat?




Interestingly enough, my brother is a PT.

I got my private prior to joining ATP, it was a disaster. It took twice as long as it should have and cost significantly more than I was quoted. The school only had two airplanes and it seemed like one was always down for maintenance. Could that with a lack of instructor availability and my trying to be a full time college student at the same time and the recipe for delays and cost over runs was perfect.

Two things before you get too far down this road:

  1. If you have not taken an introductory flight, you need to do so. It is one thing to ride in the back of an airliner and quite another to actually fly an airplane. You can do this at any ATP location or just about any flight school.

  2. I would call the admissions department at ATP and ask to talk to Kirk about your financial situation. He can give you a better idea of what kinds if loan payments you would be looking at now, or if you wait to get your PPL and what your eligibility for the loans might be.



Many people come to ATP with their PPLs. I’m very matter of fact on this one. Getting your PPL first will not save you time or money and often results in frustration and added expense. The only reason I ever recommend getting your PPL first is if you’re not 100% sure aviation is for you or you’re not sure you can handle the training. Otherwise why wouldn’t you train with the flight school you’ve selected to do the majority of your training with?


I’ve purchased a discovery flight and am just waiting on scheduling. I had the opportunity to fly a Navy T-34 trainer and got a little stick time in a EA-6B as I was coming up through NROTC, but was prevented from flying for the Navy due to a low back issue. I don’t believe it would keep me from being able to fly commercial, as it was strictly an ejection seat concern. I am deaf in one ear however, so I’m working on getting my 1st class medical exam out of the way before I get too deep down the rabbit hole.

Adam, I think what you’re saying makes sense. I’ll have to follow up with admissions regarding the loan concerns as Chris mentioned.

In the meanwhile, I’ll keep digesting the free ground school stuff I’ve come across, and flying poorly in X Plane 11, haha.

Thanks to both of you for your feedback.