Real Answers from Real Pilots

Experience Level of ATP Instructors

I’m a prospective student who just had my introductory training flight. Had a great experience and am seriously considering ATP but am doing my due diligence researching other schools in my area.

I’ve seen comments online about how all the instructors at ATP are young and just trying to get their hours up (as would I should I go to ATP). I realize most comments/reviews are negative in general for any industry as it takes time to write one, but my questions are: a) are there more experienced instructors at ATP who instruct for a living such as “head instructors;” and b) if not, is there any downside to having such young instructors with not much experience either with actual in-flight instructing or coursework on the ground.

I realize this is an ATP site but am hoping for some context to some negative reviews I have seen. I know that like most things in life you get what you put in, but I’m a bit concerned about not learning from more experienced pilots/instructors and if that would hurt me down the road. For some context I am mid-30s looking for a career change and am looking at the 7-month accelerated program, as my first flight not on a window seat was this week! Thanks for any context anyone can provide.

Blake,

First and foremost, when you’re the largest flight school in the country, training pilots for the airlines for over 35 years, with over 60 locations, hundreds of new aircraft and thousands of grads flying for every airline in the country, people will try and shoot you down. That’s not a commercial, it’s simply a fact.

To answer your question, yes the vast majority of ATPs are newly minted CFIs (which is as you said something you aspire to be some day). Certain locations where they do CFI training will have one or two “senior” instructors. The reason for that is the FAA requires an instructor to have at least 2yrs experience to train someone for their CFI. But if you’re looking for an old crusty, with 20,000hrs you will not find that at ATP. In truth, when I enrolled I had the same concern. When I started I was 39 and my instructor could’ve been my kid. I inquired and was asked to “give him a shot” and once I did I quickly recognized his age (or experience) was not an issue.

The fact is the pilots that will be instructing you have all recently completed the program themselves and that’s a good thing. It’s still fresh in their minds. They were exactly where you were and can relate to the concerns and challenges you’ll be experiencing. Further they’ve all been through extensive standardization training and review and would not be in their position were they not fully qualified. Now are they just there to build time? Of course they are! Very few people dream of being flight instructors, they want to be airline pilots. I know I did! Didn’t make me a bad instructor. These new guys also have been trained in the most recent curriculum and know exactly what will be asked and required on a checkride because they just went through it themselves. I instructed for ATP and also for both my Regional and Major airlines and I’ll let you in on something I learned (and was guilty of myself). While there’s no question with time and hours comes experience but it also creates individual preferences, shortcuts and my favorite “technique” and that’s exactly what you don’t want. You want to be instructed based on proven standards and that’s also what your FAA examiner is looking for. Not Ace Wannabes favorite method. The new guy isn’t looking to riff or improvise. He only wants to be safe and improve themself.

Bottomline Blake there will always be naysayers but you can’t really argue with hard facts and figures. The program works and has for decades. None of us on here are salesman. All the mentors are successful grads of the program who are now living the dream as airline pilots. We were all exactly where you are now, trying to find the best path. We all chose ATP and were very happy we did. I encourage you to do your research and welcome you to come back with any and all questions your might have. Browse this forum, there volumes of great questions and answers. If we seem like we’re partial, we are. Again we’re not salesman, we’re just trying to pay it forward. Oh and read everything and anything but do remember we’re talking about the internet. There are flat-earthers, unicorns, mermaids, UFOs and anti-ATP rants and it ain’t all true :wink:

Adam

1 Like

Hi Blake. I just want to share my personal experience on this as someone who did their private at a “mom and pop” and is now at ATP.

I’ve had four instructors so far - three at the local flight school and one at ATP. Every one of them was young (25 or younger… I’m 33). Every one of them was fresh out of training and grinding their 1500 hours. And every one of them was great! They were all pleasant, knew their stuff, and loved flying.

As far as I have seen, the vast majority of instructors everywhere are in a similar position of trying to grind those 1500. There just aren’t that many CFIs out there with tons of experience. It’s not the kind of job that many people seem to stick around at for a long time. My perception is that most instructors with more than 1500 hours become airline pilots! There are exceptions, of course, and maybe you get lucky and end up with a really experienced instructor outside of ATP, but more likely you will forego the advantages of ATP only to find your instructor is still young/less experienced and grinding out those hours.

Remember that the bigger variable in the success of your flight training is YOU. The standards are very clear on what you need to know and be able to do, and ultimately your effort will determine if you know and can do those things. You can always seek outside resources if you need more help with something.

Lastly, I want to share that the one time I did fly with a highly-experienced CFI for a mock checkride, it was one of my worst training experiences. He was not pleasant, and very particular about HIS way of doing things. He told me several things that blatantly contradicted information from the official FAA materials. I would choose any of my less experienced instructors over him any day of the week.

Good luck on your journey!

-Noah

Thanks for those responses. I’ve worked in marketing the past 10 years so definitely realize the motivation to write a negative review is much stronger than that to write a positive one. It makes sense someone who recently completed their training would be able to better relate and teach to someone going through it themselves.

Like I mentioned, just doing my due diligence but I’m leaning strongly towards ADP for many of the reasons you two mentioned. I had a great experience with my intro flight and the CFI answered my looong list of questions kindly and professionally.

Blake,

Yes, there are some instructors at ATP who are more experienced than others and for whatever personal reasons, have chosen to stay at ATP. That being said, the vast majority of your instructors will be new pilots that are looking to build time to get to the airlines, just like you will be. I for one think that is a good thing. New instructors tend to be the most current on rules and regulations and often bring much enthusiasm to the job. All of my instructors were new pilots and I thought they were by and large great guys to work with. I was once a brand new instructor and I know I worked extra hard to make sure my students got the best education possible.

As for reviews, please check out the section that this post is in, the “Student Experiences” section. All of the reviews and experiences are from current or former students and we never edit the section.

Chris

Blake,

My cousin asked me if I would teach his buddy how to fly. I’m a current Airline pilot, CFI/MEI/CFII… & I told him no. Why?
Because although I am way more “experienced” than ATP’s Instructors, I am not currently proficient in flight instructing. I try to fly GA airplanes every month to stay proficient & my Instructor certificates are valid, but I would not feel comfortable instructing a student at this time.

Every new instructor will have a month or 2 where they are figuring out their teaching style and also what works best for different students, but its picked up quick; and they know what needs to be done because they just learned it and fly those planes every day.

I worked at ATP, Wayman Aviation, and instructed as a contract CFI in south FL. I can attest that how old someone is, or even how long they have been instructing, does not correlate to how good of a teacher they will be.

If you can afford ATP and want to get your ratings in under a year, ATP is a solid choice.

Goodluck,
Chris F.