Experienced Non-Pilot Aviator Requiring Guidance

Hello all!

This is my first time posting here after reading through several posts while I’m in my research phase. I often find myself committing to things before truly understanding the path and then regretting how I made that decision due to finances, time, or sanity so my hope is to see what my best path forward from where I am now would be.

Some background on myself: I am 28 years old, just finished serving 7 years in the Air Force as a Flying Communications Operator for Air Force 2. I accumulated around 3-4k hours during my time and flew internationally anywhere and everywhere. I loved every moment of that and while I had the dream to be a pilot myself, I found myself sitting jumpseat and thinking this is my passion that isn’t mentally dull or stagnate like sitting in front of a computer for 8 hours a day which is exactly the type of job I have now. It’s a decent job that the non-flying aspect of my career in the Air Force got me but I find myself truly missing flying.

While serving, I accumulated roughly 30 hours and a solo towards my ppl, I then separated in September and have moved to Florida where I have started to finish up my ppl which is taking a bit longer than I hoped for due to my working hours. I do love flying but working 45 hours a week, significantly hampers my attention and speed at which I can keep up.

After coming here, I thought I would really enjoy focusing on flying and flying only and that’s when I found out about these schools like ATP. I’m currently about 9 months from hitting my 1 year mark in Aug '24. I was hoping to line up things as best as I can and see how I would accomplish this.

I have many questions but I will try to consolidate most things. Currently I hold a 3rd class medical, so if I wanted to apply to ATP I assume I will grab my 1st class just before I start applying before committing to it. Also, I would hope to finish my ppl before the application date in '24. Would I be considered in a decent enough position to be accepted then?

As for the short term, I often wonder what is down the road, how are the airline interviews, do I have what it takes, what are some great advice pieces to take with me on the journey?

Lastly, financial… Being separated from military, I have the Montgomery GI bill, I’ve tried researching this, but have found conflicting answer on how I should best use this. I have heard from ATP that they will cover my examiner fees and checkride, but aside from ATP I’m curious if I might be better off without a school and to use my GI to get each cert separately… Some schools say yes it covers all certs after ppl, but then others say it wont cover everything and at most will be 15k covered for the nearly 100k cost to get everything else. On the VA website, all it says is it will cover my certs after ppl. I don’t feel confident I truly understand how much it will cover and if taking a loan and committing to ATP would be a better option. If I do take the ATP option, I would plan for Orlando and just rent out a small apartment if that is the best option.

Also, If there are other options out there for people in my position, I’m open to any ideas!

Apologies for overloading all my questions here, but I figured I might just ask away and see if I can position myself correctly for the upcoming admissions in '24.

Thank you!


There are a few questions buried in there, let’s see if we can sift through and get you some answers.

  1. Interview advice etc. This question would require the entire forum to answer completely (and I recommend you do some browsing on the forum for greater depth). Whether you have what it takes depends on you. Flying isn’t rocket science but it does require some intelligence and coordination. You’ve already soloed so it appears you are capable of learning. The biggest issue most people have is work ethic. People think this is easy. It’s not and requires more time and effort than many are willing to invest. If you are you’ll be successful, if not you won’t. As for the interview it’s really not that scary. You need to understand if you’ve gotten an interview you meet the qualifications. Beyond that it’s a few pilots and HR folks who will simply ask you some questions to try and see if you’re someone who won’t piss others off on the flight deck. As long as you’re record is clean you should be fine. There’s a pilot shortage so getting hired these days is easy getting through training is not. Many washout again because they’re not willing to do the work.

  2. The problem with your VA bennies is they will only pay a certain amount each year. That means an accelerated program won’t work because it won’t cover the cost in a short time. There are of course programs that will but they are forced to extend your training. While I understand and appreciate your desire to have the govt pay the bill, airline pilots are forced to retire at 65. That means you have a finite number of years to fly. Senior Capts at Majors earn $450k plus. Yes you’d save on training but you’d be forfeiting those top earning years to do it. Not to mention delaying seniority which means EVERYTHING at the airlines. Your call but I wouldn’t wait.



Thanks for the quick response.

It does make a lot more sense financially when you put it like that. as for the training, I think if I can go into it with a no fail mentality and have it be 100% my focus, I wouldn’t feel like there is an issue.


It seems like you’re starting off on the right foot so far. This forum is packed with great information from the student experiences section, to the schedules and pretty much FAQ on anything you can imagine along the way.

The fact that you have military experience plus plan on coming in with the PPL you should be alright. Keep in mind though, pilot training is at an all time high demand so class dates are competitive and limited.

Unfortunately as Adam explained, the GA Bill benefits don’t stretch too far here but the examiner fees out of pocket aren’t cheap! At least you’ve got that covered. If you go to schools where you can apply the full benefits to flight ratings, it comes as a trade off for your time. It will likely take much longer and that’s lost seniority and future earnings.


Thanks for the message Hannah,

I agree, pushing for the faster training pipeline looks to be the route I’ll plan for.

If I’m not mistaken the VA will require a degree program along with your flight training. Like Adam said, this will slow down your progress. You might be able to use VRE to get your ratings as well being a somewhat recently separated veteran and forgo the degree requirement.

This forum is great! I’ve been around since 2013-ish, however, go find RTAG (Rotary to Airline Group) on Facebook or their website and read through the pinned posts and multiple threads on how to use your VA Benefits and/or VRE for flight training. It’s a 503C non profit originally started by Army helicopter pilots for helicopter pilots and has transformed into a huge monster for all veterans. You will find the best and most accurate advice about your benefits for flight training from the duty experts because hundreds of them are actively using their benefits to get their certificates. I met with recruiters from Frontier in 2021 and American in 2022 at conventions helping me get to where I wanted to be. Last year I was at the convention doing meet and greets giving the needed advice to applicants to help them get to where I am and where they want to be. It’s a great community of veterans taking care of veterans.

Good luck.