Final questions Before I Start

So I’m finally ready to select a start date with ATP to become a commercial pilot! I’m 27 with no flight experience beyond as a passenger. I’ve owned a couple businesses with one still going. (Just to give you perspective of myself)

I got my first class medical in hand, approved for the loan, etc. I just have some final questions:

  1. With the tuition reimbursement, I understand it’s given as $5 extra per flight hour up to a total of 11k. Does this extra payment go DIRECTLY to my loan? Or does it just get added to my paycheck and get taxed?

  2. as of now, I plan to fly for a regional and then a major. However, I’m wondering if in this industry if there is such a thing as picking up “odd jobs” without committing to a company. For example, once I become a CFI for ATP, is it still possible to find random “one off” flight jobs? I like the idea of doing a bunch of different types of jobs to expose myself to more things, places, people and planes. This way I can learn what kind of flying i truly enjoy. It seems like a fun thing to do single-pilot jobs and accomplish new jobs. I suppose similar to a charter pilot… Wondering if this is an actual thing or not.

  3. I know this topic has been covered over this forum and all over the internet, but I want as many pilots perspectives as possible: what are your thoughts on fully automated flights? On one hand, I can’t imagine it happening soon with the Union and FAA hurdles… on the other, I can’t imagine it NOT happening… it is one of my biggest fears with this endeavor. I work my way up the next 5 years or so and then in 10 years from now things start to dramatically change. There may be a pilot shortage right now, but what if automation just kills everything?

  4. I hear a lot of negativity about being a pilot being boring or that you’re just a “glorified bus driver”. While I don’t agree with that, I want to know what you guys think as far as being bored. It’s getting up to crusing altitude that makes me wondering if it gets boring. A bit of bordem I don’t mind, but if it’s CONSTANT and the minutes and hours just drag EVERY flight… that could make things challenging for me.

Thanks in advance for all your time!



Before we get to your questions you say you have “no flight experience beyond as a passenger”, that is something you need to remedy. First ATP will not allow you to enroll without an intro flight at a minimum. Second I cannot understand how anyone can take out a $70k loan and dive into this headfirst without seeing if it is in fact something you enjoy, can handle, makes you ill etc. So before you take another step you really need to fly. Ok questions:

  1. If you take Tuition Reimbursement and have a loan the airline will pay it directly to the lender removing any tax liability. You can choose to take the money yourself but then you will be taxed.

  2. The short answer is no. If your an instructor for ATP you cannot work any other jobs (flying or otherwise). ATP instructors are required to give their students the same full-time attention I’m sure you expect yourself. Beyond that once you get to an airline ALL have clauses that say any additional flying must be approved. Most won’t since there are regs saying how much flying a pilot can do and they don’t want that interfering with your primary responsibility to the airline. Also keep in mind while many pilots entertain the idea of “other” flying you have only one license and if you get a violation flying a Cessna that can and will effect your entire career.

  3. Answered many times. The consensus is its not going to happen but if it does its obviously a problem. Of ALL the concerns for this career (fuel prices, terrorism, the economy, mergers, washing out of training, never making it to a Major etc etc) that would be very low on my list.

  4. This is totally subjective and varies for all pilots. When I flew for the Regionals I was always engaged. When I got to my Major flying long haul I was bored out of my mind. Now I fly interisland and love it. For others it’s the complete opposite. Everyone is different.



Let’s get to your questions:

  1. Tuition reimbursement is paid directly to your lender and is thus usually considered to be tax free.

  2. As an ATP instructor, you will simply not have time to do any extra flying on the side. Plus, your students will be counting on you to be available to them full time and you need to be able to meet that expectation. At an airline, you will be prohibited from doing any outside flying for compensation There are FAA rules that govern how much flying you can do on a commercial basis and the airlines expect all of that time to be available to them.

  3. I really don’t see automation as being a threat, or even going to a single pilot concept. We can’t get cars or trains to effectively drive themselves, let alone airplanes. That hype is blown way out of proportion and usually comes from some Popular Mechanics writer that has no idea what they are writing about.

  4. I love my job and very rarely find myself being bored. Each flight brings with it a new set of challenges and opportunities to learn. Sure, some of the longer flights can be less work, but they also involve things like oceanic clearances, position plotting, etc. It really is what you make of it.

Let us know what other questions you have and when you pick a start date.



Thank you for your thorough and quick response! I have taken my intro flight and really loved it! I’ve been up in small planes a couple of times through family members for fun but I meant I do not have my private license or actual experience in command of the plane beyond what was given to me during the intro. I LOVE the technical side of flying. I love the hands on, planning, calculations, learning, weather, etc.

As far as the odd jobs go, I should have said INSTEAD of being a CFI or being a regional
pilot. There is a guy that goes by “steveo1kenivo” on YouTube and he seems to fly solo in a TBM quite a lot and I wonder how people like him come across these unique pilot jobs.

My intro flight was extremely fun but I do recognize being a regional or major pilot would be quite different than flying a Cessna. But that’s something I’ll need to discover about myself!

Edit: also note that I am not at all a person that does soemthing on impulse. I’ve been researching and contemplating making this life change for 8 months now. Talking to as many people as I can to the point where I’m sure I’ve annoyed the hell out of them. Jumping into this is a great risk for me for several reasons: the loan of course, knowing if I’ll love doing it long terms, etc. but it seems like most people don’t really know that they love it until they actually start doing it so I’ve decided to just do it after weighing the pros and cons and contemplating it for a long time and much thought.


Thank you for the quick response!

Glad to know I can pay off my loan directly with that reimbursement and avoid taxes.

Thank you for your view on the “Bordem” and automation topics. Really makes me feel better. It would be such an odd world to live in where the career/job of being a pilot is a thing of the past.

I know the aviation industry is MASSIVE and I just wonder how one discovers if they should do the regional/major airline thing or if you can pick up odd jobs and maybe even corporate/charter gigs to discover what area I’d enjoy before going to the regional/major route. There are a LOT of planes that seem like fun to fly and experience with new tasks, passengers, desitionations and I just want to figure out how to experience as much of it as possible. So if the ability exists to pick up random and unique flights, that would be really cool. But again, not sure if that exists.

I’m sure some of my questions are completely redundant or ignorant as I have not been exposed to the technical nuances of this industry.

I find that the people that pick up off flying jobs instead of going to the airlines usually stay in those odd jobs for their entire career. While a TBM is a cool airplane, it is never going to get you to a major airline and will result in a career that can literally be worth several million dollars less than an airline career.


There other flying jobs out there but they can be hard to come by. As you said you’ve seen a post from ONE guy who flies a TBM vs the over 500 ATP grads in the last 12 mos who ALL flight instructed. There are other jobs out there, it’s a matter of finding the proverbial “needle”.


Ah! Ok so it seems like it’s a pretty uncommon thing. That answers that then! Thank you!!

I’m calling ATP tomorrow to decide my start date!

Thanks again for your help!

Ok thank you Chris! I’ll be choosing my start date tomorrow!


Anytime. I will be curious to hear what your start date is.

Steve-o had a video not too long ago that talked about how he got the gig he has. I believe he was an instructor prior. There are people/jobs out there that will take you as SIC or even as a “safety pilot”, but you have to be very connected and they don’t pay well if at all. Usually people do them as a way to build time for free. Had my 2nd CFI fly a lobbyist around in his own SR22 that he didn’t know how to fly yet. Had my 3rd CFI fly a Pilatus for a few well off private owners as SIC but neither made much of anything at all. I don’t get the aversion people have to instructing. You LEARN more about the subject matter yourself when you teach than anything … trust me it’s proven.

Sergey, I can’t speak for everyone obviously, but for me personally - instructing worries me because I have no say-so in who I’m stuck in a plane with for a couple hundred hours over the course of several months.

Let’s face it, not everyone is as cool as Adam, and I’ve seen first hand the number of odd-balls that are drawn to aviation. First and foremost, I want flying to be enjoyable - even when it’s “work.” Being stuck in a small plane with someone who is negative, won’t listen, or, for a lack of better description is just down right annoying, kinda sucks to think about. :wink:

Ah ok! I’ll go back and review more of his videos. Just watching him fly and seeing all the instruments, what his does and his “office view” is very motivating/inspiring.

So I take it you are/have been a CFI? What did you think of it? Is it really as easy as: 9 months of training then 1.5-2 years of CFI job then regional? It sounds almost too good to be true. I hear more about how people fly for free and how hard it is to build hours so working as a CFI and make low 30s high 20s doesn’t seem TOO bad when you consider some PAY to build hours…
Granted, I understand it’s a LOT of work, but to me, sounds quite fun! But I’m skeptical because building those 1500 hours is the hardest (it seems) to the flight career goal…

Never thought about that… so when you’re a CFI, you’re stuck with whoever you’re stuck with… are you with them through their entire training? Do you have just one or multiple students?


When you get to the airlines you will have zero say about who you fly with. You learn to make the most of any situation, I would start applying that to my flying at a very early stage of my career as it is something you will need to get used to.


I hear you and understand where you’re coming from completely. My first CFI I’ve ever had was very selective about his students because he was doing it as a hobby and didn’t feel like dealing with unmotivated students. Or dangerous ones for that matter… He had a choice, but most of us won’t. I am not trying to dismiss your point of view at all. That being said, I see everything you just mentioned as an opportunity to learn yourself:

  1. Learning the material that you’ve last seen 9-12 months ago, but which WILL show up on your interview with the regional (you think your writtens were all you had to study for?)
  2. Learning CRM and being the PIC — managing the flight and crew
  3. Learning to stay ahead of the aircraft and student —emergencies and incidents happen in professional flying too. You start learning how to always be ahead of the power curve in primary flight training but since you don’t know what the heck you’re about to screw up, you really hone that part of your skill set after a couple of students.

See these things as opportunities… and in the end, remember that your first day as a CFI will be the greatest day in your flying career because it will be the first day someone else would be paying YOU to fly.

Kyle, I am not a CFI and I apologize if anything in my statement led you to believe that I was. I am a late bloomer in the game, but work in aviation doing a lot of consulting that requires me to take very complex concepts and breaking them down to audiences that know nothing about them. Specifically, airspace design, obstacle analysis, instrument procedure design, etc. Think of it as ground instruction for people that have little to no background in aviation. For me it’s a grind and only second best to flying, but I am grateful for the experience and attitude towards work that it gave me.
I was very lucky to have three CFIs with three very different instructional approaches and all three taught me valuable lessons about what to do and what not to do. Additionally, I’ve had a couple small opportunities to introduce people who are not familiar with flying at all to how aircraft operate on an AATD and I enjoyed the experience of watching someone become more comfortable with flying and “get it”.
I for one look forward to all types of flying: CFI, flying jumpers, ferry, safety pilot, whatever. Trust me, you spend years staring at the airplanes in the sky wishing you were there—you’ll cherish the day you get to get paid to do it.

Actually Peter MOST people aren’t as cool as I am :slight_smile: Regardless, seriously if you plan on being an airline pilot you had better get used to the idea of being locked in a cockpit with “odd-balls” and people you just don’t care for. One of the benefits of seniority is being able to fly with people you like BUT until you get there you’ll going to be flying with ALL the rejects. Odd actually isn’t that bad, some are down right mean, nasty, rude, racist, perverted, poor hygiene, slobs, OCD, stupid and just plain crazy! Trust me NO cockpit is big enough for these fools! Just last week…


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I’d call for story time but I know you’re too much of a pro to tell in a public forum. I’ve heard a few stories about “crew discomfort” and the “green apple shuffle”, and those weren’t even related to crew attitudes… It takes all kinds but if the exceptions are too much for some FO to enjoy the benefits of the rule, there’s a line out there to take his or her spot…

Hey Adam, how could slobs and mean, rude people make commercial pilots… I thought they all were professionals and some of the best, clean, polite and intelligent individuals, otherwise how could they have possibly made it in this industry??