My name is Thomas and I am looking to become a professional pilot. I’m brand new to this industry, I was encouraged to seek out pilot training by a group of pilots I met while delivering them some parts for their fleet. I took my first glider flight with the EAA and it was a fantastic experience. I have a few questions regarding the two flight schools in my area, and a few questions in general about the reality of being a professional pilot. The two schools I’m looking at are Hillsboro Aero Academy (HAA) and the ATP, which I’m sure everyone here is familiar with.
First and foremost, as I’m sure most looking at this industry for the first time will ask about , is cost. ATP quotes a 7 month program for $97,000, and HAA quotes the average cost is $74,000 for the same training. I did note the use of that important word, average, so I’m expecting it to be higher just in case I don’t glean information as quickly as everyone else, but it did get me wondering, why the massive discrepancy in estimated cost? This isn’t including materials, medical exams, tests, etc. That comes out to $108,000 for ATP, and $85,000 for HAA. These are of course just quotes from the company admissions teams.
Second, ATP mentions that some locations like Seattle, require you to already have a PPL to join. I’m curious if anyone has an explanation for this, because the cost seems to be the same. In other words, someone training in Arizona is essentially getting their PPL for free, whereas someone in Seattle is having to pay another company for a PPL, and then join ATP. This seems an awful lot like ATP wanting the lion’s share of money, and wanting to avoid the lion’s share of difficult training. I can’t imagine there’s going to be any more challenging part of training a pilot than the first few months, where you are teaching someone who has never been behind the controls, how to fly safely. If the cost is the same and a PPL seems like it’s around $10,000 to obtain, that also ups ATP to $118,000 and HAA to $85,000 in total. That’s a pretty significant leap in cost. Does their Hillsboro, Oregon, location require a PPL to join the program? Does HAA?
I was told by ATP that I can be employed after 7 months as a flight instructor, but I’m also told that is the most common path and hence, it may take a few months to be hired on. That got me thinking, are there any other low-hour jobs that one can take to earn their way to the airline requirements? For example I’ve seen a few smaller FedEx planes that do local flights. I’m mainly trying to get an understanding for this industry and prepare myself for job hunting. I can afford to be effectively unemployed for 7 months, but the second I graduate, I intend to hunt for work until I start earning a paycheck again. I’m equi-distant from Hillsboro, Troutdale and PDX airports.
I’m told that weekends are off but many students and instructors choose to come in anyway to earn hours faster. I’m happy to do so; does this lower the 7 month timeline, or is this simply milking your time at school for maximum value?
How do simulator hours tally up? Are they just considering extra practice?
What are hours like once you’re at an airline? I see you can only fly 1,000 hours a year, which breaks down to about 19.5 hours a week. How does that shake out in terms of your work schedule? Are you flying one long flight Monday, one long flight Tuesday, and you’re done for the week?
I noticed there are a ton of grants and scholarships out there, but most seem to be very, very specific in their reach. Are there any grants or scholarships that your typical fellow qualifies for? I can afford the training myself, but I’d be in debt for years, and any little bit helps.
Lastly, the big one. Which airline to fly for. This question I’m mainly interested in hearing from senior pilots, and it mainly involves around which airline is going to give me the best top pay and the best benefits to fly for them. I’m not the type to ‘lily hop’ from job to job, but I also don’t want to join Airline X and stick with it for my entire career, if I could have been doing the same job at Airline Y, and earning an extra $70,000 a year.
I know that was a lot. I did warn you I was new! If anyone has any answers, or general advice for a complete novice, or would simply like to share their experiences at one of these schools (or suggest another in the area, I’m pretty centrally located in Portland, Oregon), I’m all ears. Thank you for your time, and fly safe!