From 1st Officer at sea to potential Pilot Trainee

Good day all,

Brand new to the forum but I’ve been reading through many articles of stories and advice for sometime and it’s been a huge help so thank you all, especially to the mentors for that. Your time is appreciated!

So, it seems that this late in life decision to change careers isn’t as rare an occurrence as I initially thought, having just read another “Going for it at 41” post.

I’m actually a 32 yr old 1st Officer for a Major Cruise line, originally from the UK, I now live in the U.S as a dual citizen with my wife and 2 girls. Unfortunately, the U.S in all its glory is one of the few countries that does not accept foreign mariner licenses (a fact I was unaware of when I initially made the move) which in turn has caused me so much trouble that I am struggling to find work within the U.S (as I’d like to not be away on cruise ships for months at a time).

So, my wife and I took a step back and thought, what other career provides a stable income, travel, good benefits, and training that is feasible within a short span of time… and I’ve ended up seriously considering enrolling in ATP and changing my career path.

I had a few questions if someone would be so kind -

I’ve seen many say it is possible but I did wonder to what extent, is Captain of a major airline an acceptable goal?

Regarding finances, I understand that the rewards can be quite substantial later down the career path but I’m having some concerns in the meantime. Could anyone provide some insight on potential income while 1, obtaining the 1500hrs, whether as CFI or another source, and 2, as new hire to a regional airline?

Essentially, I’m going from a decent salary to essentially unpaid while I complete the training to a low salary after and I’m concerned about “surviving” until the paycheck starts to increase with company/rank/experience, so any insight into that would be really appreciated.

Lastly and feel free to laugh as it makes me. I’ve always thought flying was an incredible thing, however, finding myself stuffed into economy I’ve never been a happy flyer. I personally put it down to my parents, both of who hated flying and would always be incredibly nervous on trips, along with not knowing anything about how the aircraft operates and also not being in control.

With that in mind, am I mad to then consider taking a career in flight? Has anyone else experienced flying jitters and if so how/did you overcome it?

Sorry for the long post - really appreciate any insight anyone can offer!



First and foremost (as always) I recommend you visit our FAQ section as we answer many common questions like some of the ones you’ve asked. That said here’s a few quick answers:

  1. Provided you’ve got a clean record and a 4yr degree, yes Capt at a Major is a very obtainable goal.

  2. While training: zero income, while instructing mid-$20k, Regional FO pay hi $30k to low $40s (plus bonuses). Regional Capt pay after 2-3yrs hi $70k-lo $80k.

  3. Personally I HATE being a passenger but it’s never made me anxious or scared. If this is a concern (which it should me) I wouldn’t spend another minute pondering a career in flying until you take an intro flight or lesson. Flying in a small training aircraft is literally as different from flying on an airliner as taking a cruise vs rowing a dinghy. You may love it but you might not. Better to find out first.



Welcome to the forum.

I think becoming a captain at a major airline is a ver realistic goal for you, provided you check all of the necessary boxes along the way.

There is a post in the FAQ section that details pilot pay, I recommend giving it a read.

I do not enjoy flying as a passenger one bit, but it has never made me nervous. I too would recommend an introductory flight to see how, or if, this affects your flying.

As an aside, the UK in all of its glory is one of the few countries that does not accept US pilot’s licenses, so if you have any desire of returning to the UK to fly, I would not get US licenses.


Chris, Adam,

Thank you for your insight, sorry for the delayed reply, I had a spontaneous trip come up.

Sorry, I should have read the FAQ first, I even hate it when people don’t do that myself, so no idea why it didn’t cross my mind first.

I’ve scheduled the introductory flight as you both recommended. I’m positive with some understanding and a different perspective it’s nothing I can’t overcome if it’s to exist at all. Moreover, I don’t think with the current restrictions I have many choices but to buckle up, get over it and get working hard towards the next goal anyways!

Couple of side questions…

While I am seeing many positives about ATP, I have seen some reviews that put some doubt into my mind if it was the right choice.

Those were mainly focused around some ATP CFI’s, in that they are young, only flown 7 months and then only really care about completing their 1500, and from an “Instructors” standpoint, are not really on par for what you’d expect with a course costing so much…I’ve also seen some say that the 7 months is a lie and it typically takes up to 9 months… do you believe this to be true or have any thoughts on those reviews?

It’s also my understanding some students are young, new to a career-like structure, and opposed to a fast-paced regiment so I take the reviews with a grain of salt. Your combined judgment I however trust.

In your opinion, do you think the 100hr Multi option is worth the additional cost?

Regarding both cost options, it seems many others (that don’t offer a fast-pace structure) are around $40-50k, I guess this question is very subjective, but do you feel the almost double cost at ATP is worth the fast route vs the additional time taken somewhere else?

As always, appreciate your insight,


Great questions Harry so let’s get to it:

  1. First and foremost ATP is not for everybody. I’ve been saying that for years and it hasn’t changed. While most people are capable of learning to fly, the fact is not everyone can or should be an airline pilot. The training is challenging and while it’s not brain surgery, it does require a certain level of intelligence and coordination that not everyone posesses (I would imagine it’s the same in your career. Most people can jump in a 21’ Whaler and go fishing but piloting a cruise ship requires a little bit more). The people that started ATP over 35yrs ago recognized this and created a program that not only trains you to pass your checkrides, but to prepare you for the rigors of airline training. Typically people will go to flight school, at some point their instructor will say “I think you’re ready for your checkride”, many will say "hmmm, I think I need a little more to feel “warm and fuzzy” and your instructor will say sure (and as long as you keep paying) we can take a long as you like. The problem is after having the warm fuzzies you get hired and are told you have 8 weeks to be ready and you will be or you’ll be let go. There is no “I need more time” nor any warm fuzzies and many are unsuccessful. ATPs program mirrors this type of training and its the number one reason people wash out. They simply can’t handle the pace. This is also the reason why long before there was any pilot shortage ATP grads were given preferential interviews and reduced hiring mins (when that was allowed) and literally no other school could claim the same. To get back to your question it’s often difficult for people to admit that they themselves are the problem or are incapable of reaching their goals and its far easier to blame ATP or their instructors. With that in mind I’ll also ask you a question? Is your goal to be a flight instructor? I’m thinking not because in your original post you ask about flying for a Major airline. You too will complete your training and want to start building time immediately (as you’re licensed and qualified to do). Does that mean you’re going to be a lousy instructor? I wasn’t and the vast majority of ATP instructors (and all instructors for that matter) aren’t either. But again it’s easier to blame them then to accept the fact you couldn’t keep up.

  2. If your plan is to go the conventional route of ATP, lousy newbie uncaring flight instructor to build time then off to the Regionals, I’d say save your money and go the standard program. If however you think you might want to fly corporate or try some other method of building time the 100hr ME will make you more marketable. In many cases people who choose this route already know someone with a job waiting which justifies the added cost.

  3. As for other schools you really have to compare apples to apples and that’s often not the case when you see advertised pricing. Often they don’t include all the ratings ATP does or they advertise costs based on the min FAA requirements which is often unrealistic. That said ATP makes no claims of being the cheapest school out there. Personally there are things I’ll go cheap on and others I won’t. Particularly when cheaper still isn’t cheap. What I mean is $40-50k is still alot of money to gamble with. Will you be successful at that school? Maybe. What I know (and what drew me to ATP) was the fact they have been around for decades, are respected throughout the industry (in fact EVERY pilot I know who’s children want to fly sends their own to ATP, incl a very dear friend who was actually a Presidential military pilot) and most important have trained literally thousands of airline pilots over the years. What that said to me is if I’m willing to put in the work, the program does work. It’s proven.



Adam did a great job answering your questions, so I will not bore you with repeating the answers.

One thing I will share with you is that the “Student Experiences” section of this website is completely unedited and contains many different students sharing about their time at ATP. I recommend you give it a read.


Evening Gents,

As always really appreciate the feedback. Super informative Adam!

Your answer is pretty much what I was already assuming regarding the reviews. I’m sure we have both been through similar cadets in our respective careers and so it makes a lot of sense to me. I personally am one who loves a fast-paced style with limited hand-holding but this teaching style is not for everyone. As you said, some just aren’t cut out for it. I guess my primary thinking behind whether or not the reviews had truth to them was that while some students may be excellent pilots, being an excellent teacher requires a completely different set of skills. To some this comes naturally, to others, they may indeed just want the hours.

Nonetheless, you’ve eradicated any doubt that they created so thank you for that.

You’ve also cleared up the 100hr course…well, partially. It seems worthwhile for me given the extent I wish to pursue this career. That said, I don’t know anyone and most definitely will not have a job waiting…

On your final point that makes sense too. While more expensive it also seems the most secure option, some others seem questionable and I’m not sure there is a figure worth the partnership benefits it offers. And as you said, who am I to question a proven program.

Really appreciate all your help so far, great answers!

I’ll stop bugging you for now :slight_smile: and will instead go read the FAQ and Student Experiences - Thanks Chris!


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