I initially posted a thread inspired by my nerves ten days prior to my ATP start date (Now it’s my turn to be nervous), and now that I’ve started, I thought I’d share what it is really like here. This may seem like a lot, but I’ve made a list of things I wish I knew (or knew more) about before arriving.
First, almost no one takes the written tests ahead of time. This forum led me to believe that it was imperative that I take all the written tests before arriving, and since I did not do so, I was extremely nervous immediately before arriving. Potential students relax–it is not at all necessary to take any written exams prior to arriving. Instructors and students alike did not take any writtens prior to arrival. Some people say they worked full-time to save and make up for loss of income, some people had no idea they could take them ahead of time, and a few people cited ATP as the source telling them taking them early was unnecessary. Some of the instructors went through the program when it was six months, and still had plenty of time to study and take the writtens during the program. Like ATP told me when I secured enrollment, the tests, and plenty of time to study for them, are built into the program.
HAVING SAID THAT, potential students be smart: taking the first written test for private pilot is extremely easy to prepare for ahead of time. King Schools provides an awesome test prep course which is built into the cost of the program, and while John and Martha King can be a little goofy at times trying to keep you interested in the material, they certainly get the job done. ATP only requires you complete about half the software prior to arrival, but you might as well go all the way through it if you have the time because it is pretty good prep for the private written. Furthermore, available at no cost is a Sporty’s Pilot Training (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sportys-pilot-training/id1272775528?mt=8) which is highly recommended to prepare for the private written. Although there is no immediate benefit, and taking the tests ahead of time DOES NOT put you ahead of schedule, but if you have the time you might as well take them. One of the instructors put it very well: studying for and taking the written tests is part of the program not because you need the knowledge right then, but because you have to check that box. Your test results are good for two years, which means you have up to two years from your test date to pass the associated check ride without having to test again. No matter when you test, you will still have to study and review that material long after you test because it will be necessary for the associated flights, other lessons, and for the rest of your career.
Second, nine months is a great goal for length of program, but tons of other factors make the program longer. For the most part, weather is the largest deterrent. One of our instructors came from the Tacoma center and said due to weather there, many of those students take almost a year to make it through. Here in Denver, weather is not as large of an obstacle, but we have many students that have failed to study or adequately prepare for check rides and repeatedly busted check rides, and they are taking longer than nine months because they failed to dedicate themselves. One student that just finished did so in eleven months. In some parts of the country, examiner availability is a deterrent, but as you’re approaching check ride readiness, your training center coordinator might be able to arrange for you to be exported to another part of the country to check ride in order to avoid falling behind.
The program is primarily self-study, but not because it has to be. First, there was the online lesson required before you can go on your intro flight. This lesson is very typical of many ATP-designed lessons that are assigned to you after enrollment, and I was very relieved to see I had not been misled there. Upon enrolling, many more lessons became on the ATP website, which coordinate with the flights and lessons throughout the program. While ATP only required about half of the King’s course prior to arrival, my instructor expected it to be complete along with all of the online modules. My instructor started the program when it was still six months, and the self-study bar was much more accelerated. The online modules I have available to me are not very much like the ones he did when he was a student, but I can see the old modules and I can do them if I would like.
Also upon securing enrollment, a much larger set of resources, study material, and program information is made available for you. The day I enrolled, every single lesson, check ride, evaluation flight, and expectation that can be tied to a date was. I know it’s a basic template for the entire duration of the program simply laid on top of my personal timeline, but it outlined expectations for progress over the next nine months. I know that if I stay on track I will complete the program on August 30, 2019, and that was incredibly relieving. I initially thought there was a great lack of information available before enrollment, and that lack of information almost made me choose another flight school entirely, but now I can see that I’m in good hands.
ATP’s entire public-facing website sounds like one big sales pitch, and this forum wasn’t much different. There are some flight instructors that don’t really endorse ATP’s approach or methods and they don’t usually abide by the dress code, even though they were students in this exact same program. While those instructors exist, getting to know someone who drinks the kool-aid and buys into the ATP approach does makes a huge difference. Christine, one of our lead instructors, very much believes in this program and is committed to making sure the students here in Denver receive what ATP promised.
I have no question, I just wanted to share a few things I’ve learned since starting, hoping my perspective might help potential students have a more accurate idea of what they might encounter.