How to make the best use of my time

Hello everyone, I’ve been pouring over this forum for a few days now but I have a few questions I’m hoping to get some clarification on!

First, due to a variety of circumstances I won’t be able to begin my schooling until November which is naturally not entirely ideal, but I want to make the most use of my time between now and then. I know I can take the FAA’s written exams before I start with ATP, would it make sense for me to focus on those over the next ten months so I can get them out of the way? Are they an efficient way for me to ensure I have a lot of knowledge going into the school itself? I know there are also apps such as Sporty’s that I can use to study as well, and I also know ATP’s course is very intensive, so I’d love to be able to go into the school with as much prior knowledge as I can muster considering the substantial time I have to prepare. I have seen that students with start dates get a welcome bundle, but I don’t know if I’m too far out for them to provide me with that just yet. Any suggestions in that regard will be much appreciated!

Second, assuming there are no substantial delays in my actual training, could I actually expect to be able to work for a regional after my 7 months with ATP?

For added context, I currently work for a regional carrier in a corporate role. I haven’t reached out to them about the career change just yet, but I’m hoping it’ll put me in an advantageous position for their cadet program. If anyone has a similar experience I’d love to hear it!

In general, I’m mostly seeking advice on how I can most efficiently utilize the next few months to ensure I’m not only well-prepared for ATP’s course, but also to hopefully be knowledgeable enough that it will make the intensity a little less overwhelming.


First I want to address your second question. You absolutely WILL NOT be flying for a Regional after 7mos of training with ATP (or any other flight school). Airlines in the US legally require at least 1500hrs of flight time in order to obtain your ATP certificate. While you will complete your training and be a licensed Commercial pilot, that license and your hours will not be sufficient to fly for the airlines. Most new grads get jobs flight instructing (for ATP or another school) or find other low time pilot jobs to reach the required mins. This usually takes 1-2yrs depending.

As for the writtens you definitely want to complete as many as you can before you start your training. Thing is the exams expire after 2yrs (if you haven’t taken the associated practical exam). Just make sure you’ll def be able to start in Nov (or close to it) before you start the exams as you don’t want them to expire and have to take them again. We recommend Sportys for the PAR and Sheppard Air for the rest.



The writtens would absolutely be the best course of action for you, keeping in mind the two year time constraint that Adam mentioned. It sounds nuts, but do not focus so much on learning the material as just memorizing it and passing the tests. There will be time to learn the material later, just focus on getting a 90% or better on the exams now.

Most students reach their 1,500 hours of flight time around 24 months after starting training with ATP.



Class dates can fill up so if you’re thinking November to start, that’s 10 months away currently. You can reserve a start date as early as 9 months in advance. To do that, you need to do your intro flight, secure financing and get a first class medical.

Once your start date is reserved, start working on the written exams. 2 years should be plenty of time if you indeed start in November.

If you’re committing a decent amount of time per day, it can take between 2-3 weeks to prepare for each written exam.

Once you start the program, it’s 7 month of getting your ratings and then another year or so of building time (as a CFI or any other flying job) to get to 1500 hours. So plan about 2 years from starting the program to flying at a regional. Check out the ATP website and program timeline page for more details.


Thanks everyone! Based on what I’d heard from others on this forum, I figured getting to a regional would take much more time but the way ATP phrased things made me uncertain. I also didn’t realize they had a timeline - I’ll definitely be checking that out!
I was hoping being able to land a cadet program asap may be able to help me out as well hahah, but it seems either way I’ll need to work on getting a substantial bit of hours under my belt.
I know many folks get those 1500 hours as a CFI, that’s the route I’ve been most drawn to, but easy is it to land a spot as a CFI following flight school?

I appreciate the advice as far as the exams go, I had heard they only last 2 years but I wasn’t sure how big of a factor that would be in regards to when I start my schooling. I’ll work on studying and hopefully take them around this fall before I start classes.

Thanks again for all the great information!


I’m chiming in a bit late. A lot of cadet programs have minimum requirements. I believe the American wholly owned companies like Envoy, Piedmont, and PSA required minimum 500 hours. Frontier also has a new pilot pathway that they have their own requirements. I would recommend checking out the airline you’re interested in, the cadet requirements and prerequesties needed:

CFI is the most common route and if you attend ATP and complete on time and good standing, you are offered a position. Now the location you want, may have a waitlist unless you’re open to any available location. I think it takes a year and half average to acquire the remaining time to reach the 1,500 hour minimum.