Is ATP Best Option for me?

I’ve been reading over the posts the last couple of weeks and trying to figure out what’s best for me. I’ll be turning 37 this year in June and have seen that my age is not an overly huge deal with current supply and demand. Of course, like everyone I don’t want to repost what’s already been covered, but I think its inevitable with the amount of posts and information on this forum over time.

Currently I work at a heavy-duty truck dealership as CFO, I’ve been working here since high school while I got my bachelor’s in accounting and Master’s in business. (Full time work and Full time School) so definitely not afraid of a busy schedule. I could very well do what I do for the rest of my working years as I do have perfect work/life balance, but the thing is I’m getting bored with the monotony. Learning new things is what drives me and my fascination with planes and flying is what has led me here.

Being from Oshkosh, WI we have the annual EAA fly-in that occurs in July, most locals hate it because of the traffic it brings to the city, but I’ve always loved going to watch the air shows and walking around to look at all the cool aviation products.

I’ve been in commercial planes traveling of course and 1 single engine plane skydiving always glued to the window looking at the sites. First step was taking the introductory flight to see if flying is the vision I had in my head. I did that one month ago out of the ATP Milwaukee location and yeah…flying was Sweet!

Moving On…

My first hang-up is going from the top of a company to the bottom of the bucket with everything being based on Seniority through the commercial route, with that being said I did a local search and noticed there are a lot of pilot jobs in my area, more than I would’ve ever thought.

So my first question is why go commercial versus flying for a charter or a local company, is it all just because of pay and benefits? Regardless of whatever route someone goes, you need those hours.

Second question, I had no idea my intro flight would count as one hour, given I didn’t take off or land the aircraft. Reading the forum, the best way to build time is becoming a CFI, what are other viable options and what all counts? I’m assuming the CFI got to log that same hour

Third Question, I still have many. Do all the pilot mentors on here just fly the commercial aircrafts for their jobs. Or do you have family aircrafts or hobby planes? I don’t come from an aviation family nor do I know any pilots, everything is brand new to me.

My ultimate goal here is to fly planes large or small, for me and where I’m at in my life, convenience will take precedence over money but you still need experience and hours before you can land any jobs.

That’s why I believe I should just go through ATP and see where it goes vs local flight al la carte schools. Maybe I’m wrong, which is why I’m starting a discussion. If I do attend it’ll be in the new Ft Myers location in January.


Welcome to the forum. Let’s get to your questions:

  1. You will find that those local jobs will not pay nearly as well as the airline jobs do, nor will they have the scheduling stability and predictability of an airline job. If you do not mind those two things, then they might be appealing to you.

  2. Other options available to build time are flying banners, traffic watch, flying parachute jumpers, bush jobs in Alaska, etc. While those can all be great jobs, they tend to all involve visual flying, whereas being an instructor, especially at a large school like ATP, will involve much instrument work, which is exactly the kind of flying you will be doing at the airlines. This is one of the reasons that we always recommend the instructing route. It keeps you in the instrument flying mindset and is a great way to solidify your skills.

  3. I do not fly general aviation at all, I am not sure about the others and will let them chime in on that. I find that I am spoiled at the airlines by having every piece of technology possible available to me, combined with a big, powerful airplane. I personally have no desire to go fly smaller airplanes on my days off, but many pilots do.

I got my private at a local school, it was a disaster. It took way longer and cost much more than I thought it would. Smaller flight schools can be fine out producing private pilots or maybe even instrument pilots, but they usually start to break down when it comes to commercial, CFI, etc, they are just not equipped to handle the demands of training a professional pilot.

Please let us know what other questions you may have.



  1. Like it or not, right or wrong, flying for the airlines (particularly the Majors) is the pinnacle of this industry. Yes the pay and benefits are great (nothing wrong with getting paid really well to fly around the world), but it’s much more than that. We get to fly some very impressive equipment and carry the responsibility of hundreds of lives. The job title has tremendous prestige around the globe. During my tenure I’ve met people in virtually every conceivable profession and pay scale (billionaire CEOs, A list actors, Billboard musicians, surgeons, heavy weight attys, etc etc etc) and when they hear you’re an airline Capt, their eyes get very wide and they ALL have questions. Flying to most people is still magic (myself included) and to this day when I see a heavy flying overhead I still think to myself “wow, I do that”. Simply put airline pilot is one of the coolest jobs on the planet and that’s why people aspire to it. Sure there are other gigs but none really come close (at least not to me).

  2. Yes the CFI logged your hour (every one counts). There are of course other jobs but that often depends on your area. If you live by the beach there’s banner towing, near farms cropdusting, near big cities traffic watch. There’s also light cargo and some light corporate as well. Problem is while every hour counts, quantity doesn’t always equal quality. Many pilots get stoked when they land a right seat job in a small jet. Def cooler than instructing but if you’re just loading bags and slinging the gear that really doesn’t do much for your skills. When you build your time up and get hired at jobs requiring those higher time mins (not just the airlines) they’re expecting a high level of skill to go with them. While it’s great getting hired, if you can’t pass training there’s little point. That’s the main reason we stress instructing. There’s noting better to keep you sharp than sitting next to some newbie who’s trying to kill you.

  3. I can’t speak for the others but like Chris it’s been years since I’ve flown recreationally. Honestly flying for the airlines spoils you. My biggest concern is when I’m flying alone I don’t have ATC watching my back and if I do something really stupid and lose my license I lose my job. That said I do know quite a few (brave) airline pilots who still fly GA.

I started a little later than you (at 39) and honestly had no intentions of going to the airlines. I owned a successful business but didn’t really enjoy it. I had gotten my PPL years ago and simply wanted to get the rest of my licenses and ratings and maybe find a part-time gig instructing or doing corporate. I signed up with ATP simply because they had a great reputation and the training I did at my local flight school was way too frustrating. The fine folks at ATP told me I could be an airline pilot (I thought they were blowing smoke and that was part of the pitch) but again they had a tremendous reputation and I wanted to get my training done efficiently. While I was there I saw their instructors getting hired so when I reached the mins I sent my application in, I got a call a week later and the rest is history. My point is regardless of your goal if you want to fly there really is no better route and you’ll never know where it’ll take you.