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.


Hi Chris, and any other pilot mentors! My name is Emily, I’m new to this website, so bear with me. I’m not sure how to write a new post, so just replying here. I’m 35 years old, planning to start my PPL next spring in Omaha then hopefully transition to ATP in St. Paul, MN. I don’t really want to waste time and I already have 2 bachelor’s degrees so is ATP my best/most efficient option? There is a flight school here in Omaha (but I like that ATP has pathway programs with Endeavor, Skywest, etc). I would like to do the Endeavor pathway program if possible and work my way back to Delta. I used to work on the ramp in Mpls and wish in hind sight I would’ve pursued becoming a pilot while I still worked for DL—don’t think I’m eligible for the Delta Propel Program now. Being 35yo, do you think it’s possible to get back to Delta as a 737 FO by 45yo? Or a little earlier? Could I get 20(+) years of a mainline career? Am I too old to be pursuing this? Thanks for your insight!


I’m going to start by apologizing as I express my frustration but I don’t know where everybody got the idea that 35 is old to fly? The actually average age when most pilots start training is 33 so your only 2yrs behind the average. We have people asking the age question daily and most of them are in their 40s, 50s and even 60s. For many of them its not going to happen or they need to seriously manage their expectations. At 35 you do not, provided you get moving. Ok not that I’m done ranting, on to your questions.

While they’re are no guarantees the answer to most of them is yes. Yes you should be able to get onto one of the Delta Regionals and have a pathway to Delta mainline. Yes you can potentially have a 20+yr career at DAL. You’re 35, if you start training soon WITH ATP that’s 2.5 for training and time building, another 4-5 at the Regional puts you at Delta (conservatively) by 43-44, that leaves you with 20+ and a good chance of even getting hired onto the 737. Easy.

All of this of course is contingent on you starting sooner than later. It also means not getting your PPL elsewhere (I’m not certain why you want to?) as that’s incredibly inefficient and will most likely cost you time and money you don’t need to waste. It’s also obviously contigent on you doing well and being successful in your training, which is not a given (and having a clean record). If however you’re willing to put in the work its definitely possible.



I got my PPL outside of ATP, it was a horrible experience. It took way longer than it should have, cost significantly more than I was quoted and I had to unlearn a bunch of bad habits when I got to ATP. If you are serious about being a pilot, you should give very serious thought to doing all of your ratings at one place.

As for your age, it is in no way too late, but you need to get moving on it. Seniority is everything at the airlines, the faster you get moving on this, the better of a career you will have. I see no issues of you getting back to Delta, but you need to start soon.



Welcome to the forum. You’ve come to the right place. You’re absolutely not too old. So let’s just get to your questions!

Why are you thinking starting private at a local school and ATP credit private afterwards? The only reason we suggest doing that is if you’re not certain this career is for you. Some people need to dip their toes before committing to the entire flight training profile. However if you’re set on this career and ready to start, jump right in with zero time as soon as possible.



If you’re concerned about the timeframe of reaching a legacy, I would suggest acquiring all of your certificates through ATP, that is of course you can financially do it. Like Hannah said if you’re set on the career and ready, go for it. If you have not yet experienced behind the controls of a small airplane, we recommend taking an introductory flight at a school before making the commitment.

I got my Private Pilot License outside of ATP and it took me 13 months. 3 months I didn’t fly because my local airport shutdown the flight school due to management issues… leaving me to drive an hour one way after work to the nearest flight school. In those 13 months, I could have attended ATP and cut off 4 months getting me to my goal of airline ready almost a year sooner than where I’m positioned. If there was one thing I could go back and do, I’d start sooner.


Hi Hannah!

Thanks so much for your message. Yes, that’s pretty much it for me. I spent a lot of years pursuing a medical career and to my surprise feel dissatisfied/discouraged with where I’m at right now, and what the future looks like in my position. I don’t want to make that mistake again jumping to a completely different career field. I want to, as best I can, be 100% certain aviation is it (before I put down $90k in student loan debt).

There’s an aviation school (Oracle Aviation, OMA) a mile from my apartment that I’m looking into. It sounds like I could get my PPL as fast as I can if I have the time and the money, which for that I do. I don’t currently have the $72-92K for ATP (and I don’t like the interest rate Sallie Mae quoted me).

My hope/goal is to do 6 more mo. of travel nursing, pay off my $69,000 of private student loan debt. Start my PPL in mid May-Jun, finish by Jun-Jul; and then my current lease will be up in Aug, and I can move to Minnesota to start ATP + 100 ME (with hopefully a better Sallie Mae interest rate having my private loans paid off).

Are you happy with your job? Do you have any regrets going into aviation?


I’ll let Hannah answer your questions but just keep in mind to start ATP with credit for your PPL, you’ll need at least 78hrs of flight time. While possible, that could be very challenging to do between May and Aug.


Hi Brady!

Thanks so much for your insight and sharing your experience of your PPL. I just replied to Hannah’s message - basically the financial piece is what I’m trying to boost up before starting ATP (I currently already have $69k of private loan debt and $64k of federal). My goal is to knock my $69K private debt out before ATP.

If I do my PPL here in Omaha, I definitely want to make sure I can get it done quickly and not run into a delay like you had - I’m still looking into the school, it sounds like a good option and only a mile down the road.

Probably the biggest reason I want to get my PPL in Omaha is to make sure this is the path I want to go before starting ATP. And also my apartment lease isn’t up until next Aug, so timeline wise, I think it would work out to do two travel assignments, pay off my private loans, get my PPL, and then be ready to start ATP this next Aug.


Yes! I remember reading that on a different post somewhere- so potentially it would be 60hrs to get my PPL and then fly an additional 18hrs with Oracle Aviation? Or would I fly the 78hrs and then get awarded my PPL certificate? Thanks for your help!

I also stumbled on some info about the written exams somewhere in this forum—is it recommended to have those exams done before ATP?



The average time to earn your PPL is somewhere around 60hrs. Some take less (the min is 40), some take more. Thing is for the program to work your need at least 78 coming in (you’d build that if you did your PPL with ATP) to meet the mins for your Commercial Pilot license. ATP therefore requires your PPL AND 78hrs to get the credit for your PPL so you need to have both boxes checked.

While not required, we strongly recommend taking some (or all 6) of the required FAA Knowledge exams. Understand the program is highly accelerated and many find it very challenging. By completing the written exams you’re lightening the work load considerably. While I know many successful students who did not, all day they wish they had.



Thanks so much for this info! I will look at it and start getting prepped for the knowledge exam portion. How do people take these 6 exams if they’ve never had any instrument training, etc before? Is there a class(es) you take before these exams, or where do we learn the information that we’ll be tested on?

Thanks for your help!! :slight_smile:

Rote Memorization.

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You might be surprised in that those interest rates might not go down that much when you pay your other loans off. Remember, these are unsecured loans and as such, the interest rates will be higher. Also, while you are waiting for lower rates, interest rates as a whole are going up. The fed just raised rates .75% today and that is likely to increase.



First off, sorry for the late reply. I have been in recurrent training the last few days and just catching back up.

I love my job. Does it come with highs and lows? Absolutely. Getting through training is always hard. Then you start building time and 1500 hours seems like years away. Then you get hired by a regional and feel on top of the world, finally made it. Then you get out in the line and on reserve with a crappy schedule. But hey you’re still flying jets for a living. It is all perspective. If you love what you do, you put up with the lows knowing it’s worth it. Then when you get to the highs you’re like, “I get paid to do this, I’m lucky.”

I have no regrets about my aviation journey so far. For what has been within my control, I feel like I made the best decisions I could. I wish the Covid year didn’t happen and I was a year farther along in the 121 world, but that year set everyone back. When you decide this is the career for you, jump in feet first. If you can get the loan now, start now. You’ll never have enough money or enough time. If you can get approved for financing start now. Seniority is everything and even a 9 month delay is hundreds if not a thousand seniority numbers. That’s quality of life and job security.


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Thanks so much for your thoughts and advice, I really appreciate it! I definitely agree and think if you love your job the lows are worth it. And I remember a Delta pilot saying “my job is my hobby, that’s the best job in the world.” I love flying [as a passenger], and think I would love it behind the controls in the cockpit too. When flying for regionals or for mainline, how difficult is it to balance being active with your flight schedule? I’m a runner and love being active outside, and lifting weights. One of the things draining me with 12hr shifts as a nurse right now is struggling to have time to run everyday. As a pilot, is there enough time in a work schedule to get a workout in each day? Do you know any pilots who also do triathlons? I’ve been wondering how being physically active fits into a flight/work schedule? Thanks for your thoughts!

Also, it’s nice to hear you have no regrets about your aviation journey. I have a friend/college teammate who went from teaching to aviation—now 737 pilot for Delta, also says he has no regrets making the switch.


I know MANY pilots who compete in marathons, triathlons, CrossFit events, Spartan races, etc etc etc. One of the pilots I fly with has won the Iron Man in Kona and another is one of the top outrigger paddlers in the World.

Like anything else, if you have the desire you will make the time.


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The hotel gyms may not be adequate, if so you may want to consider purchasing day passes at a gym near the hotel. Whichever airline you end up flying for they may also have a fitness program. At my airline, for $25/mo I can become a member at any major gym nationwide.


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