Is it worth going into debt?

Hi my name is Jake burnham. I have always been interested in flying for a career but never knew where to start. I am currently 27 with a degree in construction maintenance working as a journeymen electrician in northern MN. An ad popped up for ATP and now I’m curious. I have a good career, a wife, and a child on the way. would it be worth it to completely start over? If so what’s the right path? Any guidance would be much appreciated. ( I’m sure this is asked a lot)


The first step is what you just did. You clicked on the ad and now you’re asking questions. Nice job!

The second step is you need to take an intro or discovery flight or lesson. I can tell you all about how the industry is booming like never before, salaries and hiring is up, ATP is the greatest flight school on the planet bla bla bla but the fact is if your only exposure to aviation is sitting in the back of a Boeing or Airbus you really don’t know if it’s something you would really enjoy and like to pursue. It’s kind of like watching NFL football and thinking that looks cool! I want to do that! Until you get hit or discover you can’t throw or catch.

After that assuming you do like it its then a matter of choosing a flight school. This is ATPs forum so needless to say we’re all a little partial to ATP. We’re not salesman but we all are successful airline pilots and ATP grads who were exactly where you are right now and after doing our research settled on ATP.

Until then I suggest you visit the FAQ section and the ATP website. There tons of great info. Feel free to come back and ask any and all but above all, GO FLY A PLANE!


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Thanks Adam. I actually have taken a discovery flight but at young age of 16 and it was awesome! But being young and not sure what to do with my life I chose the career I have now. It’s been a good career but I don’t think it’s something I wanna do for the rest of my life, but to change careers is a risk. I make decent money now and little to no debt besides a house and vehicle and not knowing what the future holds in a different career I don’t know what to expect. Like what kind of money will I make? Will I be away from home all the time? Will I be able to work out out of my local airport? Will it be worth it to go 90k in debt? How hard will it be starting at the bottom again?what is the right path to becoming a pilot?

ATP Income timeline breakdown average (roughly).
1st year: $0. Training
2nd year: $35-65k. CFI or low time commercial pilot.
3rd year: $50-100k. Regional or ULCC Airline pay varies widely.
4th-5th year: $80-150k. Way industry is going at moment (can change with recession).
5year on: $100-300k. Possible Legacy

The main difference would be your lifestyle. Current job works 40hrs per week but your home every night and weekend. Airline job you might have more “days off” but will likely not be home every night or have weekends off until being senior in your position / company.

Local airport? Depends what airport. Airlines: Near Major airport, Corporate flying, can be it if smaller airports. Could also commute out of nearby airport to your base.

90k in debt / starting at bottom / right path: Age wise you’re plenty young enough. Family finance wise, you gotta figure out your budget for about $110k for ATP. Right path and budget depend mainly on you. ATP isn’t for everyone (cost, speed, other outside responsibilities, etc).

Do your research.
All the best,
Chris F


Welcome to the forum! If your last intro flight was eleven years ago, then you are certainly due for another one.

To get to some of your questions:

You will be gone from home a significant amount of each month. Take a look at our “Schedules” section to see how much we are on the road. I generally work 15-18 days per month.

To my knowledge there are no airlines based in northern Minnesota. The closest would be any airlines that are based in MSP. Of course you would need to be hired by one of those airlines to be able to be based there.

We cannot answer if it is worth it for you, only you can do that For me, taking out a loan to go to flight school was the best financial decision I ever made, it has paid for itself many times over,

There are many paths that take one to being a pilot, I suggest doing some research on your own and seeing which path appeals to you. Of course we are all ATP grads and believe in their program, hence why we spend time on this website giving out advice.

Take a good look at ATP’s program and some other ones, let us know what questions you have.



  1. The first few years will be lean. Obviously no pay while your training. Second year you’ll be building time. The most common route is instructing which averages about $25-30k, then it’s off to the Regionals. Regional pay is going nuts right now. It’s starting in the $40s but some are offering up to $80k for first year and Capt are well over $100. After about 2-5yrs you could be looking at moving to a Major where the top earners are making $400k+.

  2. Obviously it varies but on the average pilots are gone 15 days a month.

  3. Maybe? IF you get hired by an airline that has a base in your home town AND IF that base isn’t super senior you might be based at home.

  4. As Chris said only you can determine what’s worth what. BUT, if you consider the fact many of the Majors are paying over $100k in hiring and retention bonuses you could pay off the debt in the first couple of years.

  5. Not sure what you mean by hard? As a junior pilot your schedule will be less than desirable and you very well might not be based where you want. For me the fact I was getting paid to do something I loved took away the sting. Will it for you? Only you can answer that.

  6. Find a flight school and train full time.


Thanks guys for the awesome feedback! I will be looking into doing another discovery flight at my local air port. So my local air port is small but the main airline is delta which I’m sure is a harder airline to get hired at?

Pretty sure ups and fedex fly in on the daily


Just because an airline flies into an airport doesn’t make it a base. Also FedEx and UPS are actually tougher to get hired at.

This might help: Airline Domiciles Map / ATP Flight School


Also ATP says it’s a 7 month course how true is that? If so what should a guy expect after completing the course?


Yes it’s true and it’s one of the most attractive aspect of the program. That said it comes with a caveat. The program is not easy. ATP takes what usually takes years and accelerates it into months. The reason for this is not simply to get you out quick, it’s to prepare your for the pace and intensity of actual airline training. The program is so effective that before the 1500hr requirement, ATP grads were able to get reduced hiring mins because the airlines knew the grads were capable of successfully completing their training. It’s not a matter of you “can” complete the program in 7mos, you will.

After training you’ll be a licensed Commercial pilot. The airlines require 1500hrs of flight time (you’ll graduate with about 250). That means you need to build the remaining time. The most common route is flight instructing. Do well in the program and ATP will offer you a position or you’re free to seek other opportunities.

Again I recommend you visit the ATP website and our FAQ section for answers to more commonly asked questions like these.