Real Answers from Real Pilots

Mechanic ready for a change

I’m 27 years old, I did 6 years army national guard, with 1 deployment as a Blackhawk mechanic 15T. I have a year of college, and I have worked as a mechanic for a Forklift company for years now. I’m tired of it, I risk losing limbs and possibly my life for just dimes on the dollar. I wanted to be a helicopter pilot in the army, and a jet pilot many years before that.
Now I am ready, I plan on selling my home, my belongings, my life. And learning to fly. My goal is to go to atp, complete the 40 hour course and start for a regional such as envoy, or Mesa. And work my way up to a major airline. I plan on attending in the fall of 2018, and instructing until I reach hours.

I have zero flight experience besides riding in the blackhawk UH60s I was repairing. I was injured in 2010 when I was hit by a car on my motorcycle, my leg had multiple surgeries but I have no restrictions and have had no issues with it since my last surgery in 2011. I work on heavy machinery and it’s never been an issue. I really want to know what I need to do, how to prepare, what to expect, and the best route to go. I understand this will take dedication, and studying. I also understand that I should be looking to start online college courses when I become a regional pilot.

The other question I have is about lines like envoy, are there any hidden prerequisites they don’t mention that allow you to advance to American. Can I join envoy, and complete years of flying and advance to American without a degree, I plan on getting one, I just want to pay off any debts before i start one. I am going to work for this, I work my ass off now fixing cars on the side Putting in 70hour weeks. I am doing this no matter what I have to do to get it done.

I know that the actual pilots will chime in at some point with stuff that I miss. But it sounds like you have a decent plan for what you want to do. The only thing missing is your prerequisites for ATP. I’m not sure if it’s fine print or not, but you need either a 2 year degree or your PPL to join ATP. Pretty much to weed out the people that won’t put forth the effort. Technically the major airlines have the same prerequisites as the regional airlines, but not really. You need at minimum a 4 year degree. They won’t even consider you without one. You also need lots of flight hours as a captain. Good news is you can work on your 4 year degree (anything that you want) while you work for a regional. Other than any kind of a degree yet, it sounds like you know how things need to go.

Will atp not even consider me without an associates?

That I am not sure of. I know that they require that or your PPL. Not sure if there is any way around that. The actual pilots may have more insight into that or the nice lady from ATP that posts here from time to time.

I’m in northern Illinois, is there a good place to go to get my PPL, that seems to be the quicker way to get eligible. Not that I’m saying I’m looking for easy, I expect it to be hard but I want to stick to the plan.


Welcome to the forum and thanks for your questions.

With your six years of military experience you should be more than fine to apply to ATP, and you don’t need to get your PPL first. As you mentioned, you will need a degree for the majors, unless you get on at Envoy, PSA or Piedmont and take part in their flow-through to American Airlines. My understanding is that you do not need a degree at all to be part of the flow-through, but make sure to doubt check.

It sounds like you have a pretty good plan. What you should expect is lots of studying and hard work, but it sounds like you are good at that already. I think that your best bet is to go to a fast paced flight school, then work on your degree after you get to the regionals.

Let us know what other questions you have, I look forward to working with you.


Thank you, this was my understanding as well. I will definitely be applying and moving on with my life if I get in to the school. I was not active for the six years but I did serve active time, training and deployment would make up about 2.25 years of active duty, close to 4 of drilling. If the flow through is not garaunteed it will be a matter of time before I acquire my degree at that point so I’ll make it somehow. How soon should I apply if I expect to be going in the fall?


I’m going to assume you mean NEXT Fall 2018 (since it’s already Fall 2017). If that’s the case you have plenty of time, particularly if you are in fact going to sell your home etc and not finance the program. I’d wait till a few months out so you can get access to your training materials and start studying and completing your written exams.

As for the flow-thrus, while they can potential be a good thing keep in mind there’s lots of small print, the biggest being they can be cancelled at any time. What I’m saying is you should plan on getting your degree at some point for certain.


Yes as said in my first post fall 2018 is the plan. However I believe I will be signing my home over to my father who currently rents, or renting it to him. There is not much profit to be made on my house and i would plan on financing the program.

I plan on starting my degree once I hit regional. I was unaware a flow through could be cancelled however. Persueing a degree will always be something in the plan, but I would hope a regional affiliated with a major would hold true to the flow through agreement. Either way, flying regional, or major, I’ll be flying, and that’s a hell of a lot better than what I am doing now, and after my experience with helicopters I’ll be excited to be back in aviation.


It sounds like you have a pretty darn good grasp on all of this. Just stay the course and when you do decide to commit to the training course, make sure to complete all of your written exams before starting, it will make your life so much easier during training.


Will do, I’ll make sure I get my exams out of the way early, I have a lot of time between now and then, a lot of things to get rid of, and a lot to figure out. I appreciate all the input I can get. My grandad flew for eastern airlines for 17 years, before that he flew for the airforce. It was my visit to my grandma for the first time since I saw him on hospice that made it clear of what I need to do and I can’t be happier I’m going for it.

If there is anything else you can tell me that will help, I’m all ears. For now I’d like to look into some reading materials, and even possibly set up a flight simulator to at least get a grasp on the radio communication. Any suggestions?


First the reason I mentioned the not financing was because you were asking how far out to apply. If you will be financing you’ll probably want to start the process sooner since you’ll need to get the loan approved (which from what I hear can be challenging these days).

As for preparation honestly I wouldn’t go crazy and I’m particularly not a fan of the home simulator. While opinions definitely vary on the subject here’s my take. When you set up a basic cockpit with zero flight experience and guidance you’ll without question improvise and develop bad habits. there’s something called “The Law of Primacy” which states what we learn FIRST sticks with us the longest. One of the best aspects of ATP’s program is starting off the right way Day 1. Many pilots come into the program with their PPL’s (which is fine) but those who start with zero have the benefit of not having to unlearn any conflicting information, procedures, techniques etc (plus you instructor will love that factr you won’t be saying "my last instructor told me bla bla bla every 5 minutes). The FAA has many good free publications ( if you want to start learning about aerodynamics, systems etc but again I wouldn’t go crazy. Enjoy your down time because once you start the program it’ll become scarce.


Awesome, I understand completely. That’s very similar to shooting for the military, I went in with no experience and they had me learn “the correct way” and I shot expert. So I hope I can repeat that with flying.

A buddy of mine is interested in the program as well, and I have a question for him. Now to be clear, this guy is by far the smartest guy I know and is what I would say is the closest to a “genius” that I know of. He does not have any schooling past high school, and does not have a PPL. He is willing to get a PPL if it is required but we want to clarify so that he can get an idea of what he needs to accomplish ahead of time. For him is a PPL required, and what else could be suggested for him? Is there a required amount of flight time with a PPL?


Take a look at the admissions requirements:

It says an associate’s, a PPL, or two years of work experience. Have your friend contact the admissions department and talk to them. There should not be any need for him to get a PPL outside of ATP.