Hello all, been reading through threads and have enjoyed back and forth. Tried to find one specific to my situation but here goes:
40yrs old, been in sales for a long time and have done very well but the market is shifting and I am also feeling the burn out and wanting something else. The thought of being a commercial pilot just dawned on me so I am in full on (accumulate information mode) and have spent the better part of my day on the ATP site reading EVERYTHING.
From what I gather, the best thing to do is go spend the $195 for a training flight to first, see if this would be something I would enjoy to do. If yes, then it looks like I would essentially have to quit my day job to do the 7mo intensive training and then begin to log 1,500 hours before I would get a crack at a commercial gig? Can anyone estimate a rough timeline on how long all that would take if I was a real grinder? Do I have to pay for flight hours? I think I read that I can instruct (therefore get paid) and work up my hours that way too. So how long would 1,500 hours take? The concern being me ending my income, shelling out the six-figure cost of school and not knowing when I will actually be able to start making a descent living again?
Lastly can anyone throw me some conservative numbers for salary on this path for say year 1 through 5? Looks like the goal would be to get into major airlines over regional.
Welcome any and all wisdom here.
Thank you so much!
Welcome to the forums.
You are correct, an Admissions Flight is one of the first requirements and is really the best way to see if flying airplanes is truly for you. It is one thing to ride in the back of a large jet, it is quite another to take the controls of a small airplane.
Yes, there is a FAA requirement of 1,500 hours of flight time before one can become an airline pilot. The vast majority of pilots build this time via flight instructing. The pay for such is not great, but it is livable and will get you to that magic 1,500 hour mark. It typically takes about two years to build the 1,500 hours.
Check out this link for pilot pay info: What Income Do Pilots Really Earn?
First things first, absolutely go flying! See if you enjoy it and can handle 1500 hours in a small trainer. There has never been a better time to become a pilot. It will take at least two years of sacrifice and hard work but if you make it though to the right seat of a jet, that’s when it really gets good. You could get there by 42 and have 23 years to enjoy your new career.
I’m a little later to the party, but have been chipping away at my dream more slowly by flying my own plane in rural Alaska for the last 20 years. Just about at 1500 hrs now, spitting distance away from commercial license (written done, 9 of the 10 complex time hours done). I’m making a career switch as well and I’ll not have the long runway of a younger version of myself, but I love it, even if it’s only a viable option for 7-8 years.
In order to be eligible for the ATP at 1500 hours you’ll need the commercial multi engine rating. Of course you can do the initial commercial in a multi engine aircraft and knock out two birds with one stone but wanted to make sure you were accounting for that multi time as well.
Finally! Someone who ain’t in a hurry!
Sounds like you’ve done some fun flying and set good expectations! Make sure you are instrument proficient going into training once you get to an airline/professional flying job. That typically is where some people in your position might struggle.
Thank you Chris and Hannah! I toured the ATP flight school near me yesterday and got to ask a lot of questions during my time there. Really appreciated her time and have booked my discovery flight for this Saturday. Hoping weather cooperates!
Would anyone be able to comment on the likelihood of being able to stay put for my pathway into the airlines (regional/major etc)? I am within 45min of Denver and my family has been here for 12 years. Ideally would love to stay put but wonder if I need to prepare them for what a move may look like? I am so new to this, I have no priority for airline so I wonder if I should focus my search more towards the ones that base here solely?
The only time that I would consider late is at the cutoff age for the airlines (if that’s where you seek). What type of flying where you doing in Alaska? From your profile I don’t want to assume bush flying, but it looks like it.
Getting into the training center for a tour is the best start anyone could get that is interested in ATP, firsthand experience (like an admissions flight) and touring can answer a lot of questions that you have.
As per your 45-minute drive, that is an answer only ATP can provide whether you meet the prerequisite:
Adherence to a reasonable commute time from your residence to ATP allowing you to be at the training center daily and available to accept flight training blocks on short notice. This will prepare you for your first job as an airline pilot where you will be scheduled to operate flights at the airline’s discretion.
While we could sit here and say 45 minutes would work, we aren’t the yay/nay to admissions. We always recommend convivence for locations, I would call Admissions and inquire. If you’re not opposed to moving, maybe another area could be beneficial, away from any distractions that could arise. Make a list of pro/cons that you could discuss with yourself and go from there. I chose Trenton, NJ because it was the closest base, great airspace, tight training center family, and closer to home than Florida.
Brady, thanks! I am close to the ATP school (only 15min). My question was more geared towards the likelihood of being able to stay in Denver once I get hired on by an airline? That would be the move I was wondering if I needed to prepare my family for or not… I know Denver is a fairly large hub and has a lot of carriers. I was just trying to predict if anyone thought I would be able to stay here for my career or if it was more likely that we would have to move (or be a commuter)?
There are a lot of factors that could either work in your favor, or against. To say that you will get that location is like saying you’d win the lottery. Everything is based on seniority in the industry, I know a new hire Skywest FO that recently got Denver, they’re from New Jersey. Maybe you’ll get the luck of getting a base out of DEN or you’ll have to commute until your seniority can hold a reserve/line at the desired base.
Denver is a hub base for multiple airlines, check out this webpage ATP provides:
I also live in the Denver area. I believe as of now DEN is a fairly junior base for Skywest but a fairly senior base for the other airlines. Frontier is extremely senior, with the most junior FO being a 2007 hire, last I checked. Yikes! As for United and Southwest, I haven’t been able to find out, but I would guess it’s pretty senior there too. I think Denver is junior for the regionals since the cost of living is so high, but not for the majors. The thing is, base seniority can be subject to rapid change, so unfortunately the current status doesn’t mean much.
All Bush flying. I passed the instrument written a while back but it timed out when I didn’t have the opportunity for flight instruction, I will plug away at both here in the next few months.
I see a very reasonable chance that you could make a career in the Denver area. There are several airlines there with very large presences. Sure, you might have to be based somewhere else for a period while you worked your way back to Denver, but I wold think that you could rather easily get back to Denver some day. Of course there are no promises and your mileage may vary.
The domicile map was posted above. You’ll see how many options you have in the Denver area. You might have a few temporary assignments but if you’re patient, I think you can make a base out of Denver for the long haul.
I’d anticipate potentially instructing at another ATP location (if there aren’t any openings at the time of your program completion). Also when you begin new hire training at a regional or LCC, you might get the assigned the junior base and have to wait for a Denver transfer.
Latest question after doing more research here and likely proceeding in the coming months with my PPL… I have a heightened level of anxiety that I do not want to take a “wrong” first step. My question revolves around going through one of the airline cadet programs (United’s, Delta’s, Southwest’s etc) vs ATP vs smaller flying club? I know these threads are more ATP bias with all the alumni. I have made good connections at the local flying club where I did my disco and they have a ton of planes, CFI’s, mechanics and access to DPE’s. I gather that if I commit 100% to this, I can follow a similar timeline at the local club vs ATP but definitely faster than the cadet programs AND it is more cost effective at the local club (as far as I can tell). By about $15k to $25k depending on all the different options. The anxiety though is, am I shooting myself in the foot or in another way, is it harder to get in with the airlines if I were to go the local route vs one of their streamlined paths?
Another thought: It seems ATP is very structured/rigid with their timeline. My plan of course is to be 100% committed but life happens and the local club seems more liberal for you to take a day if you need a day for example. In addition, I have read that ATP just runs you straight through things. So on some items where I may struggle and need more time, I would just have to keep proceeding with the curriculum on their schedule and likewise, things that I may pick up very easy, have to spend all day repeating it.
Thank you all for having this forum. It is greatly appreciated!
If you look up to the left you’ll clearly see the ATP logo. This is actually ATPs forum. That said, the reason for the bias is simply because we were ALL in the same place you are, trying to figure the best route to the airlines and after doing some research (and often some missteps) we decided on ATP and we’re all glad we did.
Many people (myself included) tried the local route first. Problem is it rarely works. While YOUR intentions might be to fly consistently it doesn’t always work and most spend way too much money and get frustrated and quit. I don’t care how many planes or instructors your local flight school has, they’re simply not setup to accommodate a full-time student.
There’s a reason ATP has been training pilots for the airlines for almost 40yrs and has had over 1,000 hired at airlines in the last 12mos alone. There’s also a reason that long before the pilot shortage, when just getting an interview was a major accomplishment, ATP grads were getting hired with reduced minimums (when that was possible). As for the cadet programs Id be very reluctant to lock myself into a new program and to any airline this early in the game. Things can and do always change and the airline you think you want to fly for may not be a few years from now when you’re ready.
Regardless you need to do what’s best for you. Should you choose the local route please do one thing. Set definitive goals. Meaning you set a limit (say 2mos to earn your PPL) and if you’re not close you cut and run. I’ve met far too many students with the same goal who are a year in, have spent $25k+ and still haven’t earned their license.