New Pilot Considerations and Questions

Hi, 28 year old aerospace engineer here considering a career to change to become a commercial pilot. Wife is in veterinary school (I know we like debt) and I’ll need some flexibility to make sure we can live in the same city while she is finishing school and wherever she relocates afterwards. I have been looking around here a bit, but still have a number of questions about ATP’s flight school, flight instruction, and general basing as a new pilot. Im aware this forum is ATP sponsored and all of the pilots answering the questions are graduates, but I’ll hope objective answers anyway.

Do you suggest obtaining a PPL through ATP or on my own terms?
What is generally the cheaper path?
What does the ATP schedule look like?
Is it rigid 9 month curriculum M-F, 9-5?
Is it possible to do part of the program a few months at one location and finish at another ATP school location?
Is there a rigid start and end date?
If you go into ATP with flight hours towards PPL will they prorate or is it all or nothing?

Flight Instruction:
Do you suggest post school flight instruction through ATP or is it more lucrative to do it privately? I assume it is more challenging to get hours privately as opposed to through ATP.
Can you do a mix of both?

Regional Airline Work:
When you start at a regional airline, how much flexibility do you have where you are based and where you live?
Do you have to live in your base city?
Can you use flight benefits to commute to your base?

I am also very interested in the United Aviate program and haven’t been able to find much info besides the little bit that is on their site. Does anyone here have insight into how it works and what they are offering in terms of tuition reimbursement?




Lots of questions most of which can be answered in other threads and on ATPs website. I only point this out because as an ATP student (and further as an airline newhire) you’ll be required to do a tremendous about of self study. Just something to keep in mind.

  1. Only if you have doubts whether flying is for you or in your abilities. If you’re hesitant to go all in getting your PPL first is a way to get your feet wet. If you’re confident this is what you want to do, why wouldn’t you do all your training at the school you’ve chosen for the bulk of it?

  2. It’s a wash. To get credit for your PPL you also need at least 78hrs of flight time so the cost will be close. Going to your local school will also delay the process which will delay your entry to the airlines costing you more money.

  3. There’s a timeline on ATPs website but the schedule is not set. You’ll be flying, in sim, and some ground training. You’ll do any combo of them on a daily basis.

  4. see above

  5. Maybe possible but not recommended. There may not be a slot available at the school you want to transfer to which would delay your training and disrupt the process. Also keep in mind you’ll be sent elsewhere for CFI training and be gone a couple of weeks for crew/time building.

  6. You do need to secure a start date at the location if your choice. The end date cannot be set as there are dynamic factors involved (weather, examiner availability, etc)

  7. All or nothing

  8. ATP guarantees an instructor position to successful grads but does not guarantee a location. If the location you want is available I’d take it. While some other schools may(?) pay a little better, few will offer you the ability to earn your hours as quickly.

  9. No, if you instruct for ATP you’re fulltime and expected to be there for your ATP students just as you’d expect your instructors to be there for you during your training.

  10. When you’re hired at a Regional you’ll be based where they need you. Once you gain seniority you may be able to relocate. Where you live is entirely up to you but it’s your responsibility to get to work on time and well rested.

  11. Again you can literally live anywhere.

  12. Yes plus you can JumpSeat.

  13. It’s a new program but you should call United for more info.


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  • If you’re not sure about flying professionally, then obtaining your PPL on your own terms is a good way to test the waters.

  • Hard to say. Some people have been able to get their PPL for about $10k +/-. Others never finish. All depends on the individual. If you choose to obtain your PPL on your own, fly no less than 2-3 times/week and follow the syllabus with your CFI and hold yourselves accountable. Too often to people end up paying more than they were quoted because they aren’t dedicated.

  • There is no set schedule. Your schedule is made the day before. You need to have zero other obligations.

  • Yes, but you have to have a valid reason. This doesn’t happen often. You can’t just do it because it sounds fun.

  • Start every Monday. End date is based on start date. Some finish on-time, some early, some late. If you finish late, extra training costs my incur.

  • ATP has two programs. Zero and Credit for Private (plus 78+ total time)

  • Do whatever you want. With some research you can answer that. You will not be able to do both.

  • You will be based wherever their are openings. You might get to choice. You might not. You can live anywhere you want. It’s on you to get yourself to and from work. So, if you choose not to live near base, consider your commute. Jump seating to work is how most commuting pilots get to work.

  • United Aviate is very new. The info on the website is your best source of information. If you need more info, I would contact them directly


Tory and Adam thanks for the detailed responses.

That clarified a number of things for me.

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