Real Answers from Real Pilots


And peckerheads!

“ATP is a rip-off!”. That was a statement directed at me yesterday by not one, but two FOs at my airline. First a little context.

If you read my bio you know I credit ATP with much of my success. I’m a Capt at a Major airline and have been for approx 4yrs now. This was a second career for me and I didn’t start till I was almost 40. Had it not been for the Airline Career Pilot Program and ATPs assistance, I would not have gotten trained, qualified and hired at a Regional in such short order which is why I’ve been as successful as I have been. I’m a proud ATP grad and proudly display an ATP Alumni sticker on my flight case which is what prompted the exchange.

A little about the two FOs in question. Both are in their 20s and went to ATP after college. After building their time they were hired by Regionals where they worked for about 2yrs and are now flying for a Major airline. If none of that sounds too bad to you it’s not. Both advanced very quickly as a result of the shortage which is pretty great.

So what’s their beef with ATP? That’s what I wanted to know so after making the above proclamation (and adding that “ATP screwed them”) we had the following conversation (for simplicity I’ll be referring to them as PH1 and PH2 aka peckerhead 1 and 2):

PH2: yup ATP is a rip-off!
Me: ok I’ll bite, how did ATP rip you off?
PH1: man they charged me like $90k for my training!
Me: I’m sorry but isn’t that the price they quoted you?
PH1: yea but it’s ALOT of money!
Me: do you think you could have done the training cheaper?
PH1: probably not but I also had to pay for my checkrides out of pocket!
Me: weren’t you told that before you enrolled?
PH1: well yea but still, they screwed me as an instructor!
PH2: yea me too!
Me: how? Did they not pay you?
PH1: they paid me but they never took out any taxes and then I had to pay taxes the next year!
Me: did they not tell you when you were hired you’d be an independent contractor and had to pay your own taxes?
PH1: yea but I didn’t really understand what that meant.
PH2: well they really screwed me!
Me: ok what’s your story?
PH2: I received a conditional offer from Compass right when I started instructing. There was another flight school that paid more so I quit and when Compass found out they withdrew my offer!
Me: well wasn’t that one of the terms of the offer? ATP is a partner flight school and you’re required to instruct there till you reach your 1500hrs?
PH2: yea but this other place paid more and I sure didn’t tell Compass I quit so it must have been ATP! They didn’t have to do that!
Me: well I’m thinking if they’re a partner school and want to continue to be a partner school they probably did have to do that?
Both got frustrated and the conversation ended.

That’s the story and I’ll leave you all to your own conclusions. For my part it sounds like they both paid what they were quoted, got trained, got hired and are now successful airline pilots and the negative claims are completely unjustified. If you agree with the two PHs then yes ATP may in fact be a rip-off and you might want to go elsewhere. I also suspect you may be a PH yourself but that’s another conversation :wink:




Great read, from what I could tell the 2 PH’s got exactly what ATP advertises; A mapped out route to the airlines with full transparency of expectations along the way.

I’ve been told similar things by other pilots/CFI, none of which have gone through ATP. They’ve told me I can save money going elsewhere. That said, all the CFI’s I’ve talked to are in year 4+ of CFI, usually 5-6 years if you count from zero, and still working towards minimums. Rather than stretching it out at a mom and pop school, immersing myself in training for a couple years at ATP sounds much more productive. Even if I pay a bit more, the years I’ll shave off training sound worth it.

If I were in their shoes, I’d consider myself fortunate that I was given exactly what I signed up for.


All I can say is, well said. ATP has been in business for the last 35+ years because they found the proven method and have stood by it since.


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Working in higher education for the past 10 years in admissions, orientation, and advising, I’m not surprised. The same conversations I have with some students, or parents, who think I already had a job ready for them in their chosen area and they didn’t need to put in the effort, self-advocacy, or boring adult stuff (file your taxes). It’s all the school’s fault. :wink:
Luckily, they’re the minority and tend to disappear when the smart people demonstrate what they should have been doing all along. :smirk:

I enjoyed reading this post because I hear it all the time too. There will always be the ones out there that say negative things about ATP but most of the time it was due to errors in their part that led to problems within their program. It’s difficult and some people just can’t handle it but it’s better to know that early on in the career than wash out at regionals training. At the end of the day those saying negative things can’t say ATP didn’t get them to their goals the fastest and most efficient way. There just isn’t any other program out there that does what ATP does so successfully.



My other favorite one is “ATP is a pilot mill”. To which I respond with the the fact that they are a darn good pilot mill. Every single pilot in the US has to meet the sane standards, ATP has figured out a time proven method of training pilots. This does not mean that there is not customization when appropriate, but the basic foot print is the same, just like it is with the airlines or the military. So yes, it is a pilot mill that routinely turns out highly qualified pilots that pass FAA check rides. Sounds like a good thing to me.


I had a good chuckle when I read Adam’s post. It reminded me of an experience I had at a job I had several years ago. In my experience, if young 20-somethings are complaining about it you’re probably doing something right. Or at least, right for me. If I hadn’t already made up my mind stories like this would make me want to go to ATP. I’m actually encouraged by the description of ATP as a pilot mill. So what you’re saying is it’s a dedicated, no-nonsense program, with no fluff, and no time wasted on topics, or activities, that won’t benefit me professionally? And I’ll finish with professional certificates that will make me immediately employable? Right up my alley.

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I’m glad you posted this Adam. I’m also on another airline forum and I spent some time the last couple days reading the section on flight schools. After reading multiple pages of responses on several different threads (some go back a couple years), I can probably count on 1 hand the amount of positive comments I read regarding ATP. More or less, it was like I was reading the latest ATP bash fest. I haven’t spent much time on here the last several days because I’m exploring other options. I believe ATP is a good school and they have a proven track record. However, before I commit myself to handing over what will amount to be close to 100K to someone for training, I want to make sure I’ve examined all of the options available to me before committing to any one of them.



And that’s one of the reasons I posted this. I don’t want to get into a whole debate about different generations, but my daughter (who’s 28), often tries to explain to me the how I don’t understand their struggle (which I clearly don’t).

Regardless, as in the example above, they were provided quality instruction for the price quoted and in the end have accomplished their goal. Yet for some reason they’re still complaining? Perhaps ATP was supposed to give them a big hug and a kiss and then a ceremony celebrating how special they are? For me successfully earming my licenses and ratings in record time and getting hired by the first and only Regional I applied to was more than enough. I don’t know? What I do know is if you’d like to become an airline pilot there really is no better or efficient route as demonstrated by the thousands of successful ATP grads who are now flying for every airline in the country.

Again if you need hugs ATP might not be for you. If you just want to be an airline pilot it is.




Even after looking at other options, I’m still leaning towards ATP for many of the reasons you’ve mentioned that we’ve all mentioned. I’m right there with you on the generation thing, I don’t understand the 20 somethings today either.


From Adam post, I can see a generational trend of wanting stuff but not wanting the effort required and associated to accomplish that stuff. In my early days, we used to call that snowflakes, however, that word acquired a different definition (political) on the last several years.

It seems that they wanted to complain regardless, anyway. I will tell you, 40 years ago, the path was by washing and detailing airplanes, taxiing and ferrying, and then, flying sideways before getting a shot at the right seat. So when I hear stories like these, they make me wonder if we really, really appreciate how good we have it!!!


Thank you for posting this. It provides a useful glimpse into the potential mindset that may be sitting behind some of the anonymous negative opinions offered up about ATP on other forums.

As a 50 year old lurking on the sidelines considering a career change within the next 6 months I’m actively working to poke holes in my plan/research and taking hard looks in the mirror to assess whether I’m honestly up for the challenge. That process sometimes causes me to question my ability to get through a program like ATP and then regional airline training to achieve the dream. When I read things like the conversation you shared it boosts my confidence because I realize that my 25 year corporate career in tech and just life in general has provided me some perspective and experience that others don’t have or haven’t yet been able to learn. If I ultimately chose to step onto the career change path, I like to think those hard earned intangibles will be something I can draw from in future to help me successfully navigate training and a career in the aviation.