Possible future student; my medical, loan, first flight, etc. so far


My story is far from complete, but I thought I’d share a few thoughts, since this site has been so helpful to me already, and share my progress so far. This is long, probably not interesting to many who might come across it, and partially written for cathartic purposes.

First, I want to give a heartfelt THANK YOU! to not only (though, especially) the mentors of this forum! Your advice and thoughtful replies to the users has been invaluable to me as I consider becoming a pilot. To someone like me, who highly values realism and logic in most things, the frankness of your words is also greatly appreciated.

I am strongly considering going to ATP, currently either looking at Long Beach or Camarillo. Like many others, I’m looking at this as a mid-life career change. I’m 37.5, but won’t be asking questions about that being a problem, as there are several answers to that question already given here. In fact, researching that very question on Google is what brought me to first this site, then to ATP’s site after it. I found the topic where Adam responded to that question in Oct. 2017, about being 40 and wanting to start. (https://airlinepilot.life/t/am-i-too-old-to-be-an-airline-pilot/8062) It is probably the way Adam wrote that I found most compelling, prompting me to poke around further. Now, I’m practically ready in many ways to start, but know I have several steps to go.

My first real step was to go get a medical check by an AME. Remember what I said about valuing logic? I figured that if I couldn’t get a First Class Medical Certificate, then as a career it would already be “game over” for me, and time to look elsewhere. (Unless it was a failure for something like vision, in which case it would be try again with new glasses.) Turns out I live about 2 blocks from an AME, so I walked over on Wednesday morning - I passed! I didn’t expect failure, but hate assuming, so I went in with a neutral mindset. This was my process - start at the things that might roadblock me, and work from least to biggest potential hurdle.

Next hurdle: finances. I still have a bit of student loan debt from my college days. I did get a BA, and have read the topics on having a 4-year degree for the Majors. I also don’t make a ton doing what I’m doing for work now, and have been unsuccessful so far at getting better work in my hitherto-fore chosen field. So, loan it is. As advised, I applied to both Sallie Mae and Wells-Fargo. I also decided to apply solo first, and consider a co-signer if rejected. I have some family who might consider such an arrangement.

Unsurprisingly, Wells-Fargo gave me a nearly instantaneous rejection, but Sallie Mae gave me a note asking to call them. I did so, and was asked several questions by the agent. In case anybody reading this is curious, I’ll list the questions I recall (I took some notes, but not 100% complete), but otherwise, skip the next bit:

  • My student loans were brought up, and I was asked if I had a degree? (yes)
  • Had worked in the field studied? (yes)
  • Why am I deciding to leave the workfield I studied for?
  • How much did I make working in this field?
  • Back in 2014 (about 4 years ago now) I had some late loan payments - I was asked about that. (It was when I was just starting, and not getting enough work, plus I mistakenly thought I was on income-based deferment at that time.)
  • Could I go back into that field, if things didn’t work out with this new study/career? (yes)
  • Why did I choose this (pilot/airline) career? (I mentioned some things I’ve read about here, like the current pilot shortage and about the career projections, plus I’ve spoken to a few pilots and they love their jobs.)
  • Do I have a pilot licens already, and any flight time? (No. Then I mentioned the what I know about ATP’s program from Zero to CFI to airline.)
  • The agent put me on hold for a few minutes, then came back and said I was approved for a loan for the full amount ($99,250.00)!

I cannot say why I was approved with no co-signer. Anything I might guess at would be exactly that - guess and speculation. It’s certainly not because of my assets, as I’m negative in that regard. Whatever the case, I’m pretty much ready to go, as far as hurdles. But I still haven’t flown at all yet (in a cockpit), which is kind of important.

Greg from ATP called me the next day, but I wasn’t able to answer. I called back when I could, but it was already about 3:30 PM Pacific, on a Friday, so I’m not surprised I had to leave a voicemail, nor that I’ve not gotten a call back. Tomorrow is Monday, 04 June, and I’ll be trying again. My goal is to have my Introductory Flight on Wednesday morning, and see how I feel after that, as well as touring the facility.

Future steps and considerations, beyond the Intro Flight:

If I’m still not sure how I feel about flying after the Intro Flight, I will probably follow a specific bit of the advice I’ve seen the mentors mention a few times - Go get my PPL somewhere else, first. I believe them (you, if you’re reading this!) when they say that a person should have a clear idea how they feel about it after spending the time getting their PPL. I’ve already looked at a few school options for that, but won’t make that decision just yet. Finding them has been a part of my research (also something suggested) of flight schools beyond ATP. If I go that route, and find I love it and want to make a career of it, ATP is top of my list, so far, and having financing lined up for it is a huge bonus vs. other schools and options I’ve seen and found, where financing is just as hard to come by, but for which Sallie Mae isn’t an option (that’s what they say when I ask.)

Supposing I go to ATP, regardless if it is the 9 or 6 month program, I’ll have to look at my housing situation. I live smack-dab in the middle between Long Beach and Camarillo. It’s about 40 miles to each. Camarillo seems like the easier drive (no 405 freeway through the pass!), but it’s still about an hour commute each way. I’ve seen the advice, and know that is a huge chunk of time that could be studying, or recovering from the day’s studies. Several students have said they did something similar, no problem, but others have said the opposite. Long Beach is the worse drive, but has a housing option. It’s not really cheaper than what I’ve got now, but would be MUCH closer, I have to assume (until I visit this week). The hardest mental hurdle to going that route is giving up my private room, something I’ve come to love! But, I will weigh the options, pros and cons, and figure it out. If the Camarillo school were in Van Nuys instead, it’d be a no-brainer for me. Ah well.

So, that’s where I am. I’m about to fly for the first time, and will be making a lot of decisions based upon that experience. I will be visiting ATP, talking to people there and in the financing dept. (I have specific inquires they’re best suited for), and changing my life, one way or another.

I have appreciated reading the topics started by both others and the mentors. I’ve probably spent about 24 hours reading here over the past week. Thank you, and maybe I’ll see some of you soon.



Hey Sam,

Thank you for sharing your progress with us. The loan always seems to be the hardest thing to get for most. Congrats on getting through so many hurdles in such a short amount of time.

It’s always nice to hear that the content on this forum is helpful to our participants. Thank you for the kind words.

It sounds like you have all of your ducks in a row. We’re looking forward to hearing how your intro flight goes. If/when you decide to start, if there’s enough time before your start date, I highly recommend that you start studying for your PAR (private pilot written test). It would be even better if you can take that before you start. It’s not mandatory that you take any tests before you start, but every student that has taken one or all of their written tests before their start date was happy that they did. Just something for you to think about.


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Thanks for the reminder! Taking those tests before starting is another thing I’ve seen mentioned many times. When I started writing, doing tests before starting was something in my mind, but things can slip, especially when writing long things. Without your reminder, I might have forgotten when tomorrow arrives, too. Now, I’ve set reminders in two places, at different times, to nag/remind myself!

I have tomorrow (Monday) off work, actually, and aside from hoping to get my visit scheduled, those tests are my primary goal. (Pretty sure you’re talking about following this advice/info: https://atpflightschool.com/faqs/acpp-prep-written-knowledge-tests.html) Obviously, I won’t get them done in one day, but not only will I think about them, I plan to start doing as much as I can.

A couple days ago I went through two of the three Preview Self-Study lessons available. (https://secure.atpflightschool.com/course-presenter-preview/lessons.lasso) Still gotta do the PA-44 Exterior Overview.

The links were included for context, in the case someone reads this without knowing what we’re talking about. Thanks again for the nudge and guidance!


You bet. And yes. The link you provided has all of the information you need to know about those tests.



It seems like you have a very good grasp of things. Let us know how the intro flight goes. Do keep in mind that the financing offer probably has some sort of expiration date to it, so getting your PPL somewhere else could affect that.


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Hey I hate to be a bother but can you give a little information as to what questions the AME asked you about family health history, does it really matter, and how long and how in depth is the physical? Thank You


A typical medical exam takes about thirty minutes. Prior to going in, you will fill out an application that will ask you a series of rather in-depth questions about your medical history. I do not remember too many questions about family medical history being asked.

The physical is rather thorough, but it isn’t a NASA physical. It seems that people really stress about this, yet if you are in reasonably good health, you should be fine.



It was as Chris says. I had misread the FAA site and not filled out the form prior to going to the AME, so the largest portion of my visit was sitting in the lobby filling it out on my phone. I arrived right at opening, and the doctor didn’t have a packed schedule, so my walk-in visit was successful.

The form asked about personal health and some doctor visit history things, so it is much better to fill out at home, where you have access to any records you might keep. With the doctor, it was basically a physical. Listened to my lungs, heart, and checked my eyes. If you wear glasses or contacts, be sure to take them, as you WILL need them.

The only part that was new to my life experience was the electrocardiogram (EKG), but that was straightforward and didn’t take very long. Even with filling out the form in the office, I was in and out in about an hour. Seriously - fill that out at home! It was my only regret from the experience.

Chris - Thanks for the reminder about financing’s ticking clock. I’ll be sure to keep that in mind. Greg just called me again, while typing this, so I asked him about that. He said Sallie Mae gives 30 days to accept the terms (choosing fixed or variable interest, etc.), then it is valid for 12 months. Disbursement must occur within one year from acceptance, otherwise one must re-apply for the loan.

Intro flight is now officially scheduled for Wednesday!


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I really like seeing the little details. I am in a very similar situation and it helps to see the little things here and there to ease my mind about doing this. Thanks for sharing.

That’s super lucky to get the approval on your own!! About the 40 miles, I’m gonna be doing the same thing, but in Florida. Hopefully it doesn’t give us too much grief.

Hey osmar,

Before you go to the AME you will fill out everything electronically on the FAA website. You can see everything there. It’s pretty damn thorough. Then you get a confirmation number which you will bring to the AME. That way they can pull up your app online and enter in all their notes. At that point if you pass they can issue you the class 1 then and there.

Luck has nothing to do with it.


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Thank You Cody, Sam, and Chris for your responses. I just can’t stop stressing going in to take the physical and not passing it for some reason.

Thanks for sharing. I’m in a similar position and age to you but decided to do my PPL first. I’m at around 35 hours and hoping to do a check ride next month. It’s taken me a little longer (started in Feb) but I’ve managed to do it without getting into debt as its all pay as you go. You don’t need to pay upfront with a private instructor and a flying club. Obviously I’ve had to really cut back on my day to day spending, but if anything, it’s preparing me for ATP and pilot life when the money will be scarce.

The only real downside to this approach that I can see is the timing, obviously every month that goes by, is a month lost getting to the airlines and as you’ve probably learned, seniority is everything.

However, I believe you will really know by the end of it, or midway through for that matter whether or not being a pilot is for you. I think it’s hard to make the full judgement call based on an intro flight.

Either way, I’m definitely interested to hear how your story goes. I appreciate the detail and the quality of the writing.


Hello again!

It’s now been a few days since I visited ATP and went on my discovery flight at ATP Camarillo, CA.

I was scheduled to meet my CFI contact, Josh, at 1500 hours. When I can, I like to be early, so I arrived early, and got lucky enough to catch a couple of students heading out for some cross country flying. They were kind enough to chat with me for about 10 minutes, answering my questions about how they’ve liked training with ATP, what advice they might give, what got them to choose ATP, housing, and so on. There weren’t any revelations in the conversation, or from it, but it was nice to get a perspective from people in the program, in-person. There’s a lot of information communicated through body language, be it from the way someone holds their posture or how their face reacts during inquiry and response. I could not just hear their words about how they’re enjoying what they’re doing, but see it, and that adds weight to an opinion, in my book.

Josh arrived, and we chatted a bit about a variety of aspects. Things like the ATP school process, ATP Camarillo’s specifics (apparently, it’s still in-progress in some ways, as a newer ATP location), and how he feels he’s been treated by ATP as a recent graduate and new CFI hire. Again, there were no revelations, just personal perspective passed along to me. After signing the obligatory waiver, we headed out to the aircraft.

My flight took place in a Skyhawk, and the usual stuff happened as far as getting going. Pre-flight inspection walkthrough of the plane, showing how some interconnected parts work together, and a bit of discussion about some specific details. Then remove the chocks, and into the cockpit.

The flight was good! I won’t delve into specific details (any more than I already have, I mean), because that’s not the point of writing this. We got in 0.6 hours in a calm sky over Camarillo, Oxnard, a bit of the ocean, and back. Josh answered questions as I asked, and let me control the plane most of the time. My recurring thought was “I don’t know where I should be looking!”, which wasn’t a surprise. I was reminded of learning to drive when I was 15, a sophomore in high school. Unlike riding a bike, a car has so many more things going on, and it takes a while to learn how to keep an eye on traffic, while still checking your speed, activating (hopefully!) your turn signals, and not running out of gas. Sitting in the Skyhawk at 2500 feet, I felt overwhelmed, but without any panic. Josh was there, he knew what he was doing, and I could trust that all was well.

So, after having flown, I have to do what everyone must - evaluate my experience and make decisions. I’ve been thinking about it for the past three days, almost constantly. The decision(s) I make now will have a direct effect on the rest of my life, so I didn’t want to take them lightly.

As I expected, I did not have the feeling of certainty I’ve seen some others speak/write of, where they knew that they just HAD to become a pilot and do this as a career. I liked it, but it didn’t become an instant passion for me. However, neither was there any panic, at any point during the flight. It was beautiful, fun, and even a certain amount of exhilarating. While I didn’t feel a compulsion to become a pilot ASAP, I didn’t feel any contrary feelings, either. I say I expected this sort of result because I know myself, and how I think and feel about experiences, pretty well. Having no red flags or immediate concerns about my capability or aptitude is actually a very positive result, actually, though it might sound mediocre to others.

What this means to me is that I’m still interested, even more than before, in following this path. However, without any major positive visceral response, I don’t feel like jumping in with both feet into ATP is my personal best choice. However, ATP is still my likely path, but after getting my PPL elsewhere, first.

I feel like I need to have more time behind the yoke before I can make such a large step. As recommended by our mentors, here on this forum, I feel like getting my PPL will give me a chance to become familiar enough with the environment, tools, and knowledge necessary for me to make the final decision.

For my PPL, I’ve found a flight school close to home, in Van Nuys, CA, that actually offers a similar program to that of ATP, but also offers the components separately. Their program even has the same timeline projection for training, adding up to 9 months. By getting my PPL with this school, I might not even loose any time, since I could sign up and start the same week. And yes, when I visited the school, I did take a copy of the questions to ask a flight school from the FAQ. (Thanks for those, Chris!) I will probably start PPL flight lessons within the next two weeks, under my current plan and mentality. Possibly one, but I’ve got to arrange my work schedule appropriately.

Tomorrow, before I sign up for anything anywhere, I will be calling ATP and asking a multitude of detailed questions regarding financing, enrollment, and so on. Getting my PPL first will affect many things, and I want to get as much information from the sources as possible, to make my best choices possible. Related, I also want to check out the Long Beach location before deciding 100% on Camarillo. I generally prefer to check out all options before deciding on one over another.

I’m sure there are some things I probably should have commented on that I did not, and probably several times I went on about seemingly unimportant details (I ramble, at times, I know), but this is how my brain and decision process often work. I’ll respond to any questions someone might have, if any. Thanks for being a place I can express my thoughts and share my ideas.




Sounds like a great plan. Not everyone has that over the moon feeling after the first flight and that’s ok. Getting your PPL first I always recommend to anyone who’s on the fence. My only caveat is keep an eye on the training timeline and don’t let it get out of hand. Too many of us start down that path only to find we’ve spent WAYYYY too much time and money chasing that PPL and it just seems to keep getting pushed further and further. Set a definitive reasonable time line based on your schedule and try and stick to it. If somewhere in there you make the decision to make aviation your career remember hours are never wasted. If the part-time local school route just doesn’t seem to be coming together don’t be afraid to cut and run.




That sounds like a good plan and is in line with what we recommend. I would point out though that if you are intending on working and going to this other flight school, then it is not a similar plan to ATP’s as one is not able to work and attend ATP’s program. This will take you longer, which is fine, but just don’t let it surprise you.


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At the beginning of July, I decided to sign up for ATP’s From Zero program. Yesterday I passed my PAR (95%, also, the proctor at the test center liked hearing of my ATP choice), so now it’s on to the next studying!

After my first flight, I continued to look at local flight school programs for a bit, meeting and talking with them, and during that process I discovered some very concerning things about the company I had originally intended to use for my PPL. Some of my extended research into the company made me wary of the company. I did find a couple other companies I might like working with, both with good recommendations from others around the airport, but instructor availability was a problem. Seems that CFI’s are rather busy these days. Go figure, eh?

There were some other factors, like noticing through extended financial projections how doing PPL elsewhere and building to 80 hours meant there wasn’t actually much if any financial saving potential (shortly after crunching those numbers, I even came across a post where one of the mentors commented on that very topic), or the extra time that would be “lost” in delays. Another was realizing that going from one program and plane and CFI to a different program and plane and CFI would be potentially detrimental to the overall process.

The result is that I decided to start seeing what I could learn before getting formal instruction, and I called and spoke with ATP Admissions and had a long conversation with someone who was very patient with my questions, as I brought up just about every question or doubt about any nuance of the ATP program that was on my mind. This was just before the end of June, and the open house at the ATP/ASU location was about to happen. I decided to take a trip and give myself a chance to talk to a greater concentration of pilots (Envoy was there with an ERJ-175), current students, instructors, and even staff. My plan was to chat up anyone I could, and try to get a feel for so many things internally. Hard to describe that process, but I think most people kinda know what I mean, where you try and mentally envision yourself somewhere and gauge how that would play out.

After the event, I had a lot of time to reflect on it as I drove home (Los Angeles area). The result was feeling good about deciding to hit the ground running and get moving. I need a change, as what I’ve been doing isn’t going to work long-term, and I had found my enthusiasm in thinking to myself and talking about this path to some close friends was continually growing since it first sprouted in my mind. While there are never any guarantees that things will play out as one imagines (an example is what I’ve been working at for the past 5 years!), choosing to start down the path is something I can have control over.

My location will be ATP Camarillo, starting the first week of September! I doubt I’ll get ALL the tests done, but I’m going to do my darnedest! Right after finishing writing this I’m going to dig into the next phase of study.

Thanks to everyone for being informative and supportive, wherever my path was taking me! I keep coming back here when I’ve got breaks, and often find useful things I’d not thought of or considered. I’ve ended on the ATP road, which is really just another beginning.

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Congrats on making the leap. Please keep us updated with your progress (good and bad). I have a feeling I might end up at ATP once I get my PPL completed.

Thanks for the insight! How did you like Camarillo? I live in Santa Barbara, checked it out and liked it myself. Going to check out Phoenix too, just to check all the boxes before a decision is made.