PPL @ Private School vs. ATP

Hi Team,

I’m hoping to figure out whether acquiring my PPL through a private school is more cost effective than ATP’s $20k cost. On paper, costs seem to be about 25-50% less through a non-ATP school. As researched, costs/hrs seem usually more than originally projected by most, so counsel is needed.

While I know this is an ATP alumni run thread, I’m hoping for some probity in this matter and appreciate your transparency.

With thanks,

  • Kepha


ATP run or not, the facts are the facts. While many people believe getting their PPLs locally will save them significant money, in most cases it doesn’t and sometimes even cost more. People take a quick look at the $20k ATP credit then look at their local flight schools advertised price. The problem is that’s most often is based on the FAA mins which virtually nobody accomplishes. Second they don’t factor in to get the $20k credit you need a min of 78hrs.

With all that said really the biggest problem is that effective flight training is disbanded dependent on consistency. There’s a reason why the military and the airlines train their pilots full-time. Because it simply works better AND it’s cost effective. I know far too many aspiring pilots who start at their local flight schools, get frustrated, spend a ton of money and then end up at ATP afterwards.

Finally I’m sure there are reasons you’ve decided that ATP is the best route for you to accomplish your goals. They have a 4 decade track record of excellence and due to the quality of their grads were able to pioneer the airline partnerships. Why wouldn’t you want to start on the right foot? This isn’t a no name bottle of ketchup or even a used car you’re buying. You’re investing in your future and the wrong path could make the difference between you becoming an airline pilot or someone who almost was. Your call.



I got my private through a small, local school before I went to ATP. Yes, on paper it was less expensive, in reality it was much more expensive and way more time consuming. Most flight schools quote a price based on the FAA minimum flight time required. In the case of a private license, this is 40 hours. Very, very few pilots earn their license in 40 hours. The average is probably around 70. I have always felt that this is a really dishonest way for schools to market, but yet it seems to be common practice. ATP’s prices are full the full amount of flight time needed to get the license.

Keep in mind that tp enter ATP with credit for private, you will need to have 78 hours of flight time, with eight of those hours being cross country time, so make sure you are running your calculations off of 78 hours and not 40.


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I got my PPL at another school in about 50 hours. My bill was around $12k. $160hr wet for the plane, $60/hr for instructor. That was in 2019. And that was me doing virtually all knowledge studying on my own and just enough time on the ground with my CFI to endorse me for the checkride. I was flying a clapped out Grumman Cheetah with steam gauges and a Garmin 430, not a new 172 or Archer with glass.

I am looking at the “credit for PPL” option and as previously said, ATP requires 78 hours for PPL credit. So if I had started at 0 hours, I’d have to add another 28 hours, about $4500 at my local flying club so that’s $16-17k at the end of the day. In hindsight, I would have gladly paid the premium for new equipment, more professionally-oriented training and getting it done quickly.

From all my research and talking with previous ATP grads, you are getting way more than just an instructor and a plane, you are buying a proven system. I talked to a CFI at another school just this morning. He was a career-changer just like me and an ATP grad. He said without a doubt, ATP is the way to go. He got his ratings during the worst of the COVID shutdowns and was still able to get it all done only slightly behind the advertised schedule. That’s a testament to the system ATP has built.



Thank you for adding your insights.


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Thank you, all!

Very helpful.

Hi Kepha,

Welcome to the forum!

Keep in mind that if you come in credit with your PPL, we require that you have 78 total time (and 8 of those hours need to be cross-country PIC time.) This is a factor if you decide to pursue your PPL elsewhere, as many flight schools are quoting you on minimum FAA requirements (40 hours.)