PPL with 150 hours w/ no college degree. Next steps for ATP

Hi all,

I’m a 41 yr old software engineer with a fresh PPL (been flying since I was 5 with dad) and about 150 logged hours. I’m fortunate enough to own my own plane, a '47 Luscombe, that I fly every chance I get here in NJ. I’m seriously considering the commercial airlines path and have a number of friends that are FO’s and Cpt’s at different majors. They are all encouraging me since they see my passion and have listened to me voice my desires and concerns. I’m now trying to map out a couple of different paths. If I can avoid it, I’d like not to become a CFI to build hours and earn income. Let’s assume income is not needed. I’m guessing the fastest path is ATP school, for about $75k, and would likely take me about 6 months for all my ratings. Is the other path to keep flying my plane and then rent aircraft for my IFR, commercial and multi engine? A couple questions regarding these paths:

  1. Are there any downsides to flying on my own to build hours vs ATP?
  2. Are there advantages doing one route over the other when it comes to interview time?
  3. I have some college but am 60 credits short of my college degree. I’m not going back just for the airlines. How realistic are the current industry mentions about airlines not making this a requirement anymore? Are there any gotchas?

Thanks for reading and taking the time to respond if you do. Open to having an honest discussion so I can make a better decision if this is a realistic path or not for me. I hope it is :slight_smile:


  1. Time wise, you don’t say how often you fly etc but your Luscombe (while a cool airplane) doesn’t fly very fast, very far nor is it IFR. How many $200 hamburgers are you gonna get? You’re 41yo which is on the older side and leaves you 23ish yrs to fly under ideal circumstances. More important yes the Regionals are desperate and hiring everyone with 1500hrs and a pulse but then you’ll need to get through training which is no joke. While the hiring rates are through the roof, so are the failures. It’s not simply the quantity of hours but the quality and 1,000+ VFR hours will do nothing for your skills.

  2. As I said, you’ll prob get hired. If I were on your panel (which I’ve been) you’d be a no from me with 1000+hrs of recreational flying. We’d be betting at what point you’d washout.

  3. Newsflash, with the exception of Delta, a degree has never been a requirement but it has always been (and remains) included in the “competitive” mins at the Majors. Someone with a degree will always get hired first and your app will always end up in the “no degree” pile. How long it takes to get to that pile could be a while.

I have to be honest Chris, your friends see your “passion” but based on your post I don’t. You’re not in a hurry at 41, you don’t want to get your CFI or instruct and your halfway to a degree which would make you much more hireable but you’re unwilling to finish (which you actuality could do easily with your credits and credits for your licenses and ratings). Sounds like you’ve got friends who like their job, you see there’s a pilot shortage and somehow think this would be something you can just casually step into. While the industry is definitely booming, it will require considerable work and effort on your part. Just because you have your IFR and ME ratings doesn’t mean you’re a skilled and competent instrument rated and multiengine pilot. The 1500hr requirement isn’t simply a box to check, it’s there so you can build time and experience.

Ultimately you can do as you like but Id really give it some thought.


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Adam, I appreciate all this info and it’s some of the stuff I’ve been looking for. I realize it’s easy to make assumptions about my intentions or passions just from text, but there’s a bit more too it. All your info around VFR hours vs. other skills training makes sense and I didn’t think much about that. Regarding school, I’m not excited about going back with the risk of doing it just for a job. And what happens if that job doesn’t work out for me. Money and valuable time out the door. My degree is different than my current job, so finishing likely requires a complex set of courses which in my opinion isn’t work the risk if I’m able to still get hired without it. I doesn’t mean I’m not passionate, it just means at 41 I’m not willing to take that risk. But being at the bottom of a list is concerning, so information like that will impact my decision. Additionally, I love to teach. Not wanting to be a CFI is the result of how I’d like to spend my time building hours. Just not my preference if I have a choice, so I am exploring what others have done in similar situations.

I appreciate you taking the time to respond. I’ll keep doing my homework.

Edit: I typically get in 20-30 hours a month on average in the Luscombe. And they’re still $100 hamburgers when you’re little engine is sipping 5g/hr :slightly_smiling_face:


Was really making assumptions, just telling you how it reads.

As for school there’s absolutely ZERO risk of wasting time. As I said, AFTER you’re done with training you can get credit for your licenses and ratings. You don’t need a degree to fly for a Regional. That means you get hired and IF you like the job and plan on staying, you contact one of the many schools with online degree programs, use your existing credits plus credit for your ratings and get an Aviation degree in short order AFTER you’re already in the industry.

My point is I would continue researching and not make any hard decisions of what you do and don’t want to do until you’ve done some exploring.

Assuming you finish all your training with about 250hrs. That leaves 1250hrs to build. 1250/25mos=50mos. That’s ALOT of lost income and seniority!



Welcome to the forum. Yes, ether are other paths to the airlines, but being a CFI is by far the most common approach. The reason is that being a CFI is by far the best way to cement your skills and knowledge. !,000 hours of recreational, VR flying, will destroy your skills. I saw a pilot get hired with this kind of background, it did not go well for them.

As dam said, you do not need a degree anymore, but realisticly you do to get on at the legacy majors. There are the national airlines like Spirit and Frontier that do not require degrees.


Adam and Chris,

This is all useful info and not typically what I get in hangar talk. Also the reason I sought out this forum. I wanted some unbiased, no bs feedback about my current situation and the reality of paths forward. Thanks again for painting a clearer picture.


Anytime. Let us know how else we can help you.



Just echoing Chris and Adam here. If you want to make your hobby a career at some point you need to let the process take over until you cross the finish line.

As Adam expressed, I also get the sense that you want to do things on your own terms at your own pace in your own plane. In my opinion, you will potentially be chasing this dream for the rest of your life with that mentality.

At some point you need to step away from the comfort of your own plane and follow the process that has proven to be the most successful path to the airlines.


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