Preparing to go to ATP

Hi everyone,

I am currently a full time nurse planning to switch careers to become a pilot. Due to financial constraints I plan to wait at least a year before officially applying. I would like to pay for my training in cash (I have previously had a boatload of debt and will never go that route again) and plan to work my butt of this next year to do that. That being said, what would you all recommend for me to do in the next year to prepare for flight school? I recently started a free ground school (gold seal) just to get some foundation and I plan on doing a paid ground school and flight simulation over the next year to prepare. Is there anything that you recommend I do or change about my plan to make my flight school journey as seamless as possible. I am an over preparer and want to give myself the best advantage when I do commit to the life.

Thanks so much,



Honestly I wouldn’t waste my time and money on ground school. When your start your training you’ll recieve all the ground training you need and it’ll make much more sense when you have some context.

We do recommend you complete as many of the required FAA Knowledge tests you can prior to starting as that will lighten the workload considerably. Believe it or not those exams don’t require any ground school. The recommended process is simply rote memorization as the material has little correlation without context and you’re simply checking a box.

Finally I suggest you consider starting your training sooner. While I completely understand your desire to be debt free, seniority means everything in this industry (not to mention future lost wages you’ll never recoup). Further with the bonuses and Tuition Reimbursement being offered by the Regionals these days you could pay off that debt almost immediately.



Adam has a really good point on starting sooner rather than later. If that’s something you can do, I would. If not, your personal finances are your business and you do what you feel comfortable doing.

If you stick with a year out, you can secure a class date as much as 9 months in advance. Classes can and do fill up so I recommend securing one as soon as you’re within that window to do so. To confirm a class date, you’ll need to do an intro flight sat the ATP location, show proof of financing (not necessary if you stick with the cash option) and have a first class medical.

From that point, work on completing all seven of the FAA knowledge tests. You’ve got plenty of time to do so and it will lighten your load throughout the program.


Thank you all so much. I will definitely start working on the FAA knowledge exams. Believe me, I would love to start sooner and I’m going to do everything I can to get that start date moved up so I can start. That gives me a good idea of what I need to be focusing on.

Thank you!


As the others mentioned, I think getting a head start on any of the FAA writtens (within a 6-9 month timeframe of starting) is a good idea - it will free up the workload as you are in the program. But don’t delay a program start date to get all the writtens done, the program is designed to complete them within the timeline.

I know the debt seems like a lot, but it is very common for students to secure a loan to pay for the flight training. As Adam mentioned, the Tuition Reimbursement and Sign-on Bonuses are unreal at this time. Frontier (F9) announced the $50,000 Sign-on Bonus for new-hires, that’s half of the tuition cost.