Real Answers from Real Pilots

Questions before I commit


First off, my name is Noah, I’m a private pilot with 110 hours, about to graduate highschool, and I’m currently 18.

I am seriously considering starting at the Atlanta (FFC) ATP location either in June or July, but before I sign the paperwork and put down the deposit I have a few questions.

(I apologize if these questions have already been answered somewhere else)
First, what time frame could I expect to, realistically, pay back the loan? I am approved for the $56,795 for the 40 hour multi program at 8.5% interest. I would have to make $1000-1200 payments per month to pay it off in under 5 years, and my income hopefully would come from instructing for ATP. Basically, is it doable to make 1k payments every month as an instructor?

Second, I would be 19 when I finish the 6 months, is it realistic to make the 1500 hours by the time I turn 21 so that I could go to the regionals?

Third, In addition to instructing after completing the 6 months, I need to get an online bachelors degree (California Coastal University) as I am instructing, would the workload permit that? I would have a full 4 years to complete it before I would be eligible to go to majors anyway (23), and I would probably be at the regionals past 23 anyway.

Fourth, if I started at a regional at 21, how long should I expect to be there before I could flow to a major? (Looking at Endeavor, I would really like to fly for Delta one day)

I know it’s a lot of questions, sorry!
Thanks in advance,


Welcome to the forum and thanks for your questions.

  1. I think your goal of making payments of $1,200 per month is a bit ambitious. What is the term of your loan? What will the payments be if you pay the minimum payment and how long will that take?

  2. If you instruct for ATP you should have your 1,500 hours within two years of starting the program. Some people go a bit longer, others a bit shorter.

  3. No, your workload as an ATP instructor will not allow you enough time to take online college classes. However, you should have plenty of time to work on one while you are at a regional airline. I would highly doubt that you could be at a major by 23 anyways. The majors don’t just look at flight time, they also look at life experience, education, etc. Keep in mind that you will be competing against other highly qualified pilots for a position at a major.

  4. It is so hard to put a firm number on how long a pilot should expect to be at the regionals, but a safe time frame is generally 5-10 years.

Have you thought of going to college first? You could do all four years, or do two years, get your associate’s and then finish the remaining two years at an airline. Just a thought.

Feel free to ask any other questions that you think of.


I think the biggest thing is that you would hit the 1500 mark well before you turn 21 and would find yourself instructing longer than you need to. I came out of Highschool with my PPL and realized that. Looking at ATPs placements, it seems like many student starting from private pilot is at 1500 and moves to an airline in 17-21 months from starting the program, there are some longer and someone can correct me if I’m wrong, by that is what I have found just looking at their page. I would not be 21 at that time. For me, I would not even have been 20 and would have had to instruct for over an extra year. I took 2 years to get my 2 year degree and will be starting this summer and if I am able to finish in 17-21 months, I know it depends on a lot of factors, I will still be at an airline before I turn 22 and I already have 2 years of school done.

Just somthing to think about.

Thanks for the quick responses guys!

It is a fixed interest rate, 15 year loan through Wells Fargo. I would need to call them to check on minimum payments, but I am pretty sure they’re in the $600-800 range. Another big help is the tuition reimbursement program which would help out on those payments.
With regards to the online degree, it is a self-paced program, which is the only reason that I was considering doing it during instructing. I don’t know if that would make it easier.

In regards to both of y’all’s question about waiting to start and doing a 2 year degree, this was my thought process. 1. A very close friend of mine is starting at the same location, and I would be starting at the same time if I did June. I’ve heard that having someone to help study with is a big advantage for the 6 months, thoughts? 2. I could potentially be making a decent income, better then anywhere else at my age and education, in 6 moths even though most of it would be going towards a loan. 3. If I started this June, and instructed until I was 21, it sounds like I would have way over 1500, maybe in the 2000-2500 range. Wouldn’t that be a good thing to have more hours when trying to get hired by a regional? 4. The online degree program that I am looking at would cost me about 10-12k all together, which is a few thousand dollars cheaper then any of the community schools around ATL. 5. I think that it would be best to start at a regional as close to my 21st birthday as possible. Sooner you can get in, the sooner you can make it to majors, the sooner you can start building seniority. If I did a 2 or 4 year college program right now that would push me past 21 starting. As you said, Chris, I could always work on an online degree while working for a regional, I know of someone who just did that.

All of my thoughts and reasonings are based on very limited information and mostly logic haha! I am perfectly open and eager to see y’all’s responses and I hope I do not come across defensive or like I know everything, because I certainly don’t!

My loan was for a little over $65k with a 9.5% interest rate and the loan payment will be right around $750, so I imagine yours will be quite a bit less than $750. And for me, even with getting my 2 year degree I should still be at a regional right around when I turn 22, which is still extremely young compared to many and sets me up for, hopefully, a good 43 year career.


I really can’t see how you could do any online degree program and flight instruct, not while still being fair to your students.

Having a friend go through training with you is good thing, but keep in mind that all of the students are there for the same purpose, so it should be easy to study with anybody. You will find as you go through your career that study groups seem to form very quickly whenever pilots are around. I personally have never been a fan of group study, but a lot of people are.

$12k sounds way too cheap for a degree, I would seriously investigate that school before I signed up for it.

Keep in mind that it isn’t just a flight time race to get to the majors. They will look at things like the quality of your education and how well you did there.

I am not trying to dissuade you from your plan, you have some good points to it, I just want you to fully consider all of your options first.


Well that’s what I needed to know about instructor workload, I can’t imagine that I wouldn’t have enough time to complete an online degree while at a regional. Would having, even a 2 year degree, make me much more attractive to a regional? I get what you’re saying on the studying, makes sense that there would be a lot of students to study with at any point in time.

The 12k or so would be that heap because of some college classes I have already taken, 26 hours, and hopefully some credits for the ATP program. Anybody know if colleges will give credits for flight training? The cost of this online school is $150 per credit hour, and I know a regional pilot who just got a degree from there in 13 months while flying! Obviously I wouldn’t expect to be that quick, I was just giving that example to show the authenticity of the school.

That sounds really exciting Tucker, it sounds like you’ll definitely be ahead of most other people! I am mulling over getting a 2 year degree now, but for some reason I still feel drawn to starting this summer…


The Regionals don’t require a degree of any kind. They’re trying to fill classes, if you have the flight time you will get hired with or without a 2yr degree.

Embry Riddle will give you credit for your licenses and ratings so that would help. You say you know a guy who finished in 13mos but don’t say what he went in with as far as credits etc. Not sure how that speaks to the “authenticity” of that school? The point of getting your 2yr degree first is a) enhancing your education and b) making it easier to get the 4yr you’ll need later. As Chris said this really isn’t a race.


Hey Adam,

Thanks for your response!

I was just debating the benefits of having a 2 year degree before going to regionals, in my head basically. Sounds like the biggest thing would be not having to do so much school while flying for a regional.

Good info on Riddle, thanks, I imagine they’re pretty expensive though.
The friend I was referring to had somewhere around 40-50 credit hours I want to say, but I believe they all came from flight training, I need to double check on that. The reason I said "authenticity was in response to Chris’ question about the price. The 12k was a ballpark all depending on credit hours they would potentially give me for flight training. But it is a legitimate school and degree program, I am sure of that.

I really appreciate everyone’s advice and I had not thought about the option of going ahead and getting a 2 year degree right now.


Hey Noah,

Let’s see if I can help you with your questions.

First of all, check out this thread from a few months back. I detailed roughly what you would be able to make as a CFI at ATP. I don’t know what your expenses are and I personally did not have a loan to pay off because I paid out of pocket, but this is a realistic estimate of what you could be making when you finish the program.
I averaged around $3,000-$3,500 a month when I started and then as a senior instructor I was able to make a little more with evaluation fees and such.

Second, yes you can definitely reach 1500hrs in 2 years, I did it in 13 months.

Third, I do not know how California Coastal University builds their programs, but I attend Embry Riddle online and balancing work and study is manageable. Being a CFI is a little bit more demanding (timewise) than flying at a regional, so you can take it easy during your time at ATP (1 class per term or so) and then pick up the pace when you move on.

Fourth, you can’t really expect a certain amount of time at a regional. I know people that have been at SkyWest for 10+ years, while their classmates have moved on to mainline years ago. Getting an interview depends on many different factors and honestly I can’t really identify a pattern in how they hire. I keep hearing of FO’s jumping over as soon as they hit 1000hrs of jet time, but this is not the norm for sure. Basically, you could be called after 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, or maybe not at all.
With that said, I understand that you are interested in Delta but don’t limit yourself to Endeavor just for that reason (not that it’s a bad company of course). Flow-throughs these days are not really worth much because they usually take as much as 10-12 years until your number is reached. In the mean time you could have been hired elsewhere without a flow.

Hope that helps…


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Hey Yarden,

Thank you very much for your response. And all of you guys! It has helped me a lot to hear everyone’s advice.

I was planning to just take it slow on school while instructing, there are no deadlines through CCU, so any progress I could make would help.

Living expense would be practically zero, I live just a few minutes from the FFC location with my parents.

I had kinda been getting that drift on the regionals, it seems to be very unpredictable on flow to majors time across the board from what I’ve heard from everyone. That sound like really good advice on keeping my options open on different regionals. From what I’ve heard from everyone, it sounds like sometimes you just get lucky with interviewing for majors. One questions, and I know this is down the road several years, would any of y’all try and get an interview with a major as soon as you made the age (23) and time (1000 jet)? Or is it really just stupid to try at that point in time with so many better qualified pilots above you?

And thanks for mentioning that thread, I looked over a bunch of them, but I had not seen that one yet.



Do you want to be an instructor or a pilot? I’m confused.

Long term goal, fly for a major like Delta. Process to get there is what I am trying to figure out haha!
Gotta build the hours both at a regional, no idea which one, and instruct for ATP to get the time to go to regionals.

Hope that clears it up


I have an application out for Delta and United right now (which are my top choices). The application for these two is done online through I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I’ve heard that they can monitor the activity on the website and updating it regularly gives you points in their books.


My goal is also to be a commercial pilot for Delta… I’m only a freshman in high school. I am working with a Delta Pilot (captain) that is at the top of the airline.

Hey guys,

Just wanted to reiterate my appreciation for all of the advice and insight y’all gave!
It helped me make my decision and I am sure I will be back for more advice eventually.

I start the Airline Career Pilot Program (40 ME) Fast Track June 12th!
I’m super excited and looking forward to the challenge of the fast track program.

Thanks again,

What Location will you be at?

Congrats and Good Luck Noah!

Keep us posted.


Atlanta (FFC) in Georgia

Hey Noah congrats !! I train at LZU Atlanta, working on my instrument now. Maybe I’ll see ya around !!