Real Answers from Real Pilots



First off, thank you for this site. It’s amazing being able to get the insight directly from people in the industry. I’m planning on attending ATP in San Diego as soon as my wife graduates nursing school next year. I know the program allows you to become a CFI to gain flight time, but I was wondering if you were paid anything while doing so. My wife will be making a decent salary after graduation, but obviously one income is always a little difficult for a full two years (although doable), so I was just curious. Also, would you recommend getting my PPL before attending ATP or would it be smarter to wait and do it through the school? Thank you so much for your time and help.

Hi Brian and Welcome,

While you won’t get rich flight instructing, ATP pays a competitive wage and most pilots find it more than adequate. Also keep in mind that many of the Regionals are offering Tuition Reimbursement and/or hiring bonuses depending on how you fund your instruction. Here’s a link that details the Instructor pay:

As for your getting your PPL first I only suggest that IF you have some doubts if flying is really what you want to do and aren’t ready to commit fulltime. If you are I definitely recommend waiting and doing the entire program with ATP. There’s a concept called The Law of Primacy which basically says what we learn first has the strongest and most lasting impact. The ATP program has been honed and perfected over 30yrs and it works. By doing all your training with ATP you’ll starting off using their procedures from day 1 making all your transitions seamless. Make sense?




I would recommend against getting your PPL before you begin flight training with ATP. Getting your PPL at a local flight school will most likely end up costing you significantly more than ATP, take longer, and not fit as well into your ATP flight training. With ATP one thing builds on another, staying with them for all of your flight training really helps with the continuity of training.



Adam and Chris,

Thank you guys so much for the advice. That definitely makes a lot of sense. This may seem stupid but I did my intro flight a couple weeks ago at a local flight school and the thought of going a year without going up again is killing me. The urge has actually made me to lose sleep. Since I have a year to wait, do either of you recommend a way to be able to go flying occasionally without diving into the PPL program? Thanks again for your time and help.


You can do whatever you like. It’s your time and your money. If you’ve really got the itch and want to take lessons (or even get your PPL) there’s nothing wrong or bad about that, many people do. You asked what we recommend. Economically and as far as the quality of the training goes, we recommend you wait but you won’t mess things up if you don’t. Back when Chris and I did our training, ATP didn’t offer the PPL (you HAD to have it first). Both of us had similar experiences of it taking wayyyyy too long and costing wayyyy too much. ATP recognized the need and also recognized the pilots starting from PPL often had bad habits so they created THEIR PPL program and it’s been incredibly successful. That said, again, if you can’t wait the year AND you can’t start training with ATP sooner then what the heck, start flying. Either way I’m sure you’ll be fine.


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Got it, I completely understand. Thank you so much again for your advice, I really appreciate it.

Hey guys,

I hope you’re all having a good week so far. I have two other questions. I know I’m really far out from attending ATP but is there anything I can do, read, or study in order to better prepare myself for the aviation fire hose? Also, do you recommend I train for my PPL in a certain type of aircraft? I can choose between the c172, pa28, or the da40. Cost is all about the same, but I wasn’t sure if I’ll be required to learn on a specific aircraft once I attend ATP, or if I get to choose to continue training with an aircraft I’m more familiar with (as long as it’s available at ATP). Any advice is appreciated. Thanks!


If you check the ATP website it shows what aircraft are located at what location (or you can call and ask what they fly where you intend to train). If you’re concerned with transitioning and want to remain consistent you can of course stay with that. Personally I like trying different things and flew a number of different aircraft in the beginning and feel I benefitted from it. My biggest caveat in all this is (in my humble opinion) I feel every pilot should begin their training in a conventional “round dial” cockpit vs glass. Moving from a standard 6-pack to glass is cake but going the other way is not. You never know where this career will land you but there are still Regionals flying turbo-props and Majors flying older 757/767s that still have round dials. If you’ve never seen them in your life that’s a BEAR to tackle. Once again your call.


Awesome thanks Adam! Sorry I just wasn’t sure if we were allowed to choose which aircraft or how it worked. I appreciate the advice.