I know I’m putting you in a spot but I really would like an honest answer. My son, who has wanted to be a pilot for years, graduates from HS in the spring. He has his heart set on attending a University in the area that is well known for it’s aviation. He is right at the cut off point as far as GPA is concerned to get it. He will have his PPL prior to school, as a matter of fact, probably by the end of the month. He’s gotten rave reviews from his Instructor. As a parent, it’s my job to be concerned about and for him. While I’m confidant he’ll be accepted to the University, I’m the type to have a back up to suggest. My original plan was ATP, however, recent reviews I’ve read are horrible. Comments like a “Pilot Mill” and “care only about your money”. Comments also include instructors don’t really care, charged for services not provided. I know some will have sour grapes but of the 15 reviews I read, all were one star. The BBB also has several complaints regarding the school. What are your thoughts, recommendations and suggestions to help alleviate my concerns or should I be concerned? We are in the Chicago area if that matters. Thank you for your time
I have never understood the whole complaint about ATP, or any other flight school, being a “pilot mill”. Yes, they is exactly what they are. ATP has been producing thousands of pilots per year for decades. Every pilot needs to meet the exact same FAA standards, thus everybody goes through the same training foot print. This is also exactly how the airlines and military train their pilots. Now this is not to say that there is not room for flexibility in the program, there is to focus on what. student needs most, but the program footprint is the same for everybody. If that is a pilot mill, then that sounds like a good thing to me.
All of the mentors on this website went to ATP, we all give of our time to this website because we believe in their program and are successful graduates of it. We also have several current and former students on this website who share their experiences.
I would encourage you to check out the Student Experiences section as we never edit that section and there is a lot of good information there: Student Experiences - Airline Pilot Life
I would strongly encourage you to visit the location you are interested in, in person. Make sure to call admin and schedule a tour first.
I think you’ll find my response is similar to Chris’. When I was looking into flight training at ATP, I too saw these reviews all over the place. However, I think you’ll find this is the case with almost any school or university. I went to a university that often boasted it’s rankings in terms of happiest students, and during my time there, I rarely met students who regretted going there. However, if you went online and only listened to the reviews posted on forums or rankings websites, you would think that every student hated it there. Just like my time with ATP, I had a wonderful experience, but I honestly just don’t have the desire to write up stellar reviews (except on this forum to help others). As Chris mentioned you can find hundreds of honest student experiences in the student experiences section. I have to agree with Chris as well that I’ve never understood the complaint about ATP being a ‘pilot mill’. Isn’t that ultimately the goal of the program? When you sign up for accelerated flight training, you are looking for the most efficient path to the airlines, and ATP offers that pathway. I would encourage that you and your son look to visit an ATP location for a training center tour or an intro flight. It will give you a better understanding of the program and what the training typically entails. I’ve done intro flights with prospective students who have had similar questions/hesitancy, and I believe that by the end, their viewpoint had shifted. Yes, ATP is a business, but they also pride themselves on ‘integrity with student’s investment’. They want to see you be successful; and in the end, it’s a win/win for both parties.
Chris and Roscoe have already had a lot of great things to say to address your concerns and I’ll add just a bit more.
While many other businesses offer some good or service that requires nothing except money on the part of the recipient of that good or service, any flight school requires its students to study hard and prepare well for lessons for the service they’re paying for to be effective the way it’s intended. I believe many of the people who leave bad reviews for ATP didn’t take their very expensive investment seriously, didn’t study and prepare as they should have, and then blamed the school for taking their money and letting them down when really they let themselves down by not putting in the necessary effort.
Also, as someone who has both trained and instructed at both ATP and other flight schools, EVERY flight school will have a couple bad apple instructors who are just there for the hours/money and don’t appear to really care about their students. It’s unfortunate, it’s extremely rare in my experience, and it is by no means exclusively an occurrence at ATP. In my time at ATP, training with numerous instructors across multiple locations, I never once flew with an instructor who I felt didn’t care about my learning and growth as a pilot or instructor. They were all dedicated, rooted for me, and loved to see me do well in my training and instructing.
The others have answered you well, so I’m not trying to pile on. My question is for you? ATP has been in business for over 35yrs, has over 60 locations, the largest newest fleet of training aircraft in the country and has trained literally thousands of successful airline pilots over the years. Further they pioneered airline partnerships and successful grads like myself have had the opportunity for preferential hiring long before the pilot shortage. They continue to maintain these relationships with United, American and Delta’s Regional feeds that provide cadet programs to the Majors.
All the above is fact, not opinion or spin. Ultimately the choice is yours (and hopefully your son’s). Disregard almost 4 decades of success because of some bad reviews and go to a non-pilot mill (ie, they maybe have had 1sucessful student ever). OR increase the odds of your son reaching his goal by sending him to train in a program with a proven record of producing airline pilots. So back to my question, which makes more sense?
Thank you Adam. Excellent points and what I was hoping to hear. It is ultimately my sons choice and I feel much better hearing from people I know where actually there. Makes me more confident that he’ll be successful if this is the route he takes.
Thank you for your time. Your response and those from others have been greatly appreciated. My first thought when reading some of the reviews was exactly what you said, poor students who didn’t take it seriously. I’ve told my son many times that he’s going to have teachers and bosses he doesn’t like. Learn to deal with it. It was just reassuring hearing from people I know attended the school. Thank you.
Thank you. I appreciate your time and hearing from people who I know attended. Your points are well taken.
Thank you. As I mentioned to others, I appreciate those who I know have attended took time to respond and clear any concerns. My son looks forward to visiting his location and look forward to watching him progress.
I am glad we could be of help. Please come back anytime with any questions you have and please encourage your son to sign up here as well!
As Chris mentioned, we would be happy to set up a tour for you and your son of one of our locations. We have two training centers in the Chicago area - one at the Dupage Airport and the other at the Chicago Executive Airport.
Feel free to reach out to our admissions department at 904-595-7950, and we can get that set up for you!
I will say this ATP doesn’t only care about your money. On my second week of training I was called into the TSM office to discuss why I wasn’t progressing fast enough. They specifically told me they didn’t want to waste my money and if I am not able to progress fast enough this program might not be a good fit. I think I would have been out 20k but it’s better than 84k. I wasn’t progressing fast not due to a lack of studying or anything like that. I knew all the flows required, but my flying skills were lacking. After talking to the TSM and my instructor it was determined changing instructors was the best course of action in addition to sim practice. Now I spend at least an hour everyday in the sim. I was able to catch up to where I need to be flying skill wise.
This school might be a pilot mill, but they do care about you and will help get you where you need to be.
Thank you Andrea,
So glad they’ve gotten you up to speed and that is really the point of this. The term “pilot mill” obviously has some negative connotations. Perhaps we should say its a “successful pilot mill”. Sure ATPs a business, but the fact is if they didn’t do what they do as well as they do they wouldn’t have the success they’ve had for almost 4 decades.
Please keep us posted on your progress and keep up the good work!
Michael, please consider too that in this business there will be “sour grapes” everywhere. ATP is just the largest school there is, with a lot of high-level optics, and plenty of naysayers trying to insert doubt to bite off a piece their flight training pie. There are certainly people who feel they were “short-changed”, but in the overwhelming majority of cases where folks were unhappy with their outcome, the wounds were self-inflicted (failing checkrides causing delays, not putting in the work, etc etc). I have had some students who have struggled a bit with the pace, put their head down and moved forward, and some who just didn’t want to be there, thought it’s going to be easy, etc. Then when they decided to separate or were let go, they would be upset that they had to pay for the training they received. You can read through my thread on here, which I started when I first got my training bundle, and continue to update as I keep moving through my career. I finished the program on time, got the job instructing, built my time and moved on to the airlines. Minus the year long delay in hiring due to a black swan event, I still received what I paid for. Consider this my 5-star review
I appreciate all the responses. I totally agree that many reviews are the result of the reviewers own short comings. Most people who are satisfied won’t leave reviews. This was a great opportunity to get the other side to respond. I’m in a much better place now and look forward to watching my son progress through an amazing occupation. He plans on visiting a location very soon. Thanks again for yours and everyone else’s responses.