Real Answers from Real Pilots

Sun Country and ATP Establish Partnership

ATP just announced an agreement where eligible ATP instructors can progress directly to Sun Country Airlines upon completing their 1,500 hours. Starting out on a 737 sounds pretty darn good to me!


That’s crazy! But very cool!


This sounds very cool, always nice to have more options available to you!

On a related note, If you’re goal is a major, does it matter much at what regional you get your PIC experience?

I know each major has their own regionals so ideally you would want to work at the one related to your preferred major, however if I were to work at Sun Country/Horizon Airlines, would I not be considered by Southwest/Hawaiian/Delta when I meet qualifications?


That’s really a very common misconception. The Majors want experienced well trained pilots. While some Majors have Regional partners, not all do. Further even those with flow-thru agreements limit the amount of pilots they’ll take from their partners. Think about it. If a Major needs pilots and cannibalizes their Regional partner to the point of crippling them that hurts both the Regional and the Major.

Pick the Regional or the LCC that works best for you.


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It really does not matter which regional you build your flight time at. The majors simply want to see high quality flight time, there are no bonus points for flying for “their” regionals. Building 737 PIC time at Sun Country would be a great way to build time for any of the legacy majors, to include Southwest/Hawaiian/Delta.


I would choose your regional based on your priorities… is it the upgrade time, bases, planes you’ll fly, company culture? It’s up to you.
The one thing I would caution you on going to a LCC like sun country right out of 1500 hours is upgrade time. You’re going to need that turbine PIC time.
I’m not knowledgeable on Sun Country but I do know frontier upgrade time is about 4-5 years right now. So it’s great to get A320 time out of 1500 hours but if the long goal is to get your turbine PIC time and get to a legacy carrier, that wouldn’t be your fastest route. It would be better to go to a regional and upgrade in a year and a half to 2 years.


The most junior captain at Sun Country was hired in May of 2018, so only a three year upgrade time and that is with a pandemic in the middle of it. I for one think that is a much better deal that flying for a regional airline and that the 737 type rating and flight time would more than make up for a few extra months of FO time in the eyes of the majors.

To me, this looks like a carbon copy of the Frontier deal. I’m still a couple years away, so don’t have to worry too much about it yet.

I saw that Sun Country’s most recent Captain was hired 2018, but could that just be a recency thing? With a pilot pool under 400, I would think there would need to be a significant turnover in the pilot pool to sustain a 2-3 year upgrade time. Is this a reasonable assumption?

On the other, Frontier has a pilot pool of about 1400 (and thus a more reliable flow from FO to CA?), and says they anticipate doubling their fleet over the next 5 years…

If I were in a position to be lucky enough to have offers from both and a regional in this climate, I think I’d go with Frontier over a regional.

Would this be a good line of thinking, or leave too much up to chance with Frontier meeting their growth goals?


I just double checked to be sure, but the Sun Country deal says you need to “independently complete an enhanced ATP CTP course. This tailored program supplements the traditional ATP CTP with added Boeing 737 full-motion simulator”. Is this different than the Frontier deal?

I’ll need to verify, but I believe it’s the same concept. The enhanced ATP CTP is paid by the applicant.


Just to be clear, if a pilot has 1,500 hours and is lucky enough to have employment offers from major airlines like Sun Country and Frontier, either one is a fantastic opportunity. Both airlines are growing rapidly and both have very nice equipment.

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Is the enhanced ATP CTP they’re referring to what ATP offers? Can you take the ATP CTP, and get a b737 type rating, before you hit 1500 hours? Would that be helpful in the long run, if you had the resources to do it?

The enhanced ATP CTP program is a course that goes beyond the normal syllabus of am ATP CTP course to really prepare the student for being hired at a particular airline, it does not include a full type rating.

Wow… fantastic news! Thanks for sharing!