Supporting a family through training

So I have been contemplating a career change and enrolling at a flight school to begin the path to becoming a pilot at an airline. I am the sole income of my house hold supporting my wife and two sons, handling a mortgage and bills… I was drawn to ATP’s flex program as it would allow me to continue to work while going through the training.

The cost of the training is what has left me me nervous/hesitant to enroll as I would be financing the training which would be more then my current mortgage. I know I can’t be the first person to be in this position. What are other’s thoughts? Is the cost of the training worth it to where upon completion I’ll be able to financially support my family while repaying the loan?

I’m not satisfied/happy in my current career, but it does cover the bills and provides a comfortable life style as long as I work overtime on a regular basis. A career change is coming, but is the financial cost of flight school the right path for my family?

If I was single, it wouldn’t be a question, but I have my family to think of. Have others gone through flight school while being the sole income for their family?

Thanks for any views/advice/responses.


It is not recommended to have a job while in Fast Track but some people make it work with flexible part time work.
The Flex Program was not available in 2017 when I went through but it is designed to allow you to maintain a job while training. I would really push for a timeline of 1.5yr or less. Flying 2-3 times per week is really the minimum so you don’t get rusty.

If you finance the whole amount I believe the payment is about 1000/month once out of the deferred payment / interest only period. If you have some college you can usually refinance after a year for a lower interest rate.

Please remember as a CFI, you’ll be making about $25,000-$35,000 /yr until hired by a Corporate or Regional airline. (You could make $35k-55k/yr as CFI / Contract pilot but you’d work 16hr days 7 days per week).

Expect your Corporate or Regional gig to pay about $45k-65k the first year or 2.

I’m single with no kids, but I know many pilots who changed careers with a family. I will say that I believe all of them were a 2 income family. I don’t know your situation, but I would assume the math likely requires a 2nd income for a family of your size.

The key really is to stick with it as a team. Before you sign that loan you have to be committed to sticking with the changes and embrace the sacrifices for the next 3-4yrs (fast track is 2-3yr so I’m adding an extra year for flex). I say this because it is stressful… & the worst thing would be having that loan and then having family issues or not sticking with the career.

You can do it, but you have to figure out how as a family, and then make the change as a family.

Good luck,
Chris F

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I was 39 when I started my training with ATP. I had a wife, mortgage, car payment, 3 small kids and yes it was most definitely a challenge. Fact is even if you’re single, unless you’re wealthy or have rich parents it’s tough. Flight training is expensive and there’s really no way around that. It will require sacrifice by your entire family (particularly your wife). I don’t know what you’re earning now but in all likelihood it’s going to take until you upgrade to Capt at a Regional before you can breath again.

When I did the training the Flex Track wasn’t an option but honestly I’m pretty sure I still would’ve went with the Fast Track anyway. While not working definitely put a greater strain on things, it had taken me far too long to earn my PPL and was determined to complete my training and get on the path asap. Not saying that’s what you should do, just giving you my mindset. I’m now a Capt at a Major airline and I’m earning more than I ever have in my life. Pilots have a finite amount of years they can work. By delaying the training you’re sacrificing years of earning the top money in the end. That said you have to do what works best for you.

Regardless yes it will be tough but for me there’s no question that it was worth it. This is something you need to seriously discuss with your wife. If she’s not onboard it’ll be that much harder.


The investment is hard no matter what but definitely makes it trickier having a family to support. From the sound of your post, it seems like your top priority is making sure your family is provided for while you make this career change. If that is your top priority, the flex track program could be a good option for you. It will allow you the schedule flexibility to keep a part time job to soften the financial blow. It will take you longer and the program is more expensive because of the longer track but you could keep some income along the way.
Your other option is the fast track program but you would not be able to work, so you would have to financially plan for 9-10 months of no income from you before starting to earn a CFI pay again. So it’s a smaller time that you’d be without an income vs a longer time at part time income doing the flex track. Either way, it will be a pay cut from what you probably have now.
Once you complete the program, you will be able to make an income as a CFI. It’s not much but it will be something… There are loan payment deferral options that you could opt in to so you won’t have a payment to make besides interest until you get to the regionals. Or there are tuition reimbursement programs (I highly recommend) once you decide on the regional that’s best for you, so you loan principle is getting paid on even though not a cent would be from your pocket.



Welcome to the forum. I am not going to lie to you, it will be tough financially, especially while you are a flight instructor. It is tight for most people, and that is ones without families. Is it not possible for your wife to return to work for a few years?

As you would continue to work while in the program, you should be fine there. It is while you are a CFI that it will be tight. If you have money saved up, you should be able to bridge the gap if you really tighten your belt. Tory wrote a great piece on CFI pay, you can find it in the FAQ section.


Adam: Thank you for your response. I had read your bio in the other section and it was the closest similar to my situation.

I appreciate your opinion and it is definitely something my wife and I will have to discuss. I know pilots have a finite amount of time but doubling my training time through the flex program, while allowing myself to maintain my full time employment and flying in the evening/weekends/days off/random days I take off. To alleviate a large amount of financial stress during that time so I can better focus on the training is most likely the best route for my family.

I’m lucky to have reached a position in my police department where I can take days off as needed, work one weekend every 4 weeks, and set my own schedule to start/end my work days (baring an emergency or being called in back for emergencies). The Flex Track is the biggest draw for me to ATP as it provides me a more structured training then other flight academies where it is come as you can and pay for each individual incident.

I know the income as a CFI isn’t much, but what are the work hours like? I wonder if I would be able to demote myself from my current position in the police department I work and go from full time to part time to help supplement my income. I know it wouldn’t be for several months down the road with the Flex Track, but I know as part time in my department I would only work 2-3 8 hour days a week. Just as an additional supplement to the income.

My wife did volunteer to return to work, even though I know she truly doesn’t want to. The issue with that would be the offset of her pay to child care. We just had our second son back in November. So although our oldest is almost into high school, our youngest does not have that daily care available and I know my wife would not want to enjoy that.

In the Flex Track at what point do you reach the capability for CFI pay? That would be the point where my wife would have to return to the work force to supplement our income as a necessity and maybe by that point finding child care through relatives may be an option.

Thank you all for you assistance/opinions/and knowledge.


While ATP offers Flex Track training, ATPs instructors work full time. ATP students invest alot of time and money and instructors need to be there as needed. ATP also doesn’t guarantee instructors a location, so you might find yourself with a job offer that takes you away from your home and your job. If you continued to need to work while instructing you probably have to find a part-time position with a local flight school.



Even before you become a CFI, also note that there are portions of the program that require you to be away from base for 2-4 weeks at a time. So if you plan to enroll in the Flex Track program to allow you to continue to work while in the program, be sure to run that by your employer.


How much do CFIs work?…

CFIs work 3-7 days / week.
This depends on Student load, Weather, Availability (Sim & Aircraft) and the CFIs drive.

As others have said, ATP does Not guarantee you a job or a location.

If you do get a CFI job with ATP or another Flight School in your area (usually within 1.5hr drive), you may be able to pull off working 4days / week by working 12-16hr days (some hours flying some doing ground & other times sitting around not getting paid).

The first 2 months I was a CFI, I had only 1 student and worked 2-3 days per week mostly doing large group ground classes. But the last 9months I worked 14hr days 6day / week.

Below is a picture of my last month schedule being a CFI before joining SkyWest. Red & Green are all CFI related slots about 2-4hr each.
This is closer to the extreme of how much you can work, but if you only work 4 days/wk expect to book the whole day.
If students or other instructors complain about your availability, any flight school will start to look harder at you.

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