Testing the waters

I have recently found out about the possibility of becoming a pilot. To be perfectly up front and honest I know NOTHING about planes or flying for that matter but I always thought it would be cool. I am currently 27 turning 28 next month so I would still have some time to earn decent merits and move up in the world. That being said I am a father of a 5 year old with a mortgage. I want to go down this career path but I know that would mean going to school (for what seems like 7 months) for a while but I have also gotten mixed reviews. I look into Envoy and American and it says 2-3 months in Dallas and then I’m not sure what happens. I’m in Wichita KS and there is an ATP school here but I don’t see any of the major or minor companies that I’m wanting to look into. For the benefits the two best that I have looked at are PSA and ENVOY. I would like to know if it is possible to stay in Wichita. If this is a possibility then how do I go about that. If not then how long to I have to be out of state and would there be enough money that I could still help out with bills and child expenses since I wouldn’t be there to actually work and earn that. Also I mentioned earlier that I have absolutely ZERO experience. Is there anything that I absolutely need to do before looking into applying? There are A LOT of questions that I have but those are just the basic ones

Welcome Brandon,

First things first, if you don’t have any experience then I suggest taking an intro flight. There is no better way to determine if this is right for you than to actually get in an airplane and fly.

Pilots can live anywhere that they want. It is their responsibility to get themselves to an from their home base. Airlines have jumpseat agreements with each other to provide their pilots with the option of commuting.

I, personally, don’t recommend commuting because I value my time at home. When you are a commuter you could potentially spend more time away from home depending on how many flights per day there are between your base and home. But, if you wish to stay in Wichita, you can so long as you accept the responsibility. A lot of commuters arrange what’s known as a crash pad near base so that they have a place to sleep if need be.

Here is a list of airline domiciles: Airline Domiciles Map / ATP Flight School

The rest of your questions are impossible to provide a definitive answer to. Everything in this industry revolves around seniority and the variables are always changing. I don’t know how much money you need to provide for your family and I cannot predict how long you could potentially be based away from wherever you call home. I wouldn’t spend too much time worrying about all of that now. You have a long way to go before you cross that bridge.

If you wish to see how much you can expect to earn in your first few years check out: https://www.airlinepilotcentral.com/. There you can review a quick overview of each airline.

First, like I said, get some experience. Then go from there. There is more helpful information in our FAQ section and on ATP’s website on how to become a pilot.

For what it is worth, I went through ATP between 2014-2015. I taught for them until 2017. I flew for Horizon for about 4.5 years. Now I am at Alaska. Your mileage may vary depending on how much movement there is in the industry by the time you get in and also by the decisions that you make to advance your career along the way.



I totally hear you with the commuter option being possibly detrimental and I fully understand as I am already a family man myself and also value my time at home.

As far as the living expenses I’m not worried when I get to the point of earning a salary as a flight instructor. My issue is trying to figure out how to not put the full burden of being a home owner on my girlfriend WHILE I am at ATP. I realize with the programs I’ve looked at (ENVOY to AA) have made it pretty clear that their ATP branches are going to require me likely using some of the housing in the area. That being said I want to be sure that I can also have enough to provide for family. currently that’s roughly $1000 a month to make sure there is a little room for movement and increases in bills etc.

I definitely plan to take an intro flight. I do have an instructor friend who is working locally and have been trying to get ahold of him to get that intro flight set up. Of course I want to fly first to get a feel for it before I go full force in pursuing the field so I appreciate the encouragement.

All that to say, I am well aware I’m a far way off of even regional, not to mention major. With CFI I wasn’t sure if it’s just applying to wherever is available or if I could possibly get something “closer to home” I know that we have a national airport local and therefore this might be an ideal home base depending on how everything works out and what airlines would offer but again that is much further down the road. I am focused currently on ATP school and what that would look like financially and living wise to ensure I wouldn’t be abandoning my family in pursuit of pilot training.

I do appreciate you input all the same Tory, especially with the experience you do have.

If you don’t have enough funds to cover living expenses while in the program you can save or add your expenses to your loan. It will not be possible to work during the program.

When you finish the program, if you have minimal checkride busts you put yourself in a good position for ATP to offer you an instructor position. The thing to consider is that the offer could potentially be at any one of their locations. Since most people want to get back to their primary training center close to home that is typically what people get, but there could be a wait list.

You are also able to apply to any flight schools near you as well.



If you are thinking of going to ATP, I would do your intro flight at ATP. The flight is not just about checking a box, but it is you interviewing the school just as much as they are interviewing you.

I would recommend that you speak with the admissions department about adding extra money to your loan to cover living expenses. From what I understand, this is a pretty common practice.

There are no airlines based in Wichita and it appears that there are none within several hundred miles. Check out this map: Airline Domiciles Map / ATP Flight School There is a 135 carrier based in Wichita, but that is not an airline and I would not make life decisions around such a small company. I would strongly recommend that you move to wherever you are based.



After your intro flight with ATP, you can tour the location near you and talk about financing. You shouldn’t need housing if you live within 30/45mins of the training center.

Once you complete the 7 month program, you could be offered a CFI position. This is your first decision, stay with ATP and wait for a position at the location near you. Bypass waiting for ATP and get a position instructing at a local mom and pop school, or move to another ATP location that is open. Staying with ATP means you’re eligible for more than a dozen different pathway programs with tuition reimbursement. That way you won’t have to worry about paying off your loan along with your mortgage while flight instructing.

Once you make it to 1500 hours, you also have a decision to move to one of the junior bases of the regional you get hired on with or stay in Wichita and commute.