Real Answers from Real Pilots

The Planes

Evening ATPers future, past and present,

Looking for some hot takes on the topic of ATP aircraft downtime, condition and reliability.

One of the reasons I am leaning heavily toward ATP vs Local Flight School is ATP’s average aircraft age (from what I can tell most singles are less than 3yo, twins a little older) and implied reliability.

I’ve heard horror stories of local mom and pop’s squeezing a few too many years out of 40/50 year old airplanes and just don’t want that added stress as I am working through the post-PPL gauntlet this year.

I figure the extra $30k I’ll probably spend ATP vs Local Flight School is worth it to be in newer planes, with newer avionics (not to mention access to the sims).

But I’ve been surprised more than once in what I’ve read here, so perhaps I am making too big an issue of what is always a bit of an unknown (given nothing is guaranteed 10k ft).

I am targeting KAPA location so believe it will be Cessnas and Seminoles for me.

Hope all are doing well post one major holiday and leading in to another,

cg

Chris,

As you stated the majority of ATPs aircraft are new. This link will show you the breakdown:

There’s no question new is nice and more reliable. ATP also does all their own maintenance so there’s no waiting to get an appt when a plane needs service. Not only does that speak to reliability but availability.

Not sure however where you’re getting an extra $30k for ATP? While ATP certainly isn’t the cheapest the price is fixed and includes actual realistic flight times. The fact is many people who go to local flight schools, while they may be quoted less, end up paying more in part due to the lack of resources available to fly consistently.

Adam

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Chris,

I will share with you a story from my days as an ATP CFI. I worked at a small location that only had one airplane and one instructor (me). One evening I discovered that the airplane had a fault with one of the instruments that would require it to be fixed by local maintenance before it could fly again. The problem was that I had a student who had a check ride at 10am the next morning. I called ATP dispatch and advised them of the situation, they told me not to worry about it, an airplane would be there by checkride time.

Well sure enough, at about 9:00 am a crew of students on their cross countries delivered a new airplane to me at Norfolk, VA, just in time for the check ride. Point being, the company takes check rides and aircraft availability very seriously and always serves to make sure things go on schedule.

I would very much disagree that mom and pop schools can save you money, I would argue that in many cases they actually cost more. They routinely quote the bare minimum times, but the vast majority of students take more time. That, coupled with aircraft delays, instructor delays, etc lead to cost over runs.

I was in an FBO on Dec 22 of this year. I heard a PPL student call in to try to schedule his night cross country flight. The guy on the phone told him: “Your instructor is off until Jan 3, call back then to schedule.” I just shook my head in disbelief, I do not know how anybody could finish a training program at a place like that.

Chris

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There is downtime here and there for student solos who have priority.There is also downtime for weather, which is something you can’t change and out of ATP’s hands. In the end, despite some delays here and there, you will certainly complete the program on time, as there are many days buffer in the program outline to make up for this. You will especially get ahead in instrument phase.

Condition of the planes are very good. In my location they are G1000 archers and I think 2 year average age.

Reliability of ATP planes is great as well.

Planes used for flight instruction go through 100 hour inspections. They also require an annual 12 month inspection by an IA A&P mechanic. Even if they’re really old, doesn’t necessarily mean something bad would happen. You can ask to check maintenance logs of your school if you are worried.

Good luck.

Thanks for the response Adam, you are probably right, may not end up being a full $30k difference all said and done. I had been telling myself $20k difference, and am (now that it is available) aiming for the Flex Program which is I believe $5-$7k more than the Fast, so I just rounded up to $30.

Wasn’t meaning to stir up any price wars!

No worries Chris.

Just clarifying and even your $20k figure may be high.

Adam

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Absolutely love this anecdote, especially the service-first attitude. Also appreciate the “more to the cost than just money” implications.

Thanks for inspecting my logic, you and your fellow moderators are first class all the way.

Thanks for the reality check @ATPhopeful, believe it was Twain that said “a rumor can be halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on.”

As such, I am sure as with everything in life the troublesome rumors are a lot more well known than the day-in-day-out safe flights and safe decisions.

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Chris,

Thank you for your kind words. Let us know how else we can help you along the way.

Chris

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Chris,
I am the former lead of the Charlotte ATP location. We typically had about 30 active students and about 8-12 archers and 2-3 seminoles at a time. ATP planes are nearly brand new (which is unheard of for flight instruction) so we didn’t have mx issues often. Most times the planes we squawked were for minor issues but the planes are still 100% airworthy. ATP culture revolves around safety so we squawk planes if anything is abnormal so planes you go up in as a student will always be top notch.
If you preflight a plane as a student a notice something wrong that leads to a squawked plane, you can simply hop in to another open plane on the ramp. Charlotte is one of the locations with an ATP mx shop so even planes that were assigned to maintenance were back on the line anywhere from 30 mins to day end depending on what the issue was. My point in all this is, you will not find another flight school with the quality and quantity of planes like atp. It may cost more than a mom and pop school but you’re paying for safe, reliable and available aircraft to get you through your flight training safely and quickly.

-Hannah

Great point Hannah, not only in terms of aircraft availability but also interchangeability. One that I hadn’t thought of till you pointed it out, but at the local where I got my PPL hopping in to another plane (if one was happened to be available) meant a different avionics suite. I am sure there are aviators that can change from G1000, to G430 to iPad + 6 pack quickly and safely but I also felt that I was immediately putting myself behind the plane to try a different setup (not to mention carbureted vs fuel injected). If all ATP’s planes are in the same 1-2 year generation I assume avionics would be pretty similar. (with the exception of the Seminoles which I understand to be a bit older).

Thanks for taking the time to respond, have a great day.

cg

I’m sure it varies by location, but at the tiw location, currently we have plenty 172’s, and a number of Seminoles. They are all relatively new and well maintained (might be because the tiw location is also a maintenance center), which is great. It’s easy to report issues, and they get turned out pretty quick. The 172’s here are all within maybe 5-8 years of each other, and all have, as far as I can tell, identical avionics. I’m so glad I didn’t go to a school more aimed towards pressure pilots. Compared to most everyone, we’re spoiled. If you exclude maybe embry Riddle, I’d wager that atp has the newest and best maintained fleet

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Chris,
Yep you can expect that all atp aircraft will have the very similar avionics. There are the 172s, archers and seminoles. In each type, they’re are only small differences. Your location will determine the aircraft you train in but it won’t change unless you move locations. The archers come in g500 (most atp locations) and g1000 models (select atp locations). Of the seminoles, the 79 and 2000 models have a little different cockpit layouts but nothing too different that would throw you off.

-Hannah

Chris,

One of my favorite topics, I love to see all the types of planes ATP has. Almost all the ATP airplanes have up-to-date technology, such as G1000 avionics, some are still equipped with the standard 6-pack (which I love) and G500 avionics. ATP has 16 locations for maintenance across the 53 locations, this makes ATP’s planes readily accessible to get to maintenance for their 100-hr and annual. If you’re curious to specific airplanes at locations, under the ATP Flight School Locations, you can select a location and click aircraft to get what specific aircraft are where. This number changes daily as you can refer back to my previous sentence, these planes are constantly being moved for maintenance. Just the other week we had 1 Piper Seminole & 4 Piper Archers at my location, today I went in to fly and help another classmate out, I saw 2 Piper Archers on the status board…it changes quite frequently. ATP does a solid job at making sure there are enough planes at each location for the number of students. Most of the time you’ll find that students that go on Crew will ferry a plane from a maintenance to training location. Personally I took a G1000 Piper Archer from Texas to Connecticut, and North Carolina to New Jersey for crew.

In the northeast we’ve flown 2013/2014 and 2018/2019 Piper Archers (both equipped G500 & G1000 avionics). I’ve heard that the west coast still has some 6-pack Cessna Skyhawks, and down south is a mix between Cessna and Piper. I’ve only started flying the Piper Seminole (2001+ year), and have not seen personally anything older in the northeast.

Unless you’re looking at other top-named schools that have brand new Cirrus or Diamond, ATP…for the price you pay and the quality of training, it is well worth the money. Must I also add in the amount of graduates are hired and the timeline for completion of program is much faster than any I’ve found.

Brady

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Thanks @BFries for the reply! It sounds like you’ve done it all and recently, which is reassuring. I am aiming for KAPA, which means 172s for me. That is just fine by me.

Also noticed on the location link you sent they are opening up a location at Wheeler in Kansas City. As a Native Kansas Citian that airport is on my list of ones I want to fly myself into and out of because you land over the river. I chuckle thinking about the students to come, can’t imagine learning to fly with an over-water landing!

Have a great day!

cg

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Chris,

While I didn’t learn to fly here, I live in Hawaii. Know what learning to fly here means? It means student pilots have to satisfy their cross country requirements by flying island to island, over the Pacific (with BIG tiger sharks) where if you lose an engine you are going swimming. Chuckle on that one! You do what you have to do! :slight_smile:

Here’s a fav. Landing in Kauai you come in over the ocean, oh and there’s a lighthouse directly in front of the rwy on final! Good times!

Adam

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Below glide slope - terrain - terrain - terrain. Lol

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Chris,

An approach over water is really not a big deal. In fact, it usually guarantees that there will not be an obstacle in-between you and the runway. I instructed at ORF and all of our approaches to runway 23 were over water. It certainly did make for a more visually pleasing approach though.

Chris

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