Really appreciate all the great info on this forum by both the question askers and the guys that take the time to provide very detailed and thought out answers. Have learned A LOT even though I’ve only been on here for a short amount of time.
My background: I’m a 37 year old Naval Flight Officer (NFO) with over 3,000 hours of crew time in the P-3 (which I know counts only towards bragging rights at the local VFW) and am married with two younger kids. I’m set to retire in about 4.5 years and want to make the transition from the back of to the plane to the front with a second career as an airline pilot. The great information in this forum has renewed my motivation and has taught me that 42 isn’t too late to start. Every. Single. Pilot. in my current squadron is punching out of the Navy and are getting hired on with the majors. They’ve been a wealth of knowledge but I understand that won’t be my path. I’m seriously considering a program like ATP to move through the pipeline as quickly as possible given my age. Also understand that I need to set my expectations that I probably won’t be Captaining a 777 internationally by 65.
With four years left in the military and the goal to get to 1500 hrs as soon as I can after retirement would you guys recommend doing a la carte training in my spare time while on active duty or wait until retirement and knock it out at a school like ATP? Caveat is that we’re getting ready to move to Europe for three years and have read that getting FAA licenses will be next to impossible over there and that flight training is exponentially more expensive in Europe. My thought is about a year out from retirement (hopefully back in the states) get my PPL and required hours, knock out all the writtens then apply to ATP starting with private credit. Any holes in that plan or is there anything else I could be doing right now so that I can hit the ground running after I get out of the military?
When making the transition from the regionals to the majors is it all about hours or are there any other factors that could possibly shorten the time between the two? I have a four year degree, am an instructor navigator and NATOPS evaluator on the P-3 as well as a CRM instructor. Would any of these aviation quals help albeit them not being specifically pilot quals? Or is there something I could try to work on while still on active duty ground wise that could help? Nothing against a career in the regionals but my long term goal would be to get on with a major. If a career in the majors isn’t in the cards I’d be completely content retiring at the right regional.
This one is for Adam or any other pilots flying in Hawaii. I’m stationed in Kailua and have spent half my Navy career based in Hawaii, both of our kids were born here so the islands have a special place in our hearts. Ultimate career goal would be to fly for Hawaiian. Do you guys get a lot of Ohana or Island Air transitions and would you recommend either of those airlines as a regional stepping stone to Hawaiian? Have a ton of Hawaii specific questions so Adam, any chance you’d be willing to link me up with some local pilots or even possibly meet for coffee in Kailua sometime? One of our squadron’s pilots just accepted an offer with Hawaiian and will be classing up in a couple months after he retires. Really great guy, think he’s going to be an awesome addition to your team.
Again, thank you all for the information on this forum. If I didn’t have less than five years left to retirement I’d be jumping ship to start pilot training. Some unsolicited advice for the younger guys: If you think you want be a pilot don’t wait, JUST DO IT! And if you happen to have an “old” dude in your ATP class some day please be nice.
Good questions so let’s try and get you some answers:
If you were staying local and had LOTS of free time I might say get your PPL locally and start building time ASAP. Getting a license in Europe (from everything I’ve heard) is very tough AND costs a fortune. I like your year out plan better. While I usually encourage people to do ALL their training (incl PPL) with ATP for continuity, time is a factor. So if you think you’ll have sufficient free time to build some real flight time and get a jump on your hours than sure.
Obviously you have to meet the required minimums but there are absolutely things that can set you apart. It really depends to a great extent on the airline. Hawaiian (for example) LOVES the military (not just pilots). Literally half of our pilot group is current or former military. SouthWest and Atlas do as well. You’ve got your degree, you’ve served your country and you’ve taught CRM. These will all be look on very favorably on an application.
I think this one is only for me (I’m think I’m the only Hawaiian pilot on this forum?). We hire many pilots from Island Air, Mokulele and Ohana. Ohana pilots in fact are guaranteed an interview with Hawaiian (and they pay really well too). While I certainly can’t make any promises, I’d be willing to bet if you built your 1500hrs, got on with Ohana and flew for a year (maybe 18mos), with your resume you’d get an interview. As I said Hawaiian LOVES the military. I actually live in Kailua (right up the road from the beach park) and would enjoy sitting down and having a coffee. The only thing is I start upgrade training on Tues and that will be my life for the next month, so you’ll have to wait till Nov.
BTW, while Hawaiian doesn’t fly 777s, I’m reasonably certain if you stick to your plan, you probably could be an Airbus Capt flying to Asia.
Adam already did a very thorough job answering your questions, as he always does, but I wanted to chime in, too.
I agree that you should get your PPL when you get bak to the states, then attend a fast track program. My only caveat would be to make sure that you find a good school that offers an actual ground school and has more than one or two airplanes. Also, make sure that your instructor is a full time guy or gal and not some part timer who’s schedule you will have to work around. I wouldn’t go any further than the PPL though, most small schools really are not well prepared to take a student beyond that point.
I think that all of your experience will look great for the majors, but I am not really sure that they will set you apart. Remember that you will be competing against military pilots and regionals pilots who have been evaluators, instructors, etc. By the time you apply to the majors, flight time is the big thing. Adam might croak at this, but I would suggest when you get to a regional NOT getting involved in anything that takes you out of the cockpit. Don’t instruct, don’t evaluate, don’t work in the office, you have already checked those boxes. My vote is that you fly as much as possible to build your flight time up because right now, that is the missing component for you.
Seniority must move pretty darn quickly at Hawaiian, because I was surprised to hear Adam say that you could be an Airbus captain flying international routes. I would strongly suspect that if you were hired at United, American, or Delta that you could expect to someday be a 737 captain, but I do not think that you would be able to progress much beyond that point. Now don’t get me wrong, being a 737 captain for a major airline is pretty darn fantastic.
I don’t mean to sound negative, not in the slightest, I just have a slightly different take on this than Adam. He is probably right though, he usually is
Thank you for the super quick responses! Appreciate you guys taking the time to answer my questions and I value both of your perspectives.
Glad you both think getting the PPL prior to starting a fast track school is OK. I know you guys have recommended fast track programs starting at zero in other posts. I have to find the balance of getting my licenses quickly but I also don’t want to set myself up for failure with the fast pace syllabus at a school like ATP. School will be challenging enough while trying to support a family of four. Now to sit in a holding pattern for the next few years with my fingers crossed that life doesn’t throw us any curveballs that will derail my goals. Maybe I’ll take up memorizing the FAR AIM for fun to kill some time.
Adam- Great to hear Hawaiian and some of the other majors like former military, adds a little bit of a silver lining to the cloud of starting so late in life. I’ll hit you up in Nov to see if we can link up for that cup of coffee. Best of luck during the upgrade training!
Thanks again guys, looking forward to following along the forum to continue to learn.
Where are you getting stationed in Europe.
Just FYI- Depending on where you get stationed, the Air Force has Aero clubs at many installations. I received my private pilots license 17 years ago through the one in Korea. The aero clubs cost way less than Stateside flight clubs because they are mangers/ supplemented through MWR funds. And the instructor pilots are active or retired Military. The only negative, depending on the PCS cycle, most Aero clubs only take you up to a Private. I also think that because of the cost to maintain a multi-engine aircraft.
Google - Airforce Aero Clubs Europe - or use the link below:
Thanks for the info. We’re headed to Germany, quick look at the link you provided doesn’t show any clubs in Germany unfortunately. I’ll keep the aero clubs in mind for when we eventually rotate back to the states. Looks like a great option to use for a PPL and/or log some hours.
This is my first time posting on here but I have been following the conversations for a few months. I am currently in the middle of what you are trying to do so I figured I could offer some insight.
First, I am on the enlisted maintenance side of the house in the Air Force . I started my PPL training at my 17 year mark at the Yokota Aero Club just west of Tokyo as a challenge to myself (and to talk smack to the AF pilots!) and finished in about 6 months. I ended up falling in love with flying and decided to try and make it a career. By the way, military Aero Clubs really are a great cost savings over other flight schools because they are heavily subsidized by WMR funding. After I finished my PPL, I ended up PCSing and found a school that took my Post 9/11 GI Bill for my other ratings. Basically, I saved up 80 days of leave and used 40 days to enroll in a Part 141 school that had me flying or doing ground school from 7 am to 7 pm Monday thru Sunday. I grouped up Instrument with Multi Engine and came out of pocket about $3K. It was pretty grueling and the learning curve was pretty intense but I managed to figure it all out. I felt like I was deployed for those 40 days because I never saw my family or friends! I’m currently waiting to start my commercial training doing the same exact method.
I made sure to enroll in my instrument and ME courses before Aug, since that’s when the new academic year starts for the GI Bill. Right now, you get $13,031.61 per academic year to complete flight training at a vocational flight school (https://www.benefits.va.gov/GIBILL/resources/benefits_resources/rates/ch33/ch33rates080117.asp). Just use this website (https://inquiry.vba.va.gov/weamspub/buildSearchInstitutionCriteria.do) to find a flight school that accepts the GI Bill and give them a call. Once the new academic year starts on August 1st and after you finished your instrument course, you can enroll in a commercial Part 141 course. I will be about $8-10K out of pocket to finish the commercial rating since the GI Bill doesn’t cover the entire cost. After everything is done, I’ll be about $18-20K out of pocket for all my ratings. Not bad since the AF also paid for a B.S., M.B.A. and A&P license with tuition reimbursement and AFCOOL!
I am currently going to retire in August of next year so I can finish the CFI, CFII, and MEI ratings while on terminal leave and have the GI Bill cover the costs. That way, I’m still getting paid by the AF and devoting my entire time to training. It’s not hard finding a CFI job right now, especially with Instrument and Multi Eng instructor ratings. The schools out there need CFIs really bad to keep up with all the training. I’m leaning towards several places in Arizona since most of the CFIs I’ve talked to out there get their ATP minimums in about 12 to 18 months, however, they have pretty grueling work days with long hours and lots of foreign students.
I’m not sure what the policy on here is for listing other flight schools that could work for you since it’s an ATP run forum. I do know that the ATP guys I have come across really are top notch and know their stuff so you can’t go wrong with them. Plus they have a tremendous reputation with the airlines!
If you have any questions just let me know!
We have no problem at all listing other flight school information. This forum is sponsored by ATP, but you will notice that we never act as salesman, we simply provide information.
I would encourage anybody that is looking at any flight school to print out my “List of Questions for any Prospective Flight School” in me “Flying the Line” section as it is a great quide for knowing what to ask and being able to easily compare schools.
WOW, this is great info! Really appreciate you sharing your experience. I was trying to figure out how to utilize the G.I. Bill for some of the training to help offset the out of pocket investment and it sounds like you’ve cracked that nut. A lot of the 141 schools I came across were tied to a degree program which I’m not interested in since I already have a four year degree and didn’t want to “waste” the extra time required to complete the program going to class which had the potential to stretch the time to completion 2-4 years.
I factored in using terminal leave for training to help offset the months without pay but I didn’t think about dropping a few week leave request in a the middle of a tour to knock out a rating or two. Great idea! Really hoping that when we get done with our tour overseas I can get based at a location that has access to an aero flying club as they sound like a fantastic resource.
Congrats on being under a year until retirement! Sounds like you were one of the smart ones who took advantage of the education opportunities the military offers. Thank you for passing on some of the wisdom.
I’ll reach out with questions as the planning continues.
The “List of Questions for any Prospective Flight School” is a great QA checker. I’ll for sure be using it when vetting prospective schools.
Would be awesome if ATP was approved to accept VA benefits. Would make the decision a no brainer It’s somewhat bazaar that a vocational program with such a well organized syllabus and a clear path to a career isn’t approved. I’m in no way a VA benefit expert so I’m sure there’s a good reason the lines are drawn where they are.
ATP would love to be able to take the GI Bill, but that would require the company to jump through so many FAA hoops that the cost of the program would rise dramatically. Being able to take the GI Bill means being a part 141 flight school, ATP is part 61. 141 schools have all sorts of paperwork and ridiculous requirements that make training incredibly cumbersome. I understand your desire to go that route and save money, but the process will be much more cumbersome and take significantly longer than a part 61 school, hence why ATP has stayed away from that.
When you are ready to start the process, look at USAeroFlight (Greenville, SC), Sky Warrior (Pensacola, FL), US Aviation Academy (Denton, TX) and Arizona Flight Training Center (Glendale, AZ). There are more schools out there that take the GI Bill but I found these schools really have their programs together when it comes to VA financing.
The school VA reps from these schools know all the intricacies of the GI Bill and are really helpful, even if you don’t go to their school. A lot of people have out of date information on the GI Bill and just don’t know what it currently offers. I didn’t know about the vocational flight school portion of the GI Bill until I talked to a pilot who used it for their ATP rating when they were transitioning out of the military.
Also, be prepared to get really frustrated with the VA process to use the GI Bill for training. Paperwork gets lost, or government VA rep you talked to last month no longer works there and the new rep has no clue what’s going on, or being told that the GI Bill “doesn’t cover that expense” even though it’s clearly listed as a covered expense. After almost 20 years in the AF I’m kind of used to it, but it still makes me wonder how anything ever gets done.
Thanks for the clarification. Don’t think anybody wants cumbersome costly training so I’ll drop my short lived campaign for ATP to take the GI bill.
In all seriousness though thanks for breaking it down. With my age the only way I see myself going to a 141 school is if I was able to get the majority of my ratings while still on active duty (i.e. having the extra time) . I need to get to that magic 1500 mark with all required ratings as soon as I can post retirement.
Different but related topic: Does ATP hire non-ATP trained CFIs? I saw on their job opening page there is a CFI job posting but I wasn’t sure if guys actually get hired from outside the company. Would think there would be a pretty steady source of CFIs coming out of the training pipeline internal to ATP.
ATP will on occasion hire outside CFIs but it’s usually for a VERY specific position. Fun fact but to instruct (and sign off) pilots for their CFI’s you must have been a CFI for at least 2yrs. Since most of ATP’s CFI’s are long gone (or on the way out by then) they often have a problem filling that position.
I am not going to say that it has never happened, but as a general rule ATP only hires CFIs that trained with ATP.
Good deal. Thank you for the references, I’ll look into them.
I’m basically looking at two paths both leading to instructing:
Get most of my ratings while still on AD using the GI Bill. Easier said than done since the next three years are going to be a wash being overseas. After returning from Europe I’ll have one year of AD left before retirement so it would be a crunch to work a full time job and work on ratings during leave or off hours.
Get my PPL and 80 hrs TT right before retirement then apply for a fast track school to finish up.
I’m sure there are other options out there. Good news is I have three years to plan this out. Bad news is I have three years to plan this out and will continue to second guess myself on the most optimal path. .
Copy on the ATP CFI question. Thank you.
Speaking of the military, how would a pilot who flew heavies for the Air Force with 5000 hours and 2000 PIC transition to the airlines? I know Hawaiian and Delta love hiring those guys but do they pay for them to get civilian ratings or are they easily transferrable?
The military aviation route is something I’ve been considering, so I was wondering if ex military aviators have to jump through way more hoops to get to the airlines than regional guys.
A pilot with the hours you list would simply have to complete an ATP-CTP course, pass the exam and would most likely get hired in min time. No extra hoops required.
Thanks for the discussion on this. I’m a veteran with a Post 9/11 GI Bill to use but I’m struggling to find the best bang for my buck. I love the idea of having all of my ratings paid for + housing and book stipend, but I already have a couple of degrees (did my PPL at the Elmendorf aero club). I’m 37 and would rather not lose another couple of years in school, so I guess it comes down to a time vs. cost evaluation (assuming equal quality instruction): 1) do I go through a 2-3 year IHL (college) to get my training paid for, 2) do I go vocational and knock it out a little faster, some out-of-pocket, and no guaranteed timeline/cost, or 3) do I go through ATP because, as the mentors have pointed out, any delay is lost earning potential/seniority and you know what to expect from the program. Its hard to do the math since there are so many variables, and some unknowns. Ultimately the decision is mine, but I appreciate hearing from others in the same situation. Thanks to all for this excellent forum!