Update on my ATP journey

Hello!

I’ve been occupied with some personal situations (a member of our family and a friend recently passed away. Very sad time) but I finally took my very first big step! I paid my deposit, set my start date (which is in mid-Sept)!! I’ll always remember that moment when the admission staff said, “Welcome to ATP! You’re on your way to becoming a pilot.”

I did my intro flight (it was amazing!), obtained 1st grade medical certificate, completed the TSA application process (this is required if you’re not a US citizen. I’m a permanent resident, but still had to do it. 3 applications to submit, $130 each. Let me know if anyone else has any questions about this process), and secured my start date at LGB training center!

I spent hours and hours debating and researching about whether I should go with Fast track or Flex track training. I got a tremendous amount of advice and help from this Airline Pilot Life community during my research. Thank you again! Once I decided that Flex would be a better option for me (I’m a mother of two young children), I also spent months rearranging my situation in order to prepare for this new chapter of my life - then BOOM! I was notified that Flex track is no longer offered! So, now I’m signed up as a Fast track student. This is definitely not the course I had planned myself for, but such is life. While I think it would’ve been really great for ATP to give aspiring students some headsup/warning in advance about this dramatic change (at least for those who were already approved for Flex track loan?), this does not change my mind about wanting to become a pilot and my choice of school. So I’ll work hard to make it happen.

With this new update, I have a new set of questions:

  1. Seat cushions: the only thing I was bummed about during my intro flight was that I wasn’t quite tall enough to feel totally comfortable with using the pedals! (Urg! I’m 5’2") I even had my seat adjusted all the way forward. I can reach them with my feet, but did not feel 100% comfortable. The instructor who flew with me advised that there are supporting pads/cushions I could use. For those who had this issue, can you please recommend which cushion you liked and where I can find them? And does this mean I have to carry cushions everywhere I go as a regional/major airline pilot?

  2. ATC communication: I’d say I’m very comfortable with English, but it is no secret that it isn’t my native tongue. While I was up in the air during my intro flight, I felt the growing concern about being proficient in understanding and speaking radio communication. Are there any Youtube channels or Podcasts you would recommend so I can get some practice/insights in advance? Actually, any channels or podcasts you find helpful as a pilot, I’d be interested in listening to! I understand I shouldn’t sweat over it already because I’ll get my chance to practice and repeat, but I was honestly a bit intimidated.

  3. Aviation headset: I understand a quality headset is worth an investment, especially if I’m required to bring my own personal headset to my first job as a commercial airline pilot. (Or, is it provided by your employer?) I read some great comments about Bose A20 in other posts, but the price tag is a hefty one. While I’m willing to invest, I’d like to know if anyone is absolutely happy with their headset in the $600-700 range?

  4. With the Flex track gone and now that Fast track is even faster than ever (7 months instead of 9), I expect the training is even more intense than before. What are some major changes I can expect with the program now two months shorter? I imagine those 2 months can make some significat difference? I’ll try my absolute best to finish as fast as I can, but I will try not to beat myself up too much if I end up taking longer. I want to learn well and be comfident in what I know.

Between now and my start date in Sept, I’m planning to knock out all 6 written tests. Preferably all 6, but as many as I can for sure. I still have some major things to move around, rearrange, and figure out before I can commit, but can you tell how excited I am already from how long this update ended up being?!

Thank you for reading, I appreciate your time! Have a wonderful day, everyone!

2 Likes

Hyeon,

Thanks for the update. Sounds like you have all your ducks in a row so congrats. I know you’re bummed about the FlexTrack being gone but honestly I think you’re much better off with the FastTrack. That’s really how the program was designed and it works. Successful flight training is dependant on consistency and there’s nothing more consistent than flying daily. As for you questions here goes:

  1. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I have never needed any cushions but the majority of the pilots I know do use them and yes they carry them around when ever they fly. The seats in commercial jets are far more adjustable (as are the rudder pedals) so you may not need them for your height but many just find them uncomfortable and continue to use their cushions. Not a big deal.

  2. Hyeon I don’t care if you were born here and have a Masters in English, if you’re not a pilot and I VERY quickly say “JULLE at 10 and 250, after JULLE direct to the HNL/180/10 DME fix and cross at 2500” I’m pretty sure you’d have no idea what I’m taking about. You’re not a pilot and you have no context. It will come with time, practice and knowledge.

  3. Full disclosure I’m a Bose guy. They’re light, they’re comfy, they’re quiet, will last you a lifetime and they’re $1100 online. While I appreciate you want to save some money we’re talking $4-500 over your budget. You’ll be wearing those Bose during training for 7mos, the 1.5yrs building time, then at least 3-4yrs at a Regional. You do the math and tell me if it’s worth it?

  4. Some history. The Fast Track was originally 5mos (that was FAST!). The only reason they pushed it to 9mos was simply because there was an examiner shortage and people were sitting around and getting rusty. There’s still a shortage but the situation has improved which has allowed ATP to shorten the program to 7mos (which is still more than I got!). There has been no change to the curriculum. On that note though you need to wrap your mind around something. You say “I will try not to beat myself up too much if I end up taking longer”. Well you might not but ATP will! ATPs program is not accelerated to get you done fast. The program is accelerated to prepare you for airline training. Do you believe when you show up day one at SkyWest (or Delta, etc) they will say “welcome Hyeon, your training footprint is 8 weeks but we want you to “learn well and be confident” so you take as much time as you need”? ATPs program is scheduled at an efficient (but very doable) 7mos and you will be done in 7mos. Not to send you packing but to ensure when you show up for newhire training at a Regional you’re capable of successfully completing their training (which not everybody does). This is the reason that long before there was any pilot shortage and people were lucky if they even got an interview, ATP grads got preferential hiring with reduced minimums when no one else did. It was because the airlines knew ATP students were capable of keeping up. The FlexTrack is gone my friend and you need to start mentally preparing yourself to work very hard.

Adam

Welcome back Hyeon!

Congrats on your start date!

For seat cushions: https://www.pilotmall.com/collections/seats-cushions-stools

For headsets, I too am an A20 fan, but David Clark makes quality headsets at every price point. I would spend as much as you can afford on a headset though. It’s going to be on your head for hours at a time. It needs to be comfortable. I can’t make specific recommendations but any DC in the $600-700 range should work.

Tory

Hyeon,

Welcome to the ATP family and thank you for the update! Let’s get to your questions:

  1. I have bot had to use a seat cushion, so I cannot recommend one. I have seen many shorter pilots at the airlines use seat cushions. Other than the inconvenience it causes you, it is not a big deal. I would say that most airliner seats are more adjustable than seats in smaller airplanes.

  2. I would not worry about the ATC communications one bit. You write incredibly well, better than most of us, so I am sure your English is fine. I would not expect you to understand any of the ATC talk, it is another language of its own and nobody knows it before becoming a pilot or controller. This will come in time, don’t sweat it. I would not spend time on podcasts, work on those written exams instead.

  3. I am a fan of David Clarke headsets; I find them to be sturdy and work well. Many people will preach about how great Bose is, but I have never seen the advantage.

  4. With the shorter training, you should expect to see your time used more efficiently. The program was longer mainly because the FAA was having issues providing the necessary amount of examiners that flight schools nationwide needed to operate. The FAA is now better staffed, so the program can return to its shorter self. Keep in mind that the Flex track had a financial premium to it, so this is a cost savings for you.

I am glad you are getting a head start on the written exams, that will be a huge help to you in the program.

Thank you again for the update, please keep them coming.

Chris

Hi Adam,

Thank you so much again for taking your time and answering my questions! I know what you mean. That is the truth. I should be in the mindset of an airline pilot from Day 1. The only reason I even said that while I was thinking out loud was because one of the CFIs I spoken with said he ended up taking 11mos instead of 9. The more I thought about, the more I am actaully excited to be fully emersed and to start getting comfortable with my planes!

You always provide super realistic and insightful perspectives and advice. I really appreciate it!

Hyeon

Thank you, Tory!

I think I will go with A20. One tiny question - do I need Bluetooth function in my headset?

Hyeon

Thank you again for your time and reply, Chris! I’ll definitely keep the updates coming and look forward to your valuable advice!

Hyeon

Do you NEED it? No.

There are strong opinions held by some pilots that have the Bluetooth A20s that argue that when used in certain ways it can increase a pilot’s situational awareness but, I’ve never been sold on those arguments to change my mind.

The Bluetooth A20s are a nice to have, not a need to have.

After you do some more research you can decide for yourself.

If it’s not obvious, my A20s are not Bluetooth. They used to be, but I never used it. Then I needed to replace my cable which includes the module. So, I replaced it with a non-Bluetooth module.

To each their own.

Tory

I would get the Bluetooth. For the sole reason that you can connect it to your phone ands it to make flight essential calls while on the ground. Any other use of the Bluetooth (music, making personal calls) is inappropriate and not safe.

Chris

Thank you, @Chris and @Tory for your replies!

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