What is the best pathway to starting a career in aviation?

Right now I am 20 years old, I am likely a year away from obtaining an associates degree. I should have my private pilots license by April-May 2017. I live in Michigan and the weather isn’t always the best to go up and fly. ATP offers a flight school that says after 2 years you can be hired by a regional airline and start flying. That is very appealing to me. I do not want to be drawn in by someone whose job it is to recruit customers. I would like an unbiased opinion on what the best route to take is in my situation. I appreciate all responses. Thank you.

Hello Matthew,

First let me assure you I am not a recruiter nor do I receive any compensation or incentive if you enroll or not with ATP. What I AM is 2 things. I’m currently an airline pilot (A330 FO with Hawaiian airlines and former Capt at ExpressJet) and I’m also a very satisfied customer of ATPs. I was where you are now 13 years ago, I wanted to be an airline pilot but didn’t know what the best route was to achieve that goal. After much research and frustration I settled on ATP. I also was skeptical when they told me that I could get all me licenses and ratings in 90 days (it’s now 100), that the price is actually the price (no btws etc), that they would hire me immediately as an instructor to build time to get hired and finally they would help me get hired at a Regional. Well they delivered on every promise which is why I participate on this forum.

There were many reasons why I settled on ATP. Price, timeframe (probably the biggest) and their reputation in the industry (which was second biggest). I spoke with pilots and ATP is where they had attended (that and Riddle) and more important a dear friend of mine/mentor who is a former Presidential pilot, Corp Chief Pilot and G5/Global pilot to A-list Hollywood sent his daughter to ATP. I also respect that as a mentor ATP allows me to speak my mind and give the pros and cons with no censorship.

As for the cons in my mind there really is only one (if you can call it a con?). The fact is ATP is not for everyone. While your local flight school will let you train as you like and take your checkride when you “feel” you’re ready ATP will not (you said you hope to get your PPL by April-May. At ATP that wouldn’t be a question). You see ATP was created by airline pilots to train airline pilots, period (which is why you can’t just go there and get your PPL, Instrument etc). The program is modeled after actual airline training programs. It is accelerated and requires a fair amount of self study and a great amount of hard work and discipline. They provide you with everything you need to be successful but again you have to do the work. If your thoughts are “I paid you money now make me a pilot” you’re definitely in the wrong place. As I said it’s not for everybody.

Hopefully others will chime in with their views but if you question is what’s the best pathway I’m pretty sure you know my answer :slight_smile:




From a fellow Michigander, welcome! Where do you live? I am from Cassopolis, which is near Kalamazoo.

None of the pilot mentors on here are salesman, if you read our posts thoroughly you will notice that we simply share our experiences and knowledge, you will never see one of us pushing ATP’s programs on anybody. In fact, one piece of advice that we routinely dispense to younger people is to stay in college, finish your degree, then go to flight training.

Along those lines, I was once in your exact situation. I got my private when I was in college at a local flight school, I then finished my degree before going to ATP to earn the rest of my licenses. From there I instructed at ATP before being hired on at ExpressJet and then later United/Continental.
I recommend that you finish both your private and especially your associates degree before doing anything else. On the private if you are just starting you might want to consider stopping, but if you are knee deep in it I would continue. A four year college degree is very important as it is absolutely required to be hired on at a major airline, so you will want to get that at some point.

There are many online colleges that will accept your credits from the community college and even some of your flight training. Check into Utah Valley University or Embry Riddle Worldwide (online) to see exactly what credits they will accept. It is not easy, but it is certainly doable to finish an online degree while working for the regionals.

You are absolutely right about Michigan, it is not a good place to flight train in the winter. You will find when you go to a school that is further south that it is much easier to complete your training flights as scheduled.

I hope that you have seen by my response and Adam’s that we are not recruiters. We are however willing to answer any questions you can come up with, so fire away.


I’m a retired Veteran, and have skydived (was airborne) and always interested. I just want to be sure I choose the right path and school. Hate making incorrect or not well thought decisions. I have the time and money, just don’t want to be wasteful of either. Anyone out there with experience that can share some info and time with me? I’m in the Orlando area, so ATP is tough… Daytona and Tampa seems far considering how often I’ll need to travel. If I do this, I’ll want to do it accelerated. I don’t do anything halfway lol. Thank u in advance guys


Obviously I’m a fan of ATP’s which is why I’m on here but that aside you say you want accelerated. ATP is Zero to PAID Instructor in 6 mos. Aside from the quality of the training, their reputation, guaranteed instructor position and airline interviews not sure whatelse you’re looking for besides proximity?



Welcome to the forums and thanks for your service. I recommend that you go to my “Flying The Line” section and look at a thread titled “Questions For Any Prospective Flight School”, it will give you a real good idea of what you should be looking for in a flight school. If you do decide to go to ATP I would strongly recommend that you take advantage of the housing that is available at their locations as driving from Orlando every day would be excessive.

Let us know what questions you have, I look forward to working with you.


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Thanks so much Chris…I’m a very thorough person (the Army in me I guess) so of course I have a million questions. I just want to be efficient and not waste time or unneeded classes or things of this nature. I Know I want to fly lol

And I’m married, so I prefer not to stay there. Convenient yes…healthy with a Brazilian wife, No lol. I hate to decide schools based on location…but this may be the case. Literally MANY in the central Florida area