What should I do or could do while still in college before attending ATP?

Hello Everyone,

I am currently 21 and pursuing a BBA degree in New York City, even though what I am studying right now is something totally unrelated to being a pilot or aviation, I have always admired pilots, because it is really an aspiring career for me and something that people around me never thought of or tried to pursue. I decided upon graduating, I will give myself a try to enter the pilot road, of course, if I successfully obtain the a loan and other means necessary. So my general question toady will be, while still in college, is there anything I can do to prepare for what is coming ahead, for example, buying a book to study ahead, finding sources to know more about the field, or even something I can do to get a head start. Any suggestions are appreciated, also, I am expected to graduate after the Fall 2017 or Spring 2018 college semester.

Thank You

Hello Charles and Welcome,

You don’t mention whether you have any flight experience or not so my first question is have you ever been up in a small plane? If the answer is no then my first suggestion is to go flying. While aviation is an excellent and exciting career the fact is it isn’t for everyone and not everyone has an aptitude for it. ATP offers an excellent Intro flight program if there’s a location close by, if not I’m sure you can find a local flight school and take a flight there. Either ay it’s something you need to do.

Other than that you could definitely bang out some of the required FAA written exams but I’d wait till you get closer to signing up as the exams do expire if the flight portion isn’t taken within 2 yrs.

Hope that helps some,



Welcome to the forums and thanks for posting! I was about 21 or so when I decided to be a pilot and like you I was engaged in a college course of study that was completely different than aviation. I chose to finish my business degree, then go to flight school. I would suggest that you do the same. The airlines are really not concerned with what your degree is in, just that you have a four year degree.

The first thing that I would recommend that you do right now is take an introductory lesson if you haven’t done so already. This is a great way for you to get behind the controls of an airplane and see if this is something you really want to do. You can schedule an introductory flight at ATP, or just about any flight school in your area.

After that I would suggest that you start studying for the Private Pilot course, there are many companies that sell good books and video series, Jeppesen and King Schools come to mind as both providing excellent educational material.

You could also study for and take all of the various FAA written exams, but I would not do that until much closer to when you are going to begin flight training as they have a two year expiration on them.

Other than that there is not much you can do. So much of aviation is based on flying the airplane, but any knowledge that you can pick up will certainly help you down the road.


Thank you Chris and Adam,

It was great to get advice from both of you, I will look for an introductory flight soon around my area.

I have some more questions for both of you. How is your typical work day would be like while working for an airline, including pre flight, during flight, and post flight? ( It would be great if you can give an example of your work day )Is it really like others say that pilots are mostly responsible for take off and landing while the plane has auto pilot? This is something I have heard about and I really believe is just a myth.

Also, if I were to purchase materials to study, is the Jeppesen private pilot manuel textbook a good starting point?

I apologize if the questions are a little strange, your answers are much appreciated!


Hey Charles,

My typical day is probably very different than Chris’ and both from Eric’s. Fact is there’s really no such thing as typical day because there are so many variables depending on the airline, the airplane, the operation etc. For example when I started at Hawaiian I was flying the 717, 6-8 landings a day, 20-30min flts with 20-30 min turns. Now I’m on the A330, 1 leg a day, 5-12hr flts. Interisland preflight is fairly simple, the route is direct, Hawaiian weather is usually great and the weather report you get won’t change much in 30 min. Something goes wrong Maui’s over there and you land. Easy. Flying to Beijing on the Airbus preflight is significant. There are a multitude of routes available based weather, winds etc and the weather can change dramatically in 12 hrs. There are fuel alternates and weather alternates and you’re monitoring your fuel and systems constantly. Interisland I’m home every night, Airbus you’re gone 2-5 days. I have friends that fly cargo and are gone 17 days in a row. When I was at ExpressJet there were1,2,3 and 4 day trips. Some with 1 flt, some with 6. Ain’t no such thing as typical.

As for the auto-pilot, we’re not “really flying” here goes. The autopilot is a wonderful tool. It does a great job and flies with great precision and is actually required in certain airspaces, That said it’s a tool and the autopilot only does (or doesn’t) do what the pilots tell it to. Again conditions change, storms, turbulence, restricted airspace, the autopilot doesn’t care. What that all means is while no, we don’t have our hands on the controls for 12 hrs, we are constantly monitoring, imputing and altering what the autopilot’s doing. Manipulating the controls is actually the easiest part of flying, it’s the planning and decision making that’s challenging and the autopilot allows us to focus on that. Cool?

The Jepp Private is a great book and a great place to start.



I wrote two articles that should help answer both of your questions.

Typical day article: Flying Across the Atlantic to Amsterdam

Autopilot article: Hand Flying at the Airlines

Let us know what other questions you have.


Adam and Chris,

Your replies are phenomenal, they are as detailed as they can be. Thanks a lot for the insights and hopefully I will be there one day.