What's the daily life of an APT student REALLY like?

I’m setting things up to possibly becoming a pilot. Had a great interview, had some flight training 7 or so years ago, and now trying to step into it.

HOWEVER, I just had the most unhelpful call with ATP Admissions where I got no straight answers about the student’s daily life; my questions often being answered with “well, the fact that you’re asking probably means it might not be for you.”

Very unhelpful and, honestly, reduced my faith a bit in the quality of the program and whether or not I want to continue at all.

So here I am. Of the active students and pilots who went through the program could I just get some honest answers for these questions:

  1. It’s an accelerated program and you’re expected to be active/onsite 6 days a week. Is that accurate? How often does that become 7? How many hours a day are you basically working?

  2. The above, that’s a lot of hours. Obviously a lot of information to be absorbed and executed on, and clearly possible, BUT, the human body is limited. Exhaustion, sensory overload, stress, etc. happens. How does a student manage 7 months of the fire hose? Admissions makes it sound like you have no breaks and F-U for asking, but no one going from zero knowledge to flight ready is getting through without the strains listed. How is that handled? Making friends to learn together, massage circles, a day off, extra day on sim training? I can’t imagine it would be “FAA may let pilots fly only 85 hrs a week, but you get in that plane and perform after 70hrs of non-stop training!”

  3. Tagging on to the second question, assuming there are leniencies given for breaks, how much time during the program? If your sister is getting married or your grandpa is on his deathbed, is ATP going to cut ties and take your money if you take a couple days to deal with life? Yeah, the pilot’s life is a busy one, but just as we don’t expect that a pilot who took a vacation has suddenly lost their knowledge and experience or what if they get sick; I expect that a determined student can either make up the time in effort (assuming graduation dates are variable because it’s not a standard accredited institution that has set graduation dates for everyone, could be wrong) or that they’re ahead in their training and can spare the days to deal with actual real life. How unforgiving is the ATP program when it comes to time off?

  4. Once you graduate and it’s tome to be a CFI, I assume most people might want to take a vacation after the constant work. Do you? Do you get back on the grind?

  5. Once you’re graduated, how difficult is it to get set up with an airline as a co-pilot? There’s a shortage of pilots, but does that mean there’s a shortage of jobs? IDK But I’d like to know how much stress it might be going from completion of the program to getting work. All the resources and marketing make it seem practically instant, but that’s what they said about college, and let me tell you, I’m an Archaeologist if you look at my degree and a robotics quality engineer if you look at my work experience.

Thanks for your time. That was a lot, but I didn’t see these questions answered and I feel like those would be most relevant to prospective students BEFORE they get into a loan that might prove a nightmare they are required to pay back.

Hector,

While I’m sorry you didn’t get the answers you wanted but there is something you need to understand. ATP doesn’t have sales people and many of the people answering the phones are instructors waiting for a slot. That’s not an excuse it’s simply that some are more helpful than others but are simply trying to do their best to answer your questions. I will say that you really shouldn’t be that easily dissuaded by one bad phone call vs the fact over 1200 ATP grads were hired by the airlines in the last 12mos. I also have to say some of your questions don’t have definitive answers and you also seem to be more concerned with time off vs the actual training and results. Regardless let’s get you some:

  1. In reality most weeks you’ll be in training 5 days a week. You are expected to be available 7. Why? Because the flying environment is fluid and to keep you within the timeline you need to be flexible. If the weather is junk Mon and Tues you may need to come in Sat and Sun. If you have a checkride scheduled and are struggling with a maneuver, again you’re expected to put in the extra time. Obviously with considerations like that its impossible to know how often that will occur. Even if the weather cooperates and you excel you’ll still be spending your down time studying. Long short you should plan on being busy every day for 7mos.

  2. While its not non-stop with no breaks there will most certainly be days and weeks it feels like that. ATP takes what usually takes years and compresses it into months and yes it’s VERY challenging and sometimes exhausting. The program isn’t for everyone and definitely not for the faint of heart. You will be expected to work harder than you ever had and to keep up. People often say well that’s not how I learn nor how I want to do my training. I want to take my time and make sure I’m all warm and fuzzy. That is not ATP. The bigger issue however is why does ATP train like this? Contrary to what some believe it’s not to rush you and get you out quick. It’s to prepare you for actual airline training. ATP was created over 35yrs ago by airline pilots to train airline pilots. The program has become the footprint for virtually every other “zero to hero” program popping up everywhere. Long before the pilot shortage ATP grads were being hired with lower minimums because ATP grads demonstrated their ability to successfully complete training while others couldn’t. Every one is currently talking about the pilot shortage and it is a reality. Pilots are getting hired at unprecedented rates and for maybe the first time every if you earn your licenses and rating and build the required time you will get hired and that’s great. The problem is getting hired is easy. Completing training is not and bust rates are all higher than ever. If you’ve never experienced the “firehose” but are used to your instructor asking if you’re all warm and fuzzy newhire training can be quite a shock. If however you’ve successfully completed an accelerated program like ATPs, you’re going in knowing while it might not feel comfy it can be done.

  3. Depends. Sure if you have a family emergency you can take a few days but I definitely wouldn’t be planning on any vacations. And yes sure if things are going well and you need a couple of days something can probably be worked out but again I wouldn’t count on it. You really need to approach this as if this is going to be without question your primary focus for 7mos. I cannot stress enough how challenging this program is and it requires a considerable amount of dedication and commitment. To be perfectly frank if you feel this is not something you can or want to do, again ATP might not be the school for you.

  4. Again depends. I have a question for you? If you want to instruct at a particular location and that location is available but needs an instructor immediately, would you decline and take your vacation or would you take the position? If the answer is the vacation again this program might not be for you.

  5. Right now IF you successfully complete your training and build the required time AND have a clean record airlines will be fighting over your, that’s not an issue TODAY and it’s forecast to be that way for a while. Could it change? Certainly. There are zero guarantees, MonkeyPox 2.0, another 9/11, economic crash, etc etc could change things in a minute. That said many of us did this long before there was any shortage. Those of us with the will and desire did fine, those who expected an easy ride didn’t. Again there are no guarantees.

Adam

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Thanks for your response, Adam, and you’re not wrong, I am more concerned with the time off vs training results. I don’t have doubts on the curriculum or my ability to complete it in the given time; the questions I ask are the ones I don’t have answers to.

The program, however, is not just a significant time commitment, but a financial one and given priorities, using the example the death of a loved one, which isn’t farfetched with old grandparents; that takes precedence over any program. I think most humans would agree. I just want to make sure that ATP understands that extenuating circumstances (of which there are many variables) do occur and that they have considered how to respond to them other than kicking people from the program and leaving them with massive amounts of debt and no grace. Your second and third quotes seems to answer that. I like to have all the information first rather than assume and get stuck in an unfavorable situation. Call it emergency preparedness.

The last quote, however, I’d like if you could elaborate on. I’ve been reading a lot of information and never came across conversations on location availability for instructing. It’s been implied that you CFI where you trained, but is that not the case? Is it competitive to CFI? I suppose ATP guaranteed that you’d be certified but not that you’d have a place to exercise that certification once you’ve completed the program.

Hector,

Not sure where it’s been “implied” but that is most definitely not the case.

First off instructor positions are not guaranteed. If you decide to train with ATP and invested $90k on your future career, would you want your instructor to be someone that was guaranteed a position regardless of their merits or abilities? I wouldn’t. Successful ATP grads (with less 2 or less checkride busts) who are also “good” students (attendance, punctuality, preparedness, ATTITUDE, etc) will be offered an instructor position. Hannah says it best. Consider your time as a student at ATP as a daily job interview.

Upon completion of your training, if selected, you will be given a list of available locations slots which may, or may not be, at the location you trained at. At that point you have a choice, you can accept a position or seek employment elsewhere. Hopefully there’s a location you like, and you can list your name for transfer, but there are no guarantees.

Adam

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Thanks again for the response. I’m making assumptions of successful training. Which again implies as you said:

That’s everyone’s goal.

Are the locations presented pooled from all of ATP’s locations around the US? And if there are no favorable locations for you (hypothetically, like if you don’t want to move your family to another state), what does that do if the graduate decides to wait for a position at their preferred location? Assuming one does open up in a reasonable time.

Is it common for CFIs to have to move to continue their work? Does that change when moving to Airline jobs?

Hector,

Pilots do not fly anywhere near 85 hours a week, I am not sure where you got that from.

There are flight schools out there who will let you take as much tine off as you want and allow all the breaks you can possible think of. they will also cost you a lot more in the end and cost significantly more. ATP has produced thousands upon thousands of successful pilots, they do so by training nearly every day.

No, most people do not desire to take a vacation upon completing the program. Most people desire to get their career started as quickly as possible and try to start as soon as possible.

It does sound like you are more focused on tine off than on training. If that is the case, I would recommend looking into smaller, local schools. You are at the very beginning of your career, this is the time to focus on flying, building your hours and getting to an airline.

Chris

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Hector,

Yes. The list would include available slots across the country. You could wait for a location nearby but there are no guarantees and chances are there are others on the list as well. The goal is to build you time and do it in a timely manner. There not much point in getting trained in 7mos then waiting another 6 for a job. Further these are perishable skills that you don’t want to lose. To my knowledge there are basically 3 usual outcomes. People luck out and get a location they desire, they’re flexible and relocate for a time or they find employment elsewhere. As many of ATPs students are going without families, relocating is not a problem and many welcome the adventure.

As for the airlines that depends. Bases are often the number factor many people consider when choosing an airline. While as a pilot you can literally live anywhere and commute, I don’t know a single pilot who recommends it. Even if the airline that hires you has a base close to your home, it could take you some time to build seniority and be based there.

Adam

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I meant month. Got that from another thread.

Thanks for your comment, Chris!

I appreciate the insight, Adam!

These are the kind of things I personally have to consider prior to enrolling into ATP. Again, it wouldn’t make sense to do so not knowing and be surprised by the outcome.

With these questions answered I can make a reasonable decision for myself and hopefully these insights will be helpful for others who may have had the same questions but beat around the bush. I appreciate your time.

Of course Hector. That’s really the reason for this forum and the reverse is one of my biggest peeves these days (and something that truly perplexes me).

While it’s great the amount of press and interest this career is getting these days with the pilot shortage, there are far too many who only see the fact the airlines are hiring, the potential salaries and block out everything. I love my job but it does require a considerable amount of work, dedication and sacrifice.

I have a good friend who just got hired at a Major (their goal) but they’re junior, on Reserve, commuting and miserable! Sure things will improve but it’s going to take some time.

You’re right for going in with your eyes open and getting answers to your questions. Please feel free to return should you have more.

Adam

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Hector,

I’m glad you got your questions answered. It’s unfortunate that you didn’t have a great experience on the phone but hopefully we can clear some things up.

The goal of ATP is not to get you signed up and find ways to take your money. The goal of ATP is to provide you with a framework to get all your training accomplished efficiently both in terms of time and finances to get you to your dream of becoming an airline pilot. If you’re putting in the effort, instructors and staff will meet you where you are and help you succeed. If you’re putting in the time and staying ahead and want a weekend off, that is supported. A program will be terminated for extreme cases such as after repeated failures with no successful retraining attempts. At that point, it would be irresponsible to continue taking the students money knowing there probably won’t be a successful outcome. At that point, the student gets their money back for hours not yet flown.

Think of the ATP program/staff and yourself in a partnership. With mutual hard work and communication, you’ll reach your goals on time and on budget. You’ll be visiting the forum telling us you just accepted your first airline job two years from now. But if you go in with an attitude that ATP is working against you, you’ll be butting heads through the entire thing.

Hannah

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Hector,

I currently am enrolled with ATP in their Fast Track Program, I may be able to help add to what the mentors have had to say about this.

  1. As stated, you are expected to be available 7 days a week. Realistically, you will probably be actually at the Training Center 5 days a week minimum. Even when you are not physically there, the grind does not stop. As you have found in your research, this is a fast paced program, and you have to be willing to adjust to that standard, whether that be with the ATP Elevates required throughout Private and Instrument twice a week, or just studying for the next milestone. Hour wise, it varies day to day. Right now, I need anywhere from 11-13 FLIGHT HOURS per week to stay on par with the program. This does not includes grounds (classes) etc.

  2. I am not 100% sure where the 85 hours a week came from, but I can assure you there is not a single pilot on earth that can come close to that. Realistically, you can expect 11ish. I will say so far, in my time within the program, I have made some good friends who also are obviously going through the same trials. I feel connecting really helps, and will better prepare you for success, IMO. I have had great experiences so far by tag-teaming in a non-scheduled ground, or sim with fellow students. In regards to time off, personal time is obviously needed, and it should be taken. However, there is differences to be distinguished. Is taking a week off to go to Disney World appropriate for the program? Not really. Meanwhile, if you are ahead, and taking care of your business to succeed, I believe a evening off to watch your favorite tv show, or go out to dinner with friends, is definitely obtainable and acceptable, its really all about how you conduct your business, and how seriously you take the program.

  3. Time off with ATP varies. Simply put, you have to request it, and it has to be approved by some higher-ups. They will assess how you are progressing, and if your stage really allows for time off. Family emergencies and other functions are unplanned and ATP does take that into consideration. If you have a legit emergency, I would not plan on getting booted out the door. The program is shaped to mimic life as a Airline Pilot. Making every birthday party and family BBQ might not always be obtainable.

  4. I am nearing CFI within the next 2 months or so, so I have not actually experienced being a CFI. However, I have heard about this specifically, ATP will provide a list of places in need of CFI’s near ending the program. If you choose to go to a place that needs CFI’s, chances are you will get right to it. I have heard of others waiting 6+ months for a location specifically, and they stood by without flying. I think it just really depends on what needs you are trying to fulfill. I would not recommend this, take advantage of the shortage, get the hours and get that seniority started.

  5. From what I have seen, as long as you can maintain a clean record, and put the work in you should have zero issues getting picked up. Its not a secret airlines are in a severe shortage. If you have that 4 year, in todays climate the sky is the limit (literally). As Adam has stated below, things can change on a dime. I actually interviewed and was accepted into a cadet program within the past month and I could not be more grateful to have been given the opportunity at such an early stage. All I have to do is maintain a clean record, and let them know when I am nearing ATP Mins.

I hope this helps a little bit in regards to a current students perspective. It definitely is hard work, but the goals are endless. ATP has a good reputation within the aviation community, and they strive to maintain that. They are not tyrants, they just have standards that need to be complied with. If you can comply and put your ends work in, it will all work out.

-Maddox

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Maddox,

Thank you for the thorough and honest write up. Those questions get asked here quite a bit. It will not only help @hgonzalez but many others who frequent the forum as well.

Good luck with Commercial and your upcoming CFI school. Sounds like you’re doing all the right things.

Hannah

Hannah,

Thanks for the well wishes! I used this forum quite often when I was looking into everything. Glad to help anyone else, as I was in those shoes at one point. I try to take it one day at a time lol. I still peek on here every once in a while! I will try to keep you updated with the progress!

-Maddox

Maddox,

Thank you for the insights. I am glad everything is going well for you.

Chris

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Hi all,

I was in the Navy Nuclear Propulsion program when I was younger. The training was an intense round of drinking from a fire hose, which sounds like ATP. The way the Navy did it was 6-8 hours of classroom training Monday through Friday, with 1-2 hours of homework every night, and then mandatory study hours based on your grades. These study hours started at 10-0, or minimum 10 hours per week, 0 per day, and went up to 30-5s, or a minimum of 30 hours/week, 5/day. I got ahead in school and was given no mandatory study hours for most of training. However, I was still required to be in the training facility 7-4 Monday through Friday.

I mention all of this to ask the question: how does it work with ATP? Are you required to be in the facility studying whether you need it or not? Is there some freedom if you get ahead of your studies, e.g., you’re done with all writtens and prepared for your next flight and you’re waiting on equipment or weather? Can you go home, or are you expected to be at ATP? I also realize this may be a pointless question, since you may never feel completely ready for your next flight…

Jake,

ATP is not the military and if you’ve got nothing else to do (but you always will), you’re more than welcome to go home and relax, study on your own and of course get some rest.

This of course does not pertain to the crew and CFI phases when you’ll be away from home.

Adam

Jake,

Definitely not that stringent. How much you study is up to you. You are an adult and ATP expects you to make the choices necessary to be successful in training. The airlines, and just about every other form of private employer or education system, will never tell you how much to study, that will be left up to you.

At a few points in my training I felt like I was ahead and had time to relax a bit and not study incessantly, they were fleeting moments, but they were there.

Chris

Jake,

Like Chris and Adam said, no one will be assigning you that kind of extra work. Most of the work will be completed on your own. So, it is important that you hold yourself accountable. It doesn’t sound like that will be in issue for you.

From my experience, I never felt like I was ahead since there was always something new just around the corner. Even after I finished the program I was still learning or refreshing my memory.

Tory

Adam, Chris, and Tory,

Thanks for your replies! It’s good to know that there will be no unnecessary pressure. That was something that really drove me crazy about the Navy.

Thanks,
Jake