Where do I go to start?


I’m looking to get started on my path to becoming a commercial pilot but feel a bit overwhelmed.
I’m a bit older then most: I’m a 30 year old female looking to go to flight school within the next two years.
I’ve been looking at ATP but they seem to have a really mixed rep and the costs…oooooh the costs!

How do people make it through flight school with the price?? What could one expect to be earning as a flight instructor or would I have to somehow manage another part time job on top of that (from my understanding that would be painfully difficult).

I have no idea what I’m doing. There are loads of flight schools near me but who knows if they are solid. I tend to judge places based on webpages (if it looks like it’s straight out of the 90s I start to worry), but that’s probably not the best approach. I’m 1.5 hours away from Boston, MA and 30 mins from Hartford, CT, so, there are lots of options around me.

I already have two 4 year degrees, but does it matter what topic they are in or does it have to be in something of relation to aerospace? Mine are in Communications and History.

Aside from that is there anyways I can start to prep before I even start school? I’d like to start studying but I fear I’ll learn the wrong information as unlearning bad info is harder than learning the right stuff the first time in a shorter time frame.
I’m just a huge worry-wart.


Welcome to the forum. Starting a career in aviation is no small thing and you’re right to have concerns. First off flying isn’t cheap. It requires a huge commitment in time and money. My first question for you is what made you decide you want to be a pilot? Have you ever flown a small plane? If the answer is no, before you spend another minute pondering a potential career you need to take an Intro flight. While conceptually being a pilot appeals to many people until you’ve been up you won’t know if it’s really something you’ll enjoy so you need to check that box asap.

Assuming you take a flight and love it let’s address some of your other concerns. Now if you take a look at the top of this page you’ll clearly see the ATP logo. This is ATP’s forum and we make no attempt to hide that fact. ALL of the mentors on here are former students. instructors and now airline pilots (I’m a Captain at Hawaiian Airlines). Does that mean this is one big advertisement? Absolutely not. People helped us and we’re here to “pay it forward”. The truth is ATP is not for everyone but neither is a career in aviation. ATP is different from most flight schools. It was designed by airline pilots to train airline pilots, period. If you look at EVERY other flight school in your area’s website you’ll see 2 things. First they all list a breakdown of different licenses and ratings and you can pick which one(s) you want to complete. You can simply go for your Private Pilot license and be done. Not at ATP. ATP has no separate Private, Instrument etc. It’s all in or nothing. Why? Because you either want to be a professional or you don’t (and if you’re not sure then ATP probably isn’t for you). Second all those websites will list the FAA minimum flight requirements for each rating. They’ll also then have some fine print saying “These are the FAA minimums but the National average is bla bla bla”. But that’s cool right? What if Mikael needs or wants more time to feel warm and fuzzy before a checkride? Your local flight school will be happy to give you as many hours as you like, as long as you pay for them. The problem is this is not reality. Do you think United airlines will let you take as long as you want to complete pilot training. I can tell you they won’t. ATP lists the time it WILL take you and you WILL complete the program in that time. This is the rub. This requires a TREMENDOUS amount of hard work on the part of the student and frankly not everyone can keep up. The reality is not everyone with the desire and the finances should be an airline pilot. The problem is that mommy, daddy and Barney told everyone they can be ANYTHING they want to be (YAY!) and when they’re faced with the reality they can’t, well it’s easier to blame ATP (hence the negative reviews). The fact is that ATP placed over 300 pilots with the airlines in the last 12 months and has been doing what they do SUCCESFFULLY for over 30yrs. Additionally the while the cost looks high (and it is). That’s really because ATP is showing you the entire outlay for the whole program vs piecing it together which looks more palatable. ATP in fact is actually very reasonable. End of commercial.

How do people make it through expense wise? The vast majority take out student loans. Average instructor makes mid-$20k but ATP instructors also are eligible to receive Tuition Reimbursement if they sign a Conditional Employment Agreement with the Regional of their choice.

The fact you have you 4yr degree is great. It need not be in aviation as long as the school is accredited you’re fine.

I encourage you to read through this forum. There’s a Student Experience section with current students and you can ask them. Continue to do your research and figure out what’s best for Mikael. Oh and go for a flight!




I am not sure where you are reading that ATP has a really mixed reputation, but if you look at the “Student Experiences” section of this website, you will find very positive comments. We never, ever edit that section. You can also engage other students in there.

Flight training is expensive, any kind of higher, professional training is. Most people finance their training and some take out an extra amount to act as a monthly stipend and help with living expenses. Check out this page to see what flight instructors at ATP earn: https://atpflightschool.com/airline-career-pilot-program/guaranteed-cfi-job.html. There is no way possible to work a second job while and flight instruct, you will need to make it work off of instructor pay.

Check out a post in my “Flying the Line” section called “Questions for Any Prospective Flight School”, it will help you know which questions to ask when interviewing different schools.

Your degree major does not matter one bit, mine is in management, I know people to have degrees in history, finance, even piano composition. J

I would not start studying until you have committed to a flight training program, you could easily go down the wrong path on studying and end up learning incorrect things. Once you commit to a flight school, they will point you in the right direction.


Thank you both!
To answer the question on how I became interested in aviation, well, since I was a little girl. The downside is nobody EVER talked to me about career options (I was so naive that even when I graduated university I though people who had jobs had them because that was their dream job. So, cashiers had always known they wanted to be cashiers, that was their dream job! Crazy and sad.)
My dad used to take me to see the blue angels. Any airshow around for miles he’d take me to. I still have my little inflated blue angel on a stick, hah.
My husband currently works in the aerospace industry, he is a computer software engineer and programs the planes. We’ve been joking "You program’em and I’ll fly’em!’. We also have several friends who work making / repairing personal planes for famous folks.
My current job is being a career counselor for middle school students (not just for them but to help me find my true path as well) and I had a pilot for American Airlines come in to talk to my students. He really inspired me. I always though you had to be this sort of…super human to become a pilot but he just looked at my students and goes “It’s a lot of hard work but it’s not beyond any of you if it’s what you want”. I wish to the core of my being someone had spoken to me sooner. I’ve been bouncing job to job hating every minute of everything I’ve ever done. If I ever do become a pilot one of my goals is going to be reaching as many kids as possible to let them know just what sort of possibilities exist, for REAL not just the generic “You can be whatever you want to be” without any context. That never helped me any.
I plan on taking at least my intro flight soon just to see. Within a few years my husband should be making enough to support the entire household on his own so I can focus on the pilot schooling and I can use my art to raise funds to pay the student loans. My current job is on a grant which ends in two years, so by then I hope just as my grant is up to then go straight into flight school.

I am happy to hear ATP is good. I think mostly what I’ve been hearing is about bad flight instructors but I suspect I could always request a different one if we aren’t clicking?
Also good to know that i shouldn’t start studying now. I really want to but I don’t want to mess myself up before I even leave the terminal.



If you have any issues with your flight instructors, you can simply address them the administration. That being said, the vast majority of ATP’s flight instructors are extremely dedicated and want their students to do well. After all, their future success is tied to their student’s success.


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Bit off topic but i am was wondering if anyone is doing flight training at ATP Chicago location and can share their experience as i am considering to join next year. I visited that location to see what it looks like they have 5 or 6 planes and have 25 students are enrolled in course per instructor. that i was chatting with.


I’m in a similar position you are, but have spent the last 6 months researching flight schools.
Here is what I’ve learned. The 3 part 141 schools(universities/colleges) with aviation programs will cost me a minimum of $113,000.00 up to $146,000.00 over the course of a minimum of 6 semesters, to get all the licenses, certification, and ratings that ATP is offering in their 9 month zero time to instructor program. Not to mention one of the university’s told me just to go to ATP, and get all my certs, and licensing and all that, and then come back to them and I could just pay for the credits for their courses and then finish 2 more years of online classes and get my 4 year bachelors degree. I hope the young lady doesn’t lose her job, but she was the most honest admissions counselor I spoke with.
Now the private instructors I spoke with all refused to give me an estimate on cost, and time, but doing the rudimentary math based on their per/hr. rates I would be finishing all my certs and such with a bill exceeding $82,000.00, if I limited my ground school time to 5 hrs a week. But it would take me 13 months at the minimum, based off of their availability.
I did not look at any other part 61 schools after the 2 I looked up had quotes higher than ATP’s. Note, all these were located in the Salt Lake City or surrounding area. The East coast will obviously have more options and there for different numbers. But for the price, I haven’t found anything less expensive, faster paced, and more prepared for the training I will enquire at the regional airlines. Yes, I know that acquiring the knowledge and skills will fall squarely on my shoulders, but there will be support in abundance (I trust.) Plus when I am the one flying someday, I don’t want to look around and say, “what do I do?” When there’s a problem. I want my passengers to know that I got this. And that confidence comes from a true commitment. One I think ATP requires to be successful.

Don’t know if that helped, but I hope it does. Now I have to get ready for work, where I’m contractually obligated till August of 2018, and then ATP is where I will take my focus. Thanks to all the mentors, students, and everyone else asking questions that I’ve wanted answers to, and questions I never knew I needed answers to. Best wishes to you all and your families.


This did help a lot Daniel and most likely saved me a lot of time.
Whenever starting off on this big life changing missions it’s hard to feel secure and assured you’ve made the best, most educated decision. I have SO many flight schools of varying types around me that your overall info pretty much assures ATP is the best bet with a true focus in what I’d like to achieve.
I’ll be going to my ATP location in Hartford, CT in the next little while to check it out and to take a introductory flight just to make sure this is really for me.

Hey @Mikael by any chance did you visit the Hartford location? Just looking for feed back on locations. Thanks

Hello Mikael,

im just wondering how it went at the Hartford, CT location? Im thinking about going their as well and would love to know your experience. I done a few flights and racked up a little below 10 hours of flight time at a close airport in Rhode Island, but the flight school lacks structure and speed both of which I need.