I decided back in October of 2020 that a career in finance was not going to be fulfilling. I went on a discovery flight and as soon as the landing gear lifted off the runway, I knew that this was what I wanted to do as a career. I will be starting my PPL next month to begin my aviation career, but my main concern is what follows. The local airport does offer a commercial program that is about 40% of the cost of ATP, the area is convenient due to living expenses and guaranteed jobs to pay for them. Basically, if I stay here, I may likely get my CPL debt-free, but this will take 2-3 years. The other option is ATP which you all know about, but I am guaranteed to be stuck in debt for several years (at least it seems that way) and living expenses will be tough to manage. There are probably several factors that I am probably missing as well. What suggestions might you all have for me? Like most, I want the quickest and cheapest route. Here I will remain financially stable, there I will be making money and expanding my options faster.
Matthew my friend, you and everybody else! First, unfortunately flight training is not, nor will it ever be cheap. Right off the bat you say your local flight school is 40% cheaper. I’m going to go out on a limb and say there’s no way you’re local flight school is going to provide you with the traning and hours to earn your PPL, CPL (SE and ME), IR, CFI, CFII, MEI for $50k. But let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that they could but it’s takes you 2.5yrs (which it won’t but we’re going best case scenario). That’s 1.5yrs more than ATP. Senior airline Capts earn $400k and have a mandatory retirement of 65. That means you’re not only forfeiting $600k in potential earnings and that’s without calculating all the lost income and benefits over your career to maybe save $35k.
Next and more important, how many pilots have successfully completed the CPL program at your local school and gone on to careers at the airlines? 2, maybe 5? ATP has done nothing but train pilots for the airlines for 35yrs + and over that time has literally placed thousands.
Long story short best case you could be successful and save $35k but lose 1.5yrs of seniority, pay and benefits that you’ll never recover. Worst case you spend $20k trying to earn your PPL over a year or more, get frustrated and quit which sadly is much more likely.
Totally your call but I can tell you from personal experience the local flight school route just doesn’t work.
Hey Adam thankyou for the quick reply!
So I talked to the flight instructor that would be leading the CPL and he said the best case scenario would be 2.5 years, and between the two airport locations that are used for the program they do have everything I would need, but scheduling time flight hours would be difficult. The PPL is a separate deal, and I am going to be doing that while I finish of my last semester of college. I saw ATP has an option for starting at IFR, and that’s what I would probably end up doing.
You put up some numbers that I would potentially be missing out on, and that is exactly what I worried about, I just didn’t know exactly how much it was! I think ATP is looking much more like the choice I’m going to make knowing that. Looks like the time value of money is critical in this industry.
If I could pick your thoughts a bit more what do you suggest for living arrangements? I’ve seen that off campus could be cheaper, but on campus gives that immersion that’s necessary for the 6 month program.
The old riddle goes, do you want good, cheap or fast… but you can only pick two! ATP is good and fast, but not cheap. The mom and pops, cheap… and maybe good depending on where you go but definitely not fast. So no matter what you’re going to be sacrificing one. ATP has a bunch of finance help laid out for you, loan options, payment deferrals until you’re at the regionals and tuition reimbursement programs. If I were you, I’d go the fast and good way and let the program help with the finances. Get to the regionals as quick as possible to punch that seniority number and start paying off those loans.
As for housing, ATP does offer housing for students that can be cheaper than living on your own. You’ll have to ask the housing dept about specific locations as the price varies based on city. You can also live on your own if you have friends or family that you can room with and keep your costs low. Just don’t commute more than 30 mins or it will take away from study time or making it for last minute flights.
I really enjoyed the student housing but honestly it won’t make a huge difference in your success.
I’d explore the area you’re looking at and see if you can in fact find housing cheaper. The other thing to consider is there’s no lease to sign with ATP, no security and the apts are furnished.
Again your choice, just make sure you’re looking at the whole picture and not just the monthly rent.
I am going to join the discussion here. I think ATP is very fairly priced for what they offer. LEt’s take a look at your local school options. They say it is 40% less expensive, but is it really? Does that include all three of your flight instructor ratings or just a Commercial license and instrument? If it does include your CFI, I bet it does not include all three of them. Furthermore, I will bet you $10 that the price they are quoting you is based on the minimum flight hours required for each phase of training. But here is the catch, almost nobody is that good. The vast majority of students (myself included) take significantly more flight time than the FAA minimums, but if your flight school is quoting a price based on those minimums, guess who is making up the difference?
Your local school already told you that scheduling flight hours will be difficult. That is a horrible way to start out. If you are having difficulty scheduling your hours, it means you will not fly as frequently as you need to, which in turn means that your skills will erode. This means that you will need more flight time to rebuild your skills, and who do you think will be paying for that? So again, that “cheap school” is not really so cheap anymore.
Contrast this to ATP who quotes one price and that is it, period. All of the flight time you need to get all of the ratings needed to work in the industry. Plus you are getting a school that specializes in turning out professional pilots, not somebody who is already telling you that scheduling will be an issue.
Adam, Hannah, and Chris thank you lots for the info help. I don’t know how much it he local school can do as far as the necessary certificate and ratings, but it doesn’t seem necessary to find out considering the pros of ATP.
The housing situation I’ll have to read more on considering in my college career I have never lived on campus, and I enjoy the benefits of having my own place.
Soonest I may be able to get in is exactly a year from now, so hopefully my financial situation will be much more prepared for the endeavor.
ATP’s housing is not really “on campus” in the sense of college. There is no cafeteria, no dorm rooms, no FAs, and there sure as heck should not be any parties. The housing is more along the lines of apartments or condos that ATP rents and then offers to students. Think of it more as having a room mate than as “living on campus”.
If you go to this link and click on various locations, you can see detailed descriptions of the housing that is available at each location that offers such: Directory of Flight Training School Locations / ATP Flight School