Which training program to chose?

I am an Army helicopter guy with a bit over 2000 total time. I just got out and will be pursuing a flying career hopefully in the airline industry. So doing a lot of research the last few months I’ve narrowed my choice to 2 directions. First one is use the GI bill and go to a community college and get all my ratings up to AMEL paid for fully.

The second option is to take advantage of some of the money being offered by the regional and paying for the rest of my ratings.

From a financial standpoint the first option will not cost me any money but will take longer. Some of the accelerated programs I can finish in about 1 year. The second option will cost me about 20-25K but I will be able to finish in about 6 months but I will have a working contract of about 2 years.

Is it worth it to pay out of pocket to be done 6 months earlier and get in the industry sooner? From what I’ve read it seems like the market for pilots is hot right now and should I rush to strike while the iron is hot? You see the hiring demand change by the end of 2017? From a financial standpoint I have the 20-25K money to pay for the training but unless its benefits outweigh the cost I rather not pay for it out of pocket.

Thanks for the advice

Good evening,

First off, thank you for your service. Flying in the Army must have been pretty cool. I am currently AD in the USAF, unfortunately I do not fly but I am an aspiring airline pilot once my enlistment is up. I don’t have first hand knowledge like Adam and Chris do on this forum but I do have two neighborhood friends that currently fly 757s and 777s for United. With regards to your question about the demand change, through research and conversation with these pilots, there will be an incredible pilot shortage over the next 20 years. I’m sure someone with more experience can explain it better but from what I understand its due to numerous factors. Factors such as raising the minimum required hours to 1500, lowering the required retirement age etc. etc. you get the point. Its an atmosphere that has experts estimated a pilot shortage for the foreseeable future. For me, I have always wanted to fly, regardless of demand or not. I think having an office at 35k is something that can’t be beat. Beyond that, career outlook looks strong so those who truly want to fly should seriously consider it.

I have also done some research regarding flight schools that will accept out GI benefits. The ATP program looks the most appealing, although they do not mostly accept GI benefits. I emailed the school and they said GI would cover around $7k. Add that to the reimbursement program of $11k and your looking at $18k in benefits, at least thats how my math works. Yeah, its not the best considering some schools will take 100% of our GI benefits but I think ATP offers the best program for those needing an expedited process. I am 28 years old with a Masters in Criminal Justice and 1.5 years left on my enlistment. You’ll see on this forum that age really doesn’t matter in most cases. For me, I’ll be almost 30 when I get out of Active Duty and at that point, I want a program that will get me where I want the fastest. My outlook has me at the regionals by my mid-30s, equaling a 30 year flying career. Not bad at all. I guess it all depends, every situation is different. I can justify being 30k in debt if its going to make me happy and to do something I love. I look at it as instead of buying a new car for 30k, I’m getting to become an airline pilot. I don’t know, just my two cents man, some food for thought.


Welcome to the forums. Also, thank you for your service to our country.

Part of your decision depends on your age and how much of a rush you are in to get to the airlines. Also, your goals and educational background also figure into this.

I am guessing based on your flight time that you are in your early thirties, so while you are young I wouldn’t say that you have a lot of time to spare. As you probably know, the airlines are driven by seniority, which can have a huge impact on your career. A year or more delay in getting to the airlines could cost you big time in your ability to hold a line or upgrade to Captain. If you join a regional that has a flow through program it could really set you back years in that regard.

I didn’t see if you have a college degree or not, but if you do not have one you might want to think about using your GI benefits to cover the cost of a degree as you will need one if you want to apply to the major airlines. If you do have one already then I really would not want to spend a year or more extra at a community college getting your licenses.

I do think that the demand for pilots will continue well into the next several years. The amount of pilots retiring at the majors is huge and is set to continue.

I am not sure what you mean by a two year “working contract”, which company is that with? Also, keep in mind that you will need more than just the minimum hours required to get FAA licenses to be attractive to the airlines, so even going the community college route could leave you short on flight time.

I will be curious to hear more about the accelerated programs that you speak of.

I know that making these decisions can be tough. You are doing the right thing now by asking questions and getting as much information as possible.



Thanks for your message. I do agree going into debt at 30K isn’t a huge problem as long as you set yourself up for a career as a pilot. If you’re interest I’ve done a lot of research into different schools and how they accept the GI bill let me know and I can fill you in. There’s been a lot of changes the past few months alone regarding the VA and what kind of flight training they will pay for. Congrats on getting out. I was a bit nervous at first since I already spent 10 years in the Army but now with this new opportunity I feel pretty confident I made the right choice.

I totally agree, just the thought of getting out and getting into debt can make anyone nervous. I know its something I want to do and it will be worth it. If you don’t mind letting me know what you’ve found regarding GI bill benefits I wouldn’t mind. I’m still the preliminary planning stage so all information is welcome. I appreciate it.

So there’s been a lot of changes in the VA system regarding flight training because of a few flight schools that have really abused the GI benefits system. A lot of part 141 flight school with associates program use to pay for your PPL license. That’s no longer the case. They will only pay for your commercial license and above. But there are schools out there that have been approved to pay for everything including your PPL. ATP programs would be the fastest way to get your ratings and so you can start building hours right away. But the VA caps flight benefits at a little more than $12,500 per year (I don’t remember the exact figure). I’m not sure why ATP only says they’ll pay for $7,000.

Since I’m already a commercially rated Helicopter pilot all I need is the fix wing ratings and once I get 250 fix wing PIC hours I’ll be eligible to sit for the ATP. There’s a school that will allow me to finish within 1 year and the GI benefit will pay for everything including BAH at E5 level. This is usually a 2 year program but the program director says if people already have a bachelors degree they can usually in 18 months maybe a bit sooner if they hustle.

Hope this helps. Let me know if you want more info.


Thanks for your message. I’m in my mid thirties and I already have a bachelors degree. From all the research that I’ve done it seems that my helo time will be counted towards the 1500 ATP requirement. All I need is to get 250 PIC time. I’ve looked at various flight schools, part 61, part 141, and part 141 with associates program. As I mentioned above to Robert I found a part 141 flight school at a community college that will pay for all my ratings up to MEI. Due to my background I would be able to finish in about a year at this school. However, after doing more research there are certain regionals that will help pay for some of my tuition in return I need to work for them for 2 years. I can leave sooner but I would have to pay them back the money. So between the two program is a difference of about 6 months. I was just wondering if the 6 months time frame is worth paying appox 20K out of pocket. Also, what is the problem with an airline with a flow through program. I’ve noticed alot of regionals are advertising between 5-7 guaranteed flow through to the majors. Wouldn’t this be a advantage? I’m not sure I’m new at this.

Thanks for your help and advice


What do you mean that the community college will pay for your ratings? Do you mean through your GI benefits? I am no expert on those, but I know that there is a cap on how much they will pay per year for training.

Your situation is unique because you have so much helicopter time. How is the community college going to get you to 250 hours of PIC? Will there be a gap that you will need to fill on your own?

There is no problem at all with an airline that has a flow through program, I think they are great things to take advantage. If you look closely though you will see that they are not guaranteeing you a position at the majors in a certain amount of time, they are just saying that it is possible.



So the GI Bill will pay for all your flight training some will even pay for your PPL as long as it’s part of a degree program either an associates or a bachelors degree. A lot of schools will require that you pay for PPL before the VA will start paying for the rest of the ratings ie Instrument, CPL, CFI, CFII, Multi engine, and even MEI. It’s a great way for military people to get all their ratings without having to go into massive debt. As long as I complete up to the CFI level I will the 250 PIC hours. If I require more hours I can just stay in school and get the CFII and MEI rating and that would put me well over 300 hours.

The CAP you are probably familiar with is if the service member attended a flight training program that is not part of a degree program. The cap there is a little over $12,500 per year.

I’ve looked some regionals and envoy in particular sent me some recruiting materials which state that I’ll be upgraded to Captain by the 2.5 year mark and a no interview flow up to American airline FO before the 7th year. This sounds like a pretty good deal. But as we all know if someone is too good to be true.

Thanks for your help. Hopefully this thread will help other people going through the same process as myself.

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I think that my main concern with that program would just be the time involved with getting the ratings.

As to the regionals, yes things are moving very quickly there, but regardless of what their recruiting material says there is no guarantee that you will be a Captain in 2.5 years or at American in 7. It could very well happen, but it is not guaranteed.