Real Answers from Real Pilots

Working while enrolled at ATP

I am 32 years old and am very seriously considering enrolling at ATP (Oakland) to become a commercial airline pilot. I’ve been doing a lot of research, as well as listening to great podcast about the life of an airline pilot, and it seems like the career is exactly what I want in life. I’ve begun my private license lessons with a small school in Petaluma, CA and will finish there before enrolling to ATP to receive all my ratings. Right now, flying is terrifying/exciting/stressful/rewarding and I love the fact that there’s always a challenge to overcome. I believe testing yourself everyday, staying curious and not becoming complacent are key components to a happy life and it seems that aviation can help in that regard.
I currently am in real estate and also bartend a couple nights a week (have to pay the sf rent :/) but do not want to keep this lifestyle up much longer.
My plan is to put real estate on the back burner, enroll at ATP this December, but still keep my bartending gig because I only work 2 nights a week and make $300 bucks a night, plus hourly wages (minimum wage in SF is now $13/hour). I understand that the accelerated program is intense and i need to put the time in to succeed but making $600ish a week will undoubtedly help me pay off the loan I will be taking out for the school AND bartending is a great a way to network. The reason I even started considering aviation in the first place is because a customer of mine is a United Captain and he kept telling me to look into it, and that I wasn’t too old. He have me magazines and books to read and told me that it’s a grind during the ‘salad years’ but it’s an awesome lifestyle if you hang in there through the tough times.
Is it realistic to think that I can work two nightly shifts (4pm-330am) a week and do the accelerated school?

Any and all helpful advice is greatly appreciated.



I really don’t see any way possible to work during the program. I fully understand the desire and need to work, but I find that it really gets in the way of the program. Remember, this is a highly accelerated program. The way that ATP is able to pack so much training into such a short time is by having the students solely focused on flight training. If there is any way possible for youth do it, you really need to go to flight school without working, you will end up doing much better in the program and thus in your career.

Which bar do you work at? I know it is a bit of a tourist trap, but I have always enjoyed going to the Comstock on Columbus when I am in San Francisco.



In addition to what Chris said you have to understand a good part of your training (X-country phase and CFI training) will take you away from your home base anyway. Again we all understand the need/desire to have some money coming in but the flight training MUST be a priority.


First off…is your name Brett or Bert?

I agree with the other mentors. I would consider relocating to an area with affordable living costs.


I’ve seen others say that in the small amount of free time they have had, they would use it to spend with their family. I don’t understand why that time couldn’t be 6 hours spent at work for someone who is single. Especially at an on call come in whenever you can job where you could study while riding the clock. Is my logic unrealistic?


This is America and you can do whatever you like. And yes I suppose if you can find a job where you can just show up last minute I suppose that could work. What I will say is $66k is ALOT of money to jeopardize to grab a few hundred a week. Show up tired and unprepared and your instructor will not be happy. Do it more than once and they may recommend to admin that you’re removed from the program. Bust a written or checkride and you could blow you guaranteed instructor position. As far as I’m concerned there is no “free” or “spare” time as there’s always something to study. This flying airplanes is kind of serious. I recently heard a student exclaim how he “Aced” the PPL written with an 84. If I were the examiner for his practical he’d receive an oral as extensive as a prostate exam. But he was satisfied and as I said, it’s a free country.



I will add to what Adam said. Being in the program, while I do have “down time” it is not enough to be working. Today was a Saturday and what did I do? I studied the information that my instructor told me to have done by Monday. Tomororw is Sunday and we have flights planned and what will I do in my down time? I will study more. Yes there is down time while you are here. But there is so much to learn that you do need to dedicate yourself to the program. Being in it, I could not imagine trying to fit in working along with the program.

Thank you all for the very helpful advice!
Seems like the best thing to do is to solely focus on the flight training and put any extra time into studying. Sacrificing $600/weekly is a small amount looking at the bigger picture

Chris- I work at Delarosa on Chestnut Thursday and Friday nights (at least for another month or so). Stop by and I’ll grab ya drink-- fair trade for the career advice

Tory- Real name is Brett but people call me Bert

Thanks again for the insight!


I think you have the right idea now.

I don’t have any upcoming SFO trips, but if I get one I will take you up on that drink :slight_smile:


I have touched on this topic not long ago and I have to strongly urge you to devote your full mind, body and soul this. The material covered is not difficult, but its the rate at which its coming at you is what you really need to be prepared for and tackle. Being in this program since May, Id have to say I cant see how you can work or have distractions and expect to get through it with success. I start my crew c/c tomorrow and Ill be gone 2 to 3 weeks. After that, its CFI training and Im gone again. I hope you understand my point. I really prepared myself for this before the start date and was still surprised. Its very doable, you just need to need to be on your game. Its just a few months and the rewards are great afterwards.


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Well said David.

Thank you.