Real Answers from Real Pilots

Zero-to-CFII/MEI - Galen Card

Well, I’m excited! My start date for the Fast Track program is Aug 16 at KOGD.

I thought I’d start a thread with my experience for those who might be in a similar situation, and I feel it’s good motivation to keep myself accountable as I progress through the program. Although I do have plenty of people to keep myself accountable to (wife and kids, future pax).

A bit about me. I’m 30 years old, married with two kids (4 and 2) with one on the way. This whole thing wouldn’t be possible without a supportive family willing to take us in as I go through the program and having enough savings to help through the lean years of instructing.

After getting a master’s and then spending an additional 3 years in graduate school working towards a PhD studying infectious diseases, I realized I’m not looking forward to a future career as a scientist. I took a few l flight lessons a couple months ago and I really enjoyed them, but I realized I wouldn’t be able to comfortably support the needs of the family, provide for their wants, and fly recreationally as a scientist.

Being an airline pilot piqued my interest in high school, and flying never really left me (career aptitude tests always had it top 10). So here I am, 1st class medical in hand and a start date with ATP!

I picked the fast track program with ATP due to a strong recommendation from a friend :fist_right::fist_left: who went through the program, the numerous airline partnerships, demonstrated success producing commercial pilots, and the speed at which it accomplishes that goal (I’m not old, but every month counts!).

As daunting as the next several years will undoubtedly be, I’m excited! :small_airplane: :arrow_right: :airplane:

-Galen :small_airplane:

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Galen,

Thanks for the post and you should be excited. You’ve taken a major step towards a successful career in aviation.

Please keep us posted on your progress and I hope you’re starting in those writtens!

Adam

Galen,

Congrats on your start date and welcome to the forum! Looking forward to supporting you through the program.

Tory

Galen,

Congratulation on taking the first step in your career! Now if you have been on the forum long enough, you will know that the next thing we preach is to immediately start working on your written exams. Any one that you can complete before you start the program will be a huge advantage to you once you are in the program. You can read about that here: Get Ahead By Taking FAA Knowledge Tests Before Starting ATP / ATP Flight School

Please keep us up to date as you go through the program, we always enjoy reading about people’s experiences. As always, please feel free to ask us any questions you can think of.

Chris

Thanks all!

I’ve definitely seen those recommendations and I’ll do my best! Kinda depends on how smoothly the transition out of graduate school goes! Might need to push back my start date if needed, definitely don’t want to get started on the wrong foot at ATP.

Galen,

While as we said it’s strongly recommended to complete the writtens, just know there is no requirement to do so, and many successful students didn’t.

It’s simply as airline pilots we have a strong aversion to working hard and will always look for an easier way if there is one :wink:

Adam

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Galen,
Welcome to the forum! I enjoyed reading your post and look forward to following along with your ATP journey! Don’t worry about knocking all the writtens out before you start. If you have the time, great, but it sounds like wrapping up your school will take up some of your time. If you can just knock out the PAR before you start, that will help set you up for success. The private phase is the arguably the most daunting because you’re learning the fundamentals of flying, time management with your studying, the foundational ground knowledge and learning the pace and style of ATPs program all at once. Just lightening the load of the written exam can help tremendously during that time.

-Hannah

Galen,

To be very clear, if you have time to work on writtens, great, but the program is designed for them to be completed while one is on the program. I would in no way delay a start date to work on the writtens.

Chris

Thanks for the clarification everyone!

I think I can get the PAR done before my class date. And I know I’m going to be quite busy once the flying starts, as I’ve got a baby coming in late Nov and it’s a long but unavoidable commute to the training center eating up my time. I’m considering using public transit to give me an extra couple hours of study time . Seeming like it’s going to be the best option.

Adam
It’s simply as airline pilots we have a strong aversion to working hard and will always look for an easier way if there is one

I identify pretty well with Adam’s comment :laughing:. I’ll work hard if it’s unavoidable, but if I can make it easier on myself I absolutely will. It’s good to hear it’s doable while in the program though!

Thanks again!
-Galen :small_airplane:

Galen,

I lived in New Jersey for a bit and used to commute to and from Newark on the train, it took slightly longer than driving, but I liked it as it gave me time to relax, read, etc. I also answered a lot of questions for this forum while on that train :slight_smile:

Chris

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Today (8/6) I took my Private Pilot written test. Like most, I exclusively used King Schools and I started going through the modules at the end of June while still in graduate school, so it was slow going for a while. Then I took a couple weeks off to move from Texas to Utah and have a family reunion. Right after the family reunion I was right back at it with my intro flight on 7/27.

The intro flight was great! Knowledgeable instructor who made it all feel comfortable. He had me taxi to the runway, then we started off with a departure toward the north practice area, and as we were climbing out, a couple F-35’s passed about 1500’-2000’ over our heads that were headed into neighboring Hill AFB. Then I asked him to demonstrate a couple maneuvers, (lazy eight, and power-on stall). After that he had me do a couple steep turns and then walked me through as I did a power-on stall. I flew us back towards the airport and got us lined up for runway 17, when tower came on and rerouted us to runway 21 and the instructor took over. Fun stuff!

After the intro flight I met my family at the Air Force museum. As I was waiting for them to arrive I was walking through the displays outside and reveled in the thunder as at least 12 F-35’s came in to land over the half hour I was out there.

After that it was into the books! One week to finish the remaining modules (Flight ops through W&B) Then another to go through the entire 800+ question bank (had about 87% after that), studied my weak points a bit, took the three practice tests yesterday (all over 90%), and the actual today. Came through with a 98%!

Can’t wait for the first flight on 8/16!

-Galen :small_airplane:

Galen,
Congrats on your written! That’s a great score. You definitely put in the work to earn that. Now you know the kind of studying it takes to be successful with those writtens. Sounds like you scored on that intro flight experience! Wow so much excitement. Glad to hear you had fun and can’t wait to get back up in the air. Keep us updated on your first day when you start!

-Hannah

Galen,

A 98% is a great score, keep up that kind of work and you will do great in the program. It sounds like you got a lot accomplished on your intro flight.

Thank you for the update and let us know how we can help you.

Chris

First week down, and I’m loving it!

Have to say, having the PAR done before starting has given me LOTS of time to focus on checklists and flows. This is a majority of my time when I’m riding the train up to the airport, 2hrs each way. It’s a long ride, but I actually prefer it a lot more than making the 1:15 drive.

Only downside to this first week is I only had two flights, totaling 2.5 hours in the plane. A thunderstorm rolled through and took out a couple days which we filled with grounds and sim instead.
Regardless of that, I moved on to the maneuvers flights after a single 1.3hr flight for fundamentals. My instructor seemed pleased with my progress, said I performed the two maneuvers (turns around a point, and S-turns) within ACS standards the first time I did them, so that’s encouraging! I’m definitely no ace though! I nearly stalled the plane with a very uncoordinated turn to the crosswind coming out of the takeoff! Turns out ground reference maneuvers are easier than I was making them out to be in my head.

Starting TOLs midweek and I am pretty nervous. Every time I’ve tried to get us established on final for the instructor to land, my approach has always been very unstabilized. I get nervous in the airspace around the airport, everything seems to happen 100x faster. I know the flows for approach when I’ve got time to think about them, but getting them down cold would help me stay ahead of the plane, and getting a better feel on the controls and reaction of the plane to inputs will smooth things out. I need to let the plane move, and stop over-correcting and chasing the target. Biggest problem for me so far.

I’ve got 4 flights scheduled this week, and 5 next week with good weather in the forecast! The pace is up, and I’m looking forward to it!

:flight_departure::flight_arrival:

PS - I also forgot to add, the Seattle Sounders had a 9-point week with a three game away trip in seven days. That definitely was the cherry on top! :soccer: :soccer: :soccer:

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I don’t see anything that stands out here :grin::wink: seems like a typical first week if you ask me. Those all sound like things a newbie should be struggling with. I am glad that you are enjoying it so much though. That is just as important as the training.

I can’t help but point out though, canceling a flight due to a thunderstorm is actually a good thing. I know that you are eager to fly as much as possible, but the CFI’s decision should actually be seem as a positive. You’ll get plenty of chances to make up for any lost flight time.

Tory

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Oh I definitely did not want to fly in a convective thunderstorm in a C172!
Utah doesn’t usually get too many thunderstorms, so just a bummer that it did my first week.

Galen,

Thank you for the update, I am glad to know that you are enjoying the program thus far.

Sit in a chair at home and practice those flows, that can make a huge difference.

Please keep the updates coming.

Chris