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Professional Pilot Programs

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New member
Dec 3, 2001
Hello out there,

I am interested in pursuing a career as a professional pilot. I have been doing a lot of research on several schools. For instance, Pan Am Academy, Airline Training Academy, ATP etc. These programs are very expensive and very competitive. I wondered if anyone has attended any school of this type and could give some first hand information on your experience or any knowledge you may have about these schools. Any information would be helpful good, bad or indifferent.

First be sure this is really what you want to do.Second, the aviation economy has totally fallen apart,this means that it will take a few years for airlines to really start hiring again. You will see from Air, Inc. and others that hiring is going on but it is what they are all about. They want to keep you fired up. Right now there are so many qualified, and I mean qualified, guys on the street it will take a while to use those up. Next prim guys from the military will be retiring and coming out, they are always first to get hired. The airlines won't hire anyone now unless they are an astronaut, and have a master degree. That is your competition.
Getting with the airlines is kinda like a good craps game. When it is bad, it is bad. Don't bet, hang on to your chips. Eventually the board will turn around and you'll be in a postion to win. Right now you need to hang back. First get a four-year degree-in anything-grasshopper growing-you must have that. Then get your commercial, instrument, CFI and CFII and instruct. Then get on with a Part 135, from there you can go corporate jet or a commuter. Get PIC time, that will help you more than anything. In about 3 to 4 years the picture will turn around but I doupt you will ever see the hiring that we saw this last decade. The important thing is to enjoy being where you are at, you might be there a while.
I second TurboS 7's post...

I would add though that many of these schools provide the exact same training as your FBO at your local airport. The only real difference is that in FL or AZ the weather is favorable more often than not. The training is for all intents the same. Some may argue quality, but there are some really good instructors at a local FBO. Personally I started at one of those schools, and finished at a local FBO. Why? the main reason is I saved several thousand dollars by going part 61, I turned the extra savings towards more multi time which got me my job faster. I can say no one ever looked down on my training because it was not 100% 141 and my systems classes were not harder nor easier than my classmates who had 100% 141 training either.

With the industry in it's current state you have time, use the time constructively, save your money as you will need it later.

Finally, I read an article where some of the schools were saying a good week was when they got 3 "possible" students leads. It is not what it was a year ago when it was 3 leads by noon daily. Schools will tell you what you want to hear, but the statistics of close to 10,000 pilots who will be on furlough speaks for itself.

If you are completely set on spending the $25K, I would consider ATP before others.
turbo is correct, but I disagree about staying where you are. I think the regionals will stay in a growth mode, and many large aircraft pilots would rather not fly the smaller aircraft. You may be at a regional a bit longer, but that's not too bad these days. I have some experience with ATP's program, and it is intense. It's like boot camp, and if you can't keep up, you will be booted out. I suppose all of them are like this. The advantage is the multi time. It seems expensive to fly a twin to get the basic ratings, but if you don't, later on you will have all the ratings and no multi time, which is needed to take the next step. I had this problem, and I can't tell you how difficult it was to find a way to build multi time. I ended up instructing at ATP, and it didn't take long to get a job flying a large turboprop with cargo all night.

I agree that college should be your first goal, preferrably getting a degree that has some well paying jobs waiting for you. I've heard that engineers make the most out of college, but you will have to research the job market, as everything is a bit down right now. Aviation is a bit more responsive to the economy than most careers, but everything is in a slump now, so best to prepare for a upturn now. Many people will give up aviation as an option, and if you get qualified while things turn around, you will be in the right place when things come around again..

Good luck, and I hope this helps.
Hi Diana,

I went throught the same process a few years ago of picking out a flight school, so I think I can give you a little insight.

You are doing the right thing by looking at them all, but don't believe everything they say. I can't believe how many of them are still saying there is a pilot shortage, for one example. They will tell you anything to get you to come there.

From personal experience, which is only on the east coast, the best school for your money is North American Institute of Aviation. It isn't flashy or famous (like ATP or Comair Acadamy), but it does the exact same flight training, and for less. That is true for most of the smaller flight schools, for that matter. They all do the same flight training, in general. Some of them promise interviews with airlines, but I wouldn't make my decision based on that, either. Besides, you need the experience of teaching other people how to fly and doing some 135 flying before you go to the airlines anyway.

I have no idea where you are in life, but if you haven't gone to college, you could go to an aviation college, or a college with an avaition program. There are lots of good college programs out there. AOPA's December issue of Flight Training had a list of all the colleges with aviation programs.

There's also a thread on the Women In Aviation website about flight schools, and one that is currently being discussed has a bad reputation for their treatment of women. You might want to see that. The address is www.wiai.org, and then click on message boards. I won't go into details here about that situation.

Get the info from them all and check out the prices and time frames. If you would like more information about NAIA, send me a private message. I also have experience with a couple of others, but I don't want to go public with a lot of that information, because it's not necessarily good information. Again, I could give you that information in private.

Part 141 flight schools aren't the only way to go. While I am not and never have been military, I encourage that route if at all possible. Of course, that's not for everybody (like me). Also, there are Part 61 programs out there that do A LOT if not all of the training in the same amount of time, and in some cases at the same price. I ended up at a 141 school to do my instrument, comm, multi, cfi, cfii, and did all the training Part 61. Go figure! It was just what worked best for me.

I don't know the future, but it looks like the days of sailing out of flight school into an airline job are over for a while. You could end up instructing for quite some time. I know at our company, we have a literal tall stack of resumes. And that's just to fly for a small charter operation. I'm not trying to sound negative, because if you want to be a professional pilot, you will be. You'll just have to try harder and work longer to get there than the folks who got jobs over the past few years.

Enough from me. I'm sure others will give more info. Good luck on your search and mail me if you have any questions.

I have been a student at FlightSafety for the past year, If you have any specific questions I would be glad to give you a straight no nonsense answer (I don't work for marketing!) Send me a private if you do. Good luck!
A 4 year degree is not required by all major airlines. Southwest hired a friend of mine and he has no degree. He never finished. I would say that is is preferable and a requirement at many major airlines. If you don't have a degree you may consider some of the 2yr aviation schools like Cochise College, Gilbert Community College in AZ which is associated with North Dakota University, Mesa's program in Farmington, NM. There are others. The cost of training may be less than some of the professional schools and you will get a degree to boot. If you want to transfer to a 4 year college so be it. Arizona State University or Embry Riddle are 4 year universities to consider.

Good luck,
The 4 year degree topic...

IN the 80's well before the last hiring phase airlines did not require a degree. Around 90-91 when the airline market was (In my opinion) worse than today many airlines started my making a 4 year degree mandatory. Slowly all became mandatory, as this was one disqualifer to potential applicants. Some airlines even changed it one step further to prefer anything BUT the generic "Aviation degree". This was for "diversity" in the cockpit, I remember this as I was in a generic "aviation degree" at the time and switched to Chemistry degree.

In the last 2-3 or so years, many airlines "changed" from mandatory to "preferred" a 4 year degree or some other equally "loose" term. The "supply" of qualified pilots was less than the demand. Now it is different, personally, I would see the mandatory return. As other disqualifers will appear when the airlines do re-hire again.

In any case, a degree will always be better than not having any, but keep in mind a degree that allows options (teaching, accounting, etc.) may give you more options in the long term future if this industry does not bounce back as fast as many are hoping.

Best of luck
Diana, Lots of good advice above. I agree with the person who thinks there will still be growth in the Regionals and for some time to come.
My two cents. As far as getting your basic ratings, it doesn't matter much if it's 141 or 61. Finding a good instructor is much more important. I wouldn't pay the big money for all of your ratings. The advantage of some of the big name schools is that they often have agreements with airlines in which you may be granted an interview which can lead to a direct job. You are paying for that job connection in many cases. At the moment there aren't too many jobs to get so I'm sure the schools that have these agreements have some upset students. The airlines have been cyclical but the demand for air travel will continue to increase and so will the need for pilots. The economy and 9/11 have put a big dent in pent-up demand for pilots right now and perhaps for some time to come. My wife went to Airline Training Academy in Orlando and got hired with American Eagle with 400 hours. She was able to do this comfortably in less than a year and a half from start to finish. The school was not bad. I did some research and found that there aren't many great ( In my opinion) schools. I would call the schools you are interested and get names/numbers of previous students and call them. Watch out for schools going belly-up...you could lose your money. If you have the flying bug, don't stop flying. Good luck, John

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