From Cabin to Cockpit – My Adventures in Flight Training #5

Eight weeks and fifty three flight hours later, I DID IT!!! I completed my first solo flight! I am so excited to share my first solo experience with all of you!



I completed my solo evaluation flight Monday, and was able to fly my first solo flight the following day.  I woke up around three in the morning for my first solo.  The winds had to be perfect; no more than ten knots of wind and no more than a five knot crosswind.

Before sending me off, my instructor Maks Surowka, and I performed three take offs and landings in the traffic pattern to make sure I was ready.  I then dropped him off, and went on my way as a student pilot first solo flight in the traffic pattern!  I do not think I have ever had more emotions going through my mind until I was lined up on the runway by myself.  I was ready to go, excited, nervous, and knew there was no going back once I took off!  Once airborne, I was not as nervous until it came time to land.  I knew I was ready for my solo flight, and was very confident in myself.  My landings were probably the best I have ever done, mainly because I knew my CFI would not be there to save them!




I was soloing in the traffic pattern for about one hour.  Once I was finished,  returned back to our parking and we were all ready to celebrate!  Later in the day, Maks cut the back of my shirt. For those unfamiliar with the ritual, the instructor cuts the back of the pilot’s shirt into a rectangle and the pilot writes their solo dates and plane number on the back.  It means you’re “free” from your instructor and on your own!  It was a very memorable day, and I am extremely proud of myself!




My week did not end there, I finished my required four hours of solo flights in the traffic pattern, and completed another cross country flight.  I now am preparing for my two solo cross country flights which I am hoping to finish in the next week.  My private pilot check ride is also quickly approaching, so I have been very busy studying and having a lot of ground school to prepare me for the big day! I am hoping to be a private pilot by mid August!

Once again, thank you to everyone for all of your positive feedback and support! I am continuing to work hard, and am rapidly making my way through my ATP program.  I am hoping my next blog entry will include my first solo cross country flight!

Stay tuned for my next adventures!!

ExpressJet offers up to $11,000 ATP tuition reimbursement

We are excited to announce that we are now partnering with Airline Transport Program (ATP)! This new agreement will allow ATP students to receive up to $11,000 in tuition reimbursement from ExpressJet Airlines.


We are excited to announce that we are now partnering with Airline Transport Program (ATP)! This new agreement will allow graduates from ATP’s Airline Career Program to receive up to $11,000 in tuition reimbursement from ExpressJet Airlines.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Graduate from ATP’s Airline Career Pilot Program
  2. Gain experience with ATP as a paid certified flight instructor
  3. Interview with ExpressJet between 300 and 500 hours total time
  4. Accept ExpressJet’s conditional job offer and tuition reimbursement payments
  5. Begin your career at ExpressJet upon reaching 1500 hours total time

How much will ExpressJet put toward my loan payment?

Eligible students can only receive up to a maximum of $11,000 in tuition reimbursement from ExpressJet Airlines

What schools are eligible?

This agreement is exclusively for ATP students

When can I interview with ExpressJet?

Graduates of ATP’s Career Pilot Program with at least 300 hours total time can interview

When does this program go into effect?


 What is Airline Transport Program (ATP)?

A flight training program, located nationwide, that prepares students for airline pilot careers.

Where can I receive more information about ATP?

Please visit their website here,




Your PSP questions answered


Pilot Recruiting set a New Year’s resolution to educate, engage, and empower aviators across the country. Several months later we are still committed to fulfilling our resolution. On Friday, July 22, ExpressJet launched a new program designed to benefit students learning to fly professionally – our Preferred School Program (PSP). With the launch of this program, we wanted to take a minute to share answers to a few common questions:

What is PSP?
ExpressJet’s Preferred School Program (PSP) is designed to give flight school students a clear path to ExpressJet upon earning their flight time and certifications. PSP is similar to AP3, but focused on part 61 and 141 flight schools. Students enrolled in the PSP are offered a competitive advantage with a guaranteed interview at ExpressJet early in their training which leads to a conditional job offer.

Which flight schools are included in this program?
We launched the program last week with our first partner school, Nashville Flight Training, and continue to add new, qualified partners. PSP is focused on part 61 and part 141 flight schools that meet our rigorous requirements, which include a comprehensive curriculum and at least 50 hours of flying per month for CFIs. Keep an eye on for added schools; below are the first five in the program:

What are the benefits?
In addition to an early interview that leads to a conditional job offer (CJO) and guaranteed job after program completion, students have personal access to our recruiters who can help answer questions, offer advice and be a resource for the student.

If I join PSP, do I have to go to ExpressJet?
No – students are not required to sign a commitment to ExpressJet to join the program. We offer desirable bases, industry-leading training and pay, and great work rules, but sometimes ExpressJet isn’t the right fit. We understand that, and we’re here to help you make the best decision for YOU, even if it’s not us.

What does the PSP path look like?
Each school’s agreement is slightly different, but in general here’s the path you can expect:

  1. Join PSP
  2. Complete PSP testing (a version of our new hire pilot interview) after earning your instrument rating; if successful receive a conditional job offer (CJO)
  3. Gain experience as a CFI to meet your ATP/R-ATP required hours (remember, you’ll gain 40+ hours in training, so it can actually be a bit less) and maintain a clean record
  4. Complete an application at when you’re within six months of reaching your ATP/R-ATP minimums
  5. Select a date to start your ATP CTP class, paid for by ExpressJet, then start new hire training at ExpressJet (all training is paid)
  6. Fly passengers as an ExpressJet first officer!

What is a CJO?
A CJO, or conditional job offer, means you’ve passed the PSP version of our new hire interview (congrats!). As long as you complete all the other requirements of the program, like keeping your nose clean, earning your hours and gaining experience as a CFI, you’re guaranteed a job at ExpressJet when you’re ready to start. And you don’t even have to complete another interview.

What’s the catch?
There is no catch! Our motto in recruiting is “educate, engage, empower” and PSP helps us fulfill those goals. It costs nothing to sign up, you’re not required to come to ExpressJet, and you get a leg up on your career.

Feel free to email Captain Joey Cook,, with any questions about PSP. Learn more here: .

How to select a flight training provider

So you know you want to become a pilot, but now what? Fortunately, it is a student’s market when looking for a FAA-certified (approved) flight training program. The choices are endless with more than 100 schools throughout the country. Before selecting the right school for you, we encourage you to consider the following.

Houston open house1

What kind of pilot job to you want?
Have you asked yourself what you want from your aviation career? Do you want to be a commercial airline pilot? Corporate/charter pilot? Medical ambulance pilot? Thoroughly research which aviation career you are interested in. You want to make sure you understand the requirements of your dream job now.

Do you want/need a degree, or should you start your career as soon as possible?
Pilots who want to fly commercially must be 21 and meet the FAA’s Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certification requirements, but outside of those two musts each airline – regional and major – have their own additional requirements. At ExpressJet, we look for pilots who are competent, knowledgeable and passionate – we don’t require a degree. Some people prefer to attend a flight training school where they focus solely on earning their certifications, ratings and hours, while others want the college experience or are seeking a degree in aviation or another field.

Also consider if you want a career at the major airlines one day – some require degrees while others don’t. If you do want to go the college/university route, you can major in aviation management or aviation science or a related degree, which may qualify you for the Restricted ATP (R-ATP) that allows you to start your career with less hours (1,000 or 1,250). However, the majors simply require “a degree” so sometimes it’s smart to choose an unrelated field that you’re interested in, like English or Information Science. There’s also the possibility of completing your degree later while you’re flying professionally – that’s one of the perks of the flexible schedule of pilot life!

Part 61 vs Part 141
You haven’t even step foot on the campus yet, but you keep hearing the terms Part 61 vs Part 141. What does that really mean for you, the student? The terms refer to the federal regulations under which the program has the authority to train pilots. The difference:

Part 61

Advantages Disadvantages
Flexible training environment Less structured training environment
Ideal for part-time students Requires more flight training hours
Curriculum is adaptable for each student Self-study environment
Usually less expensive

Part 141

Advantages Disadvantages
More structured environment Not ideal for those who are doing leisure training
Ideal for full-time students Less flexible pace
Complete your certificates sooner May not be available everywhere
Study is classroom based Curriculum is not student specific
Usually more expensive

The cost of flight training is substantial regardless of whether you’re looking into Part 61 or 141 aviation programs. Making sure that you receive the highest quality education that best suits your career needs should be the primary focus. You can learn more about options for paying for flight training here: Paying for flight school.

Partner Programs
Many universities and flight schools have established partner relationships with regional and even major airlines. Attending a school that has this type of relationship can be the difference between you graduating with a conditional job offer (CJO) at a regional airline or job hunting on your own after completing your hours. Look at the regional airlines that your school is partnered with. ExpressJet has relationships with more than 50 schools across the country through our Airline Pilot Pathway Program (AP3). Then, see if that regional airline has any pathway programs with major carriers that you are interested in. Currently, ExpressJet has pathway programs with JetBlue and United.

Make sure that you ask questions to determine which school is best for YOU. Picking your flight training provider is not a decision to take lightly – you have every right to ask questions about the education you are receiving and you should.

All of this information can seem overwhelming, but it is important to research your decision early on when deciding where to complete your flight training. ExpressJet encourages you to continue to pursue your dreams as an aviator!

Paying for flight training

07-17 ATL Open House-70

The cost of flight training is a concern for many aspiring pilots. The career is absolutely worth it, but the upfront cost can be a difficult hurdle. There are many options available to help you pay for flight training including scholarships, loans made specifically for pilots, financial aid and military benefits.


Many current ExpressJet pilots have used the aid of scholarships and grants to offset both their tuition and flight training costs. Applying for scholarships can be daunting, but persistence pays off. While you might not find a scholarship that covers your full expenses, every little bit helps your overall bill.

Start with your school
Look at your university first, as they often offer scholarships specifically for their students. Your school already has your FASFA results and transcripts, which makes applying easier. Many universities award students scholarships based on financial need and/or merit. Depending on the program you are enrolled in, your tuition and flight training are often two separate financial accounts. In this case your school might have general education scholarships and/or aviation specific scholarships. We compiled a list of some school-specific aviation scholarships here.

Aviation scholarships
There are hundreds of aviation scholarships available to aviators across the world. Some are based on what type of pilot you want to become, for example the National Agricultural Aviation Association generously provides several scholarships for agricultural pilots, some support diversity in our industry, and some are based on financial need. We put together this spreadsheet of aviation industry scholarships.

Educational scholarships
Millions of dollars are given each year in scholarships from funds across the country to help students fund their education. Educational scholarship parameters have the reputation of being more inclusive of everyone including first-generation college students, underrepresented minorities, low-income family history, military experience and professional organization affiliations. can help you find scholarships that work for you.


While traditional scholarships and financial aid are great, flight training is unique. Several companies have developed loan programs designed to support flight training costs. These are tailored to our industry, only available to future pilots, and a great option to get the kind of repayment plan that will best benefit you. is one of the organizations that specializes in pilot loans.


All students attending a four-year college or university should complete the FAFSA and apply for financial aid. From the Federal Pell Grant, to subsidized and unsubsidized federal loans and personal loans, there are a lot of ways to finance your education. outlines many of these options specific to aviation.


Future aviators who have served in our Armed Forces can use GI-Bill benefits to pay for flight training, and many schools specialize in supporting VA loans. If your parents served in the military, some unused post-911 GI-Bill benefits are transferable to children and can help pay for flight training. You can also complete your flight training in the military. offers guidance on using military benefits, as well as some additional ideas on how to pay for flight training.

Focus on your future
Stay encouraged – it is possible to achieve your dreams!  If you are a student pilot looking for some additional career guidance and interested in being mentored by ExpressJet’s pilots then consider enrolling in our Airline Pilot Pathway Program (AP3), which offers students at partner schools a guaranteed job at ExpressJet after completing program requirements. It might help convince your parents to keep the payments coming if they know you have a guaranteed job! Additional information on the program can be found at

And remember, joining the ExpressJet team gives you the best total compensation over your entire career, which is the best way to pay back your loans. When you are six months from earning your hours complete an application at to set up an interview with ExpressJet for a first officer position.

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