CFI checkride versus part 121 airline training/type rides.


Well-Known Member
Lately I’ve been trying to dig up some threads on this and can’t seem to find anything on it. Found very little through googling it too. For those who have been through both a CFI training course and CFI checkride, as well as a 121 training program, which would you say is more difficult and challenging? We’ve all heard the CFI is very thorough and demanding, but I’m curious to know if 121 training is more challenging, less challenging, or about the same as the CFI. I’m looking to move on from instructing and send out my resume to some regionals in the next 2-3 months. I’m also eyeballing a few 135 operators, but I’m leaning towards 121.

I love instructing, it’s very rewarding, but at the same time, it’s very exhausting at times and doesn’t allow much time off compared to airline jobs. I have a great instructing gig, the pay is well above industry average. However, even well above industry average pay isn’t enough to keep me where I’m at for much longer. It gets tiring teaching someone how to do something after a certain point. Originally I thought I wanted to be a career instructor, and for the first 6 months as a CFI, I had no plans on doing anything else in aviation. But as of late my thoughts on that have changed dramatically.

At this point in my career, I want to actually DO the very thing that I teach people to do-to fly the aircraft and not have to teach someone else how to do it, constantly observing their performance, conducting assessments/critiques, dealing with struggling students etc. Also, it gets old having to deal with students who are showing signs of defense mechanisms/bad attitudes, and constantly making excuses for their lack of study effort, lack of performance, etc, etc. I think most, if not all CFI’s can relate to this. That feeling of never getting enough stick time eventually wears on you, and pushes you to leave instructing. I love teaching, and still want to remain active as a CFI, but just on a very part time basis. Granted, instructing really does make you a MUCH better pilot. If I had to do this all over again, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’d instruct again in a heartbeat, but, it’s time to move on.

In anticipation of entering the 121 arena, what are your recommendations in terms of preparation for training? What should I really focus on? I teach in a highly structured environment, and understand that airline training is very structured, which I like. Do you need to have a good understanding of 121 regs going in? I’ve been reading up on turbojet/turbofan engines a lot and jet aerodynamics, what else do you guys recommend? The biggest thing I’ve been focusing my attention on is instrument procedure knowledge, as i’ve heard lack of instrument knowledge and skills seriously hurts people.

Any advice and recommendations from those who are airline pilots is greatly appreciated!


Dank Meme
In my experience 121 is significantly and spectacularly less challenging. 135 varies by company, but generally harder than 121 and a lot easier than CFI.


Well-Known Member
Hey man! Glad you are getting close to that next step!

I have no 135 experience but my CFI training was more challenging than the 121 checkride/type rating I have taken. Of course, there are so many variables, the biggest benefits for me were a class for group study, more structure, and a more experienced program. The CFI felt slightly more personal and almost like we were “winging it” and the 121 program was built for spitting out 40ish typed pilots a month.

PS: Some airlines give you 11 days off a month. As such; if you commute to reserve you are going to have far less time at home than you did as a CFI.*

*individual airline/personal experiences may vary


Well-Known Member
I would say 121 was more difficult. But I started with a regional airline with minimal hours, around 700. So I did not have a lot of prior knowledge to draw on.

You won't regret getting 121 or 135 experience. If you like to teach, there will be training opportunities later (with a livable wage and air conditioning).

Go into 121 training with a good foundation. Think of someone training for a CFI certificate. They are going to learn the FOI, endorsements, and a few new regulations in class. The rest is a review, which makes it difficult if all the general pilot knowledge was brained dumped.

So be highly proficient as an instrument rated pilot going in. That is knowledge you are expected to have. You'll learn the aircraft and the operation when you get there. The ATP-CPT will give you a basic intro to jets.