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How Does A Pilot's Career Work?  
User currently offlineVorticity From United States of America, joined May 2004, 337 posts, RR: 5
Posted (9 years 11 months 1 week 3 days 19 hours ago) and read 5014 times:

I've always been curious to know how a pilot's career works, and how certain pilots end up flying certain planes. As pilots get more experience, do they get the opportunity to be trained for, and fly larger and better planes? Do the least experienced pilots get stuck flying regional jets? Do entrust your brand new A380 to only the best and most experienced? Or are there experienced pilots scattered throughout the range of aircraft?

Thanks in advance for any input.




Thermodynamics and english units don't mix...
10 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineFutureualpilot From United States of America, joined May 2000, 2598 posts, RR: 8
Reply 1, posted (9 years 11 months 1 week 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 4981 times:

Seniority. The guys with the most years in one airline have the most seniority, and are up for flying the 777s, 747s and A340s and such. (Generally). When you are a new-hire, you get the right seat in the smaller jets, such as 737s/A320s and so on.

There are variations to many airlines and how it works but thats how it generally goes...in the U.S. at least.



Life is better when you surf.
User currently offlineEclipseFlight7 From Somalia, joined Apr 2004, 518 posts, RR: 2
Reply 2, posted (9 years 11 months 1 week 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 4952 times:

Something I never quite understood was that if a pilot joins a regional airline that flies for a major carrier as a partner, ie ASA for Delta, would you be only flying the partner carrier planes or would you eventually have the opportunity to fly the mainline carrier planes?


Holy sh*ts and burritos.
User currently offlineFutureualpilot From United States of America, joined May 2000, 2598 posts, RR: 8
Reply 3, posted (9 years 11 months 1 week 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 4931 times:

A regional pilot can by all means end up flying for any major airline. I know of a flight instructor at my local airport who flew with Skywest for a few years and now flies with Southwest.

As far as I know, regionals are their own airlines, but they can by owned and partnered with the majors.



Life is better when you surf.
User currently offlineRoberta From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (9 years 11 months 1 week 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 4901 times:

What are they ways of getting a job as a pilot. Must you earn your own license or train through the military. Or can you just apply with a few 'A'-levels.

User currently offlineDeltaGuy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 5, posted (9 years 11 months 1 week 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 4895 times:

Two words: Experience and Senority.

The experience is what gets you from flying Piper Cubs to King Airs, to CRJ's, to 737's...so say from a small charter op, onto a regional, then into a major. Or you can always go the military route Big grin

As for senority, those pilots you see flying the 76ER's and 777's have been with the airline for a hella long time, and it's not uncommon to see a 30 year vet in the left seat of a 777. An F/O who's OLDER than the Captain on some aircraft is also normal, it all depends on that magic hire date. I met a B-52 pilot with well over 7000 hrs from the Air Force, who was flying left seat on a CRJ- so it's not always linked to experience.

DeltaGuy


User currently offlineAv8trxx From United States of America, joined Nov 2001, 657 posts, RR: 6
Reply 6, posted (9 years 11 months 1 week 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 4834 times:

"As pilots get more experience, do they get the opportunity to be trained for, and fly larger and better planes?"

Yes, as mentioned "seniority rules". All aircraft and schedules are bid by date of hire. The biggest aircraft and best routes are always the more senior.

"Do the least experienced pilots get stuck flying regional jets?"
Not always. The regionals are flown by an airline seperate from the mainline it feeds. Therefore bidding is also seperate. Two different companies. Some regional jet captains have 15,000-20,000 hours of flight time and have flown for an airline for well over 15 years. This is hardly inexperienced compared to the new hire mainline pilots that may have less than 2,000 hours of flight time, having come from the military. For example American Airlines has many very junior pilots with less than 3,000 flight hours that were furloughed after 9/11. Due to a contractual agreement, some F/Os have the option to 'flow' over the the feeder, American Eagle and fly as a regional jet Captain while furloughed from AA. However, the pilot must have 3,000 hours. Many do not, so they cannot 'flow'. In addition, the majority of the RJ F/Os they would be flying with have 4,000-6,000 hours with at least half that in RJs. In such an instance, the F/O would be the more experienced pilot even though he was flying with a guy that had been in a 767 at mainline.

"What are they ways of getting a job as a pilot. Must you earn your own license or train through the military. Or can you just apply with a few 'A'-levels."

It's different depending on where you live. In any country the military is an option, but the civilian route is different depending on what country you live in. In the USA it is very common to get your ratings and then get odd flying jobs to build up your flight experience to 1,000-1,500 hours and then get a regional flying job. In other countries, airlines will take someone with no experience, put them in a 'cadet program' and create their own pilots. These pilots may get a job flying as a heavy aircraft F/O at 500 hours or less. This is how someone with very little experience can end up a crewmember on an A340 or 747. This simply does not happen in the USA. The big airlines here have no 'cadet programs', although some US regional carriers will interview you with substantially less flight experience if you get your ratings via an affiliated flight academy. The majors expect substantial experience just to apply. With the training environment and availablity of small time flying jobs, it is much easier to get that experience here than abroad. This is also why cadet programs work for carriers in Europe, Asia ect. Training is so expensive abroad and most aspiring pilots couldn't do it on their own, as they are expected to in the USA.

"If a pilot joins a regional airline that flies for a major carrier as a partner, ie ASA for Delta, would you be only flying the partner carrier planes or would you eventually have the opportunity to fly the mainline carrier planes?"

Only if that pilot applied and got hired by that mainline carrier. While working for the regional, they are seperate from the mainline and not guaranteed a job with the major. It's also a mistake to think that just by working for the connection carrier, that gives you an edge to getting on at the mainline. If you make friends there, maybe. However at a few carriers, almost the opposite is true. They will hire anybody but!


User currently offlineJeckPDX From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 255 posts, RR: 1
Reply 7, posted (9 years 11 months 1 week 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 4818 times:

As I am building up my flight time, I am curious of this as well. How much time at a regional is usually required in order to be considered a candidate for hire at a major? Also, how does it work with a North American certified pilot flying for a foreign major (i.e. CX, EK, QF, etc.) I have heard due to a lack of pilots in their home nations, many foreign carriers recruit American pilots. If so, do they pay as well, and is it easier to make your way into the left seat of larger more prestigious a/c? I've heard stories of 25 year old pilots being hired by EK and within 3-5 yrs advancing to captain on a 777.

JeckPDX



"Beer is proof that God Loves us and wanted People to be Happy" - Ben Franklin
User currently offlinePe@rson From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2001, 19108 posts, RR: 53
Reply 8, posted (9 years 11 months 1 week 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 4778 times:

If I wanted to become an airline pilot, I would not want to fly the 747, 340, 777, et al, but rather the ATR, Saab 340, CRJ and so forth, as it'd mean I'd probably fly more often and perform more take-offs and landings per day. I believe that pilot pay is based on the time from when the brakes are released to the time they're reapplied, so the shorter sectors you do, the more in that respect you'll learn on top of your base rate.


"Everyone writing for the Telegraph knows that the way to grab eyeballs is with Ryanair and/or sex."
User currently offlineHAL From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 2531 posts, RR: 53
Reply 9, posted (9 years 11 months 1 week 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 4760 times:

In the US, it used to be a majority of the airline pilots came from the military ranks. However in the last couple of decades, civilian pilots have come to make up the largest portion of new-hires.

There are almost as many ways of becoming an airline pilot as there are pilots. However my experience may be an 'average' example.

I started flying on my own just out of college and within a few months had my private pilots license. Then over the next few years I built up more advanced licenses and ratings while working my regular 'day job' to pay for it. My timing was off a bit since once I had my commercial license and flight instructor ratings it was just after the first gulf war and nobody was hiring at the time. I continued flying on my own until a few years later when I landed a full time instructor job. This is a very important first step for any pilot - the first job. Many start as flight instructors, or parachute jump pilots, or banner tow pilots etc. Once you have about 1500 or more hours you become more attractive to the regional airlines. Most will require some multi-engine flight time and that can be the hardest (most expensive) to come by. When times are good (say the late 90's) you could get a job flying with a regional with 1200 hours total time and a couple hundred multi-engine time. The last couple years (since 9/11) a lot of the regional simply weren't hiring or if they were, required much higher minimums. It's all a matter of supply and demand.

Once you are hired by a regional airline, you are 'in the system' and have a lot more options. At the regional, just like the major airlines, your options of where and what you fly is almost entirely decided by your seniority. The pilot that has been with the company the longest has his/her choice of what base and what plane to fly. Then the second most senior person makes their choice, and so on to the newest person on the list. And everyone has a different idea of what they want. Maybe they prefer living at a certain base. That will dictate what equipment and routes they will fly.

After flight instructing for a few years I was hired by Chautauqua Airlines. I was assigned to fly the Saab 340 out of Pittsburgh. That suited me fine because it was (at the time) the biggest plane they flew, and since I lived in Seattle it was an easy commute to PIT. The first couple months I was on reserve, which meant I had certain days assigned to me to be available to fly if someone called in sick or on vacation. After a few months the airline had expanded enough and there were enough pilots below me on the seniority list that I could bid for a regular schedule. That is what I did until I was offered a job with Hawaiian Airlines, and started again all over with them.

Chautauqua at the time was just a USAirways Express carrier. There were a number of pilots that left CHQ for USAirways, but not as a 'flow-through'. They had to compete for the US jobs along with all the other candidates. There are a couple regionals where the senior captains get to go straight to the mainline airline, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

Once I was hired at Hawaiian I was again assigned my new base and plane, which happened to be a DC-10 engineer in Seattle. They were expanding enough at the time that I had my choice of bases and of course chose to stay at home in Seattle. That meant that my flying was almost exclusively between SEA and HNL because those were the routes flown by the SEA pilots. We normally didn't get to fly to Tahiti, Samoa, Alaska, or other west coast cities - those were flown mostly by HNL based crews. Once I had been there a few years I was able to upgrade to a co-pilot position on the DC-10, again based in SEA. A couple of pilots senior to me decided to remain as more senior flight engineers rather than junior co-pilots because they preferred being able to pick their schedule more than the increased pay but uncertain schedule of a junior reserve F/O.

Now of course, Hawaiian went into bankruptcy and furloughed over 100 pilots, including me. Seniority still rules however, and the most senior pilots on the list will be recalled first as the company expands (or other pilots retire). Like everything else in the job, seniority is everything.

That is the heart of how pilots get experience and upgrade. It is all based on seniority, and the individual pilots choice of what they want out of the job.

HAL



One smooth landing is skill. Two in a row is luck. Three in a row and someone is lying.
User currently offlineAv8trxx From United States of America, joined Nov 2001, 657 posts, RR: 6
Reply 10, posted (9 years 11 months 1 week 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 4756 times:

Pe@rson- Yes you do get a lot more landings in, which can make the day a bit more fun than 8-16 hours in cruise in a 747. And yes, many carriers do pay for the time the brake is off, as mine does. However it's the hourly rate that is important! Most F/Os flying ATRs & SF3s are making between $20-30 USD, which is about $11-17 British pounds per flight hour. Contrast that with the 737 pilots who make $80, 100 or even 120 per hour and you can see there is not much money to be made flying the smaller stuff even though it's a heck of a lot of fun. Short haul, high frequency pay as lot better in the 737 and it's still fun flying with mulitiple landings.

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