Regional Airline Flying is so a Career!

By Robert Mark on March 12th, 2007

OK, uncle …uncle!

You’d think that a guy who flew a regional airliner for a living would be smart enough to realize that not every regional pilot in the world would drop their lunch for a chance to fly a big jet at the majors. But I did imply that in a past column and a sharp-eyed Jetwhine reader called me on it.

Now for the truth.

Some of the best flying memories of my career took place in this regional airplane. It was my first chance to fly an airplane with a door I could open after the flight and offer kids sets of pilot wings for having flown on board. It was the first turbine airplane in which I experienced a partial engine failure (worked just like in training too). I actually was a major player in the air and on the ground during every minute of the flight. That certainly doesn’t happen at the majors.

Best of all, regional flying appealed to me because the lifestyle meant I was home more, certainly more than the longer corporate jet trips I’d see later in my career. If the airline I was flying for hadn’t gone bankrupt, my guess is I’d still be there.

Honestly, regional pilots will never make the money they think they should and nor, from what I see at places like Comair, ASA and Mesaba, will their aura ever rise to the level where major airlines pilots will pay much attention to them. Of course, come to think of it, the major airline pilots aren’t being paid what they believe they’re worth these days either.

But all this financial chaos is also forcing pilots to reflect more on what they do than simply on how much they get paid to do it. If you love flying, you’ll eventually find a flying job. If you only want a flying job that pays lots of cash, you might be waiting a while.

Regional jobs pay decently once you’re on board for awhile, so don’t get too focused on the first few years of pay if your goal is to fly. I know pilots who have turned down jobs at the majors because they didn’t believe they could make it on the initial salary offered. Everyone would like to be paid more, but there are tradeoffs and there are pay raises all along the way.

If you’re new to the industry, a note that just came out from American Eagle might be interesting. To me, it was eye opening.

Eagle now requires minimums of only 800 hours total flight time and 100 hours of multi-engine. Let me offer a little perspective on this.

When I interviewed with Eagle in the early 90s, they made me realize they wanted someone with just a tad more experience. At the time I had almost 3,000 total and over 1,000 multi engine.

Trust me, the regionals are a good career if you weigh the options.

And yes, I know you will make more money as a Southwest Airlines pilot. But you could also make more money as a doctor.

Your choice!

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3 Responses to “Regional Airline Flying is so a Career!”

  1. Eric Gideon Says:

    Pinnacle just went through UND and hired a guy with 285 hours. The regionals are really hurting for pilots right now.

  2. Robert Mark Says:

    I just posted something about American Eagle reducing their requirements to 500 hours total time, but this one about Pinnacle is amazing.

    And they still can’t find enough people. This is going to become very exciting in the next 6 to 12 months.

  3. Alice Says:

    Wow It’s good to know for a job-seeker in this domain. I have only 250 hours but I think I must try.

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