Real Answers from Real Pilots

CFI or small charter service after ATP

My name is Phillip Stovall, I am 20 years old. Currently I am the hiring, training and safety manager for three peanut manufacturing plants in North Carolina. I am working on my PPL and i plan on going to ATP in July. The dilemma i am currently having is whether to be a CFI after ATP or whether i should fly with a charter service. I have personal connections with a flight school in Florida. I also have a small charter service that wants to hire me after ATP to be a First Officer in a Learjet. I know both of these companies personally and they are both great companies to work for but i need to know which path would look better to the airlines after i complete my 1500 hours.

Thanks,
Phillip Stovall

Hi Phillip,

Totally up to you, there are pros to either route. Clearly flying a Lear will probably be more fun than flight instructing in a Seminole. I would want to know how much flight time you’d build per month flying the Lear? At ATP the average instructor builds approx. 75+ hrs a month so you’d want to do better than that. Also flight instructor time is PIC time which many airlines like AND more important you’ll need 250 hrs PIC to earn you ATP license (and therefore get hired at Regional). Flying the Lear all your time will be SIC so you will need to pick up some PIC somewhere. Flight instructing, while not very glamorous, is excellent for building your pilot skills vs time at cruise in a jet with the auto-pilot on and it will make you a better pilot.

Either way (provided you can pick up that extra PIC) you’ll have no problems getting hired at a Regional (as it pertains to experience). Your call.

Adam

Phillip,

I would strongly recommend that you take the CFI route. Many charter companies will hire a brand new pilot with low hours simply to meet a need set forth by the FAA or their insurance company. Many times these low time pilots barely ever get to fly the airplane and instead end up handling the radios, making car reservations, etc. Basically the pilot is just a warm body int he seat to meet a requirement and handle office type tasks. Airlines know this and will sometimes look down on this type of flight time.

On the other hand, flight instructing is serious work and the airlines know it. As a CFI you would build a huge amount of experience and really increase your knowledge base. You will also likely fly much more than a charter pilot does, thus building your hours faster.

I am not discounting the charts option outright, many people have gone that way. My experience has shown me that being a CFI is the trusted and proven path to the airlines.

Chris

Phillip,

I agree with Chris on this one. You will learn a lot more and also you will enjoy the job much more. At a corporate gig, you will be at the bottom of the barrel. Although I have never done it personally, I have heard stories that your job as a junior corporate FO doesn’t end with making car reservations like Chris said. It involves a lot of messy work (i.e. cleaning the lavs after your rich drunk passenger hurled during some turbulence) that the captain doesn’t want to deal with.

I recommend that you give instructing a shot. You always have the option of going somewhere else if you don’t like it.

Yarden

Thanks guys, I think i am going to instruct for a while. I have one more question for you all. Do you ever have days where you wish you would’ve flown for another company like Susi air? I don’t mean long term, just a year or two for the adventure before you started your airline career.

I have thought about taking a leave sometime when we offer them and going to fly for Ethiopian Airlines as I have a family connection to them. While the adventure would be fun I have always stayed the course as the pay and benefits at United are greater than what Ethiopian offers.

Chris

Phillip,

Honestly no. I’ve been very fortunate in my career and I’ve been exactly where I want to be. When I was at ExpressJet I flew everywhere in the mainland US ((except N Dakota and Wyoming), the Caribbean, virtually every airport in Mexico and much of Canada up to St John’s Newfoundland. That was pretty adventurous for me as I got to experience every type of weather, terrain and airport environment, the whole time flying for a US carrier with excellent maintenance and the protection of the FAA and the union (something you may not find at many foreign carriers). Since moving to Hawaiian I’m now touring Asia and the S Pacific. I’m good.

That said this life and adventure is yours and I would encourage you to check as many boxes as you desire.

Adam