Real Answers from Real Pilots

China

Dear Pilots,
I have been hearing about China’s extreme need for pilots. They are waving $300,000 tax free salaries! That’s quite a bit!! I have one question. How hard is it to live somewhere else instead of where your airport base is?! For example, can I potentially live in the US but fly for a china airlines?! Obviously knowing the fact you fly on reserve the first couple years, I wouldn’t do this. I would definitely wait on that until I had a solid commitment with the company. Like the time off I would come back to the US.
Thanks, Dylan

Hi Dylan,

Flying in China can be a attractive proposition but there are a few things to consider. First you need to understand that there are reasons there’s a extreme need for pilots in China. Chinese carriers are generally looking for pilots who are typed and have time in specific aircraft, vs low time pilots who are looking for a job. In order to get time in type that probably means you’re already flying for a Major in the US. While the pay is seemingly high salaries have come up considerably here in the US making China less attractive. In China there are no unions and you will work very hard and long for your money. Have an issue in training? You’re gone. Not sure if you’ve seen the info on pollution in China but air quality can be very unhealthy many days a year. factor in that many pilots in China smoke in the cockpit and the health problems increase. As for commuting to/from China understand you’re talking about a 12-14hr flight that I’d doubt you’d want to do often. Additionally the “tax free” income only works if you’re living out of the US. If you live in the US while China won’t charge you taxes the US certainly will.

Not trying to discourage you but I have a few friends who are flying in China. They all live there and are getting paid but there are many downsides. If there weren’t they’d surely have less of a shortage.

Adam

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Hi Adam,

Thank you for the detailed and thorough response. It really helped a lot. I never knew that pilots in China are allowed to smoke in the cockpit. You are in fact correct on the poor air quality in China and it poses great health risk. It is not worth it ultimately and the area is very far from family here in the U.S. Do you think in the years to come, the annual pay will be a lot higher for major airlines? I have another question regarding ATP in general. I will be an early high school graduate in the Spring and thinking about getting my PPL second semester. Then potentially going to ATP for my commercial liscense. Would after ATP be a great time to get a college degree? Potentially online while working for the regionals? What was your pathway like? Thanks again for your response and communication with me. It has been helping a lot.

Thanks,
Dylan

Dylan,

Capts at Major US carriers are now making mid-$300k. I honestly don’t see the salaries going any higher.

As far as your route goes obviously that’s a personal decision. Only you know YOU and therefore which route would work best for you. Now if you’re talking fastest route to the airlines, that would be get your PPL in high school, ATP, work as an Instructor and then do your college online while working as a Regional FO. That said getting a 4yr degree online is a tremendous amount of work AND requires a tremendous amount of discipline while you’re jetting around the country. Not saying it can’t be done but it’s hard.

If you were my son (which you’re not) I’d advise you to go to college first, complete your education while you’re still in “school mode” and then ATP, instruct, Regional. If you gave me a hard time I’d maybe compromise and say how about a 2yr degree, then ATP etc and then finish your 4yr online at a Regional. You’d have 2 yrs out of the way AND you could get credits for your pilot licenses and ratings making it much more manageable. That all said, again, it’s your decision sir.

Adam

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Thanks Adam!

Your responses have helped a lot and I completely agree with you. What regional airline do you work for? How does the regional airline schedule work? Do you fly on reserve? How do you move up the ladder and transition into the Major airlines( or what are the steps to get to the majors )?

Thanks,
Dylan

Glad to help Dylan,

I’m actually no longer at a Regional. I’m now at Hawaiian Airlines, the oldest Major airline in the US. I actually had a fantastic time when I was at ExpressJet (was there for 9yrs). While moving on was a natural progression it was actually a very difficult decision to make. I was a senior Capt, making good money (lo-$100k), worked in the Training Dept and had a great schedule. Let me say Dylan that a huge part of this job is individual perspective. One thing that always amazes me is I will meet pilots who are doing the exact same job as I’m doing at the same airline and one will swear it’s the greatest gig on Earth (me) and the other will make it seem it’s one small step above slavery. I’m a pretty flexible guy so even in the beginning when my schedule wasn’t great, I was still getting paid to fly a really nice jet with some great crews flying all across the country. This was literally my dream come true so if I had to work weekends, or miss a holiday it still was a small sacrifice in my mind.

Now I’m at Hawaiian and it hasn’t changed much except I’m flying a much bigger airplane (A330) much further (just got back from BNE yesterday and getting paid ALOT more money. Most pilots only fly Reserve when they’re junior as they want to know where, when and with who they’re flying with. Again I’m pretty flexible and my biggest concern is days off (I like to go visit family on the mainland) so if I can’t get the days I want with a bid line, I’ll bid Reserve. Sometimes you fly a lot, sometimes not. Truth is I often get better trips on Reserve since senior guys call in sick more than junior guys so it’s usually not too bad.

Dylan everything at the airlines is based on seniority. Progression within the airline is simply a matter of putting the time. For better or worse, you could be the hardest working pilot or the laziest and you won’t do any better or worse within that airline. Where it can and does matter is when you want to move up to the Majors. Obviously you need to build the required time and experience but the interview has more to do with you as a person and how you present yourself. Letters of recommendation are huge and this is a very small industry. If you’d made friends and have a good reputation you should have no issues, if you haven’t well that’s a different story. When I decided to apply to Hawaiian everyone told me I was crazy. Hawaiian is a smaller airline and VERY selective but I was able to get some powerful recommendations from my Chief Pilots and I’m sure that helped. But there was something more important. When I showed up for training my first day at Hawaiian one of the senior directors pulled me aside and asked me if I knew a particular pilot? I had to think hard but it was an FO I had flown with a few times, nothing notable. Well apparently this FO was related to this senior director. When my name came up he called the FO and the FO said great things about me. The moral is be nice and be professional ALWAYS. You never know who you’re working with or what effect that person can have on your life.

Adam

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Dylan,

Keep in mind that ATP requires two years of college or work experience before attending their program. Even more reason to attend college first.

Chris

Hey Chris,
Doesn’t ATP require private liscense OR college experience before enrolling there? I thought it was either or. Am I correct?
Thanks,
Dylan

Dylan,

That’s my understanding? I think Chris may have missed you going for your PPL first?

Adam

Dylan,

You got me :slight_smile: good catch, you are right that a private pilot license meets the admission criteria.

Chris

Thanks Chris!
Regarding the reimbursement, how much do pilots make as a flight instructor?

Dylan,

One of our former mentors, Yarden, wrote a good explanation of ATP CFI pay, you can find it here:

Chris

What kind of benefits are there in the regional airlines?
Thanks,Dylan

Benefits packages vary by airline, but most airlines offer the standard array of health, life, dental and disability insurances, along with pass travel benefits.

Chris

Thanks Chris!
That’s a great set of benefits. Thanks for letting me know. I have one more question! After getting accepted into a major airline , how do you go from flying a twin engine prop plane with the same mechanics as the planes the regionals use to flying the huge aircraft in the regionals and actually work for them? Do you guys have regional planes at ATP so you practice on those before you work for the airlines?

Dylan,

I am a bit confused by your question, you might have transposed tour use of “regional” and “major”. The airplanes that regionals fly are highly advanced and are far more similar to the airplanes that the majors fly than to general aviation aircraft.

The regionals know that you are coming from a GA background and will train you as such. It is a big leap from a Piper to an Embraer, but they know this and structure their training programs accordingly.

Once you are checked on an a regional jet, it really isn’t that big of a leap to a Boeing or Airbus as the systems and aerodynamics all have a lot in common.

Chris

Dylan,

Honestly I found the transition from instructing in the piston twin to the RJ to be the single most challenging experience of my life. First off everything is happening twice as fast and more. Second with piston props you get immediate response to your throttle inputs, with turbine engines there’s a “lag” as they have to “spool up”. You therefore have to anticipate everything. The initial sim training kicked my butt but it did all come together. At least I think it did? :slight_smile:

Once you get comfy on the jet the other transitions to larger planes is really a non-event. Except of course for the silly Airbus joystick. It’s just dumb!

Adam

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Dylan,

To give you an idea of what my training was like at Horizon, I will share
it with you here.

First, we had 2 weeks to complete about 80 hours of computer based training
that we completed in the comfort of our own home. It covered aircraft
systems, cockpit flows, takeoff and landing profiles, weather, avionics…

Then we had 2.5 weeks of ground school to review what we learned and
prepare for the oral exam. During these 2 weeks we had a week in the VPT
(virtual procedures trainer) with an evaluation at the end.

Then we had 1.5 weeks in the sim with multiple evaluations and an ATP/Type
rating check at the end.

Then we’re given a minimum of 60 hours of line flying with check airmen
with a line check at the end.

At any point during the training process, Horizon can allow a pilot to
receive extra training if the pilot shows enough potential.

Tory

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Chris,
Thank you for the thoughtful response. I might have confused you a bit on the question. I’m sorry about that, butyou answered exactly what I was wondering!:smiley:What is your routine like on a normal day you flew for the regionals? (Like preflight, planning, calculating, etc) Also, what are some things you did for a flight that somebody wouldn’t normally think a Pilot would do.
Dylan

Dylan,

Glad it helped out. For some great “Day in the life” type stories check out the “Flying the Line” section of this website. You will find what you are looking for there.

Chris