Real Answers from Real Pilots

How long between regional and major?

Hello everyone,

I am considering starting the ATP Career Airline Pilot program in a few months when I come home from Cambodia. The only experience I have with airplanes is jumping out of them at altitudes ranging from 800ft to above 20,000 ft. Originally I was told a regional pilot starts around $28k however when talking with the school I was told that it is closer to $60k now due to demand. I want to see if the school is worth the debt that will come with it. How long does it generally take to go from a regional airline to major airlines?

Nicholas,

Welcome to the forums.

The very first thing you need to do is take an introductory flight. It is one thing to think you like the idea of flying airplanes for a living, but quite another to actually do it. An introductory flight will help you see if this is actually what you want to do. You can take one at ATP, or just about any flight school.

Pilot pay has increased dramatically in the past few years. Yes, some airlines are offering first year compensation that comes in around $60k. Check out www.pilotjobs.com for more info.

There can be a wide range of time on how long it takes a pilot to make the jump from a regional to a major, but generally a qualified pilot will take 5-10 years to do so.

Chris

Nicholas,

$60k sounds a little high. It’s closer to $40k-$50k on average for the
first year. I am currently at a regional, but I’m hearing that most pilots
are at a regional for at least 5 years until they move onto the majors.

Tory

Nicholas,

Yes if you factor in all available bonuses and reimbursements first year pay can be around $60k BUT know that is not salary and 2nd yr (and subsequent) will be more around $40k. It will creep up a little until you upgrade where it will then jump up to $65-70 (usually 2-5yrs later).

As for getting to a Major the average these days does seem to be in the 5-7yr range. I know pilots who’ve done it in 2yrs but I also know many who have taken 10-15 and others who’ve been waiting 20 and may never get there. What I’m saying is there are no guarantees so only you can decide if it’s worth the debt.

Adam

Everyone,

Thanks for your responses! I have taken an introductory flight with a separate place when I was looking just at getting a private license, after doing research and finding ATP 's program it seems it’s definitely worth it to me. A last question I have is I’m not planning on living permanently in the US (girlfriend is from Sweden and we will most likely be there in Gothenburg or Stockholm) once I get the license and ratings as well as build up flight hours, is there a sort of reciprocity between FAA credentials and the European agencies?

Nicholas,

There is no reciprocity between the FAA and EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency). The EASA requires considerably more testing and evaluation than the FAA. ATP actually offers a conversion program for interested pilots which goes beyond the Career Pilot Program. Some info can be found here: https://atpflightschool.com/international/airline-career-pilot-easa.html

Adam

Nicholas,

Keep in mind that many, if not most, European airlines happily discriminate against people based on national origin. Before you make your life plan to fly in Europe, make sure you contact some airlines and see what their stance on hiring foreign nationals is, then do some research and make sure that they actually do hire foreigners.

Chris

Chris,

Thank you so much for your advice! I’ve been researching Norwegian Airlines (no particular reason just the first European company that came to mind) and on their website they’re currently hiring FO and Captain positions for their FLL to international locations (https://www.webcruiter.no/WcMain/AdvertViewPublic.aspx?oppdragsnr=3220592232&Company_Id=2588822482&cols=4,7&orderby=4&listtype=1&culture_Id=EN&link_source_id=0 ) based out of FLL, they state they will support your conversion from FAA flight crew license to EASA. That seems to be one of the few airlines I’ve found offering it. Do you suppose it is because they are still growing and see it as an investment in their interests? From what I’ve seen FAA to EASA is quite an expensive class.

Nicholas,

The reason they’re doing it is to try and calm the overwhelming bad press and ALPA’s (Airline Pilots Assoc, the largest pilot union in the US) full assault to get them shut down (here’s a good piece detailing it https://skift.com/2016/10/10/norwegian-air-accused-by-critics-of-flouting-labor-standards-will-hire-u-s-pilots/). I gather you haven’t been following NAIs progress in the news but if you simply Google them under news you’ll see what the fuss is about. In short they’re trying to undercut all the US Majors by exploiting some loopholes in the laws. ALL the US Majors and ALPA are lobbying the gov’t to shut them down. Whether they’re successful or not we’ll see since they’re obviously throwing money at enough Congressmen and Senators to continue doing business.

So why am I telling you this? Because whether they survive in the US or not, should you decide to fly for them you should probably forget about returning to the US and flying here. EVERY pilot in the US has been made aware and most have signed petitions and contributed money specifically to fight what NAI is doing. You would be without question considered a scab and be blacklisted from every airline in the US. I’d give it some serious thought before I jumped on board.

Adam

1 Like

Adam,

Wow, that’s insane! Unfortunately I haven’t found the best sources to follow news and events in the professional pilot community. I’m glad you told me that, the last thing I would want to do is burn bridges in an entire industry. I think I would rather work for a more reputable airline when the time to apply comes. I suppose that is why they’re the only airline I’ve found doing that.