Real Answers from Real Pilots

Military Rotary wing thinking about the Airlines

This forum has been a great resource for me, so I would like to say thank you to everyone in advance.

I’m currently in the US Army as a 64D/E pilot. I’m a maintenance test pilot with about 1300 hours.

At this point in my career I’ve been deployed to Iraq/Afghanistan for well over 3 years of my career and the training rotations and deployment cycle has been increased to a pace I don’t particularly love. I’d say at this current time I’ve averaged 35-40% of the past 5 years at home. That number has been decreasing steadily over the past 5 years. This is a lot of away time from my family and I’m wanting to start looking at other options.

I’ve been trying to decide if a job in the airlines is something that would work for my family. If someone could give me a brief outline of what my transition would look like in daily to monthly schedules and salary outlook for the first few years and then at 5 years out I would be tremendously grateful. The only transition program I’m currently aware of is Envoy.

Thank you all.

Hello Jason and thank you for your service,

Envoy is the only transition program I’m aware of as well but that’s fine. They’re a fine Regional airline so why not? It’s incredibly difficult to give you a “standard” how things will go because they can vary so much depending on MANY factors, but we’ll try. After Envoy (or whoever) gets you up to speed you’ll be a Regional FO. As a new FO you’ll be a Reserve for a few months which means you’ll fly where, when and how much the airline wants you to. As you gain some seniority you’ll be able to bid for better trips and better schedules. While the schedules can vary you can plan on being gone usually 3-5 days at a time with maybe 12 days off (you can look at Yarden’s schedules he posts for an idea of a typical Regional schedule). First year pay at Envoy (and most Regionals) is currently $38K (double what it was a few years ago) and they’re currently offering a $20k hiring bonus. Your salary will go up slightly the next few years until you upgrade to Capt. (typically 3-5yrs). As a Capt you’ll be in the mid-$70k and that will creep up until you get hired by a Major. Current Major airline Capts can make over $300k but that’s quite a few years in.

That’s a very generic overview but should give you some idea.

Adam

Thank you for your time Adam.

How long can I expect to work at a regional before I should start applying for the majors? Is it a time requirement or an hour level?

Is it wise to start applying as soon as I am able? The pay increase is definitely substantial. Are there certain things the majors are really looking for or things I can do to set myself apart?

I genuinely love flying and have spent the past 5 years flying regularly and would like to continue on the civilian side, but the pay cut will still hurt for the first year. My wife is very supportive of this, but I want to have all the information for her so she is well informed on what to expect so we can adjust our expectations accordingly.

Jason,

It is really hard to put a firm number on how long somebody should expect to work at the regionals as there are so many factors that come into play. The first is of course the economy and if the majors are hiring, then there are what connections you have (you will have some by then) and of course your flight time. Moving to the majors really is a function of the all important jet Captain time (turbine PIC) and not so much a question of time. That being said, typically pilots stay at the regionals for 5-10 years before moving onto the majors.

I would apply to the majors the very day that I met their minimum requirements, there is no reason at all not to. Now this by no means means that you will get hired then, but they certainly can’t call you if you haven’t applied. Others might disagree with me, but I have never seen any advantage at all to staying at a regional if you have the opportunity to move to a major.

To set yourself apart from the crowd when applying to a major you should first and foremost have a college degree. Of course flight time is of great importance, but beyond that you can do things like volunteer for aviation related things in the community, attend job fairs, being an instructor pilot at your current airline and of course make as many friends as possible at the majors.

Of course the majors love military pilots, so I would definitely play to that advantage.

Chris

Chris,

Are there published flight hour minimums for any of the majors? I’ve been searching online and haven’t found any.

I’m not sure if my Rotary wing experience will be of any benefit, but I do have a decent amount of PIC and combat time in the 64. I will definitely play any advantage I can.

Thanks to both of you for your help. I’m currently anxiously waiting to hear back from my application to Envoy.

Jason,

United’s are right here: https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/company/career/pilot.aspx I would recommend going to the companies website themselves and looking there. It looks like United wants 1,000 fixed wing, turbine time. While all your helo time is great experience, I think you need to plan on at least a year or two at the regionals before being able to apply to the majors.

Chris

Thank you Chris, not sure how I missed those.

I certainly plan on being at the regionals for the normal amount of time. I recognize that Rotary wing time and turbine jet time have few similarities. My IFR flight planning will be what I’m focusing on in my free time/flights leading up to training as I know I’m nowhere near the level of a proficient fixed wing pilot. I’m comfortable doing it, but it’s probably my weakest area of knowledge.

Jason,

If you visit the career/employment pages on any of the Major’s sites you should find their mins. Most want some turbine PIC which is Regional CA time. As Chris being military is definitely a plus and airlines like Hawaiian, Atlas and SouthWest will without question put you ahead of others with comparable time. I always encourage pilots to apply to the Majors as soon as they reach the mins. Even if you don’t get the call right away it shows you’re eager and also avoids the question “so Jason if you want to work here at Awesome Airlines why did you wait so long to apply?” :slight_smile:

Adam

Last question,

Does anyone have any knowledge of how competitive it is to get picked up with Envoy/PSA with their rotor transition program? I will be talking to them soon, but I’m still over 6 months from separating from the military.