Real Answers from Real Pilots

Regional airline, schedule


(Brett) #1

I did not know where to put this so I’ll just put it here I am 32, I am a career firefighter paramedic and own a demolition business. I’m pretty tired of them both and have flown back when I was 20 and have always loved flying. Sporty’s Academy is here in Cincinnati and I have looked into their commercial pilot program which gets you up to the 250 hours and Commercial rating. While I have a lot of soul-searching to do I have a few more questions and am hoping you all can give me some guidance. PSA Airlines is based out of Dayton and also has operations in Cincinnati. I have been told by those in the industry that currently and probably 2 to 3 years down the road it would be no problem for me to be based out of Cincinnati or Dayton if I was hired with PSA Airlines. Do you agree or am I being too Wishful on thinking that I could get my pilot training then1500 hours as a CFI and get hired with PSA and get based in an area where I wouldn’t have to move or commute prior to my flights? Also reading throughout the internet I see a lot of comments about PSA several of which are negative. Any thoughts on PSA Airlines as an employer and what are your thoughts on a person who doesn’t have a college degree working at a regional carrier as a career choice? Do many people just stay at a regional as a captain? What is the pay at this level? And what kind of schedule can I expect at a regional carrier such as PSA, Envoy or Endeavor? More specifically my girlfriend slash fiance or soon-to-be fiance is concerned about the amount of time that I may be away from home. There seems to be a lot of variations and pilot scheduling and I’m just trying to get a better grasp of if I would be gone for a day and then fly again the next day and again the next day all out of my base or will I leave my base on a Monday and not return until Thursday then have 7 days off or 4 days off and then leave for another 3 days… 4 days?


#2

Hello Brett and Welcome,

While I’m familiar with Sporty’s Pilot Shop I actually didn’t know they had a flight school? I just perused their website and I’d be hard pressed to call them an academy. Not saying they’re not a good school just saying you would have to really piece together a program. I also didn’t see an initial Flight Instructor course which begs the question how are you going to build those 250 hrs up to the 1500 required by all Regionals. It’s also $52,919 without the initial CFI and of course there’s the little * saying the times quoted are the FAA minimum and your may vary. Not trying to play salesman but for $11,000 more you’ll be done in 6 mos, have all your CFI’s and a guaranteed instructor position. Not to mention you’ll be doing your multi training in shiny and very forgiving Seminole vs 45 yo Aztec. ATP’s closest location to Cincinnati is Louisville which is 1.5hr away which isn’t terrible. Just some food for thought.

Ok so you get trained. PSA is as good a Regional as any. I have a few friends that were there and were pretty happy. Honestly if you Google around you’ll see positive and negative reviews for every airline (good thing to learn now, pilots LOVE to complain). All the Regionals are actively recruiting (the pilot shortage is real) so yes if you build your time AND do well (min or no busts) you should have no problem getting to the Regional of your choice AND getting the base you want. In fact I would argue that not having a degree might make you more attractive to a Regional because you’ll be kinda stuck and they can hold onto you for a while. There are pilots that spend their entire careers at the Regionals. There’s usually a reason (no college, DWI, older). It’s not the worst thing in the world. Eventually you’ll be VERY senior with a great schedule. Pay isn’t great but not terrible (my last year I broke $100k, barely). The problem is if things take a bad turn. I was actually fat, dumb and happy at ExpressJet for a while. I wanted to go to Hawaiian but really wasn’t in a huge hurry until I met this older Comair pilot on a hotel shuttle in Manchester NH. He was 62 and Comair was battling with Delta. He said he just wanted to make it to retirement. The next week Delta cut them off and Comair closed their doors. With no degree you’re severely limiting your options. You may want to think about doing something online or at some point moving to an airline like Atlas with a little more stability, but that’s down the road.

As for your schedule and how often you’ll be home the answer is yes to all. As you’ve probably heard seniority rules at the airlines and the more senior you become the more control you’ll have over your schedule. There are 1,2,3 and 4 day trips and you’ll be doing all of them depending on the needs of the airline. As you gain seniority you’ll be able to get the trips and schedules you want and eventually you’ll find yourself home as much (or as little) as you like.

Hope that helps some?

Adam


#3

Brett,

Welcome to the forums. Also, thank you for your service to the community as a Fire Fighter.

At this moment in time I think that your odds of being hired by PSA at 1,500 hours and being based in Ohio are pretty good. I am only casually familiar with PSA, but typically out station hubs like Dayton are pretty easy to get into as they are harder to get to than hub airports are for pilots who commute. I will caution you with this though, pilot bases can change at anytime and sometimes even long established bases can close. That being said, I have not heard of any plans in the works for PSA to change things anytime soon.

The internet is full of information, a lot of it false and inflammatory. In fact, that is one of the reasons that we started this website, to give people access to positive, but yet unbiased information about the airline industry. You will find that all three of us are straight shooters when it comes to setting realistic expectations. That being said, I have never heard anything really one way or another about PSA, they seem to fly under the radar which is generally a good thing. They recently signed a new contract that has greatly improved their wages and the fact that they are a wholly owned subsidiary of American Airlines means that their pilots are provided with a career path to mainline American. Of course there are no absolute promises in life, but a flow through to a job at a major airline sounds pretty promising to me.

There is nothing wrong with a career at the regionals. At your age you would be a Captain for the vast majority of your career earning over six figures. For a glimpse of what pilots at all levels make take a look at my article called “What Pilots Really Earn” on the “Flying The Line” section of this webpage.

Schedules vary at the airlines, but they all have some basics in common. I would expect that you would mostly be flying trips of two to four days in duration, with a few days off in between. Most regional airlines guarantee their pilots a minimum of 11 days off per month, but I would say that the average pilot has 14-15 days off. With that in mind I would say that your average schedule would be something like 4 days on the road, then 3 days off. The good news is that when you are home you are truly home. There is no work to do from home and no phone ringing for you to come in over the weekend. Bear in mind that as a new hire you will be working the weekends and holidays for a few years to come, but this will improve with time.

You might find that after you get on at the regionals you have a desire to move onto the majors. You will need a degree to do this, but there are plenty of places that offer online courses and give some credits for flying experience.

I hope this helps, let me know what other questions you may have.

Chris