Real Answers from Real Pilots

Regionals, pilot shortage, background questions

Hello pilots,

Just a few questions for you all and I apologize in advance for the length of my posts:

  1. When you start a FO position at a regional, can you apply to a major/legacy position once you have accumulated the major’s minimum requirements? By this I mean if I want to apply to Delta, for instance, and was currently a regional First Officer with just 1,000 turbine time, could I send in my application immediately? Or would I have to wait for specified time at a regional prior to sending in an application?

  2. I was wondering what everyones thoughts were on this so-called ‘pilot shortage’. Indeed, the supply and demand curves seem to indicate a clear lack of pilots in the near future, but I have read that the vast majority of these pilot positions will be in the Asia-Pacific region. Assuming that the shortage is in the United States as well, do you think that in the next ten years movement from regionals to majors will be expedited?

  3. Lastly, I was wondering what matters more to recruiters when they decide which pilots to hire: educational background or who that pilot know’s at the airline. I have heard many people say that who you know can make a HUGE difference, but this is not particularly helpful for me because I know only a handful of pilots–most of whom have been my flight instructors. Sidenote, I am taking my checkride for my PPL soon (fingers crossed). On the education side: I am currently a junior at a top 30 University in the United States (top 5 public university). I worry that despite having a solid education, my lack of internal airline connections will make my academic work irrelevant.

Sorry again for the long posts, but I hope you guys can help! Thanks

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Hello Alex,

Good questions so let’s dive in:

  1. Nope. Once you have the required minimums met you most certainly can apply. Keep in mind you’ll be competing with other pilots who may have more time so you may not get the call. That said can’t hurt to try.

  2. The pilot shortage is in fact upon us here in the US as well as in Asia. I do believe it will continue but I don’t believe it’ll get any worse than it is now (particularly since the salaries and contracts have improved which has created more people entering the field). In short It will still take some time to go from a Regional to a Major which is a good thing. Regional pilots are exposed to a wide variety of flying giving the opportunity to gain tremendous experience.

  3. Education and recommendations are both important, which is more really depends on the airline, the recruiter and the recommendation. There is no hard fast rule. Keep in mind that once you’re at a Regional you’ll exposure to more pilots (both regional and Major) will greatly expand giving you many opportunities to network.

Adam

Alex,

Let’s get right to your questions:

  1. Yes, you can apply to the majors as soon as you meet the minimums. However, meeting the bare minimums is almost never enough to get an interview at a major. So you can apply, but you will not get called for an interview until you have the qualifications and flight times that will make you competitive.

  2. There is a very large pilot shortage right here in the US. Many of the regionals are struggling to hire enough pilots. The recent advances in regional pilot wages are not because they like us, it is because they need to attract new pilots to their companies. The time for movement from the regionals to the majors is certainly picking up, but the majors still have thousands of qualified applicants to chose from. Pilots should still expect to spend some time at the regionals, but it does seem like that time is shortening.

  3. Aeronautical experience, followed by education, are what matters most to recruiters. That being said, who you know can often play a large role in the hiring process. I wouldn’t be worried about not knowing any pilots right now, I wouldn’t expect you to know any. As you make your way through the regionals you will meet other pilots at the majors and your regional peers will move up. When it comes time to apply you will know plenty of pilots.

Good luck with the checkride, let us know how it goes.

Chris

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