Real Answers from Real Pilots

Stability & Healthy Lifestyle


(Justin) #1

Greetings and thanks for taking the time to read my message.

Like most, I’ve always had a dream of becoming a pilot and I guess I came by it honest being that my mom is a retired flight attendant who began her career before I was born. So, you could say I grew up in the lifestyle and have a unique perspective on what to expect as a pilot. I plan on beginning ATP no later than 2019 in the 40hr ME Fast-Track program with credit for PPL. I’ll be mid-30s at the time I begin at a regional.

My main concern is stability because I’ve witnessed the aviation economic downturn first-hand after 9/11. Bankruptcy, voluntary/involuntary furloughs, concessions, call backs where normal lingo in my house for several years. Regional airlines seem to be more susceptible to fluctuations in the industry and I have this nightmare of experiencing a furlough or bankruptcy early in my career all while on the hook for a $60k loan from Sallie. This comes as my current career field in higher education is very stable and offers numerous opportunities for advancement. So, where do you see the regional airline industry in the next 5-10 years? I know a couple of the legacies are absorbing more regional flying, while regional carriers are scaling down or eliminating 50-seat flying. The reason I ask is that I’m at least five years away from beginning at a regional and it’s tough to say what will happen.

Other questions/concerns I have are:

  1. How can a pilot maintain a healthy lifestyle while on the road? Is it feasible to maintain lifting/exercise regimen while in and out of hotels?
  2. Also, many of the regionals contract for two or three different legacies. Are pilots assigned to fly under a specific legacy or are pilots able to fly American metal one day then switch to United, all under the same regional name, for example (hope that makes sense)?
  3. I heard the reserve lifestyle is either feast or famine when it comes to flying. Is there any consistency on what to expect?

I promise I’m not a pessimist, but I want to be prepared for anything. Being a pilot is really the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do, and now I have the opportunity and nest egg to realize my dream. Any thoughts on my plan or the industry in general would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.


#2

Justin,

Welcome tot he forums and thanks for posting! I grew up in an airline family myself and am very familiar with he ups and downs that you speak of.

The regional airline industry is shrinking as the mainlines bring more flying in-house, there is no question about that, but that is actually really good news. The regionals are good places to work, but the mainlines are better. At United we are starting to see mainline aircraft in places like GRR and ORF where they haven’t been in years. The more flying done by mainlines the better as these jobs are better paying and typically have better benefits. That being said, the regionals are by no means going away. There will always be a need for smaller airplanes in places like CRW and SBN that just cannot fill a mainline airplane. I personally think that the regionals are going to move well away from the 50 seaters, but that the 70-75 seaters are here to stay. Either way, the demand for pilots is increasing across the board and this is a really good thing for somebody looking to get into the airlines in the near future.

As to your questions:

  1. Most, if not all, hotels have pretty decent gyms available for free. I would say that most of these gyms are limited to cardio equipment. I have heard of pilots that are into weight training packing weights that can be filled with water in the hotel rooms. Also, many gyms in large cities offer one day memberships at reasonable prices.

  2. When I flew for ExpressJet we only flew for Continental, so my experience is limited to that. From what I have heard pilots at regionals that fly for various airlines can fly under various mainline banners during the course of a day.

  3. Reserve can be a lot of sitting around, or a lot of flying. Typically the summer months and the holiday season are the busiest times for the airlines. What airlines do offer is a reserve guarantee. This means that even if you don’t fly any hours at all in a month they still pay you a guaranteed number of hours of pay. At United that is 73 hours per month. It is important to remember that most pilots only fly about 85 hours per month.

Can I ask why the delay in starting training? It seems like you have though this out pretty well so I am curious why 2019 is your target date. What airline did your mother work for?

Keep your questions coming.

Chris


(Justin) #3

Hey Chris,

Thanks so much for your response and insight into the industry. My mom began as a Piedmont FA back in the day and remained through the mergers with USAir, AW, and retired with American. I literally grew up in the airports and got pretty good at non-rev travel.

Your comments on the future of regional carriers makes perfect sense. I’m assuming more regional flying by mainlines, which I suspect why United just purchased those 737s, will open up opportunities for regional captains, which will open opportunities in the regionals. Man, I remember when the CR2s were the hottest thing around! They were the future, but I used to hate getting bumped off of those in the summertime due to weight though when 42pax was basically a full flight.

I forgot about the reserve guarantee. I’ve heard of some pilots remaining on reserve on purpose because of the guarantee and the chance for a better QOL? Sounds like that could be a blessing one month then not so cool the next. I’ll keep that in mind when the time comes.

As for my delay in training, I’m currently on military leave and will return at the end of the year. I have a personal goal in my current job and plan on staying there at least until 2018. The extra time will also allow me to fulfill my military commitment (non-aviation) and save more money. I would like to save the cost of training before I make the jump. In the meantime, I plan to earn my PPL and build time at my local FBO before ATP that way I’ll know for sure I’ll want to fly for a career and I’ll be able to learn at my own pace. I know I should get into the business sooner than later to take advantage of the demand and incentives (and I’ve thought about throwing caution to the wind and starting ASAP), but I would like to take care of some things first so I can put full focus on flying.

One other question:

  1. Is there a method to selecting ATP locations for training in terms of the amount of instructors? I wish I could flight train, CFI, and be based in the same location with a regional (wishful thinking haha).

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. I really appreciate it.

Justin


#4

Justin,

My father was a US Airways pilot who just retired in November, small world.

Some pilots do chose to remain on reserve, particularly pilots that live near their base and want extra time at home. I have never done this because I have always been a commuter, but I can see where it would be attractive for those who live close to work.

Your reasons for holding off on training for a bit certainly are sense. The best time to train is the time that works for you.

As for selecting an ATP location for training, I would pick the location that works best for you right now. Odds are that you will then be able to instruct at that location, but it isn’t guaranteed. Being based in a specific place with an airline can be a bit more challenging, but the major cities like New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and Los Angeles always seem to be options.

No worries on the questions, that is what we are here for. Keep them coming!

Chris