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Thread: Can you go straight to the Airlines, Or must Regional come first?

  1. #1

    Can you go straight to the Airlines, Or must Regional come first?

    This may be a really dumb question, but I was always told there was no such thing as a dumb question so I will ask it anyway. To fly for an airline, do you have to start out a regional level and work your way up through there, or could you possibly go straight to the big airlines. I know that getting hired on with a big airline would be very unlikely for someone who never flew regional, but it seems as though I've seen this talked about somewhere else, but there was not an answer to their question. But if someone did have the required number of hours, skills, connections, and a lot of luck, would there be a chance of going straight into the airlines. Or is that even possible?
    Thanks!

  2. #2

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    Ryan, there is no requirement that an airline applicant fly at a regional before applying at a major airline. If you meet the airline's minimum requirements then you can be hired. Good luck.

  3. #3

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    Ryan, the airlines might hire someone right out of the military without going to regionals, if they had the experince and if, unikely now, the airlines were even hiring.
    For instance, a friend is a B-52 pilot, with lots of heavy multiengine jet time, he is also at Edwards, and has been through the test pilot school , and would be far above many and most airline applicants, if he applied.

  4. #4
    FlyingRon's Avatar
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    There were some foreign carriers (don't recall any domestics) that do ab initio training, i.e., train you direct to the big time. Of course you still have to make all the hour requirements necessary.

  5. #5
    Eric Page's Avatar
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    Ryan,

    A friend went to Southwest Airlines from the Air Force, where he'd been a KC-135 instructor pilot (he never flew anything else), so the military is always a good way to avoid the regionals. That said, I've never personally heard of someone getting a major airline job without "paying dues" somewhere first, but that doesn't mean you have to fly at a regional.

    Plenty of pilots fly freight or flight instruct to build time. However, as unglamorous as life can be at a regional, being a freight-dog is worse, and flight instructing alone -- even a LOT of it -- is unlikely to get you an interview. A guy in my regional new-hire class had 6,000 hours of dual given at a Lufthansa-affiliated school, and he got no traction at the majors. Major airlines want to see one thing above all else: Part 121 turbine PIC time.

    The FAA is supposed to release new flight time/duty time and minimum experience regs next month, and there are persistent rumors that the minimums to sit in a Part 121 pilot seat will rise, perhaps as high as 1,500 hours. Current regs only require a Commecial, Multi-Engine, Instrument certificate to be a First Officer.

    There are always predictions about the next big pilot shortage, including now. This time I think it's more likely than in the past. 2012 marks the start of retirements for pilots who got a reprieve under the Age 65 Rule, and most of the domestic airlines' seniority lists are top-heavy with "gray" pilots; some of the retirement projections I've seen for the next decade are staggering. Many of the majors are slowly starting to grow again, and some have huge growth planned. If you're not averse to working overseas, there are a lot of openings in Asia and the Middle East (everything from B-767 pilots for Asiana to flying CASA-212s in Afghanistan!).

    One more thing from your other thread that bears repeating: Get a four year college degree! A good friend with 7,000 TT, 2,500 turbine PIC and Check Airman experience just got a thanks-but-no-thanks email from his dream airline because he hasn't finished his degree. It doesn't much matter what degree you have, just have one.

    Good luck!
    Eric Page
    Member: EAA, AOPA, ALPA, NRA
    ATP: MEL / Comm: SEL, Glider / ATCS: CTO
    Map of Landings

  6. #6
    As Eric said above, the majors want to see, Part 121 turbine PIC time. Most also want a college degree.

    There are two paths to the majors, the military route and the civilian route.
    With the military route most go right to a major because they are a "know quantity", in other words the majors know that they had top level training and they have met known standards.
    In the civilian route you come to the interview with a resume of a lot of hours and what and where you have flown. To them your training is unknown. So put yourself in the position of a interviewer. You are hiring someone to work for the next 30-35 years for your company. You need to know that all the money and time the company is going to spend on training the individual will pay off. As a friend who is an interviewer for United told me, " we are hiring future Captains, we need to know you can be a Captain."
    United went through a period in the 80s when they hired a bunch of lower time pilots. When it came time for these pilots to upgrade to Captain, many had problems passing the checkride because they lacked the experience of being a PIC in a 121 operation. That is why the majors want to see Part-121 PIC time. They know you have passed a FAA Type rating check-ride,
    so now you are more of a known quantity.

    Another thing to consider: The airline industry goes through cycles of hiring and no hiring. All the airlines have published minimums for hiring, but they really don't mean anything.
    What really matters is what we call "competitive minimums". All airlines consider real world experience above all other experience (remember that 121 PIC thing). So competitive minimums means, what is the level of experience of the people who are currently getting hired. For example, when I got hired at United in 2001, the pilot with the lowest time in my new hire class had 3500 hrs, with over 2000 hrs of Part 121 turbine. The competitive mins change with the current conditions of the airline industry. Right now there has not been much hiring at the majors for several years. So when hiring starts up again, the competitive mins will be very high because the is a large pool of pilots out there with a lot of experience.
    So imagine you are the hiring guy at United, you get thousands of resumes (back in 2001 United had 10,000 apps in their system) which ones are you going to pick to interview?
    The furloughed airline guy with 10 yrs part 121 experience, the regional Captain with 4000hrs of turbine PIC time, military guy with 2000 yrs , or the guy with 2000 yrs working as a CFI training new pilots?

    I'm not trying to discourage you, but if a job at the majors is your goal, you need to know what it really takes to get hired.

    1- If you have a certain major as your goal, learn what they require to get an interview. For example, at Southwest you will not get an interview without a letter of recommendation from a
    Southwest pilot. (at all majors a letter of rec will makes you more competitive)
    2- Start building Part-121 turbine time as soon as you can.
    3- get a degree

    All that being said, having airline pilot contacts and friends can get you a little ahead of the competition. EAA is a great way to do that.
    Just having a lot of hrs will not get you in the door at the majors.
    Good luck!


  7. #7
    Eric Page's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tikicarver View Post
    All that being said, having airline pilot contacts and friends can get you a little ahead of the competition.
    Ryan, this is one of the most important things in tikicarver's post, and something I wish I'd done a better job of during my career. It really will pay huge dividends along the way if you develop some system to keep track of pilots you fly with. Not all of them, obviously, but the ones who make an impression on you or who you get along with particularly well. Get their number and email address and file it away somewhere. Get in touch with them on some kind of semi-regular basis so they'll remember you in a positive way. As they move on to bigger and better things, keep track of where they've gone. When your time comes to move up, having inside contacts who can walk your resume in to the Chief Pilot's office can make the difference in getting an interview invitation.
    Eric Page
    Member: EAA, AOPA, ALPA, NRA
    ATP: MEL / Comm: SEL, Glider / ATCS: CTO
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Page View Post
    If you're not averse to working overseas, there are a lot of openings in Asia and the Middle East (everything from B-767 pilots for Asiana to flying CASA-212s in Afghanistan!).
    For the record, most of the folks flying CASA-212s in Afghanistan had at least 3000 hours before getting hired. All come from varied backgrounds, however the folks with academy type training and straight to a regional airline in their resume are the ones that seem to have the most trouble. The flying is way different than the suit and tie stuff.
    I'll come up with something profound

  9. #9
    Thinking back on my flying career, I realize that half the jobs I got were because I had a friend walk in my resume to the Chief Pilot.
    Having the hours and the experience were a pre-requisite, but having the inside contact got my resume and app on the top of the interview pile.
    I even remember my first meeting with one CP, he said, " see that pile of resumes over there, honestly I only look at the ones with an internal recommendation"

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