ATP Grads at Airlines

Flying the Line: Express Jet Airlines Q&A

Published Oct 2, 2006 on Pilot Jobs

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Q&A with Jeremy Ridout

Jeremy Ridout is a 2nd year First Officer with ExpressJet Airlines. He attended the Airline Career Pilot Program with ATP as well as the Regional Jet Standards Course. Jeremy lives in Dallas with his wife and daughter, and commutes to IAH. He is also ATP’s newest Pilot Career Coach.

Describe your Airline.

ExpressJet Airlines, Inc. operates as Continental Express, the regional provider for Continental Airlines. With service to approximately 152 destinations in the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean, ExpressJet currently operates all of Continental’s regional service from its hubs in Houston, New York/Newark and Cleveland, and additional non-hub service. ExpressJet Airlines employs approximately 6,800 people including about 2600 pilots flying 274 Embraer 145/135 Regional Jet aircraft.

What is your position at the company?

I am a First Officer on the Embraer 145/135 Regional Jet.

What was your flight time, and what ratings and certificates did you hold at the time of your interview?

I had 653 hours of total time (224 single, 429 multi). Those hours included 617 PIC, 72 night and 27 actual instrument.

I held Commercial certificates for Airplane Multiengine Land and Airplane Single Engine Land and an Instrument rating. I also held Multiengine Instructor, Certified Flight Instructor and Certified Flight Instructor & Instrument certificates.

I had also attended ATP’s Regional Jet Standards program.

Briefly describe the interview and selection process.

I applied online to ExpressJet as soon as I met their published minimums. A few months, later, I received a phone call from ExpressJet’s human resources department and was given a phone interview. The phone interview consisted of simple aviation questions that a current instrument rated pilot should be able to answer such as, “What is a HAA?”, “When can you descend below MDA on a non-precision approach?” and “What is a MOCA?”

After the phone interview, I was invited to Houston for an interview. My interview class consisted of about 40 pilots of which I believe 25 or so were hired. The interview began at 8am and consisted of three mini-interviews: Instrument knowledge, Decision-making and Human resources, each one lasting about 5-10 minutes. The instrument portion was like an instrument checkride oral. The decision-making segment asked “What would you do if?” questions. Finally, basic job interview questions were asked by the human resources folks. At the completion of the interview, I was told to wait in the hallway and about 2 minutes later was informed that I had been hired. I then spent a few hours completing their application and background check forms, getting fingerprinted and providing a sample for drug tests. I was sent home with a rather large study manual and a class date in two weeks.

What was the experience level of those in your class?

Most of those in my class had between 800 and 1800 hours with a few hundred hours of multiengine time. There were a few pilots who were on furlough from Independence Air, and there were two other ATP graduates who had similar total time as myself.

Briefly describe the new-hire training process.

The first week of training is ”Basic Indoc“. During this week, we are taught company policies and procedures from the Flight Operations Manual (FOM). This covers information ranging from requirements for reduced take-off minimums to the company’s drug and alcohol policies to how many lap children may be on the airplane.

We then participated in two days of CRM training. In CRM, the main objective is to teach us that we are part of a crew and the course uses exercises and case studies to get this point across. Since we were new-hires, they focused on accidents that occurred in part because the first officers didn’t speak up when they saw a problem developing. It was an interesting study and is a no pressure event.

After that came Systems and FTD training. The Systems class takes an in-depth look at one or more systems of the aircraft per day and lasts for 2_ weeks. After the first week we began five sessions in the Flight Training Device (FTD). Similar to ATP’s CRJ FTD, we practiced our flows and approach profiles in 5 sessions. They don’t teach you how to fly the jet, but you learn everything about flying the jet here.

Once Systems and FTDs were over, we took a written test and a comprehensive oral exam. Finally, we made it to the full-motion simulators for 6 sessions followed by what is called a Proficiency Check (basically, a checkride). Like the FTD training, each sim session focuses on different scenarios and builds on the previous session. Additionally, there were opportunities in each session to practice approaches and maneuvers for the checkride.

After the checkride, we had one more sim session called a LOFT (Line Oriented Flight Training). The LOFT is intended to simulate any flight that we may fly as line pilots. It is run in “real time” beginning from when we arrive at the aircraft. Usually a new first officer is paired with a newly upgraded captain, and usually something happens on the flight that requires the crew to work together and utilize all resources to resolve the situation and is meant to test and develop our decision making abilities. It not a jeopardy event.

Initial Operating Experience (IOE) is the final step to becoming a line pilot. We leave the training center and are paired up with a Check Airman to fly a few trips while we actually fly passengers. On IOE we are taught, not only how to fly and land the real airplane, but also where the crew rooms are, how to access the crew scheduling computers, and how everything really fits together.

Was housing provided during training?

Housing was provided for all new-hires in the Holiday Inn at the Houston Bush airport. We were assigned rooms upon arrival at the hotel, two to a room. The hotel was very friendly to the pilots and provided transportation to and from the training center and had a full sized cardboard cutout of the flight deck in room designated for our use.

What is the pay and/or per diem during training?

ExpressJet pays a one time "Per-Diem" check of approximately $1500 within the first week of training. This will be the only pay you receive until you pass your checkride which will take 5-6 weeks depending on your schedule. After your checkride you are officially on the payroll and you will receive at least your minimum pay guarantee of 75 hours.

What is the pass rate among new-hires in the simulator?

I know that we lost three people from our class during training. None of them made it to the simulator. Several people did not pass the checkride the first time, but it was a relatively small percentage, and they all received additional training and passed on the second attempt.

Describe the pay structure for line holders?

First year FO’s (reserve or line holder) currently earn $22.04 per flight hour and all ExpressJet pilots are guaranteed 75 hours per month. That works out to just under $20,000 per year. Second year FO’s earn $32.80. For comparison, 4th year captains earn $64.15 per flight hour.

What is the current projected time required to upgrade to Captain?

It is hard to say what the projected time to upgrade is right now at ExpressJet. April 2004 hires upgraded in 2006, less than two years. But a lot of pilots were hired between April 2004 and today so the upgrade time is getting longer. It is probably safe to say that if things keep moving as they are today, a new-hire today will upgrade in less than five years.

What is the approximate time a new-hire spends on reserve?

Seven months—but that is pure speculation since the company does not publish the information.

Is a strict seniority system in place?


What are the current domiciles, and which aircraft are based there?

Houston, TX Newark, NJ Cleveland, OH

ExpressJet operates an all jet fleet out of each hub.

Are the bid lines structured so that pilots can commute?

Many of the bid lines are commutable. In Houston, it seems that more lines are commutable than lines in Newark and Cleveland. Personally, I have had very few non-commutable lines in the 12 months that I have been a line holder.

Reserve lines are typically not commutable.

What are the jump seat reciprocity agreements?

ExpressJet has jumpseat agreements with just about every 121 airline and several large 135 operations. We are CASS certified and as a result, ExpressJet pilots can ride in the cockpit with other carriers.

How many days do you fly in a 30-day period?

Lines are built with a minimum of 11 days off in a 30 day month and with 12 days off in a 31 day month. Very senior captains and first officers can get as many as 18 or 19 days off per month. Fourteen to sixteen days off is average in the pilot group.

Do you have a 401(k), and if so, what is the maximum amount an employee can contribute?

ExpressJet offers both traditional and Roth 401k plans. ExpressJet allows up to 100% of your salary to be contributed (however, government regulations limit the amount that you can contribute in a single year).

What is the attrition rate per year?

The company does not publish this information and deriving a number would not be very accurate.

Is attrition expected to accelerate?

The industry is beginning to experience an upswing in pilot hiring. Continental Airlines has said that it will hire 20-30 ExpressJet pilots per month for the foreseeable future (a formal flowthrough agreement is not in place). The major legacy carriers are recalling their furloughs and will likely begin hiring in the next few years. Other major carriers such as Southwest, Alaska and AirTran are currently hiring pilots. With a large number of pilots at the majors nearing retirement, the outlook appears good.

Is there a union or consideration for a union?

ExpressJet pilots are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).

What is the sick leave policy?

When you are sick, call in sick. Just don’t get caught calling in sick when you are not sick—you will get into trouble. After 5 sick calls in a single year, you may have to do a song and dance in the Chief Pilots office, but if the calls were legitimate, you don’t have to worry. A doctor’s note is required if you call in sick during a holiday.

What is the vacation policy?

Pilots earn one week of vacation after their first year and two weeks of vacation during their second through 6th years of service. Vacation time is bid, by seniority, during the fall of the preceding year for which the vacation is to be enjoyed.

ExpressJet vacation lasts from Monday of the week that vacation is awarded through Sunday, 7 days later. Pilots bid for their trips during a vacation month, just like they do at any other time for the year. However, if any portion of their awarded line overlaps with the vacation, even by a single day, the trip is dropped. With shrewd bidding, it is quite easy to stretch a week of vacation into nearly 3 weeks off.

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