ATP Grads at Airlines

Why Would I Want to Fly for a Regional Airline?

Published Dec 7, 2010 on Pilot Jobs

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Regional Airlines have suffered through some tough times recently. Their exposure in the news and some social internet sites has cast them in a less than flattering light at times. Pay rates and work rules for Regional Pilots, alleged pilot training and professionalism issues have all been reported and then replayed over and over again on the cable news stations.


I am a veteran of the Regional Airline industry and I would like to shine a different light on these issues.

Most news accounts and online discussions about Regional pilots have focused on circumstances surrounding new first officers for the regional airlines. It has been reported and often repeated that first year First Officers will make $17,000 per year with a Regional Airline. A little research shows something different.

First year regional pilots can expect to make an average (the average of the 12 largest regional airlines) of $23.69 per flight hour. With the addition of the per diem money paid to pilots, and flying an average of 89 hours a month, a new F/O will make an average of $25,836 in their first year.

Most news reports omit the fact that this new First Officer will receive an increase in pay in the second year to an average of $31.92 per flight hour; an increase of over 34.5%. Flying an average of 89 hours this second year F/O will earn $34,087 per year. He or she will also get an automatic increase in pay every year that will average 8.5%. This new F/O will make this much working a schedule with an average of 14 days off per month, some of which can be used to earn more money if he or she wishes.

By comparison, the son of a close friend of mine just graduated from a very popular law school here. His law school graduates a class of attorneys every year so evidently the job market is pretty competitive. He finally got his first job last month and his starting pay is 10 dollars an hour working as a law clerk. This young attorney will make $20,800 for his first year working in his chosen profession. He will also have spent over $100,000 for law school in addition to the $95,000 cost of his undergraduate degree.

Just like our new First Officer, this new attorney will no doubt go on to a multi-million dollar career with lots of responsibility and rewards; the difference is that nobody smears the new attorney’s profession on the evening news because of his entry level pay.

To continue the comparison, if the First Officer has completed flight training with ATP, the cost would have been less than $60,000 for all of the flight training, certificates and ratings that would qualify him or her to work for a Regional Airline.

There are other issues concerning the Regional Airline industry that have been covered and commented on by the news media outlets, and I will be shedding some light on them also over the next few contributions to

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