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.
In the last two blog offerings on this subject I have touched on several different issues that have been reported on by the news media, and then analyzed and re-analyzed by pundits with various motivations and credentials. Unfortunately, practically none of these reporters or commentators has any experience working in the Regional Airline industry.
There were some reporters who implied that maintenance of aircraft flown by the Regional Airlines may be substandard. At least a few of the articles I have read revealed a lack of understanding and research on the part of the reporter rather than exposing any maintenance scandals.
Having flown in the Regional Airlines for a large part of my career I have to report that the mechanics and the maintenance departments at the airlines I have flown with have been excellent and have won many awards for being so.
Regional Airlines have maintenance departments that are approved by the FAA and are subject to FAA oversight. The mechanics are highly trained and certified by the FAA individually just as the pilots are. These mechanics use FAA approved parts to repair their aircraft, and much of their work is done during regularly scheduled maintenance inspections that are again, approved and enforced by the FAA, just as with the Major Airlines.
Most of the reports that hit the news concern the Major Airlines dropping the ball with some of these regularly scheduled inspections. Logistics is a huge problem in maintaining any aircraft operated by the airlines, and lapses do rarely happen. They have been dealt with severely by the FAA in those rare cases with fines being given to the offending airline that are in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Overall, flying for any airline is similar to other jobs in this one way at least; it is what you make of it. I found it to be a wonderful lifestyle even after the novelty had worn off. Even on days when weather would make for a long problematic day, the second the main gear lifted off the runway I felt like the luckiest man in the world.
The Regional Airlines offer pilots the opportunity to gain the experience that will give them the qualifications to fly for a Major Airline if they wish to or a great job if they decide to stay and make a career there.
The best action an aspiring airline pilot can take is to get sound fundamental flight training with a flight school that has a history of success in graduating pilots who are adequately prepared for the challenges of becoming a professional aviator. It is also important that the flight training program includes a lot of Multi-engine time as airlines require it, and it is the hardest to acquire after you graduate.