Hello! What are the odds of being picked up by a major airline while flying for a regional airline?
It’s not required to first fly for a regional, but most do. The odds have never been better because of the pilot shortage, and it has been projected to be that way for at least two more decades. However, there are no guarantees.
The odds of making it to a Major from a Regional are anywhere from 0 to almost 100% How long have you been at the Regional? Do you have a degree? Have you busted checkrides and how many? How’s your driving record? Have you done anything besides fly at the Regional (union, training dept, etc)? Do you have any contacts and recommendations for the Major? Have you had any accidents, incidents or suffered any discipline while at the Regional? Do people like or dislike you? How well do you interview? Do you “fit” the airlines hiring profile?.. The list is endless.
Getting hired at a major is the pinnacle of an aviation career and something that almost all pilots aspire to. Now a major isn’t going to come find you, a pilot needs to be very active in bolstering their resume, attending job fairs, getting letters of recommendation, etc. So it is impossible to put odds on getting hired at a major as not every pilot tries as hard as others do. Also, it depends on if the majors are hiring and what they are looking for at the time. Bottom line though is keep a clean record, have a well rounded resume, and plenty of flight time and you should be attractive to a major.
I read up on the forums a degree isn’t required but I’m sure it can help. If I recall correctly some majors hire pilots from certain regionals regardless if they have a degree. I will be joining ATP in a year. Have some weight goals to hit, but I’m curious is a degree really required to get into the majors?
Also can you elaborate on busted checkrides and how the quantity is important? I have not come across that phrase in my research yet.
I’m really not sure when, where or how this rumor/myth about not needing a degree for a Major got out there and yes there most certainly are pilots at Majors without them. Also it’s 100% true that the majority of Majors don’t “REQUIRE” a degree, but if you check the mins for most Majors they also don’t state list many things as a requirement but they are certainly “preferred” and “desired”. In my mind it’s a matter of perspective and desire. Are you shooting for the bare minimums and hoping and praying you’ll sneak in or trying to excel and be at the top? The main reason they all list fairly low mins is to accommodate the CEO’s nephew or the Congressional Medal of Honor winner without getting sued and of course should the supply dry up they can lower their standards without having a huge meeting. That all said while the Regionals are experiencing a pilot shortage the Majors are not and frankly there are ALOT of Regional Capts with 6-7000hrs AND 4 year degrees and EVERY one of them is going to get the nod before everyone else without. You want to wait, forgo seniority and pay so you can say “SEE, I was hired without a degree” then by all means. Personally I like to be the guy who can check ALL the boxes and increase my odds as greatly as possible vs relying on luck and good fortune.
When you go through the ATP program you’ll be required to successfully pass 7 checkrides. Now a good number of people will bust a checkride and that’s no biggy. Two? Ok, stuff happens. Three? Hmmm. Three eyebrows start getting raised and questions start getting asked. Does this applicant have problem? More than three and perhaps you’ve chosen the wrong career? You see back in 1996 the govt passed PRIA (Pilot Records Improvement Act) to serve as a reference for employers to check the training history of their applicant’s. Thing is no one looked that hard at this until the Colgan 3407 crash. This accident provoked the FAA implement some significant changes (not the least of which was the 1500hrs Rule). One of the key points that came from the investigation was the fact that the Capt on that flight had a long history of training issues and failures. This put the airline in a very bad light and brought PRIA back into play and gives the airlines little excuse for hiring another pilot with a similar history. Make sense?
Thank you for the information. I figured I may have to go back to school to get a bachelor’s to get into the majors, but I have no clue what else I’d like to study. Im currently feeling pretty hellbent on flying. It’s taken me the past few years to narrow down that I would love to fly for a living.
Do you know if whilst flying for a regional company there is time for going to school? Even if its online classes I’ll do it to make it to the majors.
Also since I’m at least a year out before starting at ATP, is there any material I can read and review to this far out that would be worthwhile to learn this far in advance? I saw in the FAQs there was a post saying to read the ACS as early as possible, is that the best starting point even where I’m at in the process?
Many pilots get their degrees online while flying for a Regional (it’s actually become a fairly common practice). In fact if you go for an aviation degree there are schools that will give you credit for your licenses and ratings cutting the time and expense required.
Honestly everyone has a different opinion but many people start reading and studying and most is very difficult to grasp out of context if you haven’t flown yet so I wouldn’t worry to much. The FAA does have some great manuals free online you can browse but again I wouldn’t go crazy. That said, once you get closer to your start date and have it locked in we always recommend you complete as many of the required FAA Knowledge exams as possible. There are 6 required but much of the info doesn’t really coincide with the training so if you can get them out of the way it lightens the workload considerably. I’d start working on them 3-6mos out.
Plenty of pilots take online classes to get their degree. It will make for some busy overnights for you, but it is certainly possible. There are several colleges that offer aviation majors that can be done entirely online.
About six months prior to starting the program, I recommend that you start practicing for and taking the written exams. There are several different ones and you can read more about them on the FAQ page of ATP’s website.
Thank you gentlemen. Schooling while at regionals is something I will likely do then. I definitely want to fly some heavy metal internationally.
I’ve been looking into the anything which impede me from pursuing this career. I wear glasses but I have read that won’t be an issue as long as I can pass the test. I did come across sleep apnea being an issue. I don’t believe I have this because I don’t wake up tired or exhausted throughout the day, but I feel that is solely because I sleep on my side or facedown to avoid snoring and waking up with headaches when I sleep faceup. Silly question, but do you guys happen to know if during a sleep study you are required to sleep face up? I’m hoping once I’m down to weight requirement sleeping faceup won’t be an issue.
I really don’t know much about the sleep apnea test. I have never had to take it and don’t know anybody else who has either.
Hopefully you won’t have to take the test.
I too don’t know anything about the sleep apnea test but it’s sounds like you’re aware if you’re over a certain BMI the AME may require one. Best to get that weight down and avoid the whole conversation.
That’s the plan Adam.
Thank you both for the info.
Like most, I want to get to a major as quickly as possible. In your comment, you mentioned doing things besides flying at the Regional. Can you go into a little more detail as to what that may entail?
Thanks like always!
You mentioned letters of recommendation as a key to getting in with the majors. Do they like these letters to be from people related to the aviation field or from any previous job position? Also, how well will knowing other pilots better your chances. If I know multiple people at United, can an ordinary pilot say/do anything that may help me get an interview? Thanks for the help!
The little things that Adam is talking about are volunteering in the community, volunteering for positive union committees, being a check airman, teach ground school, etc. Basically anything that goes beyond simply flying the line.
Typically airlines will want letters of recommendation from pilots that are already at the airline. A letter from your boss at the regional would be great, too. I would not worry about getting a letter from your current employer, there will be a lot of years behind you when you start applying to the majors.
Knowing pilots that are at the airline will certainly help, but it is by no means a guarantee either. About the only thing we can do for a pilot that is applying to United is to write them a letter of recommendation, the old days of walking a pilot into the office are over.
What Chris said.
That’s exactly what I needed to hear! Thanks again!