Real Answers from Real Pilots

Big or Small Regional?

I have been told by some airline pilot friends to stay away from bigger regionals mainly as it can affect your ability to move up in the company and gain good opportunities as well as you’ll just be “a number”. Does this hold any merit? I am currently instructing and will be moving to a new flight school and will likely be at R-ATP mins within the next year, hence my concern. I am not too worried about selecting a specific regional right now but just wanted some advice. Thanks!

Taylor,

Not sure who your friends are but their advice makes zero sense. Why on Earth would it work against you? The Majors look for qualified pilots with time and experience. The fact is larger Regionals offer more stability and often more opportunities to fly and advance. Choose the Regional you like and find some new friends :wink:

Adam

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Got it. Thanks Adam!

Hey Taylor!

I don’t know your friends or who they fly for, but I find their statements hard to believe. I could be wrong but I would suspect that either your friends may have had a bad experience or they are biased towards their own personal decision to not fly for a large regional.

No matter the size, it’s not hard to research the most junior Captain hired. The airlines are very transparent about that because they want to look as attractive as possible to a prospective applicant looking for quick upgrade times.

Tory

Yea you’re probably right about being biased. I have just been a little conflicted lately about which regionals would make the most sense when it comes down to narrowing my options. I do have several months to go no doubt but I figured I’d start shopping around. Right now I am stuck looking at Republic vs Skywest but can’t seem to find an obvious winner. Besides bases and QOL I would like to be somewhere that I can (easily) be something like a Line check airman or instructor as that definitely helps to get to the majors.

Taylor,

The size of the airline will not determine whether or not you can become an instructor or Check Airman. Nor is their anything easy about being either. Regardless of size airlines look for quality applicants who have done well in training, are solid employees with a desire to help other pilots. If that’s who you are it’ll be recognized.

Adam

Thanks so much Adam.

Right now you should just be focused on getting hired by one of the regionals that you are considering. While the demand for regional pilots is high, getting hired by one still isn’t a gimme. I wouldn’t waste any time trying to figure out which regional is more likely to offer you an instructor position. You will never be able to know which one is more likely. I would just pick the airline that provides you with the best QOL.

Tory

Very true. That’s my biggest focus right now. Thanks again for your help!

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Choosing a small regional would make me nervous considering the pilot shortage outlook. Larger regionals that offer more domiciles, flow programs, more flying, etc have the ability to attract a larger segment of the instructor pool. In the past, this scenario has left smaller regionals scrambling to get the pilots needed in order to satisfy contracts. Once a regional has a difficult time recruiting and meeting their contractual flying, it can mean the beginning of the end. It doesn’t seem like any regional in particular is suffering this issue currently. Still, the fact that at least three regionals have closed shop within the last two years, it would be wise to give some consideration to more than just upgrade times when choosing your first 121 job.

Aside from size, I’d give some consideration to quality of training, domicile locations, commuting rules, pay, and perhaps flow programs (if thats something attractive to you). When I picked the regional I currently work for, stability of the company was near the top of my list. I assigned objective variables such as number of current partners, current contracts, future contracts, and aircraft delivers to get a rough idea of “stability.” Keep in mind that the regional you pick may be the company you fly with for many years. There was a time when it took a decade or longer to get picked up by a major. To this day, some regional pilots never get picked up. Pick your next job as if it may be your last….and while you are there, do your best each day and the next chapters of your life will fall into place.

Well said, Trey

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This makes complete sense. Thanks Trey. I have definitely managed to narrow my options down with your advice.

Trey,

How did you go about finding this information? Was this something easily accessible online, or did you reach out to the companies themselves?

Ben

Ben,

I put together a spreadsheet that had a bunch of stats…fleet size, pilot group, partners, etc and much of this information was accessible on Airline Pilot Central.

The number of partners can be found on the company website. As far as I know, there is only one…possibly two…regionals flying for more than one partner these days. The overwhelming majority of regional carriers fly for one partner (more on this below).

Future contracts and aircraft purchases will be discussed on quarterly financial summaries for publicly traded companies. If you have a few regional airlines you are targeting, and they are a public company, pay attention to the quarterly earnings call for important information regarding their growth (or lack of growth).

To be honest, most of the big players in the regional game these days are wholly owned and therefore this information on contracts, deliveries, etc isn’t really available or relevant. Being owned by a Major, one can argue that the stability of a wholly owned regional is inherent in the fact that they will always get a share of the flying and a Major isn’t going to let a segment of their business fail. A few years ago, however, when I was trying to make a decision of where I wanted to apply, two of my top three were NOT owned by a Major and therefore considering the “stability” of my future employer was very important.

Good luck,

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Trey,

From what I remember, you are correct, only Republic and Skywest fly for more than one partner. They are also the top two biggest regionals. I never thought about looking at earnings calls, but that does make a lot of sense.

Trey,

While I appreciate your research, I think you are over thinking this a bit and making some false assumptions. Primarily that a major airline will always support their wholly owned regional airlines. While not frequent, we have seen major airlines shut down their regionals several times, including ExpressJet, Comair, Alleghany, Pinnacle, etc. Meanwhile, Skywest and
Republic have continued to grow and prosper.

Chris

True this. The main reason I am concerned was those are the main two I am looking at currently.