Commercial pilot - need advice for next step

Hello all,

I’m a farmer from northern Montana, I like farming, but at this point in my life I believe what would really make me happy is to fly and get paid to do it. I’ll be 36 next month, I have a commercial ticket without an instrument rating and 300 hours. From what I’ve read I’m not too old to do this, but sooner is better than later. I’m trying to determine the best way forward as far as training and building time, but also advice on which regional you think is the best. I would prefer one with a hub in the western US so its faster for me to get back home to my family on my time off.

While researching the different airlines and trying to figure out how much money I would make starting off I could use a little help on how much time a person can get per bid. I see the minimums are anywhere from 60 to almost 80. If I want more hours can i get that or is that usually gobbled up by someone with seniority?

Also, do you recommend applying for one of the pathway programs such as Skywest or Envoy cadet to get a foot in the door before you can actually apply for a FO job?

Thanks in advance for your help.


I would plan no more than 80 hours per month. Sometimes extra flying is there, sometimes it is not.

I am a big fan of the Envoy cadet program. It offers a lot of benefits that other programs do not. If that is where you would like to work, I would absolutely apply for it.

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Well obviously first you need to do some more training to earn your Instrument and ME rating. You’ll then need to build another 1200hrs and if you want to do that by instructing (the most common route) that means you’ll also need your CFIs. While you’re not old you do need to get moving so I’d recommend an accelerated training program like ATPs.

You’re right about the mins (but more are around 70-75), the max is 100 as that’s an FAR. When you’re junior you may on Reserve so build time might be an issue. These days advancement is pretty quick so within a few months you’ll be holding a line and can usually pick up as much flying as you like if you’re not too picky. Seniority has nothing to do with picking up trips. It’s generally first come first serve.

As far as which Regional there are pros and cons to most but in reality the demand for pilots has leveled the playing field considerably. I’d find one that’s convenient and go with that one or two.

I would be hesitant to commit to any airline this early in the game. You’ll have no problem getting hired so other than if you need Tuition Reimbursement I’d wait.


Thanks Chris!

Thanks Adam.

As far as building time I would certainty lean to instruction. How fast can you build time when instructing with ATP? Is 80/month realistic?


60-80 hours per month of instructing time is realistic.


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I wouldn’t commit to a cadet program until you figure out which airline you want to fly for. When you’re closer to making a decision, look at Horizon or Compass if you want to be close to home. SkyWest has west coast bases, but they are very senior. I’ve received a half a dozen phone calls in the last 4 months from SkyWest FOs that have realized that if they want to upgrade at SkyWest, they won’t be able to make it back to a west coast base, or by the time they will, they’ll already be at a major (hypothetically speaking). Envoy’s bases are DFW, ORD, MIA, and LGA.


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Thanks for your info Tory

I am personally considering the Envoy cadet program as well. As a CFI, you are considered an Envoy employee with travel and health benefits which sounds amazing, and you are receiving reimbursement for your loan as well. Yes, this comes out of your sign on bonus but it still is a good deal to get that money up front earlier. Plus, it makes me feel more at ease to get that interview out of the way early and flow right through to a class date.

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Just the health insurance alone would make me consider the program very strongly.


That is certainly a big deal and they have a pretty good sign up bonus.