Everything you wanted to know about pilots

First off, let me apologize for the click-bait title, but at least it worked and you’re here!

I have a many questions for pilots as I’m interested in becoming one. I understand not everyone can answer every question, but if you have data, or anectodal evidence for just one answer, please share.


If one commutes for a regional FO job, how does that work exactly?

  • It’s my understanding that you fly a jumpseat, and you pay for it (not your airline). So what kind of discount or cost can you expect for that jumpseat? Do most regionals partner with eachother for the purchase of standby tickets by pilots, or you need to make sure your airline has a flight between your home and your base? You can’t possibly afford to pay full fare on another airline with the salary junior FO make. And yes, I know, avoiding the commute in the first place is preferrable, in my case it’s not just me, I doubt the family will move.
  • Looking at Chris’s schedule (https://airlinepilot.life/c/schedules/chriss-schedule), it looks like his base is EWR and he lives near ORF. Sometimes he gets deadheads to/from home (10/6/2018 ORD-ORF, 10/10/18 ORF-OMA, 10/16/18 DEN-ORF, 10/20/18 ORF-ORD). A deadhead is paid for by the airline, it’s not exactly a standby ticket you pay for yourself. Is it standard or atypical to get a deadhead to commute to your base instead of having to pay for that standby ticket yourself?
  • Do regionals reimburse hotel nights when one commutes a day before an early flight, or go back home a day after a late flight? I’ve seen one regional advertise they pay up to $3,000 per year for commuting expenses. Would hotels nights before/after you flights count as commuting expenses? And is this typical, or just one atypical benefit of that regional?

Career Progression

What is the most frequent next step for a regional FO

  • to upgrade to regional Captain, and how long does that currently take on average?
  • and then from there to flow to a major as a FO, and how long does that currently take on average?

I understand that no two pilots have identical careers. I don’t have enough information to form an opinion as to the speed of a typical career progression. So whatever you can share helps.

I’ve seen multiple airlines publish their hourly wage for pilots and captains from year 1 to year 20. What happens if you spend 7 years in one company then move to another, do you start at the bottom of the payscale or is salary scale not as simple as “years inside the company” and does factor flight time?

In Europe airlines seem to ask for EASA. Is it straighforward to convert a US CPL + ATP certificate to a European certificate? I’m wondering if after a regional I would be able to consider a European airline or if that’s almost unheard of (yes I can legally work in EU). What about going to Europe straight after CFI, instead of a US regional? It looks like that’s not possible, European airlines requirements are higher than regionals in terms of hours or require type-ratings, but I may have overlooked something.

Flight Schools

The biggest school (at least marketing wise) for taking a fast track from PPL to CFI seems to be ATP Flight School. At $59,000 for 142hrs single engine, 25hrs multi engine, 50hrs simulator that’s $271/hr (ignoring for now the ground school hours and the fact that many of those hours are dual and the need for the school to compensate the CFI), that flight school does seem expensive given the costs of single engine rentals around the country and also factoring in how much a CFI hour costs.

So, am I wrong to classify this as a good but expensive school? Are there alternative schools that will get you from PPL to CFI for cheaper? And if so, can you accumulate 1500hrs as CFI having graduated from those other schools, or is that what ATP has for them, that given they’re big with many students, they’ll build your hours quickly after you’re CFI and you’re basically paying for that by learning at that school?

BTW does the fast track at ATP get you to CFI with multi-engine instructor and instrument instructor, or simply CFI single-engine?


Does anyone happen to know if SEA is a junior or senior base for the airlines that have a base there, Horizon, Skywest and Delta. I’m trying to figure out how “unlikely” I might land a job in my hometown. If it’s a super senior base, I get it, I should forget it. But if it’s considered a junior base then all bets are off, right?

Are there any data or anectotal stories that could categorize which of Delta’s bases (MSP, ATL , JFK , LGA, DTW, CVG , SLC , SEA , LAX) are senior and junior. I know that’s not a regional and that’s a long way out, but I’m curious. Same question for American (ORD BOS LAX DCA DFW LGA MIA PHL CLT PHX)

ATP has a flight school in Seattle. The rainy season is long here. Can I assume those low ceiling mean frequent MVFR and IFR conditions and that this would delay the fast track program somewhat, and delay accumulation of hours as a CFI too (hard to teach PPL skills to a new student in IMC). How much of a slowdown factor would that be?


Are there US airlines that have strict policies against hiring pilots at 6’5 tall ? I fit in a small single-engine pilot seat just fine, and I’ve had opportunities to sit in a cockpit seat of Airbus and Boeing jets (never flown them obviously) and those cockpits seemed perfectly suited even for a tall guy like me. But if I’ll be discriminated against strictly based on height, I might as well rethink my career. I’ve never sat in an ERJ or CRJ cockpit which are common in regionals, are those seats smaller than in a single-engine airplane?


Lots of questions so let’s get you at least a few answers:

Commuting: You’re incorrect, you NEVER pay for a JumpSeat, ever. JumpSeating is a privilege and a courtesy that airlines share in order to help commuting pilots get to work. All US carriers I know have reciprocal agreements allowing pilots to JumpSeat FOR FREE on all carriers. The thing to keep in mind is the airline that hires you doesn’t care NOR do they have any responsibility to get you to work whether you live around the corner or around the World. It’s YOUR responsibility to figure out the when’s, where’s and how’s.

Chris can give you the particulars but DeadHead flights are paid (at most airlines) the same as if you were working the flight. You have a reserved seat and often will have a higher boarding priority than paying passengers (aka Must Ride). Know that pilots will look for trips that get them home for an overnight (either live or deadhead) and bid for those trips. It’s not the company helping with the commute, it’s a pilot getting lucky.

Airlines generally will not reimburse or pay for your hotel or anything else commuter related. What you’re seeing is the desperation of some Regionals to attract pilots due to the shortage. It’s not typical and if/when the staffing catches I’m certain it’ll go away.

Career Progression: Many Majors require (or at least "prefer) some Turbine PIC (aka Jet Capt) time. The most common way to get that time is as a Regional Capt. That’s why the Majors generally hire Regional Capts first, there are of course exceptions. To upgrade from Regional FO to Regional Capt currently is between 2-6yrs depending on the airline. To go from Regional Capt to Major is anybody’s guess? The fact is flying for a Major airline is the pinnacle of our profession and Frankly not everyone makes it. I know pilots who’ve gone in 2yrs, 5yrs, 12yrs and some never. There are ZERO guarantees.

Years of service stay with the airline you fly with. You could be a SUPER-senior 40yr Capt, leave that airline and go to another and you’re a the VERY bottom of the list right next to the kid who was flight instructing last Tuesday.

EASA to FAA, pretty easy. FAA to EASA not so much. The EASA has a series of 14 exams that must be passed and there’s no such FAA equivalent which means you’d need to pass them all. From what I understand they’re BEARS. If that’s your plan you better start studying now!

Flight Schools: If you look at the upper left corner of this forum you will clearly see the ATP logo. All the mentors here are former ATP students and instructors so needless to say we’re all somewhat partial BUT we’re also not salesmen. We all simple did our research and concluded that ATP was the best route for us and we encourage you to do your own research as well. That said flight training is expensive. You can’t simply take the hours and divide. There’s flight time, ground school but you overlooked the UNLIMITED sim time. Flight training takes practice and even at half the hourly rate it can add up if you’re struggling with a concept. Also ATP’s price is the price from start to finish (and yes includes all 3 CFIs). Most flight schools quote the FAA minimums for each license and rating, something the FAA says almost never happens. ATP includes realistic hours for every license and rating and has been training pilots for the airlines for over 30yrs. They’ve had over 600 pilots placed in the last 12 mos alone. Are there cheaper schools? I’m sure there are but few with their experience, resources, equipment and reputation. As I said, I recommend you do your research. They also offer a guaranteed CFI position.

Homebase: What’s a junior base today many not be tomorrow. Things change. I’d worry about that 2-3 or more years from now when that’s consideration (that’s Step 867, you’re on 1). ATP has over 40 locations around the country and each has their challenges (weather is just one). The program is 9mos to allow for these challenges. I believe Tory trained in Seattle and he can give better details.

Airlines have no height policies I’m aware of (and if they do it’s def over 6’5" as I know a few pilots taller). Unfortunately ATP does so you will have to look for another flight school. You will be fine in any RJ as their actually pretty roomy once you sit down.


Thank you Adam for your excellent answer.

Got it, jumpseats are free. I was aware it’s everybody’s responsability to make it to your job on time, hence my research into whether it is unheard of/rare/widespread to receive commuting benefits for a hotel night to fly to the base a day early. Definitely wouldn’t want to miss your flight!

Interesting, so if one switches companies they’re back at the bottom of the payscale.
Everyone understands if a senior guy changing companies loses seniority at his new emloyer, i.e becomes last to bid on flights or bid on vacation dates, but payscale too, that is radical.

Understood, so it’s easier for European pilots to fly in the US than for American pilots to fly over there.

Indeed I overlooked the unlimited simulator time. That’s a great selling point. I am aware ATP publishes that it has placed 586 graduates into the airlines last year. I’m also aware that they graduate over 60 people per month which is 720 per year. Do you have any
idea if the 20% of graduates who do not get hired by an airline move on to other jobs by choice, or because the airlines interviews is yet another big filter which not everyone that graduates (even from ATP) can pass?


Remember commuting is a choice. Get used to hearing that throughout your career.

All the Major airlines in the US are unionized as are most of the Regionals. Since EVERYTHING is therefore based on seniority, new job, new pay holds.

I don’t have the numbers but there are a number of reasons for the 20% gap. First there are in fact pilots who have no interest in flying for the airlines and pursue other options. Also understand that while they may CURRENTLY be graduating 60 pilots per month, those getting hired are from approx. 2yrs ago as they’ve been instructing and building time. Some of those graduates went on to instruct for other flight schools, some to other flying opportunities. Regardless unless they called or emailed ATP saying “Hey, I just got hired at ABC Air”, ATP has no way of knowing their fate.