How many flight hours do major airlines want their pilots to have?

So on YouTube, I’m subscribed to a pilot who does vlogs. He is a captain for an undisclosed major airline and is 26 years old! And that got me thinking, considering that the max amount of hours a pilot can fly in a year is 1000 hours(correct me if I’m wrong), and major airlines require at least 2000 total flight hours, how many total flight hours should I have at the regionals before applying for a major airline? Would it be possible for me to become a captain for a major airline by the time I’m 26? I’m 16 right now and a junior in high school

Emiliano,

Definitely possible but not really the norm and I’m willing to bet the farm he’s flying a 717 or MD80.

So let’s break it down. Assuming you get your training done and build the required 1500 hrs you could be at a Regional by 21. 1,000hrs a year is alot, so let’s say you do 800-900yr for 3yrs. That’s another 2500ish so now you’re at 4000, 24yo and at a Major (with some good connections, solid Letters of Rec, etc). Both my airline Hawaiian and Delta had 2yr narrow body upgrades so yea, you’re a Capt at a Major by 26.

Keep in mind this is all pre-Covid. While the industry will recover, there’s def been a slow down and it might be a little while till we’re back at 2yr upgrades but since you’re 16, it’s should be possible again under IDEAL circumstances.

Adam

Which YouTube channel is this?

It’s called flywithgarret

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Ah okay he works for Piedmont - a regional carrier, not a major. Flying the E145. Being a captain at a regional is very doable by 26. As for the hours you “should” apply with - the minimum! Start as soon as you can and continue to update the application.

Then at what age should I expect to become a captain for a major airline?

Emiliano,

There are so many variables that go into to answering your question that it is really impossible to say. I upgraded to captain at a major at the age of 36, but that is earlier than many do. So much of it can depend on the industry, which airline you work for, if they are hiring and growing or staying stagnant and whether you want to upgrade as soon as possible or wait for better seniority. In short, anywhere from 5-15 years once hired at the major, but your mileage may vary.

Chris

Emiliano,

There really is no “expect”. Best case could be 26, worse case could be never. The fact is Capt at a Major is the pinnacle of our industry and frankly not everyone gets there.

You’re a very long way from there. Do well in school, do well your flight training, build your time, etc etc. and take this as far as you can. When you do reach your goal, however long it takes will be irrelevant.

Adam

This one guy on Instagram was hired by Delta back in February, @pilot.sergio. His age at the time? 23. He flew for Republic for 2 years, then decided to go to Spirit for a few months before he got hired by Delta. If COVID hadn’t hit, he could have upgraded to the left seat of a 717 after about a year, at age 24. Now, the most junior captains at any of the majors are all pre-merger hires. It’s a very dynamic metric, and a highly volatile industry. Things just keep getting better and better, seemingly forever, until everything goes in the pooper suddenly.

So true. And after Delta reshuffled their seniority list because of covid, the most junior CA at the company was suddenly 19 years seniority. In one day it changed from 2 to 19. Things are very dynamic and it’s also an IF on whether or not some people even reach the majors. You could be 24 if you have absolutely perfect timing/opportunity, but you may also never see it.

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What I wonder is, how does a 23 year old get hired in the first place? It seems like 1000 TPIC was the standard minimum for a major, and yet 23 years old is the minimum age to be a captain, so it seems to me that the earliest possible age anyone could realistically get there without shoving out a fortune to ERAU is 24/25. This particular pilot was an Embry Riddle graduate, so that could be a factor, I don’t know enough to say for certain.

Dan,

First I don’t know what you think Riddle has to do with anything or accelerating the process?

What does and can is who you know. Trust me if the Chief Pilot’s kid is a pilot and meets the bare mins of 1500hrs there’s no Regional experience needed. Hence the words “competitive” vs “required”.

Adam

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Dan,

While most pilots that are hired at the majors are captains at the regionals, some are not. I was hires at Continental Airlines when I was 26, without any turbine captain time. I had several connections that helped me out quite a bit, I volunteered in the aviation community and I generally built my resume up in any way possible.

Chris

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I’ve heard that Embry Riddle graduates tend to network really well, and that it tends to look really good on one’s application. It helps an applicant get hired sooner, at least that’s what I’ve heard.

Dan I respectfully disagree. Riddle is a fine institution and produces some quality pilots. That said they also have a certain reputation for being “Riddle guys” (possessing a certain arogainst or snootiness) that can and sometimes does work against them. Back in the day, before the pilot shortage and 1500hr rule, ATP grads were able to interview with reduced hours, ER grads were not.

More so than not if there’s a Riddle guy on your panel they’ll like Riddle guys, ATP guys like ATP guys…

Adam

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