Real Answers from Real Pilots

Mesa Airlines

Hello mentors,
I came across this on Facebook and wanted to hear your thoughts regarding this. The headline on fb read “looking for an alternative to becoming a CFI, here it is.”

So from what the article and headline is saying, getting the required flight hours would be done with them? Is it too good to be true type thing? I asked on the post what the requirements where to apply for this to which they responded must have commercial pilot license with multi engine and instrument ratings. I asked about minimum flight hours and they responded that I would just need the commercial pilot license with multi engine and instrument ratings.

What are your thoughts??? Are other regionals doing similar programs?

As always, thanks for your time!

I had a look at “Southern Airways Express”, they operate about a dozen Cessna Caravans and less than ten Piper Chieftains, only 23 aircraft in total. I’m guessing they run as a Part 135 air-taxi service essentially because they would be bound by the 1500hr rule if they were Part 121. Either way I wouldn’t count on something like this, their pilot roster is bound to be very small, and I haven’t heard of any other regionals partnering with air-taxi services. Maybe someone else knows more though.

I’m personally planning to stick with the tried and true instructing pathway, seems like a gamble to go for something like this.


I looked into this and don’t think too much of it. To begin with, they do not state how those loans are forgiven, what is the requirement to do so? Also, as James noted, Southern has a very small fleet of airplanes, not to mention that they are keeping people there until 1,800 hours instead of the 1,500 that is required. I would pass on this one.

Southern flies an EAS route from my college town airport (KMGW) to Dulles and to Pittsburgh. They’re despearate for pilots and anytime I’m at the airport they beg to have me come fly after ATP. Lol. The pilots are averaging 125 a month according to couple guys that I know flying for them (didn’t know that was legal?) they do have brand new caravans and they do fly a lot. Upgrades are quick and you’ll get your time quick. The downfall: $6-12 per flight hour until 1250. No thank you. Haha

Wow! Thanks guys for the input… definitely going to pass on this hahaha :smile:
I just recently saw this to add to the article you posted earlier. I did also find out today that they jump your hourly pay up a lot after 6 months with the company. With the signing bonus they have for the cadet program, it makes it a little more reasonable. I guess it depends on the individual, but nonetheless a neat program as an instructing alternative if that’s not for you.

I’m going to respectfully disagree with the pack here. While I think flight instructing offers an exceptional learning experience some people don’t enjoy and others are frankly lousy at it. This is another way to build time and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m sure the spaces are limited and the numbers are weak but I’m always a fan of options.



I definitely agree with Adam. I will never probably look into when it comes closer to time for me to make decisions, however I’m fairly sure I will end up instructing as it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. If anyone had any questions about the program or flying for Southern let me know and I will ask my friend who is flying for them here locally.

I saw on ATP’s tuition reimbursement page the following sentence about the payments while you’re at an airline: “$500 monthly payments continue to supplement first-year airline pay for at least 12 months. Then up to two years or captain upgrade, whichever occurs first.” I have never seen the “up to two years or captain upgrade” part before. Does that mean you can make more than the $11,000 in tuition reimbursement?


I work for ATP and manage the Tuition Reimbursement program.

The $500 a month retention payments (while at the airline) in the tuition reimbursement program are paid for 12 months or until captain upgrade, whichever occurs first.



Thank you Danielle. That’s what I thought it was, but that wording confused me a little bit!

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Hi everyone. I just received the go ahead to start with SAE. It’s $12 per flight hour and $18 an hour after 6 months. At 1000 hours you are eligible for captain upgrade where the salary is $50000 a year. SAE will also give a $5000 bonus for upgrading. It’s 1800 hours to start with Mesa if you stay a FO w SAE, or 550 PIC as a captain whichever comes first (total at 1550 hours)

This is my interpretation of the information that I have as of now. I will have a more definite understanding the next few months.

It’s gonna be rough the first 6 months for sure. The $10000 bonus from Mesa will help, but I’m not expecting a 250 hour brand new pilot like myself to make much more. I believe in the “start somewhere, work your way up” mentality. I definitely would rather do this than instruct and not to mention all the money I’ll save not taking the 3 CFI check rides. I’m excited to start this new adventure and I agree that this is a great alternative to instructing.

Best wishes to you all



Congratulations on your first airline gig! That is exciting news. Please check back in with us from time to time to let us know how things are going.


I didn’t know they were hiring first officers right now. Their website only has openings for captains. Do you know someone who works there? I’m at 460 right now and if CFI school doesn’t work out I might consider SAE if they are hiring.