Real Answers from Real Pilots

Mid Career Change

I’ve read a little bit here about career changes to flying. I have a few friends that are pilots, some for major airlines and some for regionals. I’m 45 and I am wondering what life would be like staying at a regional like SkyWest or Compass for the remainder of my working days assuming I am hired in 2.5 years after training and hour building? It seems jumping to the bigger airlines sets you back again to being on reserve and pretty much getting not the best schedule all over. At this point, I’m not really going for huge money, just something that’s more exciting and interesting than what I’m doing now. I have a Chemical Engineering degree and have been in chemical sales for a long time and I believe it may be mid life crisis time of sorts. I also am confused about the 1000 hour minimum. Does that apply for someone with a degree or am I missing something?

Hi Julio and Welcome!

Nothing wrong with a little mid-life crisis as far as I’m concerned. I started with ATP at 39. Like you I simply wanted a job I found exciting and interesting and it was an excellent move for me. I was at ExpressJet for 9 yrs and was honestly very happy. I was making about $120k (I was also an instructor), had a great schedule and life was good. Honestly it wasn’t the money that pushed me to make the move to a Major it was more of a desire to see how far I could take my career. Another motivation (though admittedly not a good one) was ego. Many of the best pilots I know are Regional pilots. They fly in a greater variety of conditions and face challenges pilots at the Majors don’t see. Unfortunately since the plane is smaller most don’t get the respect they deserve and that includes from family. For years I heard “you still only fly those puddle jumpers right?”, “does it bother you that you don’t fly for a real airline?” etc. I didn’t just have something to prove to myself, I wanted to shut everyone up for good (which I finally have). All said and done I’m glad I made the move but I have plenty of friends (who are more secure) who are very happy at the Regionals.

As far as the rules go, a few years back they passed the 1500hr Rule requiring all airline newhires to have their ATP license (Airline Transport Pilot) which requires 1500 hrs. This created a problem for the Regionals since they had been hiring with less and now there was a “gap”. To offer some relief the FAA offered a compromise called the R-ATP ( the R is for restricted. Meaning you could be hired as a First Officer at and airline with less than the 1500hrs BUT could not be a Captain till you had them). There are 2 conditions that will allow the time to be reduced a) military pilots can reduce down to 750hrs and b) pilots who graduate from “approved” 4 yr universities who majored in Aviation can reduce to 1000hrs. Without those 2 exceptions you’ll need the 1500hrs.


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