Military Fork In the Road

Greetings, I’m new to this community but I’m looking for advice, educated opinions, or experience revolving around military transition to the airlines.

I’m a KC-130J pilot in the Marine Corps (currently in a non-flying staff job). I have a BS Mechanical Engineering degree and 1250 flight hours. In the next year I have the ability to go back to my squadron for a 3 year flying tour or I can get out of the military. I have my Commercial, but no ATP. I took the ATP written exam, but it has expired, since I was not able to get the flight checks completed. My wife is an active duty Marine as well and plans on staying in the service.
Will the extra 3 years of military flying or going to a regional be better if I plan on ending up in the airlines regardless? Knowing that seniority is everything in the airlines.
I read previous posts about getting onto a Major vs. regional with different levels of experience. If I go to a regional airline, is it easier to get the base you want? If not, how does the commuting process work or does it even exist at the regional level?

This may be the first of many posts, as I approach this decision point in my life. Thank you for any all help you can provide.




You will need substantially more flight time to get hired at a major, even with your military experience. I am not sure how much you would fly per year in the military, but is suspect that t would be much higher in the regionals. Of course there are retirement benefits to be thought of by staying in the military.

Check out for a list of airline domiciles. Getting based where you want really depends on where that is and what the demands for that base is. I wouldn’t say that it is any different at the regionals or majors.

Same with commuting. Pilots from all airlines commute. Essentially is consists of finding a flight that has an open seat available and getting yourself to work several hours prior to your trip starting. Commuting can be difficult and I do not recommend it if it can be avoided.

Let us know what other questions you have.



To me the question is how many hours would you build if you stayed in the military? To be competitive and get to a Major (unless you’re talking second tier like Atlas, JetBlue or Allegiant) you’d need greater than 5,000hrs and they like 1,000+turbine PIC. If you won’t accumulate that kind of time staying in the military I’d say go to a Regional. Salaries have come up considerably and with your military experience AND some Regional flying you’d be a shoe in after a few years.

Now as far as bases go it really depends on the airline and the base you want. Some bases are more senior and can be more difficult to get to. BUT, the movement right now at the Regionals is so great I can’t see you not being able to get the base you want in more than a few months. Majors can and do take much longer. Commuting is never fun but some commutes are more difficult than others. Really depends on where you are and where you need to go. Pilots are able to jumpseat on any airline which eases the process but if the town you live in doesn’t have any direct flight to your base than you could be talking a 2 or 3 leg commute which makes it harder. Thing is commuting is a choice and it’s your responsibility to get to work. How long that takes is on you.



It is very difficult to answer your first question about which is better,
the Regionals or 3 more years of military flying as there is no guarantees
in aviation. You could go either way. I would choose whichever path is best
for you. Whichever you choose, make sure you have realistic expectations. I
know I’m not answering your question because I can’t. One thing about
staying in the military. There have been plenty of military pilots that
have been able to skip the Regionals and jump directly to a Major. If this
is your reasoning for wanting to stay in the military, I see the appeal.
However, I will not make any false promises. I cannot guarantee that 1) you
will be able to skip the Regionals like your peers and 2) that it will be

Regional airline pilots commute the same way Major airline pilots commute.
The airlines have jump seat agreements with each other to help commuters
get to work.

Getting the base you want is also difficult to answer because it depends on
too many factors. Typically new hires start at junior bases. If a new hire
prefers a different base they can bid for the one they want just like
everyone else does. Base transfer requests are honored if a spot opens up
and your seniority number is at the top of the list among the other
transfer requests.