Real Answers from Real Pilots

Military Helicopter Pilot to Airlines

Hello Everyone,

I am currently a Blackhawk Helicopter Pilot in the National Guard with about 300 hrs. and am just starting to work on my private pilots. Does anyone have any recommendations for routes to the airlines? My initial thoughts were: fly as much as I can on the military side while finishing up my privates, and at 500 hrs. total, quit my full time job and enroll at ATP flight school to get the last 250 hrs. required for my restricted ATP.

Once I reach my 750 hours required for R-ATP, do you think I will have issues making it to a regional with no CFI time? I know your hours are kind of like your resume… so I’m skeptical. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!


Hello and welcome to the forum. I like your plan, I would just be sure to verify that you will qualify for the R-ATP with 250 of your hours being civilian time. Call ATP admin as they can help verify that for you. If you do, then I think your plan is the fastest way possible to the regionals and most likely the fastest path to the majors as well.

As for getting hired at the regionals, I think you will be very well positioned with your military time and some fixed wing time. I took a look at CommutAir’s requirements for a military pilot and this is what they are:

  • Graduated from a military pilot training program
  • DD-214 or record of current service assignment
  • 200 hours of cross-country time
  • 100 hours of night time
  • 75 hours of instrument time
  • 25 hours of actual multi-engine time
  • 250 Hours fixed wing pilot in command (PIC) time

Just make sure you have all of those other things as well, it is not just 750 hours.

Let us know what other questions you have.


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All of the regionals have what’s called a rotor transition program (but not sure if they are accepting RTP applications right now because of the pandemic). If they are accepting applications, once you’ve decided which regional you’d prefer to fly for reach out to a recruiter and have them walk you through the process.

If the regionals haven’t opened up their RTP applications yet, your original plan to fly until 500 and then complete ATP’s program will work too as long as you also meet all of the other requirements per FAR 61.150(a).


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Hi Bradley,

I, unlike most of the people on here, am not an ATP student/alum but the mentors have been great, even for those of us who did not attend ATP. I myself am a veteran (active Army and now Army Reserve) and am currently using my GI Bill benefits to substantially reduce my tuition costs.

As for your question, another route to consider in addition to the couple already recommended by the mentors is for you to use you GI Bill by finding a VA approved Part 141 Flight School on the VA Weems website. As you have rotor experience, your training will be far cheaper and probably fully covered under the GI Bill caps for flight training. With Part 141, you can go as fast or slow as you like based on your life schedule (instructor, aircraft, weather dependent etc) so you don’t necessarily have to have too much disruption, like quitting a job for example. From there, just join a local flight club with cheap rates and build your hours while maintaining/improving your currency and proficiency, especially with instrument flying. I’m here in Western Washington and my flight school has a quite a few people in the rotor transition program as it’s next to JBLM with all their helicopter pilots.


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Hi Sam,

Thanks for that great info! This seems like a great path to take for someone in my situation. I do have so additional questions regarding your timeline/overall experience with the Part 141 route. With a full time job, how often were you flying with them?

An issue that I am running into now, is that the nearest approved Part 141 flight school is about 2-2.5 hrs. from me (I am in Des Moines IA). I would like to maintain my full time job while conducting my flight training… but worry if I am only able to conduct training on select weekends it will take an insane amount of time to get where I want to go.

There is a Part 61 school near me (where I am getting my private), so would it be smart from a financial standpoint to try and pay out of pocket to build time with the Part 61 while working on my ratings (with the GI Bill) with the more distant Part 141 school?

Thanks again for providing insight here!

Hi Bradley,

I just want to be clear that now that I’m with the Reserves, I actually don’t have a full time job. I only take a weekend off a month to drill, though I do fly from Seattle to Georgia to do so, so it’s usually more than just 2 days a month with the travel and I’m currently in GA for my 2 week annual training.

I see on the VA Weems website that there is a school like 1.5 hours from you (Indian Hills Community College). While every person’s situation is unique and I’m sure you want to keep your full time job, you might just be better off training full time. Reimbursement is about $14,800 for the 21-22 Academic Year that will just start 01 AUG 21 and your ratings should not take more than 12 months anyways so it might not be worth traveling 3 hours round trip per lesson to save just shy of $15,000 for the year.

With that said, I did just join a Facebook group not too long ago that is perfect for you. It’s an official charity group recognized by the IRS called RTAG (Rotary to Airline Group) originally set up to help out military rotary pilots but has branched out to any veteran looking at going to the airlines (including an infantryman like me). Many are just starting their journey like us and many are already airline pilots. They have scholarships, tips, and networking opportunities. I’d check them out and pose your question there too since all are veterans.


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