Rotor Transition Program - Financially Worth It Based on Age?

I’m a new member, so thank you all in advance. I’m also a military helicopter pilot looking at flying on the outside. All my counterparts are “All In” for the RTP programs the Regionals are offering. However, I really feel they all have delusions of grandeur regarding career progression and determining the year-over-year average pay they can expect to see in this post military career.

My concerns are that I’m 2-3 years too old to be able see a year-over-year average pay greater than $150-160k (what I feel comfortable with based on my current salary). Also, my helicopter cohorts all feel they will only have to spend 1-2 years in the Regionals before they will be able to move to an FO spot at UAL, AA, and the alike. To answer the question my stats are below. For reference all my friends going for the regionals will have similar stats (3000-4000 RW hours) but are a few years younger.

  • 47 yoa
  • 3200 RW total time
  • 2200 RW PIC
  • 120 FW SEL total time
  • 80 FW SEL PIC
  • 0 FW MEL
  • US Navy Instructor Pilot / Australian Qualified Flying Instructor

I know what I need to do to go the RTP route, but I’m struggling trying to determine if it’s worth it financially, both in year-over-year average pay and if it’s worth the big pay decrease in the beginning. The other question is do I want to work all the way to 65? 62? Or 60? If I knew for sure that pay + profit sharing could give me an average career pay well north of $160, it would be an easy Decision, especially if I was talking a 13 year career (retire at 60).

To help me, the biggest question I need answered, is with my stats how many years can I realistically expect to be in the Regionals assuming I start applying to the legacy airlines as soon as I have FW minimums (not normal flow though)? Also, once in a legacy FO slot, how many years to CA? The other helpful piece is any insight to profit sharing? I haven’t been able to find anything on this subject.

Thanks in advance.


Honestly I don’t think you should do it. Why? Because they are zero guarantees how many years it’ll take you to get a Major (or even get there at all). While the Regionals are hiring like crazy the Majors are still very selective (not saying you’re not desirable). The average right now is approx. 5-7yrs to a Major (many want to see Turbine FW PIC time so you may need to upgrade to CA first) but I know pilots who’ve gone Regional to Major in 2yrs, 7 yrs, 12yrs and some never get the call. Upgrades time vary considerably as well but at your age it’s doubtful you’ll ever make widebody Capt. I play sports with a retired Marine Colonel. Former Harrier instructor and current Regional pilot. He’s been shot down by 2 Majors so far. He’s got a nice resume and he’s a nice guy but there’s something about him rubs the interviewers wrong? Now if you want to fly for a living because you enjoy it and want to make a decent living with the hopes of making the big bucks then by all means. BUT if you’re simply looking at the numbers and need a specific return on your investment to make it worth your while then you should probably look elsewhere.



Thank you so much for the quick and honest response. I hear you completely regarding having to be the right fit in order to get the call to the majors regardless of flight time and experience. I think many of us dirt Navy helo drivers see that the P3 guys are getting gobbled up by the majors, and think we should have no problems. My issue is that though there are the RTP programs in place, I don’t know anyone that knows a guy, who knows a guy, that has made a transition from helo to majors without at least 5 years in the regionals. So I look at the 2 yrs my cohorts are planning on as a pipe dream.

Regarding my desires, I should have been more clear. Staying in the cockpit is the ultimate desire and I’m trying everything to make sure that happens. The financial concerns and questions are to make sure I make the right choice to ensure the family and my retirement don’t suffer because I make an ill informed decision. To compare apples to apples, I need to know everything about each type of apple (regionals or RW career).

The RTP regional path is definitely the “easy button” for me, but it will hurt financially out of the gate. I can take the pain train for as many years as needed, provided the year-over-year average pays off. If not, why not just stay with RW flying and a better schedule?

Thanks again. Great site here.




While possible, I agree the 2yrs is overly optimistic (unless you have some really strong contacts). Listen, I don’t know what the RW job market looks like but if you can stay RE, not take a pay cut AND make some real money, why not?


Thanks again for the insight. Still lots to consider. Cheers,


Ryan, my former CFI is a former Army helicopter pilot. He went through ATP to get his fixed wing ratings, but stuck to flying helicopters for another several years before finally making the jump to regionals last year. No track record on how fast it’ll take him to get to the majors—as Adam said it’s a crapshoot—but he did say everyone with at least 1,000 hours of turbine time (any turbine) at his regional made “street captain” upon passing indoc training. Just my tidbit of info…

Interesting and thanks. Any idea how long he has been in the regionals and with which one? I know we have at least 1 former army guy, now Navy reservist, that has just recently went to Horizon. Again, just got there, so way too early to tell.

He’s with Endeavor and has been with them less than a year.

Thanks Sergey.