Typical Career Progression?

Could someone help me with information about career progression?

  • I’ve seen the graph on the ATP Flight School site showing the school’s CFI pay scale. How many hours do flight instructors at the schools actually manage to get? I’m trying to estimate income during this time.

  • The ATP web site says it takes about 18 months of instructing to get the required 1,500 hours. Is this accurate?

  • After getting the required hours, how long does it take to get hired by a regional?

  • Going this route doesn’t get me a college degree. Does that create a problem for getting a regional FO job? Will it cause a problem for getting a job at a major?

  • After graduating ATP Flight School training and doing CFI hours, how long do people usually fly for a regional before they can land a job at a major? (Again, based on not having a bachelor’s degree.)

  • I know that AA has “flow through” arrangements with its subsidiary regionals. Do any other majors have this kind of arrangement, which allows getting a FO spot at the major without any further application/interview, but just based on seniority at the regional?

  • Once working as an FO at a major, how long does it take to move up to a captain position?

  • For moving up to captain at a major, is that only based on seniority or does it require an application and competition for the spot?

  • Can you explain what it means to “bid” for something? What does that entail? What things are “bid” upon?


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  1. I would plan on flying 60-80 hours per month as an ATP CFI.

  2. Yes, this is accurate, although your results may vary slightly. You would need to fly 70 hours per month to obtain the necessary hours in eighteen months.

  3. Most pilots are hired at the regionals before reaching their 1,500 hours, then finish off their time and come back once they are fully qualified. You should expect to begin airline training within just a few weeks of completing your flight hours.

  4. You will not need a degree for the regionals, the majors will require one.

  5. Without a bachelor’s degree, you will most likely never be hired by a major airline. These are highly coveted and sought after positions. While the regionals might be in a shortage, the majors are not and they can afford to be picky.

  6. No other majors have a flow through agreement, although some do have preferential interviews. Note: the AA flow through is a way to get around the college degree requirement, but I sure would not want to limit myself to one airline.

  7. That can depend on so many factors that it is hard to say. It took me ten years, but I could have done it a year sooner.

  8. Strictly seniority based, provided you of course pass the necessary training.

  9. “Bidding” means telling a computer what your preferences are, whether it be what aircraft to fly, what base to have, what routes, which vacation weeks, etc. The computers then sort everybody’s requests in seniority order.

The take away from this should be that you will need a college degree if you would like to move onto the majors.


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Here’s my take:

  1. It can vary by season, location and different enrollment but the average is about 70hrs.

  2. It wouldn’t be posted if it weren’t.

  3. The industry is experiencing a huge pilot shortage. In the current environment you should have a job in place long before you build the required 1500hrs. While things aren’t forecasted to change any time soon nothing is guaranteed.

  4. The Regionals don’t require a degree but the Majors prefer one. While it’s possible to be hired without you’re significantly reducing your odds.

  5. The current average is about 5-7yrs. Could be less but could be more. I know people who have taken over 10 yrs and some who never make it. Not having a degree often contributes to the delay or lack of any offer.

  6. Not that I’m aware of. Know that flow-thrus can be cancelled at any time and often pilots in flow thru programs take longer to get hired than those without.

  7. Too many variables but often it depends on the equipment and base. At Delta you can currently upgrade as a 717 Capt/NY base in about 2yrs. A350/ATL Capt is probably 15yrs +

  8. EVERYTHING at the Majors is based on seniority. Schedule, travel, pay, upgrade, aircraft, base, everything.

  9. To bid for something (schedule, aircraft, vacation, etc.) simply means to request it. Whether or not you get what you want depends completely on where you are in seniority vs the requests of all the other pilots.