Upgrading from FO to CA

Hi, at a typical regional airline, what is the process for a FO to upgrade to CA? Does the pilot get any preference over external applicants for the CA position?


Upgrade is a matter of seniority. While some Regionals will on occasion hire “Street Capts”, that’s rare and generally only if there are no qualified FOs.

It’s not a question of preference, performance or anything other than having the seniority to hold the position and the ability to complete the training.


You bid for upgrade. Seniority is the biggest factor but how restrictive you bid, or your current “specialty” can matter too.

I have my bid in for Captain at “any base”, so I might become a Captain before someone senior to me if their bid is only to upgrade in a certain base. (If a Capt slot is only available in Denver and they didn’t bid for it I could jump ahead and get that slot).
But I’m also a Designated Mountainous Terrain pilot (Aspen) so if the company needs me to be an FO in Aspen, they can “bypass” me and upgrade someone JR to me. (In this case I stay an Aspen FO but get Captain pay).

It’s simple, but can be complicated haha.

Chris F

Great info Adam and Chris! Also, what’s the training like for new Captains…is it similar (or different) from the training when you’re first hired as FO?


With modern training FOs are trained to the same standards as Capts and receive type ratings in the aircraft as well. The real difference comes in ground school where there’s a greater emphasis on “Capt’s role”. Command and leadership can be difficult to teach but the training will focus on looking at good vs poor decisions.

I much more enjoy upgrade training (particularly if you’ve been on the airplane before). By the time you upgrade you should have a good understanding of the aircraft and the system you fly in as well. You therefore can focus on elevating your understanding and focus on problem solving and decision making.



Training for a captain is very similar to FO training. The policies, procedures, and book knowledge requirements are very similar. What is different is that there is a bit more of an emphasis on decision making and leadership skills. Overall though, very similar.