Zero to Hero Plan

Hi guys, Jared here. I want to start off with saying that I really appreciate this forum and all of the knowledge and experience those of you in the left and right seat are willing to share with us who have dreams and aspirations of being in the same seats. Sorry if this is a bit long winded, but want to provide as much background/details as I feel is necessary. I’m in a bit of a unique situation, but here’s my background; I’m a 30 year old army veteran (hence the zero to hero title) with a bachelor’s who has had experience flying as a sensor operator on a fixed wing platform, and currently works on the F35 program and part time for an airline. I have completed a discovery flight, sat in the jump seat on multiple flights, spoken to many pilots, and am currently looking into the cheapest/most affordable way to become a pilot.

ATP sounds like an amazing route to go, not as expensive as a degree program, can be completed in just a couple of years, but the closet location to me is Richmond (about an hour and a half drive), and I can’t afford to not work at the current time. So, after a little bit of research, I’ve devised a plan that may (or may not be) viable. I’d like to reiterate that I have 0 flight hours under my belt (aside from the introductory flight).

So the plan… I recently found out that military pilots only need 750 hours to obtain a R-ATP, which led me to my plan below.

  1. Sign up for my company’s (JetBlue) transition gateway program, which would team me up with a JetBlue pilot mentor to devise a plan to complete/obtain all training, licenses, and flight hours. Once finished, I would start my new career as a Jetblue FO.
  2. Part of that plan would require me joining the army reserves again (Yay basic training twice!), complete Officer Candidate School or Warrant Officer Candidate School, attend and graduate flight school for rotary winged aircraft (I’d choose the UH-60 blackhawk).
  3. Once finished with flight school, I would have ~250 hours. I would then apply to a rotor transition program that would provide me with $$$ to complete my flight training & hours and begin as a FO for a regional carrier. While employed with the regional carrier, I could then build up all hours needed before then leaving the regional and beginning as a FO at JetBlue.

NOW I know this is a very rough plan and I’m sure it’s not perfect, but I would continue earning a pay check, and hopefully not be in the red once completed. The thing I don’t know is if being a reservist in the military would make me a less desirable candidate for employment or if an airline with a rotor transition program would even accept me. So this is my “Zero to Hero” plan in a nutshell. So please let me know if it sounds crazy (I’m sure it does), but any comments, advice, insight would be most appreciative.


A few things grabbed my attention so here are my questions/comments.

First you mention the JetBlue Transition Gateway Program. My question is why? If you’re planning on doing your training in the military and then going to a Regional after you build your time you can apply to any Major you like.

Now I know nothing about re-enlisting in the Reserves, completing officer training, going to rotary aircraft school and then transitioning but that sounds like a lengthy process? Since you already have a degree and military experience why not join the Air Guard as an officer and go to fixed wing school? Fixed wing pilots build ALOT more time than rotary wing does and no transition.

Finally I understand you need to work but you also need to understand as a pilot you have a very finite number of years to work. Senior Capts earn close to $400k a year. That’s a considerable of potential earning to forgo.



I see that you are already employed by JetBlue, what is it that you do for them?

Your plan sounds like it works, except that I do not see how you are going to get to the 750 hours, unless it is via flying in the military, which could take you many years. Once you do get that flight time, the industry might have cooled and there may or may not be any rotor transition programs available.

It sounds like you are trying to do this without spending any money, which I completely understand, but I suspect that your path will take a significant amount longer than just going to a civilian flight school and time will cost you money in the long run in decreased earnings potential.

I would also not lock yourself into flying for JetBlue. While they are a good airline, they are not very desirable from a pilot perspective. In fact, many pilots leave there to come fly for the more traditional legacy carriers. All I am saying is to keep your options open.


Hi Adam,

Thanks for gettin back so quickly. Yes, I am currently employed with JetBlue. Airlines that have rotor transition programs claim that they’ll provide X amount of money toward fixed wing training regardless of how many flight hours you have under your belt or where you are in your training. Now I’ve got to take that with a grain of salt because I’m sure the fewer flight hours you have, the less desirable you are, and that may lead to not getting accepted into a rotor transition program… And I’m sure they can change their tune quickly if hiring slows. I have yet to reach out to any of these programs, but will do so to get as much info as possible. But, if what they say is true — about giving X amount of funds toward completing the 750 hours, than it seems like a decent route to go.

Unfortunately I’m coming to the table a bit late, the only military branch that sends it’s service-members to flight school at the ripe age of 34 (or sooner) is the Army, and I’m 30 years old. Fixed wing is definitely the platform I’d choose, but while I look like I’m in my 20s, my birth certificate states otherwise :-(. The process of going back into the military, finishing basic, OCS or WOCS, and flight training is approximately a year and a half — graduating with ~250 hours. Completion of a rotor transition program would be an additional 3-4 months. What I need to figure out is to subtract the cost per flight hour from the amount of $ a rotor transition program will pay for training.

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the advice. I work on the ramp as a ground crew member. I gather that some of the JetBlue pilots I spoke with may share similar sentiments. They too told me to keep my options open.

From what I’ve read on airline websites that have rotor programs, they claim that they’ll give you - depending on the program, a certain amount of money to complete the 750 hours needed to obtain the R-ATP regardless of where a candidate is in his/her training. I’ve seen anywhere from $7.5-51K that they’ll offer to complete training. Of course this is reliant upon being selected for the program in the first place and I imagine the more an airline will subsidize your training, the longer commitment you may have to make to stay with them.

I need to reach out to the airlines that have rotor transition programs to see if they’d consider a military pilot just coming out of training desirable. Since new helicopter pilots graduate with roughly ~250 hours. One thing I may have it clearly stated is that I would seek to get back into the reserves or national guard, and not the active component of the army.



I looked at a few of the rotor transition programs that are out there. All of them state that they will help pay for your fixed wing transition training, none of them state that they will just pay for you to go fly and build flight time. Commutair’s website says that the program requires 500 hours of flight time to be considered, I suspect that most airlines will require this, or more.

Bottom line, you are going to have to find a way of building the 750 hours, whether it is flying helicopters, buying your own fixed wing time, or becoming a CFI and teaching.


And to answer an earlier question, the airlines will not have any problem at all hiring somebody that is in the reserves. Many current pilots fly in the reserves.

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