The career advisor
Q: Your article about the so-called pilot shortage is a disservice. You need to set the record straight. There is no shortage. If the age 65 rule goes into effect, those guys flying for the regional airlines will be stuck in a dead-end job.
A: My article "Pilot Shortage" (November 2007 AOPA Flight Training) generated some light to moderate turbulence in some circles, including the message excerpted above from a furloughed pilot.
The cynicism is understandable, especially from anyone who has experienced a furlough. The article's second paragraph states, "...the Uniteds, Deltas, Continentals, Jet Blues, and Southwests of the U.S. flag carrier industry are not hurting much"--they can find all the pilots they need. As this is being written, nothing has changed in that vein. There is certainly a substantial pool of pilots out there slogging it out at the regional airlines, Part 135 outfits, and in the military, many of them eyeing the front office of a Boeing or Airbus.
I mined a substantial amount of verifiable data for a presentation at AOPA Expo 2007 in Hartford, Connecticut in October. For an hour, nearly 100 participants saw ample testimony that the pilot shortage is real and that, in today's hiring environment, if you have a commercial pilot certificate, second class medical, about 600 hours of flight experience, and some multiengine time, the regional airlines would love to talk to you.
As ample evidence of the need for pilots on the regional level, drop by a very cool Web site hosted by Airline Transport Professionals (ATP), one of the flight academies in the business of prepping future flying professionals. ATP has accumulated a one-stop shopping center for regional airline hiring info, and it tries to keep the info as fresh as possible given the fast pace of changes in the industry. As you click through the airline links, you will find most carriers have minimums well below 1,000 hours.
Even with published minimums, pilots are earning first officer jobs in an ERJ or CRJ with even less than what's stated. On a recent trip from Washington to Detroit, I chatted with a six-month first officer at Mesa Airlines who had 320 hours when he was hired.
Some regional airlines are offering a finder's fee of up to $500 to pilots and employees who bring in a flight officer candidate. The first years at a regional airline are tough economically, but for those who persevere, a captain will earn $75,000 to $100,000--or more--annually along with travel and other benefits.
For anyone living in the Midwest, I'll be making an updated pilot-career presentation at the Great Lakes International Aviation Conference (www.greatlakesaviationconference. com) on February 1 and 2 in suburban Detroit. If your school or organization is interested in a full hour of airline hiring facts, including the pluses and minuses of the airline career track as well as actionable strategies to prepare, drop us a line.
Send us your career question and we'll answer the best ones here. Sorry, but we are not able to provide individual responses. Wayne Phillips is an airline transport pilot with a Boeing 737 type rating. He is a B-737 instructor.