Question for real life pilots

Hello all, I am interested in becoming an airline pilot. I am a little reserved about it however because all of the forums and posts that I have read before this all have very negative things to say about the career in general. However, I did notice that a lot of these posts were outdated and maybe things have changed. So if maybe newer pilots can respond or older pilots who are still working, it would be great to get a status update on the career outlook and if they would recommend this career path. Has pay, scheduling, overall treatment of pilots gotten better or worse? Are furloughs still a prevalent problem?

Im not a commercial pilot myself, but maybe @Erj145 or @Yuan_Tugo could answer your questions for you
Edit: did more digging and just saw @DeerCrusher is also commercial. Huh. Learn something new everyday

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@IFATC_Andrew as well

Check out my Instagram story to see how my day went as an airline pilot.

Not it isnt always fun but I still love it. I left my house at 4am this morning and I’m just now on the way to a hotel.

Was it fun? No
Was it a long day? Yes
Is it always like that? No.

Regardless of how long of a day I have, at the end I still love it and wouldn’t trade it for any other job. We all complain a lot, myself included but the aforementioned stuff applies. Best job in the world even on the worst of days

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Best thing you can do, I see you are from the US, is speak to someone from your country. Aviation in Europe or the Middle East is completely different so most valuable would be feedback from some locals.

Thanks for answer. Just a few more questions though.

  1. How do you feel about job security, are you worried about possible lay-offs? Do you have backup option in case something goes wrong with your aviation career?

  2. How long have you been a pilot, are you getting a good or at least decent schedule yet?

I will try and break these down to the best of my ability. Keep in mind though these are just my opinions and my experience. Best to ask a lot of pilots and come to a common pros and cons on your own.

Has PAY gotten worse or better?
121 Regional
Pay has definitely gotten better in the regional airline level. 5 years ago regional airline we’re still paying pilots between 22k-35k. Now it’s fair to say with sign on bonus (which will be heavily taxed) you will make 50-60k( some regional airline pilots actually make less
their second year with the off set of the sign on bonus. This really boggles me annoys me to the core) on the regional side. That’s not to say you can get paid more if you pick up extra flights. To be completely honest though the only people doing that will be the ones who stay at their base and not commuting.

121 legacy aka American/jet blue /Fed ex /ups not much has changed pay wise on their end. It’s been pretty consistent. First year pay will be around 60-80k and second year look for a massive jump. Ups for example first year is 65k and 2nd is 120k.

Corporate
Pay has definitely gone up. Most are easily comparable to regional pay if not surpassing them. 1st year corporate pay at a decent company (not talking about net jets here, just your avg corporate gig) will start around 56k +. The bigger and “complex” the plane the better the pay. I know FOs on a citation or lears making 72k with just 1700 under their belt.

SCHEDULE

121 regional. Now this will vary on the airline and the base. I know guys who are with envoy who on reserve for 4-6 months only fly 20hrs a month. I know some who commute from their home to their base to sit on reserve in the airport with their uniform on to get called in for a flight. Sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t. With regional airline the longer you are with them the better your schedule will get.

121 Legacy
Same as regional airline.

Corporate.

Depends on the company. Charter operation you are on call 24/7 within duty regs. You will only have a few hard days off a month.
The company I am with is on a 8 on 6 off schedule. Some are 7/7, 14/10 and so on.

Treatment of pilots?

121 regional. Sorry to say but it’s not the best. You are just a number to them and they will use you and abuse you. Simple as that. I did that for 3 years and I just didn’t feel valued. So I made the switch to the “dark side” and love ever min of it.

121 legacy. They are kinda same as a regional pilot except that they get double pay, fly bigger planes, better benefits, and let’s just say once you retire your life will be set.

Corporate. This is mixed bag. It will come down to company culture. Mine is very chill. Our pilot group is very close knit and we hang out frequently on our off days either flying in a 172 somewhere, golf, live music etc. last year on my birthday my company bought me two tickets for my wife and I for a musical in NYC and dinner was on them. On my one year anniversary with them everyone from ops to other pilots to vp wrote something nice on my card a mailed me a polo shirt, wine glasses, a leather duffle bag with my name stiched on the bag and a blanket with the company logo on it. So, yea, I guess you could say I like to feel special and in return I will go above and beyond for my company with a smile.

Furlough? No. And it hasn’t been for years.

Job security? In the aviation world there is no such thing. My best advice is have a back up. For me I majored in finance and biology. If the economy took a tank I would just get my masters in PT/OT and I would be just fine.

Long time ago I interned for free at US Airways hq in Pittsburgh and within 2 months they filed for bankruptcy. So many pilots lost their jobs. A lot we’re ex Navy and air Force guys. At lunch they would talk about what the heck will they do now. It was then I pulled myself out of a 141 accredited aviation program and started taking bio and business classes.

Always always have a back up. Always. Can’t enforce that enough. Find another passion. The US Airways internship taught me so much. If anything it makes you more diverse imho. Every interview I get asked why did I double major and I answer honestly.

How long have I been a pilot? Technically since I was 17 when I got my ppl so that was realllllllllyyyy long time ago. A career pilot? 5 years. When I was at the regional my first year schedule was okay. The other two it definitely got better as I kinda got the schedules I wanted. At my current job I know my schedule for the year. So I really like that. It’s super easy to plan vacations with my wife and family. I don’t have to wait for my bid to come out every month to see what I get.

Sorry if this is long, but hopefully I could answer your questions. Feel free to ask more. We are all here to help and guide the best we can :)

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@Erj145 : I really like how you braked it down and to make it more easy for the OP to find out the differences in our opinions I would like to answer in the same way :

Pay: I think it is the same like in every other job, the salary increased over the years… At my company, the salarie starts at around 70000 EUR ( 80,000 USD ) for being a FO on A320 and ends with around 255000 ( 290,000 USD ) annually, being a CPT on 747 , A330/340/380 or MD11. We all know that’s a lot of money.

In the press I find figures like 50-60K Euro for FO’s and up to 150K Euro for being a CPT like with this Irish airline or take it easy airline … so stil a lot of money.

Schedule Really depends on what you are flying, long range or short range/ regional. In general for everybody there is a limit of 1000 FH per calendar year. And be sure that your Airline CEO will make sure that you don’t fly less or at least not so much less. If you wanna reach these hours as a regional pilot that means up to 5-6 legs per day. Working 12-14-16 hours. Don’t forget that your work starts like 1,5 hours before your first take off and ends like 30 min after your last landing. As I’m flying only long range, i have 3 flights per month ,means 15 days of being somewhere, 15 days off and at home. Yes, that’s really relaxed. Instead of 5-6 takeoffs and 5-6 landings per day I make maybe 1 or 2 takeoffs and 1 or 2 landings in a MONTH.

Career: All is regulated at my airline. I flew 5 years 737 as FO, then 5 years on 747 as FO and since half a year I am SFO on 747, having now exactly 10978 FH logged. When everything continues normal, I will go into Captains Training in 2 years which lasts 6 month and then become … CPT on A320 🤭🤢🤮. After more 5 years, means after around 18-19 years of flying, I can finally become CPT on 747.
THAT is of course totally different compared to for example this Irish airline where you can become CPT after around 3-5 years. I think that’s same to many regional airlines. Means that you will earn more money in less time.

Job security Non existent,same like for any other job I am aware of . But Boeing and Airbus both think about 16000 pilots that are needed in the next 20? Years ? Please someone post more exact figures if available. So if everything goes normal you can expect that more pilots are needed then pilots that are available. Sounds good for me. Let’s not think about that some of the big airlines file for banctrupcy and would therefore have to lay off thousands of pilots. Here I really think positive, pilots will be needed in very large figures.

BUT…what if… then, as some mentioned already, you need a plan B. Because being just a pilot means you can do nothing else. Thats why most of us make their master degree during the pilot school, most in something related to management or business in the aviation sector. Like our CEO, who was and is still CPT on A320… but studied industrial engineering after school before becoming a pilot with us. Or myself who has a degree in aeronautical systems engineering and management.Think also about that if something happens and therefore that you no longer will get your medical class 1 …that your dream is over from one moment to another. That’s why we pay a 4 digit number from our salary into a loss of license insurance.

It is hard to say if the job, being a pilot, is the dream job for everybody.

Yes, every time I see a sunset or a sunrise, every time we circle around CB clouds that look so majestic, every time when you make your outside check and you look at “ your “ aircraft, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a CRJ or EMB or dash8 or …yes, even A380 pilots think this … you think…what a cool and beautiful machine, and I can handle this thing

. What I want to say is, if you really really see this job from the perspective of someone who loves flying a plane, who is excited and not concerned seeing in the weather forecast it will be a stormy day with snow or thunderstorms or crosswinds , someone who is , yes , kinda proud at the end of a 5-6 leg long day having brought hundreds of passengers safely from a to b,( yes yes, of course also because of our always friendly ATC controllers) … if you see this job at what it is :

An amazing office that can fly 300 kts at 30000 ft over a distance of hundreds or thousands of miles, with always changing people you work with, where no day is like the other, where the workdays can have 12-16 hours but this is nothing that bothers you because you love ur 300 kts fast office, an office where the job is very well or more then well paid, an office where ur girlfriend or boyfriend or husband or wife has for the first time the chance to sit in the cockpit and you explain everything and they understand nothing and then fall asleep because it’s so boring ;)

Then you should become a pilot…or if it should be not that fast and high… a bus driver , which is since ever my dream job. And one day I will make this license and drive tourists from an airport to their holiday hotel.Just one time. Without ATC controller who tell me all day long “ do this, do that, climb, descent, fly this or that speed, or even want to ghost you just because you don’t follow their never ending instructions ;)

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Really learned a lot from reading this, thank you. I’m going to ask this on here because you mentioned having a backup and I think this is a good question to answer for people interested in an aviation career:

A) 141 flight school at a university with a minor in something else as a backup.
Or
B) Major in something else at a college and learn to fly outside of college.

Which would you recommend?

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If you can find a reasonably priced 141 school and did a minor/ major that would be ideal. I would highly go that route. You can’t beat getting a degree and your flying certs with a R-ATP. IF you are lucky enough to be in a state that offers that without having to go to an out of state school paying that fee, tuition and flight fees separate would be pretty high.

If you are passionate about other things I would major in it. Don’t minor. That way if things ever tank you don’t really have to back to school for an additional two years. Just my opinion. Unless it’s a master’s. That way you can still work part time in that desired field or full time and persue your masters full or part-time accordingly.

One thing I do regret not doing is and I know of two people who did this is go to an accelerated flight school to knock out all your ratings including your CFIs in less than a year (keep in mind most of these schools will cost about 70-80k but worth it imo when I did the math) right after that enroll into a 4 year in state University and while you go to school you can instruct part-time or full-time time (so build flight hours while paying back that loan). Whatever you choose. In summer months you can take a class or two and go ham flying a lot at the local airport. In the winter go higher on credits and depending on where you are in the US. If you can make this happen you will have 1500 hrs and a bachelor in a field you like other than aviation within 4 yrs or less. Then you can pick regional airline life or corporate. Or contract stuff.

Lots of word vomit here but hopefully I made my points lol.

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I’m a student/private pilot. I highly recommend
Getting your bachelors in something. Today a minor is worthless to almost everyone. They and the airlines want to see a bachelors degree. I am in an accelerated flight program and working toward my bachelors in both math and Spanish.

Thanks for the advice. So are you currently balancing school and the accelerated program at the same time?

Hi, thank you so much for the through response. I have a couple more questions for you if you could answer them please.

  1. You mentioned having a wife, can you shed some light on how bad or maybe not so bad managing home life and work as a pilot is? This is one of the major concerns I want to check on because I want to have a family in my future.
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My last reply cut off so which would you recommend:

Option #1: aviation degree
Option #2: aviation degree with another degree in unrelated field
Option #3: one completely unrelated degree and then flight training separate.

Let me know, thanks soooooo much!

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Yes. I am doing a couple online courses and the accelerated classes

Well, on my 3 date with my now wife I told her what the demands are and the amount of traveling I will be doing communication and trust are the most important things.

Pilots have one of the highest divorces for a reason. Stress of jealousy, lack of communication, affairs with FAs or when you travel are known to ruin marriages.

My wife and I have an understanding and we work really well. Knock on wood

We don’t have any kids yet, again as the saying goes happy wife, happy life couldn’t be truer here. Balance will be key. When I come home from my trips I make sure to spend quality time with her the first two or so days and pretty much do whatever it takes to make her happy. After that she’s ready for me to get on the road lol.

I will say this and people can take however they want to take as I am a pretty blunt person. My wife is a doctor. She worked her rear off to get where she is today. She made many sacrifices along the way to achieve her dream. She understands the sacrifices I will have to make to get where I want to get. If your gf or future wife doesn’t understand that you might miss birthdays , anniversaries, your kids birthdays and so on, it’s time to cut it loose. I hate to be so cut throat about it, but it is what it is.

To answer your options:

Aviation degree? Not a fan of just that. That said it’s not wrong. I just don’t feel secure majoring is something so neiche.

I like option two the best given you can do it in a 141 accredited school and do an unrelated major you are passionate about.

If I could do it again I would do option 3. I bounced around a lot so it wasn’t the most cost effective. Option three would be the cheapest based on my calculations. Where you will knock out too things with efficient stream line.

Hope that helps :)

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I work two on, two off in the summer I work 12 on 2 off, my significant other knew that from the beginning that my line of work requires me to travel and be gone, we’re making it work.

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