Regional airline pilots make very little money the first year. There is a nifty calculator on Airlinepilotcentral.com (click here and scroll down)….but it’s only a guess. I have no issues posting my pay as 1)it’s public knowledge and 2)for those thinking about it…..here is a big dose of reality. First year pay sucks…no matter what airline you go to. My Gross pay over the first 367 days was $28992.01.
Now I failed college Albegra (my instructor gave me a ‘C’ because I went EVERYDAY and was a Communications major…thus I needed no additional math) so bear with me. Of that $28,992.01, roughly $4231 is per diem. So this takes my real gross pay down to $24761. That pay includes my pay during training + regular flight time + reserve pay + overtime + bonuses for company performance. The $4231 in per diem is paid at $1.70 an hour for each hour away from base. I normally “make” money on per-diem as I normally eat breakfast at the hotel and then one big lunch and a small dinner. I brought food along with me a lot in the beginning….not so much anymore….mostly tuna fish (keeps well). During my year I have spent an average of 13 nights a month in a hotel room. I flew 575 hours in the CRJ. My flights have taken me as far north as Flint, Michigan, as far east as Nassau, Bahamas and as far west as Los Angeles, California.
Over the past year my flight benefits have allowed my wife and I to travel to Washington, DC twice, Texas twice, Las Vegas three times, California three times, New York twice, Illinois twice, Cabo San Luca, Mexico once, New Orleans, LA once, and Toronto, Canada once. My wife has traveled quite a bit on her own with my benefits to California, Oregon and New York.
I have learned to pack 4 days of clothes in a 22 inch rollaboard bag (rolling shirts helps a lot). I have learned to go through security with just two bins and in under 30 seconds from start to finish.
My flying skills have vastly improved. The rate of thinking and processing information is also much faster. When traveling at 150 MPH in gusty winds with 74 people under the control of one hand during a landing….ya gotta make fast decisions.
Is working at an airline everything I thought it would be? No. It’s not the job seen on TV. I have had bad days and good days. Days where I wanted nothing more than to just land the damn plane and sleep. Days where I missed my wife and knew I wouldn’t see her for another 3 or 4 more days…even though I was flying over my house daily. Days where I wished the guy next to me would back off. Days where a passenger yells into the cockpit upset because we were late (not knowing that we avoided a storm or had to deal with a problem causing a delay). I’ve had trips where I couldn’t steal a nice landing. I’ve walked down hotel hallways forgetting which room I was in. I’ve consumed 100’s of gallons of coffee trying to stay functional after a reduced rest overnight (8 hours from landing to taking off again).
On the flipside I have had Captains that truly made my day and taught me quite a bit. Passenger’s who reached out and shook my hand for getting them home safely and smoothly. I have delivered hundreds of soldiers home for rest to their loved ones. I have welcomed many young children into the cockpit to take a look around and make them laugh when I show them my ‘easy’ button (I never fly without one…best $4.99 I ever spent!). I have flown a multi-million dollar jet through gusty winds and landed so softly one could have been shaving and not had a cut. I have killed one bird (maybe that was a bad thing?). I have seen the world from 41,000 feet. I have truly seen the stars. I have survived damn Chicago (the new name of Chicago O’Hare should be Damn Chicago O’Hare). I have been able to do what I love each and every day.
I still get goosebumps when I step into the cockpit. If someone told me three years ago I would be right here today I would not have believed them. Getting to an airline requires a lot of sacrifice and understanding. The toll on your family is not to be taken lightly. The sacrifice is financial and emotional. I was away during Christmas and my wedding anniversary during my first year. I know I will be working on Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. Thankfully I have a very supportive wife….and no kids…for now.
So there it is….one year at a regional airline. Is it all worth it? For me…absolutely.