Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Questions Answered: Why train if the airlines aren't hiring?

What advice do you have for the rest of us that still plan on going to ATP despite the continuous downsizing and furloughing from the industry?

The mood of my blog has been pretty somber. I'm not flying much. I'm getting displaced. Airlines are furloughing. The sky is falling. Well okay the sky isn't falling....but things aren't so great.

I was hired at my airline in October 2007. During that time it was on the downside of a hiring boom. The real boom started late 2005/early 2006. By May 2008 the boom was over. But it will come again. Hiring at airlines has ALWAYS been in waves. We are at a low point right now.

For those that are training or hope to train for the airlines my advice would be to do it.....but don't hold your breath. For ATP specifically I would do the self paced program AND keep a good paying job! That's the way I did it. Keep you job the entire time while training. If you finish the ATP program and the airlines aren't still have a job! Save up a few hundred a month (I did say GOOD paying job!) and rent a cheap Cessna 152/172 once or twice a month to stay current and have some fun. When the airlines start hiring you can start applying while KEEPING your good paying job. Once you get hired you leave your GOOD paying job for an airline gig.

Right now there are a lot of pilots on the street. I predict most won't come back as a regional airline pilot First Officer. The next time airlines hire, the applicants will come from other regional pilots who have been furloughed, major airline pilots who need a job to stay current/health insurance and pilots who are new to the industry. This is all my opinion of course. My opinions and $2.40 will get you a venti coffee at Starbucks.

I can't stress enough to have a plan B. Have a backup plan. Get a college degree. Having a degree will allow you to have a plan B and help you get a job at an airline. I have friends that didn't get a degree, got a gig at an airline, GOT FURLOUGHED and are now fighting to get a job with everyone else who is unemployed. Having a degree makes you look just a little bit better than the other guy at an airline and in the regular workforce. I have a Bachelors of Arts in  Photojournalism with a double major in Sociology........but I still have a degree.

For those that can't do the ATP self paced program (because you don't live close to a training center), I would get your private pilot license close to home. Just about every small airport trains pilots. Walk into the local FBO and ask or scan the bulletin board for training. When you are done, see how the industry is doing. If it still sucks, then get your Instrument rating close to home. Airlines still not doing well? Keep flying around for fun building time towards your commercial. Airlines suddenly on a hiring spree? Well now it's time to make a decision. Risk it all by quitting your good paying job and hammering out the remaining ratings at ATP? Maybe you have enough for your commercial rating so you can go to ATP for your CFI tickets and then instruct at ATP building the multi-hours you need to get hired by a regional?  Whatever the situation you had a plan B. Always have a plan B.

The next hiring spree will come. The age 65 rule delayed a mass exodus....but those "crusty" Captains are still aging. Those who make it to 65 will be forced to retire. Many will retire before 65 due to health reasons (unable to hold a 1st class medical) or they just had enough and are ready to hang up their wings.

Till then, Blue up, Brown down.


  1. Won't I need to build time after finishing the ATP program? I know last time regionals were hiring a pilot could almost get a job as soon as he had the commercial rating, but what if I need 1200 hours before they'll hire me? I think it'll take more than flying a cessna around a couple times a month. I'd need to instruct for awhile, right?

  2. The mins for airline hiring next time around are anyones guess. They might be as low as 250TT to 1500TT. It's anyones guess. When hiring starts there are tons of places to build time as a CFI or pay as you go. With the above blog if you are still building time towards your commercial, you can take the ATP 90 fast track and get plenty of hours. You can also rent a 152 and fly plenty of hours. There is a flight school way down in Arlington, Texas called Skymates ( )that offers 100 hours of twin time for $13K. The main point is not to jump feet first without having a plan. I don't see airlines hiring in the next 6 months really. Taking the ATP 90 day course right now wouldn't make sense IMHO. You would graduate with 230 hours and no job. CFI jobs are hard to come by right now as CFI's aren't being hired. Taking the self paced course at ATP (or training anywhere else) will allow you to keep a job and learn to fly. If airlines start hiring suddenly, you can speed up your training as it's self paced.

  3. You seem to like ATP. I have been reading your blogs for quite sometime and enjoy them very much.
    I thought to ask your input because I respect your opinions. I would like to go to ATP but since I already have about 200 hours with my instrument rating so I do not feel I fit in any of the programs. I am currently going to a state university to get my degree in business administration and flight training at a small flight school. I would like to become an airline pilot. What route do you think I should go about achieving this goal. Thanks for your time.

  4. William, if I were you I would build time toward meeting the requirements for your commercial rating. I am going to assume you have ZERO multi-time. After you get your commercial ticket I would then go and get you multi-engine rating. The check ride would be a Commercial Multi-Engine Instrument ride. You would knock out three ratings (multi, commercial multi and multi-instrument) in one ride. Where to go? Well if your school offers it then go there as it's probably cheaper and the financing is surely cheaper. If not, then yes ATP offers a program for you. I talk about ATP a lot as it was apart of my daily life for 18 months. ATP isn't for everyone, but it's great for a lot of people.

  5. Thank you very much.


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