13 Responses

  1. shaun
    shaun at |

    What is the avg yearly pay for these pilots? I thought i’ve read that it’s abysmal, correct?

  2. Kyle Harmon
    Kyle Harmon at |

    Meh … the FAA estimates that there are almost 600,000 active pilots in the United States; however, only about 100,000 of them fly for a living. I’m one of the other 500,000 pilots who love flying but aren’t willing to take the massive pay cut that would be necessary to work for an airline. If the pay and working conditions improved, the pool of potential candidates would increase dramatically. Eventually the regional airline business model will catch up to the new reality, but we’ll almost certainly see a wave of bankruptcies before we get there.

    1. Sherman Kensinga
      Sherman Kensinga at |

      Low entry pay has been part of the airline pilot career track since the early days of airlines. In the ’90s aspiring airline pilots still flew night freight in single-engine props, flew banner tows, hauled gliders and skydivers to altitude. They flew for free, or even paid to fly in light twin commuter aircraft. Yes young pilots, “pay-to-fly” was a real thing. They did it because being an airline pilot was a great career, prestigious, even glamorous. Or so they thought, mostly they based their beliefs on stories from long ago. Young pilots lived in poverty for many years to get the thousands of hours needed to even apply at any airline back then. Yes, I said thousands. Before the mid/late ’90s, regional airlines didn’t really exist, and the major airlines required thousands of hours to even apply for a pilot job.

      So why won’t young people stick it out in poverty like they used to? Well, the career sucks. Most airline pilots I know were barely making ends meet into middle-age, raising kids on public assistance, and they were the lucky ones. Very few airline pilots actually hit wide-body captain pay for more than a few years at the end of their careers. The pay is low, the prestige is gone, the quality of work life is poor, and they are gone from home more than half their days, including holidays and vacation seasons.

      If there are 500,000 pilots poised to enter the career, why aren’t they entering? Right now there is a growing surge of hiring going on, and that is always the best time to get hired in this seniority-based career. Everyone who has studied this career knows this and longs to get hired at a time like this, or wishes they had. A few years of poverty used to be worth the cost, obviously that is no longer the case for 500,000 active pilots, if they really exist.

  3. James K.
    James K. at |

    My Great Lakes flight next month got cancelled. The agent on the phone sounded as frustrated as I did, saying that they don’t have enough pilots, so they cancel all the flights they can’t staff.

    Sucked for me, and I imagine for them

  4. bigbirdwithsilverwings
    bigbirdwithsilverwings at |

    I’ve been a CFII (certified flight instructor-instrument and airplane) since 1981. About that time, Frank Lorenzo bankrupted Continental simply to abrogate union contracts. It’s a cut-throat biz and while my kids-young adults- are interested in flying, I would never encourage them to go into such a crazy business model. Becoming a pilot for a major carrier-let alone a regional is a hard road to hoe. Part of the deal is that even if they make it in the right seat of a 737 for a major carrier, the pay stinks for many years, and they are away from home 1/2 the time.

    I love flying but there must be more stable careers out there that allow you to sleep in your own bed every night….

  5. bigbirdwithsilverwings
    bigbirdwithsilverwings at |

    The airline deregulation Act of 1978 allowed a lot more people to fly.
    However, there was a cost associated w/same. Mr. Lorenzo was working off a biz model that he presumably thought would result in profits in an industry that has the worst peaks/valleys of all. I think, though I’m not sure about this, that Warren Buffet once suggested that: “if a farsighted capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk, he would have done his successors a huge favor by shooting Orville down”….and so it goes. I don’t understand it because one can go from NYC to LAX in 5-6 hours instead of 5-6 months and yet the aviation industry apparently has never made any long term money and I do not blame that bizarre fact on any one individual.

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