CRJ200 Airline Pilot

The personal experiences, thoughts of an CRJ captain

How To Become An Airline Pilot

Posted by Jeffrey on September 23, 2008

…and that is the question…

Every week, sometimes every day, you fly with a different pilot. And every pilot has a different story about their journey on how they got their first “airline” job.

If you aren’t familiar with the steps required to get a job with an airline, I will briefly outline a few different ways you can go about it. Please, note, there are MANY different ways to get your certificates and ratings, so by no means is this THE way to get to be an airline pilot. Each pilot gets to be an airline pilot through different avenues and all are acceptable. It all depends on the pilot and bascially their time and money constraints, as well as their ultimate objectives.

Quick note: To get some good ideas on how to fund your flying, Click Here! 

And if you are just getting started consider the Jeppesen Guided Flight Discovery (GFD) Private Pilot DVD Video Course – The New GFD Private Pilot Video Series on DVD contains 10 hours of dynamic content.

The first scenario is the way I did it.

Scenario 1:

  1. Private Pilot (Beginner), Single-Engine Land
  2. Private Pilot, Multi-Engine Land
  3. Instrument Rating, Multi-Engine Land which allows me to fly instruments in a single-engine airplane
  4. Commercial Pilot, Multi-Engine Land
  5. Commercial Pilot, Single Engine Land (I added this certificate, because I intended to become a flight instructor.)
  6. Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI)
  7. Certificated Flight Instructor – Instruments (CFI-I)
  8. Multi-Engine Instructor (MEI)
  9. Airline Transport Certificate (ATP)

A school that I taught at before going to ExpressJet charges $45,000 for a complete package like this. Not a bad deal really. You walk out of there with a lot more multi-engine time than most pilots and if you are lucky, they will hire you as instructor once you complete your MEI and then you just build time in a multi-engine airplane as an instructor. 100 hours of multi-engine time and about 1000 hours total time are the basic minimums for most regional airlines these days but it varies.



Here is another scenario.

Scenario 2:

  1. Private Pilot, Single-Engine Land
  2. Instrument Rating, Single-Engine Land
  3. Commercial Pilot, Single-Engine Land

At this point you could go find a pilot job flying pipeline or traffic watch or banner towing to build your hours, but most pilots become CFI’s and build their hours that way. It’s a start. Eventually though, if you plan on going into the airlines or corporate, you are going to need a Commercial Multi-Engine Rating with Instrument Privileges.

If you go this route though, a lot of pilots will skip the Private Pilot, Multi-Engine Rating with Instrument Privileges and go straight to Commercial Pilot, Multi-Engine Rating with Instrument Privileges. It is a little more demanding but it can save you a lot of money.

One of my best friends is doing it this way, which is very similar to the above paragraph.

Scenario 3:

  1. Private Pilot, Single-Engine Land
  2. Instrument Rating, Single-Engine Land
  3. Commercial Pilot, Single-Engine Land
  4. CFI
  5. CFI-I
  6. Commercial Pilot, Multi-Engine Land with Instrument Privileges
  7. MEI
  8. ATP

You can see that it is a little different, but this was the path that fit his financial and personal situation and it worked for him. He is having a tough time getting his multi-engine hours up, but any day now, he should have a corporate job flying a Cessna Citation Bravo.

Flight School or Fixed Base Operator?

This is another highly debated question, but I’ll tell you what no one told me. A Flight School or a FBO is just as good as your flight instructor. You have a bad flight instructor and you will waste really good money. If you have a GREAT flight instructor, you will save lots of money and get a good foundation for future flying. So the question: Flight School or FBO? Well again, what is your ultimate goal, financial constraints, and time requirements? A Flight School will get you through FAST but it’s going to cost you…a lot! An FBO is going to be less expensive in the long run BUT it will probably take you longer to get through the program because of the lack of structure and because, and let’s face it, personal responsibilities. “Life” gets in the way when you aren’t completely able to focus on your objective.

One thing that I would like to suggest is that you seriously consider an FBO before a Flight School like FlightSafety or Embry-Riddle. FlightSafety and Embry-Riddle are ridiculously expensive. They know pilots love to fly and they try to exploit it. I know, I went to FlightSafety and it cost a lot. Second, never, and I mean never believe anyone that tells you that you have to go to a Flight School to get a job at the airlines. It just isn’t true. Much like getting a University Bachelor’s Degree, it doesn’t matter where you get it from, you just have to get it. Your future employer is not going to care whether you went to Harvard or your local community college. What they want to know is that you have the degree. The same goes for your future airline employer. They don’t want to know “where” you earned your ratings and certificates. They just want to know that you have them.

I hope that helps. If you have a question, I’d be glad to try and answer it for you. cospilot @ gmail.com.

Till next time…

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2 Responses to “How To Become An Airline Pilot”

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