"Regional Airline Pilots: Welcome To The Rest Of Your Career

Firebird2XC

Well-Known Member
"Back in 1993 jets were still at mainline, and we had about 10,000 less RJs clogging up the system. In 1993 at ExpressJet, we just had merged four regional airlines under one certificate (Britt Airways), had a fleet of ATR-42/72s, EMB-120s, and BE-1900s. It wasn't until 1997 when we ordered 200 regional jets. Now we have 274, dropping to 230 here in the near future.

You can't compare 1993 to 2008, unless you want to acknowledge the fact that a huge amount of flying has shifted from the majors to the regionals, thereby limiting the earning potential of most pilots starting out today."

- FlyChicaga

------------------------------------

It's occurred to me recently that I really had to re-prioritize my goals in the airline industry. I grew up with my face pressed to countless terminal windows, with my father standing beside me helping me name all the different airplanes on the ramp. He was a pilot from the age of Regulation, a long-gone era when the government set the rates of exchange for the airlines, and as such the airlines grew very carefully, very slowly, and very profitably. I grew to share his love of flying and airplanes, and hoped for a flying career for myself one day.

It was an easy call, I told myself. It's fun, and interesting, and you can't beat the pay!

Or can you?

Management seems to think so. With the advent of the "regional" jet, and the flooding of the industry with more and more cockpits, the need to staff smaller, cheaper airplanes took full swing. While the pilot unions of the 'Legacy' Airlines were offered the smaller airplanes first, most balked at the thought of flying smaller airplanes at much smaller rates of pay. Bigger was better, said the pilots, because bigger planes mean bigger paychecks.

With that decree, they sent the "damned little jets" to the so-called Regionals. Back in the day, a regional airline really was a regional airline- it didn't span the country, or the continent. It flew primarily out of a few major cities to smaller ones, scooping up small loads of passengers and depositing them into bigger loads of their mainline partners.

Regionals were a small business, and as such most pilots accepted that small pay rates and high turnover rates made regionals a temporary place to be. As far as the aspiring professional pilot was concerned, the entire point of a regional was to "get up and get out"- i.e., to gain the credentials to get on with a major Legacy carrier and make a considerably higher wage.

Fast forward to the present. Now our airspace is glutted with "Regional Jets" that can cross an ocean and "Regional Turboprops" with jet-like performance and that carry three times the passenger load their predecessors did.

With airline managers whittling away at the pay rates of their labor groups and slowly moving more and more mainline routes to "regional" affiliates, pilots as a profession have missed the proverbial boat. Bigger planes are not better, and with the passing over of the "little jets" and their large turboprop brethren, management has successfully swelled up regional carriers underneath their mainline operations.

As such, it seems apparent that despite our best efforts to maintain an appropriate rates of pay at the top of the pilot profession and see it trickle down, we've failed. While we were busily trying to raise the roof of the house one corner at a time, airline managers have cut the floor out from under us.

It would seem that the future of growth in the airline industry is not at the top, with the traditional Legacy carriers, but in the middle, with the top end of the Regional carriers.

Therefore, we are greatly remiss if we simply assume that we can achieve comparable rates of pay at the Regional level by driving up the Legacy rates. If airline managers' actual goal is to swell the ranks at the Regional level while eventually downsizing the Legacy mainline pilot groups, neglecting the Regional pilot pay rates is a grievous error.

As such, I think new emphasis is needed to raise pay rates at the actual bottom of the airline industry. When pilot pay rates have marked ceilings but absolutely no bottom, we open ourselves to be continually, constantly undercut into oblivion. I see debates and arguments repeatedly aired about how pay at the Regional level is better than ever before, but the fact of the matter is that they have barely compensated for inflation and often completely failed to address the growth of equipment and responsibility of the industry's most junior pilots.

In days gone by, a young pilot may have spent a given period of time as a First Officer in small turboprop aircraft that could be legally operated by one pilot, the Captain. The only reason the First Officer was then required was not because the aircraft did- it was because the Federal Regulations governing airline operation required them. As such, a First Officer may often have been seen as an "extra" pilot, rather than an essential, safety-critical part of the operation. First Officer pay scales in the Regional Airlines still reflect that concept today, even when the First Officer in question is flying a jet that requires them by specification and is several times larger than a Regional airline equivalent of yesterday.

As I stated earlier, it seems likely that management's goal in growth it to grow in the middle in order to circumvent contracts and other labor-related constraints.

If growth above the regional level slows, stalls, or stops, we may find ourselves gritting out collective teeth simply hoping to make Captain at the Regional level- and being very happy with that.

Given that, we have to consider that whatever company we presently work for today may be the company we fly with for the rest of our careers.

If that's the case, I can't really see myself working for such low wages for the duties I perform daily in my job. If this is as far as I'm going, I'm going to hedge my bets. The "get up and get out" philosophy is a potential trap- and it's how management gets us to look the other way while they pay us less and less to fly larger and larger aircraft.

From here on out, I'm looking to improve my quality of life and rates of pay every step of the way.


Regardless of the size of the aircraft I fly, if where I am now is the fullest extent of my career expectations, I will not sit idly by and take what I am given. I will not let the fruits of my labors allow inept airline managers to eat steak while I scrape by on stale bread crusts.

The disparity is appalling.

Some of you may be thinking this concept is flawed, that the industry will begin upward movement again soon, that it won't matter to you- you'll get yours.

Stop and ask yourself for a moment: What if you don't?

In the course of regular operations, pilots, their crews, and their passengers literally live and die by adherence to a system that relies on checks, rechecks, backups, and backups for backups. It is through diligent adherence to these concepts and principles that commercial air travel achieves the remarkable feats of safety and reliability that it does.

Doesn't your career, your livelihood, and the means you provide for your family deserve the same diligence?

Ask yourself that question, and then ask yourself if you're really getting all your future deserves after you've broken your back ensuring the future of your company.

Consider it. That's all I ask.
 

IrishSheepdog

Sitting in the median
Re: "Regional Airline Pilots: Welcome To The Rest Of Your Ca

I'm not really worried about money anymore. I'm going to have a lot when I sue you for using my post in a rant without my express written consent. ;)
 

Firebird2XC

Well-Known Member
Re: "Regional Airline Pilots: Welcome To The Rest Of Your Ca

I'm not really worried about money anymore. I'm going to have a lot when I sue you for using my post in a rant without my express written consent. ;)

That's so funny.


You actually think I have money! :yup::yup:
 

Cactus_Cutter

Well-Known Member
Re: "Regional Airline Pilots: Welcome To The Rest Of Your Ca

For every mainline Captain there is a mainline FO who wants their job.

For every mainline FO there is a regional Captain who wants their job.

For every regional Captain there is a regional FO who wants their job.

For every regional FO there is about 10,000 CFIs who wants their job.

For every CFI there are about 10 student pilots who want to be them someday.

For every student pilot there is an employee at McDonalds with no aviation debt and got paid correctly this week.
 

crjsomeday

New Member
Re: "Regional Airline Pilots: Welcome To The Rest Of Your Ca

Well said.


"For every student pilot there is an employee at McDonalds with no aviation debt and got paid correctly this week"

ouch.
 

higney85

Property of Scheduling
Re: "Regional Airline Pilots: Welcome To The Rest Of Your Ca

this current reality has set in with my wife and I. Unforunately upgrades have stopped. Fortunately I have great qol on the upper end of the fo list.
 

kellwolf

Piece of Trash
Re: "Regional Airline Pilots: Welcome To The Rest Of Your Ca

this current reality has set in with my wife and I. Unforunately upgrades have stopped. Fortunately I have great qol on the upper end of the fo list.
Yeah, that last vacancy was an eye opener. I wouldn't have been able to hold CA on that one. In fact, I would have missed it by close to 100 numbers.
 

berge7f9

Well-Known Member
Re: "Regional Airline Pilots: Welcome To The Rest Of Your Ca



Doesn't your career, your livelihood, and the means you provide for your family deserve the same diligence?



FirebirdXC brings up some excellent points about the state of the regional industry. The legendary Barry Schiff has said that the only way he would recommend anyone entering this industry is if the person entering had an alternate source of income. I am currently trying to pursue an online degree that can lead to job opportunities which satisfy 3 conditions:
1. A source of income during a possible furlough in the airline industry
2. Job security to supplement my present job’s insecurity
3. Flexible work hours with the possibility of working from a remote location. working on the internet while on reserve/overnights)

I think it is every pilot's responsibility (if they can afford it) to have an alternative career that you can switch into if things deteriorate to the point where the regional airline industry is no longer worth it. Otherwise, YOU HAVE TO TAKE WHATEVER YOUR PRESENT COMPANY GIVES YOU in terms of contractual violations, pay cuts, qol decreases because you have no other source of income than the job you already have.

You can call me naive or you can call me extremely naive and stupid, but so far in my time in this industry, the threat of leaving the present company if things get very ###### causes management to take notice. Look at ASA's pilot contract which was being negotiated for so long; the TA was reached at a time when the company was very desperate for pilots because a ton were leaving for DL/NetJets etc and the new hire pilot supply was drying out fast. Look at NWA (as a lesser example); when the company tried to recall all of their pilots in the Spring/Summer 07 to work for lower wages, qol etc, hardly anyone came back forcing NWA to be short-staffed all summer long and many flights to be cancelled towards the end of the months as all their pilots timed out. I hope NWA management will at least have these consequences in the back of their minds when they try to pull a stunt like that next time.

These days you can't responsibly make a regional to major jump in your career unless you have a backup plan that allows for an additional source of income to wait out a furlough.
 

ready2fly

Well-Known Member
Re: "Regional Airline Pilots: Welcome To The Rest Of Your Ca

Two very good posts by Firebird and Cactus Cutter! Well said on both sides.

While CC's post was a tad more brief and easier to understand - and not at all untrue......, I believe that - as of right now- for a lot of us at the regional level - Firebirds post is a bit more accurate.

For me - there will be no "career" at the regional level....nor at the major level at this pace.

I'll probably aim for the corporate/fractional world at some point (may be doing so now - who knows? ;) ).

But, being a guy who worked in another profession for 13 years and made decent money (and was miserable and wouldn't go back for anything), my goal is to be paid for what I do and not to stay at the regional level where we are paid fast food wages....simply because "we love to fly".

IMHO, there are WAY too many pilots out there with the "I'd do this for FREE!" mentality - and those at the top of this industry know this - so at the low-end of the aviation totem-pole are screwed when it comes to getting paid.

I've made a good living before. I was qualified to do so. It'll happen again.

Just not in the 121 world.


(The above was my opinion. Yours may vary - may even differ completely and that's fine. I hope it does. R2F)




:bandit:
 

surreal1221

Well-Known Member
Re: "Regional Airline Pilots: Welcome To The Rest Of Your Ca

But Stan. . .don't take away the kids DREAM!!111
 

Firebird2XC

Well-Known Member
Re: "Regional Airline Pilots: Welcome To The Rest Of Your Ca

Thanks for the positive feedback and insightful follow-ons, everybody.

A point I don't think I entirely made clear was that Regional pilots will eventually be the "mainline" domestic air carriers- the original Legacies will be little more than brand names farmed out to affiliates. The Legacy carriers will likely do domestic long-haul and international operations, while domestic operations are bid against each other and driven to lower costs of labor.

Many of us will never make it to the "major leagues". The real problem with that, however, is that those of us still at the Regional level will be doing domestic flights for ludicrously low pay.

The other day I was chatting up a pretty gal who tends bar at night to pay for her masters degree. Her day job? Financial planner. She told me her boss's secretary makes twice what I do.

I was insulted and embarrassed.. but not because of what she said. I was insulted to think that my value as a highly proficient aviator is worth half that of someone who answers phones and types memos all day. I was embarrassed because myself and those like me have let it happen on our watch.
 

Firebird2XC

Well-Known Member
Re: "Regional Airline Pilots: Welcome To The Rest Of Your Ca

1. A source of income during a possible furlough in the airline industry
2. Job security to supplement my present job’s insecurity
3. Flexible work hours with the possibility of working from a remote location. working on the internet while on reserve/overnights)

.....
These days you can't responsibly make a regional to major jump in your career unless you have a backup plan that allows for an additional source of income to wait out a furlough.
Good points, but my overall point is that modern Regional pilots have ceased to be anything truly "Regional", and we deserve pay rates at comparable rates. Our short-sightedness as aviators have led to pay rates that are severely insufficient for the work we do.
 

surreal1221

Well-Known Member
Re: "Regional Airline Pilots: Welcome To The Rest Of Your Ca

The reason the secretary is paid more than twice what you make Charlie is simple.

No one grows up DREAMING of being a secretary.

There also are no "AllATP" 90 day courses for Secretaries, that play off of the perceived notion that being a Secretary is a job that hundreds if not thousands of people have grown up DREAMING of doing.

Food for thought.
 

cfii2007

New Member
Re: "Regional Airline Pilots: Welcome To The Rest Of Your Ca

Nice article.

Pay REALLY needs to increase for the first year FO....but probably won't.

The simple reality is, many of us will have a career with a regional, if we decide to stay with the airlines. It is important for us to not make a mad dash for a bottom feeder...as to "get in and get out" This is the mentality with so many newbie pilots, regardless if they are CFI's, 135 freight dogs or 121 FO's. A 250 hour university grad will not think twice about accepting a job in the right seat of a CRJ, for wages below the poverty line. Ask someone who has paid their dues by instructing and maybe flying freight for a few years, and you will probably hear a different answer.

It is pretty embarassing that the pimple faced kid at Kinko's makes more than a first year FO at "insert regional here".
 

SlumTodd_Millionaire

Evil Landlord Capitalist
Re: "Regional Airline Pilots: Welcome To The Rest Of Your Ca

Yeah, that last vacancy was an eye opener. I wouldn't have been able to hold CA on that one. In fact, I would have missed it by close to 100 numbers.
What happened? All of the low-timers getting their upgrade mins now, or just a really small vacancy? What's the junior employee number for a CA bid now?
 

jynxyjoe

The Kickin' Chicken!
Re: "Regional Airline Pilots: Welcome To The Rest Of Your Ca

Ur in aviation now Charlie. Marry wealth.

Good article.
 
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