What Would You Do? Regionals to Majors

Just FYI, SWA has a Chicago base too, and is at least competitive with Frontier or Spirit on your list.

If you were a junior FO in my position, what should I be actively doing in order to improve my chances of moving on to a major carrier as quickly as possible?

Primary Goal: to work for a Chicago-based major airline (United, American, Frontier, or Spirit)
Secondary Goal: to work for any of the 'Big 6' (UAL/DAL/AAL/SWA/FDX/UPS)
Tertiary Goal: to work for for any major airline U/LCCs

I have strong family ties to the Chicago area and would like to remain here so my own family can be near relatives. I would really rather not commute, but I wouldn't turn down DAL or the big cargo carriers if they called.

- 2,000+ total time
- 1,000+ military helicopter hours
- 200 SIC Part 121 hours and will be accumulating 80+ hours a month now that I'm a line holder
- Finishing Masters Degree (est. 3.85 GPA), Bachelors with a 3.5 GPA
- I have my Commercial Single Engine Land & Sea + Commercial Glider, CFI-A, CFII-A, MEI, CFI-H, CFII-H, AGI & IGI (if that matters or helps on apps)
- I was a helicopter instructor & evaluator in the military (if that counts for anything)
- A few years of cumulative volunteer experience that stopped in 2016

Future Considerations
- I should hit my 1,000 hours SIC to upgrade by Summer 2020
- I am at an AAG wholly-owned regional, but with flow projected at 7-8 years, I am just happy it forces attrition from the top

1. What additional experience, activities, or credentials will help bolster my major airline apps?
Any particular type of volunteer experience, organizational affiliations, education, airline-specific jobs, union volunteering, job fairs, etc. now or in the future when I have more 121 experience?

2. Are AirlineApps (or Pilot Credentials) and/or resume review services worthwhile? What has your experience been and do you have any advice/recommendations?
If you have had a positive experience, which services to you recommend and why?

3. When would you recommend attending interview prep services (Emerald Coast, Marshall Cage, RST, etc.), if at all?
Additionally, what are the pros and cons in choosing one service over the other? I'm assuming some specialize over others.

4. What networking tips & pointers would you give in order to obtain internal letters of recommendation for the majors?
This is probably the weakest area of my apps. Most of my aviation career was spent in the military. I didn't do "RTP" like the exodus of mil helicopter pilots are presently doing, but as of today, military helicopter experience doesn't seem to be worth a lot to major carriers as most of these mil helicopter pilots are still slugging it out in the regionals. Mil FW guys, collegiate aviation programs, and even some 141/61 CFIs have a much better network in the airline world. I am wondering what practical ways I can get myself out there more in order to network better with pilots working in the big leagues.

5. Is it worth it to leave my regional before getting 1,000 or more TPIC to go to Frontier (or even Spirit)?
I know TPIC seems to be the main discriminator in getting hired at the 'Big 6,' but F9 has recently been hiring mil rotorheads with zero 121 TPIC – I may stand a chance of getting picked up. If they grow as projected, getting in during the next 18 months or so seems like a great opportunity. My main concern is that F9's plans don't come to fruition or they get bought out/merge with, say, Spirit, and upgrade time or projected growth go out the window. I might be kicking myself when I could have held out for possibly getting hired at UAL, SWA, or flowing to AAL and have better career progression while living in the Chicago area. Additionally, how big of a base is ORD for F9 & NK? UAL and AAL have an overwhelming presence and seems better for someone that wants to be Chicago based, but if F9 or NK's bases are stagnant or even shrinking, it's probably not work it.

For what it's worth, I have been a long-time lurker and found the attitudes and advice from people here to be far better in comparison to those at "the other airline pilot forums." ;) Looking forward to getting a discussion going that may help others.
Are you saying you commute to FLL as lineholding CA, but would be rsv CA in ORD? Dang, I thought FLL was senior. If you live in ORD, is reserve that bad you don’t want to be rsv in base?
Yep thats what I'm doing, so far it's worked out ok. With reserve I'd have no schedule flexibility so holding a line in FLL affords me that.
Just focus on meeting the minimum requirements for your primary targets then do whatever you can to network with people who A) already work there or B) you think might get hired there before you. Can you fly with senior people at your regional that are about to flow?

There is really no easy way to do that other than patience and perseverance. Sometimes you might have to use the dating technique that ugly dudes like me use.....ask everyone (for a recommendation or opportunity to network) and eventually someone may say yes. Not real great for the ego, but nothing worth doing comes easy. Ideally the recommendations need to come from people you've flown with.

I could've had 5000 747 PIC time on 6 continents but until I had a few letters of recommendation and people that would vouch for me, I had no shot at my current job. For the top jobs, that just seems to be the way it is. For my regional and ACMI jobs, I didn't have any recommendations, but the pay and benefits sadly reflected the lack of difficulty in obtaining the positions.

If you can't do any of that, and even if you can, take first upgrade and build a big stack of 121 jet PIC. If you end up with about 3000 hours of jet PIC and things still haven't worked out, consider an ACMI for a boeing/airbus type. By that time your flow through would probably be close though.
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Your quals look great for where you are in the 121 world right now. The Masters and the instructor ratings are all very helpful. Number one- keep flying as much as you can and upgrade when you get the chance. Number two- keep your airline applications updated and your logbook neat and tidy. Number three- I recommend starting interview prep now. I used ECIC and RST. Some same Cage is better for United. Either way, if you start prepping now (e.g., thinking about your stories, studying that Naval Aviators stuff) you’ll make your life easier when the hiring department from United or Delta sends you an email to schedule your interview.
How do I know this? After I finished my masters and got 1000 PIC at the regionals I got attention from JetBlue, Delta, and FedEx. I made my life very stressful by only starting to prep after the interviews were scheduled. I had absolutely no internal recs at FedEx and only updated my app once after creating it. No ones knows what you need to do for sure, but keep yourself well rounded and don’t be a a jerk!
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