FlightAware Discussions

Becoming a pilot...

Hey all, I’m doing some research into becoming a pilot, and would like your collective advice. I simply want to know the best way forward in order to becoming a pilot for a major airline.


If you plan on having a family and staying married- become a Doctor or some other profession that keeps you home.

It’s not as glorious as it seems

Thanks for responding. For the record, I am not doing this because it seems glorious.

Assuming I dedicated the whole of my time to gaining the proper credentials, how much time would it take to earn the certifications necessary to be hired by a company like Delta?

What’s the path to gaining the credentials?

Thanks again! Any and all actionable information is greatly appreciated!

The best advice I can give you is NEVER let someone tell you you can’t.

I also suggest, make a goal. And work from point A to B.

That’s also good advice. Also try to make studying fun! And Research!

I read your post yesterday and thought about it for quite a while before I decided to post any reply.
Let me give you a little background about myself. I don’t work for the airlines, never have and never will. I’ve been a corporate pilot for 25 years, with a few years teaching students before that. I’ve paid for all of my ratings and built up my time and experience to get those ratings. I can’t give you any specific details about airline hiring requirements. But I may be able to give you some ideas to think about.

It sounds like you have the idea that all you have to do is get the ratings and you’ll be able to apply at someplace like Delta. If it was that simple and easy, then a lot of guys would be doing the same thing. None of us would bother having to teach or fly freight at night in piston twins or fly the regionals, slogging through all kinds of weather earning the skills and experience the majors require.
Applying and getting hired are two different things, there’s lots of guys in those shoes, stand in line with the rest.

As for the ratings required, you’ll start where everyone else started, by getting your private, commercial, instrument and multi-engine. Those are the bare minimums for the regionals, and eventually you’ll need an ATP. All those cost thousands and thousands of dollars and they take time to get the training too. As for how much calendar time to get the ratings, I don’t know, and it would be hard for anyone else to put it in numbers too. Let’s just say if you could do it in maybe a year and a half as a WAG, you would have the ratings, but you would be lucky if you didn’t burn yourself out doing it. You can only fly so many hours per day, past that point and you won’t be learning anything.
If you still interested, call some flight schools and tell them your plan and get their ideas on what can be accomplished.

OK, let’s say you did that and have your commercial, instrument and multi and a couple hundred hours. You still don’t have any real experience flying out there in the real world. I’m guessing the majors would require a least a couple thousand more hours experience before they would even look at your resume. The only real way that I know to get that is flying charter/corporate/regional to get to the majors. Unless you join the Navy/Air Force, which is a whole different path.

I’m not trying to throw a wet blanket on your dreams, I’m just trying to show you some of the realities you’ll have to deal with in that plan.
Oh, and Flyboy is right, there is a price to be paid for being a pilot for a living. You can count on spending many weekends, holidays, birthdays and anniversarys in hotels, instead of at home.

A bunch of good answers. Everybody has a slightly different route they took, generally how much time and money you have to spend will determine the amount of time it takes. A year and a half to two years is a good ball park estimate to get the basics out of the way. Any faster the learning curve tends to flatten out, any slower and, well, the learning curve also flattens out. There is a sweet spot and it depends on you and also your school/instructor. Don’t be afraid to change either or both.
After the basics, you will spend years building your flight time. Get your CFI, some people start down the same path you have in mind but decide they like instructing and maybe doing some light airplane charters at the same time and make it a lifetime career. After all you are home most nights that way. With the bunch of people here you will hear stories of hauling sky divers, towing gliders and all sorts of other flying just to build time. Later you can add night freight in a Caravan and upgrade later to a twin. Gotta have some multiengine time to get through the door at the regionals.
Lest you think you will be flying for Delta in 3 years most major airlines have flow through agreements with their regionals, work for Sky West, Horizon etc. for 10 years and you are eligible to upgrade to the mother ship. Those agreements differ and not everybody has one but the majors really like that experience.
The most important thing is to LOVE flying. I’ve flown with guys that said if they could make as much digging ditches they would rather do that M-F and be home every night. To a person they weren’t very good pilots.

Glad to hear you want to become a pilot! I’m an Air Force and civilian pilot so I can speak to both the civilian and military options you have to becoming an airline pilot.

Your first option is to take flying lessons at your local airport and start getting your FAA licenses. You’ll start off with your private pilots’ license and work your way up to an airline transport pilots’ license. You’re looking at about $250,000 in cost to get all the licenses you need to even apply for an airline job. Along the way you’ll probably do some flying as a flight instructor so you can make some money, gain some experience, and build your hours. There are also four year aviation colleges that will cost a lot but will get you on a good path.

Your second option which doesn’t sound like you’re too interested in is to try to become a military pilot. To do this you’ll need to go a four year college and get your degree. You can do this through any civilian university that has an ROTC program or through a military service academy. Military service academies are free, but are very difficult to get into. There are tons of full ROTC scholarships out there too which will pay for your entire college costs at a civilian school. Once you’re in school you’ll need to work your butt off to get good grades and try to earn a pilot slot. Once you get one, you’ll get over $1 million dollars in training and experience for free, get to do some of the coolest flying other there, and also qualify for free civilian pilots licenses. If you’re already older but under 29 and have a college degree then you can apply for officer training school.

Bottom line: There are numerous paths to becoming a pilot and flying for the airlines. It’s just a matter of your personal preferences, what you can afford, and how serious you are about becoming a pilot. I just finished a book called “Your Road to Wings: How to Become an Air Force Pilot” which will be available on Kindle any day now if you want to at least read up a little more on the military option.

Let me know if you want to talk more specifics or if I can help you at all.

Good Luck,

Wow, TONS of great information, everyone. I’ll reply back when I have more time to frame some appropriate questions. Even after reading, I’m still very interested. Every vocation costs a lot in terms of time investiture, and I am certain willing to put in my hours here.

Again, many thanks! More to come from me soon!

aero-news.net/AnnTicker.cfm? … d2e0a58234

To even have your resume looked at ( for a F.O. position) , you will need at the minimum 1500 hrs, ATP written test (at least taken), Instrument rated, multi time/rated, x-country and PIC time (exactly how much all depends on the Airline), valid class A medical . Just to state a few.
More in depth info can probably be found on one of “Regional” airline’s website. -> -> -> expressjet.com/careers/pilots/


No way. Sorry. Are you in America??

65k will get you in a zero to hero program like atp, but you should be able to do it a traditional flight school for 45ish. That will get you in the door at a regional with no 4 year degree.

I know you probably received great training in the military, but it was not worth 250k. Unless ofcouce, you drove the space shuttle…then id shake your hand sir.

As a current regional pilot trying to go to delta, let me tell you that I love flying but the reality is that you can expect:

-sitting reserve for at least a year. Reserve is what it sounds like: you fill in when someone is sick, or drops a turn to go home on early, or times out etc.

YOU HAVE TO BE IN BASE for usually five day reserve sequences, even if you don’t have any scheduled flying.

For a reserve day you are ‘on call’ for 16hrs. If they do need you, you must be able to report ready for duty with in 1 to 2 hours depending on the company that you work for

oh yeah you only get paid for 3ish of those 16hrs that you are available, unless you end up flying more than that for that day.

**Commuting **Unless you live in base, you will be welcomed into the world of jumpseating. You can expect to spend a good amount of your time planning commutes. Flights are usually full and keep in mind that when you work for a regional, every mainline employee (including rampers!!) have a higher boarding priority than you. so generally they will fill the back, which only leaves the jumpseat up front. If you are coming to/leaving from a big city, that will leave one seat with a bunch of other pilots fighting for it, well not really because seniority solves that quickly.

Just to give an example, my last commute home had 0 open seats, 20 non-revs listed (those are employees/family member trying to get on) with 3 jumseaters listed. Thats usually the case for me EVERY WEEK TWICE A WEEK.

If you already live near a airline base that you can hold, boy are you lucky. But remember, you simply cant move. Bases are usually in big cities (New York, San Fran, Philly, etc.) which means an apartment will cost about 50% more than you earn a month.

**Days off- **Expect 11-12 days of a month. Buttttt…

expect to start early on day one and late on day number last. What does this mean?

Well usually you will have 3 days off in a row. Lets say you have tues, weds, thurs off.
(dont expect to see a weekend off in 5 years, which sucks if you are like me who actually attends church regularly)

You got done at 11pm late Monday night, so you cant commute home because at that time there is no more flights anywhere, which means you get home midday on tues. Then you start at 5am on friday, so you have to go in the night before. That leaves you only ONE full day at home.

Just a few other things to expect:
-its not uncommon to have a 13-14hr duty day, but you only get paid for what you fly which will never be more than 8 (because of FAA regulations). Thats six hours of your life that you will spend a day at airports without any compensation.

-overnights are generally short (min 8hrs, but usually 12ish)

-hotels are generally crappy

-NO, you dont get to keep the airplane all day, often you will have a 30 min turn (a turn is the amount of time from when you land to the time you are scheduled depart again) with an airplane swap thats a 15 minute walk away. So you have to grab all your bags, walk over to the new plane, re-stow them, etc.

-6 legs (individual flights) a day are a norm. This is very exhausting.

-from the time you get hired, its running about an avrg. 5yr time frame industry wide before you up grade to captain.

**And alllllll of the above for above for about $22k your first year! (and the 22k is BEFORE taxes, medical, and other deductions, etc.) MY first year I earned 24k, but after all my deductions and taxes I was paid a net right around 15k. (I made more when I drove a Zamboni at the local ice rink as a 16 year old)

The bottom line is:

Dude if you want to fly for the airlines, DO IT. I want to, so that why im here. I knew what I was signing up for, so I cant complain. I try to make my days as smooth as possible by focusing what is positive. So if that is really your dream, go for it, just know that you will be making a ton of sacrifices at the beginning.

details? just ask.