• NC Software is proud to announce the release of APDL - Airline Pilot Logbook version 10.0. Click here to view APDL on the Apple App store and install now.

A Commuter Pilot's Life: Exhausted, Hungry and Poorly Paid

wrxpilot

The proud, the few
Joined
Jun 26, 2004
Posts
901
Total Time
-
Are you serious? Those of us who got into this profession prior to 2002 or so, had a reasonable expectation of up to 5 years max at a regional carrier then we would be off to a Major. After all, it was the Majors that made up the vast majority of flying, plus had a pension you got at 60 and a career value of 6 million dollars. Now the regionals make up half of the departures in the US, meaning no more jobs at the Majors for most regional pilots, and oh yeah, pay cuts at the Major airlines if you are lucky enough to get there and last but not least, no more pensions!

I think 100 grand for a job with what had a 6 million dollar career value is quite a bargain. I guess everyone was supposed to have a crystal ball huh? With 13,000 hours you must have been settled at your career airline long before 2001. Once again, another pilot who has his, now screw everybody else!

Are you serious? N1 was quoting a kid that recently spent over $100,000 to get into this industry and is now making a poverty wage. Like N1 said, that was his choice, and it was a choice that he obviously made well after 2002.

It blows my mind to hear guys complaining about their $100,000 loans and ******************** regional wages. For years now it has been possible to do thorough research prior to spending that kind of money, and for the life of me I cannot fathom why somebody wouldn't before blowing that much cash. They have only themselves to blame for making such stupid decisions.

The regionals know there is a limitless supply of these guys willing to spend obscene amounts of money doing the ATP 90-day fast track course, and then happily accept a job making $18,000/yr flying a jet. Until that changes, there is little incentive for the airlines to change pay and QOL. That's just a fact.
 

b19

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 4, 2003
Posts
117
Total Time
oldfrt
Can you say Multi crew CPL ?

So you think there is an oversupply of pilots, wait and see what happens when the ICAO Multi crew CPL becomes the law.

240 hours and you are a Boing/Airbus FO.
 

pilotyip

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 26, 2001
Posts
13,629
Total Time
14000
Are you serious? N1 was quoting a kid that recently spent over $100,000 to get into this industry and is now making a poverty wage. Like N1 said, that was his choice, and it was a choice that he obviously made well after 2002.
I am going to bet that the 100K was spent at an aviation college flight program. It is not necessary to spend that much money to get an RJ job. 18K will do the job.
 

Beaver79

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 31, 2006
Posts
105
Total Time
3000
I don't think anything in the last 10 years has helped out anyone at any airline (large or small.) We are in a crumbling industry where everyone (and many in government) thinks that people have a constitutional right to fly across the country for $59 each way and be delivered to their destination aboard a state-of-the-art $50 million dollar airliner piloted by Chuck Damn Yeager hisself.

-Things have got to change, or this industry will cease to exist-at least as a means of gainful employment.

-Personally, I think the next logical step in cheapness is Cabotage, and I think it will happen in the next decade. In that case, we are all well and truly screwed in the butthole.


You hit the nail on the head. It has less to do with the management of most of the majors and regionals and a whole lot to do with the commoditization of air travel. I don't often purchase plane tickets but the last time I did, I paid $88 plus tax to go 2000 miles. The cab fare at my destination for 25 miles was over $50. Consumers look at airline travel almost the same way they look at toilet paper...some cheap to be consumed as they need.
 

Max Powers

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 26, 2005
Posts
1,136
Total Time
9000+
Are you serious? N1 was quoting a kid that recently spent over $100,000 to get into this industry and is now making a poverty wage. Like N1 said, that was his choice, and it was a choice that he obviously made well after 2002.

It blows my mind to hear guys complaining about their $100,000 loans and ******************** regional wages. For years now it has been possible to do thorough research prior to spending that kind of money, and for the life of me I cannot fathom why somebody wouldn't before blowing that much cash. They have only themselves to blame for making such stupid decisions.

The regionals know there is a limitless supply of these guys willing to spend obscene amounts of money doing the ATP 90-day fast track course, and then happily accept a job making $18,000/yr flying a jet. Until that changes, there is little incentive for the airlines to change pay and QOL. That's just a fact.

I think you fools are part of the problem. What part of 18k a year for an airline pilot job is OK???? It is not right - why do we get paid so little? Unions have lost much of their power and it will take decades of pattern bargaining to get us back to where we should be.
 

instructordude

Playing with Fire
Joined
Apr 13, 2006
Posts
975
Total Time
3800
So you think there is an oversupply of pilots, wait and see what happens when the ICAO Multi crew CPL becomes the law.

240 hours and you are a Boing/Airbus FO.

The MPL is on its way and will be here for good. Better get use to it.
 

Ty Webb

Hostage to Fortune
Joined
Dec 10, 2001
Posts
6,525
Total Time
11000+
I am going to bet that the 100K was spent at an aviation college flight program. It is not necessary to spend that much money to get an RJ job. 18K will do the job.

Yes, but can also produce a big, smoking hole, as we've seen over and over again. A University Flight Program has a couple of advantages over a "Pilot Farm" in that you take dozens of classes often taught by folks with decades of experience . . . . where you learn little things like "High Altitude Aerodynamics" and perhaps learn the basis behind the regs, not just memorize the answers. I wouldn't recommend majoring in Aviation, but as a minor, it is good knowledge to have, if you plan to be a Pilot. Just my inflation-adjusted two cents.
 

pilotyip

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 26, 2001
Posts
13,629
Total Time
14000
True

Yes, but can also produce a big, smoking hole, as we've seen over and over again. A University Flight Program has a couple of advantages over a "Pilot Farm" in that you take dozens of classes often taught by folks with decades of experience . . . . where you learn little things like "High Altitude Aerodynamics" and perhaps learn the basis behind the regs, not just memorize the answers. I wouldn't recommend majoring in Aviation, but as a minor, it is good knowledge to have, if you plan to be a Pilot. Just my inflation-adjusted two cents.
But it is up to the individual to determine if the extra 82K is worth it to get that 18K job.
 

jonjuan

Honey Ryder
Joined
Feb 26, 2004
Posts
4,155
Total Time
3,000+
I think you fools are part of the problem. What part of 18k a year for an airline pilot job is OK???? It is not right - why do we get paid so little?
The same reason why people accept peanuts to play for years in the minor league baseball system. Most believe that if they keep at it, they will be rewarded with a comfortable career in the major leagues. Some of the things keeping this "hope alive" is the age 65 clock and the ensuing "hiring surge" and alpa's drum beat of "taking it back." As long as the hope and dreams still exist, nothing about the current situation will change.
 

N1atEcon

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 17, 2002
Posts
536
Total Time
18000
Once again, another pilot who has his, now screw everybody else!

I am not saying screw everybody else. What I am saying is that until people say "NO" to being treated like slaves this pattern will continue.
I was flying my little B99 and Caravan around making 30,000 plus in 1996-1997. I was getting my multi/turbine and it was good IMC time. There were guys who I worked with that went to Mesa and Trans States ect. They would call and ask if I wanted help getting on. I declined the offer. Why???? Because I just felt I was worth more than $11,000.00 (1996 fo pay) a year. My buds all said I was nuts and that I wasn't getting 121 time. I stuck with my plan and it worked for me. I also had a guy who wanted to walk my resume to the chief at National (now gone). I again declined. I was making 80,000 plus flying a mid size business jet around that sat 8 paxs. I couldn't justify flying a B757 around as a CPT for $60,000 a year. But there were guys killing each other for those jobs to get that Multi engine/121/jet time. So be it. If guys would say NO! this crap would end today. You have a choice, that is all I am saying.
 

SpauldingSmails

Aboard the sloop.
Joined
Aug 26, 2005
Posts
1,278
Total Time
>7000
But it is up to the individual to determine if the extra 82K is worth it to get that 18K job.


Right, and again it depends on the individual situation too. There's a lot you can do to help yourself.

I went to school with guys who were over $100k in the hole when they graduated, I got away with only being $22k in debt graduating from the same university in the same curriculum. You play your cards right, scrape and claw for some scholarship money, pay for some ratings out of pocket before you start college and you can come out with the same education and a lot less debt.
 

Beaver79

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 31, 2006
Posts
105
Total Time
3000
I find it amusing that so few people are able to identify why our industry is in this downward spiral. It has nothing to do with cheap airfare, sell out pilots, outsourcing, Mesa or the myriad of other symptoms that people point to as the problem. Come on, do you really think that if airlines charge more for airfare that they will suddenly start to pay us more?

It’s a simple supply demand curve. Pilots are in huge supply in an over capacity capitalistic market. Why; because it’s just too damn easy to become a pilot in the US (could have something to do with the over abundance of zero-to-hero flight schools).

Go where the demand is high and maybe you’ll find what you’re looking for.


Thank you oh brilliant economist..what exactly do you think customer willingess to pay is???? Maybe it is a determining factor of the supply demand equation! I swore somewhere in some BASIC economic class i heard that in my sleep that if prices are low, most likely supply is too high - sometimes way too high. Most intelligent businesses are unwilling to pay huge salaries because the revenues that the salaries are paid from are VERY uncertain these days. Terrorism, oil, swine flu and whatever other nonsensical emotional bull out there that affects customers traveling affects revenue. If you've paid any attention, most airlines attempt (albeit poorly due to the high variability) to match the supply with the demand. And no, if they raised airfares pilot salaries wouldn't skyrocket overnight. However, 3 or 4 years of good, solid, predictable profits and it would be real hard for mgmt and shareholders to deny any labor group a fair but rational pay raise. But thank you oh nobel prize winning economist for your dramatic oversimplification....
 

milky

Makin' the switch soon
Joined
Apr 7, 2008
Posts
436
Total Time
100+
I think you fools are part of the problem. What part of 18k a year for an airline pilot job is OK???? It is not right - why do we get paid so little? Unions have lost much of their power and it will take decades of pattern bargaining to get us back to where we should be.

When people stop showing up to get interviewed for those low-wage jobs, the price will go up. There is no evil conspiracy to pay you less. There is a supply of pilots that have been deemed 'good enough' to fly those airplanes that are making low wages. If your company overpays you to do the job somebody making less money will do, they will lose the battle in the long run. They will not be able to compete with the other airlines that are paying less since customers seem to be willing to accept being treated like cattle in order to save money on airfares. Until that changes, the only way to decrease costs is to keep them all down, and your salary is just a cost of doing business.

If the airlines cannot find pilots, they will raise their wages until they find the number/quality they need. In that case, prices will necessarily go up on flying. Since that is not the case, they will stay the same for now. If you are still flying for a company that pays less than you want to earn, you are PART OF THE PROBLEM. Either stage an industry wide strike or let your feet do the talking for you as you find another industry that pays what you think you deserve to earn.
 

wrxpilot

The proud, the few
Joined
Jun 26, 2004
Posts
901
Total Time
-
I am going to bet that the 100K was spent at an aviation college flight program. It is not necessary to spend that much money to get an RJ job. 18K will do the job.

Yes Yip, I'm very aware that it's cheaper to get your ratings. My goal was to pay cash for all of my flight training and do it as cheaply as possible. Although it wasn't for $18k, it wasn't a whole lot more than that. But that wasn't the point of my post either.

As far as some of you on here that think spending $100k at a flight college is how you prevent becoming a "smoking hole in the ground", I have to laugh. The nice thing about aviation is that there is a lot of information out there for anybody to study and learn from. Books such as "Aerodynamics for Naval Aviators" and Buck's "Weather Flying" for example. Or Imeson's "Mountain Flying Bible". Once can read the excellent "Air Disaster" series by Macarthur Job and peer in depth into major accident investigations and see what lessons were to be learned and stowed away for our own use. There's a ton of free stuff through NASA and the FAA, and AOPA/ASF also has a bunch of great material. From there, it's a matter of building real world experience to supplement the theory.

Sure there are guys out there that just read the Gleim book, barely passed their writtens, and sweated through their orals. But these underachievers would also do half ass work at the flying universities, so really I don't see what the advantage is.
 
Last edited:

wrxpilot

The proud, the few
Joined
Jun 26, 2004
Posts
901
Total Time
-
I think you fools are part of the problem. What part of 18k a year for an airline pilot job is OK???? It is not right - why do we get paid so little? Unions have lost much of their power and it will take decades of pattern bargaining to get us back to where we should be.

Speak for yourself. I never said it was ok, and I've never made anything close that low as a pilot.
 

doh

Jump seat shrink
Joined
Aug 26, 2003
Posts
4,017
Total Time
48 yrs
I thought we were going to require an ATP for both pilots. What happened to that?
 

instructordude

Playing with Fire
Joined
Apr 13, 2006
Posts
975
Total Time
3800
There were guys who I worked with that went to Mesa and Trans States ect. They would call and ask if I wanted help getting on. QUOTE]

Why would you need help getting on at places like Mesa and Trans States? Isn't that like calling a friend and asking him if he needs some help getting his Safeway Club Card?
 

Quimby

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 10, 2004
Posts
1,577
Total Time
matter
http://teamsterair.org/commuter-pilot%26%23039;s-life:-exhausted,-hungry-and-poorly-paid

A Commuter Pilot's Life: Exhausted, Hungry and Poorly Paid
May 18, 2009
The New York Times
May 17, 2009 Sunday

BYLINE: By DAVID M. HALBFINGER, MATTHEW L. WALD and CHRISTOPHER DREW; Reporting was contributed by Robbie Brown, Benedict Carey, Ray Rivera, Nate Schweber and Leslie Wayne.

This article was reported by David M. Halbfinger, Matthew L. Wald and Christopher Drew, and written by Mr. Halbfinger.

Alex Lapointe, a 25-year-old co-pilot for a regional airline, says he routinely lifts off knowing he has gotten less sleep than he needs. And once or twice a week, he says, he sees the captain next to him struggling to stay alert.

Neil A. Weston, also 25, went $100,000 into debt to train for a co-pilot's job that pays him $25,000 annually. He carries sandwiches in a cooler from his home in Dubuque, Iowa, bought his first uniform for $400, and holds out hope of tripling his salary by moving into the captain's seat, then up to a major carrier. Assuming, that is, the majors start hiring again.

Capt. Paul Nietz, 58, who recently retired from a regional airline, said his schedule wore him down and cost him three marriages. His workweek typically began with a 2:30 a.m. wake-up in northern Michigan and a 6 a.m. flight to his Chicago home bases. There, he would wait for his first assignment, a noon departure.

By the time he parked his aircraft at the last gate of the night, he was exhausted. But he would be due back at work eight hours and 15 minutes later. ''At the very most, if you're the kind of person that could walk into a hotel room, strip and lay down, you might get four and a half hours of sleep,'' he said. ''And I was very senior. I was one of the fortunate guys.''

The National Transportation Safety Board's inquiry into the Feb. 12 crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 outside Buffalo has highlighted the operations of the nation's regional airlines, a sector of the aviation industry that has grown to account for half the country's airline flights and a quarter of its passengers.


The details of that world have surprised many Americans -- the strikingly low pay for new pilots; the rigors of flying multiple flights, at lower altitudes and thus often in worse weather than pilots on longer routes, while scrambling to get enough sleep; the relative inexperience of pilots at the smaller airlines, whose training standards are the same, but whose skills may not be.

In hearings last week in Washington, witnesses and safety officials raised questions of whether the crew of the plane that crashed, killing all 49 people on board and one on the ground, had been adequately vetted and whether they might have been hampered by, among other factors, fatigue.

But regardless of whether training, fatigue or the cost-cutting that has hit the entire industry are ultimately determined to have contributed to the crash of Flight 3407, interviews with current and former regional pilots make vividly clear the daily challenges they face.

Peek inside a crew lounge at midnight in Chicago, and one could easily find every recliner occupied by an off-duty aviator trying to sleep despite the whine of a janitor's vacuum cleaner.

In any city with a sizable air hub, a search of Craigslist for the term ''crash pad'' will turn up listings for rooms for rent, often for $200 a month or less, a short drive from an airport, where a dozen or more pilots, unable to afford hotels, may come and go, barely letting the mattresses cool.

But many regional pilots, paid entry-level wages that are sometimes no better than a job at McDonald's, can not afford even a crash pad.

''I know a guy who bought a car that barely ran and parked it in the employee lot at his base airport, and slept in his car six or seven times a month,'' said Frank R. Graham Jr., a former regional pilot and airline safety director who runs a safety consulting firm in Charlotte, N.C. Pilots for some regional airlines have been known to sleep in the aisles of their planes.

Like the two Flight 3407 pilots, who caught free rides on planes from Florida and Seattle to their flight from Newark to Buffalo, pilots at regional airlines routinely hopscotch across thousands of miles to get to work. Some live with their parents, as the plane's first officer, Rebecca L. Shaw, did. Others, like Mr. Lapointe, live near former bases of operations that were shut down because an employer went out of business or a route was dropped.

Mr. Lapointe lives in Wakefield, Mass., 15 minutes from his old base in Boston. Since November, he has had to get himself to Kennedy International Airport in New York.

For Captain Nietz, a 27-year veteran, the biggest indignity was flying hungry. Delays were so routine that he seldom left his plane all day long, even ''to grab a biscuit.'' With food service long discontinued, he said, the only bites to be had were ''the occasional peanut -- and the airlines charge the crews for bags of peanuts and cheese and crackers.''

The renewed worries over commuter planes come as passenger airlines, regional and mainline, have achieved unprecedented levels of safety. Passenger deaths per million flights are down by more than two-thirds in the last 10 years. The 49 people on board the Buffalo flight were the first in 30 months to die during a scheduled flight on a passenger carrier.

But of the six scheduled passenger flights that have crashed since Sept. 11, 2001, only one has been from a major carrier. Four, including the one in Buffalo, were commuter flights; a total of 133 people died on those flights. (The fifth, a 50-year-old seaplane in Miami, was in neither category.)

And one of the worries about commuter pilots, fatigue, is also a problem for the mainline carriers; in fact, in some operations, the big airlines are more vulnerable. They are now conducting flights of 16 hours, across more time zones than a pilot can be expected to adapt to.

Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, who is chairman of the subcommittee on aviation, said Thursday that the group would hold a series of hearings next month. He said he was ''stunned'' by the Buffalo crew's lack of sleep and relative inexperience.

''We need to understand, is this an aberration, or are standards sufficiently lax or insufficient, or insufficiently enforced that we need to be concerned about a much broader set of issues?'' he said.

There is nothing wrong with commuting cross-country to fly, said Roger Cohen, the president of the Regional Airline Association, a trade group; after all, he pointed out, Capt. Chesley B. Sullenberger III, the US Airways pilot who ditched his crippled Airbus A320 in the Hudson River on Jan. 15, lives in Danville, Calif., and is based in Charlotte, N.C.

Mr. Cohen said he did not know what fraction of pilots commuted long distances to the city where they were, in airline parlance, ''domiciled.''

''Anywhere from 50 to 70 percent, pick a number,'' he said. But he said he did not think that number differed much between regional carriers and mainline carriers.

The Federal Aviation Administration, while it enforces one set of safety standards, says it does not know how the safety of the commuter airlines compares to the safety of the big carriers. It is working on that question because of the planned Senate hearings.

To the extent that Senator Dorgan's hearings address pilot fatigue, they will not be the first such effort. In 1995, under pressure from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Air Line Pilots Association, the F.A.A. proposed shortening pilots' workdays and redefining duty hours to include the time spent getting from plane to hotel and back.

But the airlines, which deny that pilot fatigue is a significant problem, opposed the changes, and the agency eventually backed off.

Patrick Smith, an airline pilot and aviation writer who spent years at a regional carrier, acknowledged that fatigue is a murky problem, with many causes and varying effects on different pilots, that is difficult to nail down as the main cause of an accident.

''But the fact that you can't make this easy and direct link isn't reason to ignore the problem,'' he said. ''Obviously it's there.''

For Mr. Weston, the 25-year-old pilot from Dubuque, life in the regional air business is a little like being an extra in a movie. The planes he flies some days are labeled United Connection, others Delta Express. But his employer is an airline few people have ever heard of: Republic.

It is a quick hop by air but a six-hour drive from home to his base in Indianapolis, where he stays overnight with an aunt before starting his four-day workweek. His workdays run 12 hours, sometimes 16, far from home.

He said this really was a dream job for him and many of his fellow pilots, even though some have to hold down second jobs.

Asked if he flew for pleasure, he laughed.

''I can't afford it,'' he said.

Why would you do that?
 
Top