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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What Should I Do?

Yesterday I received a great question, and one that many have been asking in some form or another.

I am a Junior at UND and am trying to figure out where I would like to end up in terms of an airline. I am from MSP and Mesaba and then Northwest/Delta was the path I wanted to take. When Mesaba was sold to Pinnacle my thoughts changed- Skywest then hopefully Delta, but I am also interested in SWA and JBU. 

We have a new program at our school called the gateway program with JetBlue and Cape air. Basically the program works like this (btw, there is no contract involved) : You do an internship at cape air as an undergrad for a semester (after interviewing to get accepted into the program). Then after graduation you flight instruct for one year, then you head out to Cape Air where you fly their 402s for 3-4 years. Then you get an interview with Jetblue. (Basically, they said the entire program is an interview with JetBlue). I would end up at JetBlue at the age of 25-26. 

I was wondering what your thoughts are- my problem is I am not sure that JetBlue is where I want to go (nothing against the company, I have heard they are awesome to work for). Basically, as you know the other option is to go to a regional and get PIC 121 turbine. At cape air you get 121, but it is not turbine. 

Basically my dilemma is if I fly for cape and don’t get hired, then I have no turbine time. If I go to a regional my options are more open, but I probably won’t get hired by a major at 25-26 as I would with the gateway program. Basically I am curious for your opinion on the matter. I hope this isn’t too confusing of a question and I apologize for the length.  

UND your original plan was excellent, then everything changed. Unfortunately, in five years everything could change again. Big question… who will buy JetBlue? Chances are if you go there, you may have multiple airline jobs in your future. That’s not a bad thing.

As you said, JetBlue is not a guarantee.  The strength of the Gateway plan is that you will have a guaranteed flying job after graduation with the opportunity to build hours. That's huge in today’s environment. How many hours will you have at the end of that program? Granted it’s not turbine time, but it is total time.

What you need to look at is, if you stay with that entire program what your resume will look like at the end of the four years, and what airlines will you be qualified to work for if JetBlue doesn’t pan out. My guess is, there is a higher probability that they will be bought verses them not wanting you.
The Jet Blue job sounds like a great deal if you can get it. If they are still in business, and if you end up there, and if you decide you still want to go to another carrier, you can get a couple thousand hours of jet time with them, before you’re thirty. With that you can go anywhere. With the extra years under your belt, you’ll have more information of what the future might hold in our industry. Better chance to know who you want to fly with.  I know thirty-years-old sounds ancient to you now. But a thirty-year career, if you fly until you’re sixty, is a long career.

The question is, if you don’t take this opportunity will you be able to land one of those Regional jobs? Has the 1500 hour requirement impacted that Regional opportunity? Remember, if there is no contract, and you get into that program, you can apply to other airlines if you decide it’s not a good deal, and you’re ready to move on.   

You need to ask yourself, what are my options if I go the Cape Air route, and the Jet Blue portion doesn’t happen? How many hours will I have? Where will I be qualified to go from there?

This is one industry that you cannot second guess.

A little story… a pilot I know, Ray Burke, came out of the military with an exceptional background. He left the military with three job offers waiting: American Airlines, Braniff, and Eastern. He loved Texas and that’s where he wanted to raise his family. He said, “American Airlines already had 350 pilots and I can’t see them getting much bigger.” So he went to Braniff. Many years later I met him at America West, where he ended up retiring as a 757 first officer with many airlines behind him.

If we had a crystal ball, it would be easy.  

My advice, weighing all the options, unless you have a better job guaranteed, I think that you can’t lose gaining the experience of teaching and working at a 121 operation, especially if you have the flexibility to leave if something better comes up. The opportunity to get jet time at JetBlue is great. If it turns out that won’t happen, then you have the ability, with the hours and experience you’ve gained, to fly for a Regional for a couple years, then pick any airline you choose.

You have a great career ahead. Never pass up an opportunity unless there's a better one standing beside it. Give Cape Air your best, and the best will come back to you. Whatever you decide, you may not know if it's the right decision until you're retired.

 Airline pilots… what do you guys think our NDU future graduate should do?

Most importantly, remember to Enjoy the Journey!


  1. Get qualified in another profession - employment in aviation doesn't offer stability of employment these days.

  2. Hi Karlene,
    Thanks for taking the time to respond! I was really diaspointed about mesaba/pinnacle- mesaba's flowthrough was my ticket to DAL! (plus I had some contacts at Mesaba). The 1500 hour rule, from what my professors say, won't be implemented for another three years, so with me graduating in a year and a half it shouldn't be a big issue. The only thing is many of our flight instructors are finally getting hired with regionals again. Professors here are predicting a huge hiring upswing in a year or so. My reservation is that, upon graduating, I could get hired at a regional in an RJ at the age of 21. When the age 65 kicks in, and a lot of regional pilots start heading to the majors, I could hopefully upgrade to CAPT at 23 or 24 after a few years. Then, when I am 25 or so, I would have roughli 3500 turbine, 1500 PIC, and would be ripe material for Delta (that is my dream, anyway!). I guess I feel like going to a regional I would have more options as to where I would be able to go-maybe not? I don't know- I am just writing my thought process- like you said, I won't kmow if I made the right decisions until I retire! As a barely 19 year old, with all of the changes that are going on, i have no idea who is stable and who isnt. I didn't even think of the point you made- i wouldn't even be at jetblue for 5 years or so, and a lot can happen! Sorry for the rambling, but I guess what I am asking now is do you think I would more options on major airlines if I were to go to a regional instead of cape?
    Thanks for taking the time to write post on my question!
    (have you flown with Capt. Ron O. (I don't want to put his full name on here w/o his permission!)out of DTW?

  3. NDU... I'm only posted's comment because it's kind of funny.
    Follow your passion! Stability is overrated unless it's in an airplane. Keep flying. Do what you love. All else will work out. :)

  4. Way to be negative PIREP! If everyone had that attitude there would be NO pilots in the sky!

  5. NDU... If you can get hired at a Regional, then go for that. That would be the best of the two options. But I wouldn't close the other door, until you have that other job. You're in the right place at the right time when you graduate. I do believe we're going to have a shortage of pilots too. I think you know in your heart what you want to do. And I'm looking forward to flying with you at Delta!

    Keep me posted on where you end up! I would love an update.

  6. Unfortunately I have shiny regional jet syndrome!(although I know the lifestyle and pay isn't great). I think I am going to interview for Cape Air and see if I even get accepted into the program- I will make a decision from there, but I just don't think Cape Air is the right fit for me. As far as PIREP goes- yeah, I know- my dad works a paper pushing job, and I can tell you I would rather have an unstable job that is interesting and rewarding than a job that is boring, mundane, and stable. I think a regional is where I will end up, and then on to Delta (hopefully). I will keep you updated- my interview with cape air will be mid October. Thanks again for answering my queries- there is an overabundance of airline pilots these days that are very negative, and I know there is a lot to be negative about, but as with anything there are lots of positives of the job. So thanks for being enthusiastic and encouraging- you are like the second airline pilot that I know that is openly enthusiastic about the job! :) Got my commercial checkride here in 2 weeks or so, then I can tell everyone that I am a commercial pilot!
    Thanks again
    (enjoy the A330- I liked the post about disconnecting the automation at the TOD in the worst weather you saw on the trip!

  7. Thanks Dan, I think you have an excellent plan! I do know there are many airline pilots that are negative. But I always ask why they are still doing it if the job is so horrible. People can find negative with whatever they do, and live there. It's a shame they don't realize it's their attitude that is making their job suck, not the job itself.
    Good luck on your commercial ride! You're going to do great.

    Thank you so much for your comment on my post. More posts like that to come when I get back out in the skies. Today was just a tough teething day for my grandson.

    Which is more challenging you ask? lol. Guess.

  8. I believe you on which is more challenging- I amn the oldest of four siblings- my sis. is ten years younger and all of my cousins are younger, so guess who has been the babysitter/helper all these years!
    Congrats by the way on another grandchild!

  9. Ahhh... Thank you Dan. I think childcare definitely prepares you to handle any crew and multitasking in any situation. ;) You're good to go.

  10. I have thought about this question and if I had to start over I would have done things differently than CFI.. CFII.. MEI ... Freight ... Charter... Regional... I would have gotten some good information about different options like

  11. Thanks Bored Pilot! So... really, why are you bored? :)

  12. Looked at your link Bored Pilot, why do you feel the need to advertise three videos when you make such a great living from flying now?

    Karlene, do you really believe there will be enough pilots for the future in aviation? Flight training is so expensive, many want to learn, but cannot fund it :( Schemes are few and far between.

    I wish you every success Dan, whatever path you decide to take.

  13. Dan... we will need pilots! You're going to love what you have to hear next week about the retirements at Delta. :)

  14. Believe I read about that on a link that was on Twitter yesterday about the retirements at Delta.

    Stereotypical Captain = Older Gent with grey hair,looks like he is ready to retire!

    Sorry to you younger male/female captains out there, but that is the image I think of when thinking of captains, they have to retire some time.

  15. Yeah...but then age is all about perspective. It's tough when that perspective is younger than I am. More to come on those thoughts soon. :)


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