Can I Get An Airline Job With Low Time? (Airlines Are Hiring Now)

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Every low-time pilot that has ever had the desire to fly for a living has asked themselves the same question over and over.  How do I build quality flight time and how do I build enough time to qualify for a job?  Can I get an airline job with low time?

Can I Get An Airline Job With Low Time?

Never has the opportunity been more significant in the past 50 years for a low-time pilot to find a job as an airline pilot. Today almost every airline has a Cadet program that will take you even with zero hours to 1500 hours and train you to become an Airline First Officer.

Can I Get An Airline Job With Low Time?

There has never been a better time to get an airline job even if you have no time. The airlines must have new blood to fill the empty cockpit seats in order to remain competitive. 

1. Where Should I Look For A Flying Job?

All the low-time pilots know about all the pipeline jobs, aerial photography, and flying skydivers, to name a few.

But none of these jobs give you any stability or real knowledge of how many hours you might build. And if you’re not flying every day, you will not get there until you’re an old man.

I’m not trying to knock any of these jobs here. I’m just saying that it’s hard to build time and you don’t get paid what you’re worth. At least from my experience.

If you’re serious about becoming an airline pilot, then read on.

2. Airline Pilot Development Programs.

A. Mesa Airlines.

Mesa Airlines has probably the most innovative and progressive program for the development of pilot careers.

The program requires Commercial Instrument pilots only. There are ways for people with no experience to begin a career as a pilot with other airlines.

A Pilot who is lucky enough to be successful in being chosen to attend Mesa’s pilot program will receive a cost-effective way to build the 1500 hours necessary.

These guys are going to use the Pipistrel Aircraft’s Pro Alpha Trainer, which is a two-seat high-wing airplane.

This airplane has FAA certification and there are over five hundred of these trainers flying around the world presently.

They are economical enough that they will allow Mesa to charge you 25 bucks per hour for Flight Training and you can fly up to 40 hours a week. There are also no upfront fees.

They have financing programs in place that will allow you to pay back the money over a three-year period after you become employed.

They will employ graduates in the Regional jet or the Boeing 737.

First Officer pay was just raised 118% to $100.00 so a 3-year payback at 0 interest should be doable.

So far Mesa’s program looks the most intriguing to me because it’s a flow-through from Mesa Airlines to United if you choose to go. A very good company to serve as a Flight Officer, which I would snap up.

An Update on Mesa and its partnership with American Airlines was just released on Nov 15, 2022, which wasn’t good for Mesa.

American’s CFO alluded to concerns about reliability and Mesa’s financial burdens as reasons to part ways with Mesa. They cited it as failing to find pilots at a pace consistent with the needs of the airline.

This will be an ongoing story and how this news will affect Mesas’ pilot program remains to be seen.

I saw nothing related to their deal with United Airlines changing.

Mesa Airlines CEO responded by saying it was a mutual understanding that the companies part ways. He said that Mesa was moving forward with United Airlines pilot flow-through program. His evaluation of the reliability of Mesa stated that Mesa is more reliable than American.

Apply online here. 

B. SkyWest Airlines.

SkyWest has a good Pilot Pathway Program that gives you an opportunity to have an interview for a First Officer position during hiring periods. You also have increased seniority in ground school.

The program has associations with other companies that give tuition and/or sign-on bonuses on successful completion of ground school.

You must be in a flight instruction school or campus until you meet SkyWest’s Airline Transport standards.

C . United Aviate.

A dedicated airline pilot candidate needs to invest in their future and United has an opportunity that allows you to become a United Pilot with no experience.

They will help you complete your Private through your ATP. The Private is free but you will pay for the remaining costs of training.

They give you exceptional financing options to cover your training.

They conduct training in Phoenix with individual living quarters or you can choose to live off-campus at your own expense.

The cost of this program is $71,200.00 but you complete training in 1 year.

Remember that you must be completely dedicated.

I will tell you from experience that if you want to fly as a Captain with United Airlines you will need to jump through lots of hoops to get there no matter how you get to ATP standards.

You have an exceptional chance of getting to Captain with United with this program.

D. American Airlines.

American is offering an opportunity to fly with the largest airline in the world and find a career as a Captain.

This is an excellent offer for a job as a pilot with one of the three wholly owned American companies, Envoy, Piedmont, and PSA.

You then have a flow thru program to the right seat for American Airlines.

The cost for this training is $99,000.00, and, and, and it is one of the most intensive training programs, but once again, after getting all the ratings, you must build time.

You must meet ATP standards to move into the right seat on any airline.

E. Other Airlines.

Every Airline has had to create some type of recruitment program that will fill empty Captain seats.

Frontier Airlines has a two-year program that is partnered with ATP Flight Schools so the cost is in excess of $100,000.00.and 35 candidates per month will be accepted.

There is a monthly stipend of $500.00 until 750 hours are reached and thereafter $1000 per month to 1500 hours.

Southwest Airlines has a four-year cadet program that costs $101,50.00 and all can apply. There are no set parameters.

JetBlue’s training is thru the CAE academies and I suggest taking time to read thru their pilot training program, especially if you want to fly for a foreign carrier.

Piedmont Airlines. This company is finishing its next class enrollment on Jan. 31, 2023, which blew me away. The pilot cadet program is likely the best one I have seen lately, which pays you a $30,000.00 bonus for joining and allows you to build hours where and when you want.

This is the fast track to American Airlines.

I would expect Piedmont to offer new classes. The March 31, 2023 class accepting applications till Jan. 31 is offering a $100,000.00 payday bonus to pilots with 950 hours or more and $75,000.00 to pilots with 500 to 950 hours of “Qualified” Part 121 hours for sign-on by Jan 31, 2023, for class before Mrch31, 2023.

If this works for recruiting now, I would watch closely for other opportunities. 

Do check their website for the program details here.

Final Thoughts.

You must have reached ATP standards to qualify for an airline job, and it is very unlikely that the FAA will relent and lower that standard.

Relaxed hiring parameters for many airlines have changed to reflect the huge need for new pilots and they are offering lower hour requirements for class dates.

The airlines have hired over 11,000 pilots from Jan. to Oct. 2022 and expect 12,000 more new pilots to be hired in 2023.

If you believe you can become an Airline Pilot, then study the company you like best and APPLY.

The time is perfect to achieve your goal, but be prepared for a lot of hard work. Just do not give up.

Invest in yourself and you could be an Airline Captain within 5 years making very good money!

Remember that a 1500-hour pilot is a low-time pilot.

Related: Who Has The Best Pilot Job? (Some Insights In Career Flying)

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