Hiring by Regional Airlines is Taking off

By some estimates, as many as 40,000 pilots with major airline carriers are nearing the mandatory federal retirement age of 60.

Looking for a career as an airline pilot?

It's a good time to be looking, according to Doug Abbey, a partner of The Velocity Group, a Washington, D.C.-based aviation market research and consulting firm.

Airlines are using more regional jets - and those jets need pilots. By some estimates, as many as 40,000 pilots with major airline carriers are nearing the mandatory federal retirement age of 60. In an interview with the Akron Beacon Journal, Abby said the job prospects for regional pilots look good.

"Regional airlines are seen as a great training ground for those people who want to move on to the larger aircraft," he said. "The major airlines are not hiring - they're furloughing or laying off. The regionals are growing."

A representative from Universal Air Academy at El Monte Airport said he's seeing the same trend.

"A few of our instructors were recently hired by Pinnacle Airlines, a regional carrier out of Memphis," he said. "These pilots were told that Pinnacle is looking to hire 60 new pilots a month for the rest of the year."

Other certified flight instructors at the school have been lured away by SkyWest Airlines, which expressed a similar need for pilots, the Universal Air Academy representative said.

Universal Air Academy typically has about 50 students at any given time, ranging from beginners to pilots who are finishing up their training and are ready to be hired.

The average regional jet pilot with 10 years experience can make as much as $100,000 a year, although they may begin their career earning as little as $20,000 annually, according to industry experts.

The new Project Pilot learn-to-fly initiative, sponsored by the nonprofit Aircraft Owners And Pilots Association, can help prospective pilots learn more about the career field. The Project Pilot Web site, at www.projectpilot.org, offers a wide array of information and resources to someone who's thinking about learning to fly. The Web site also has an online database listing more than 3,500 schools where people can take that first flight.

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