Q: Can you please explain how pilots are promoted? What abilities and characteristics must a pilot demonstrate to move to larger planes and more favorable destinations?
— Collin, Pa.
A: Promotions can vary from airline to airline. In the USA, many airlines use seniority to determine when a first officer may bid to be a captain. Once awarded the bid, the first officer must qualify with all the requirements.
Some airlines in other countries promote first officers based on experience and evaluation of the captains with whom he or she has flown. In all cases, a pilot must show exemplary flying skills and professional conduct.
Q: How long does it take for the first officer to move up to become the captain?
— Mike, Concord, N.H.
A: There is not a set time to upgrade to captain. The expansion of the operator, captains’ retirements and attrition all are factors. Some first officers have waited decades to upgrade, while others get opportunities in only a few years.
Q: I have my CFI license, and I don’t know much about the regional airlines. What type of things should I consider when looking at different companies?
— Zach, Fla.
A: The U.S. regional airlines require 1,500 hours of flight time for a civilian trained pilot. If you have that flight time, then I would recommend that you look at the quality of training provided, the schedule requirements, the quality of life as a pilot and career progression potential.
Q: My son is a recent graduate of UPT for the USAF. If he makes a career of the military, would it allow him to enter commercial aviation on a higher pay scale?
— Mike, Tulsa
A: The pay rates for pilots are the same, regardless of prior military service.
Q: How much does a 737 pilot make a year?
— submitted via email
A: It varies by the operator. It would not be uncommon for a captain of a Boeing 737 NG (the modern variation of the world’s most popular passenger airplane) to make $150,000 to $200,000 a year.
Q: How does a pilot’s flight experience relate to his skill? Some pilots end careers with 10,000…