The pilot shortage in the airline industry is no secret. In the next 10 years as many as 30,000 airline pilots are going to retire. There is no way those currently flying and learning to fly airplanes can be expected to fill this large gap. The airline industry is turning to the helicopter community to help fill this growing void.
The Regional Airlines are feeling the strain the most. The most senior pilots that are retiring are flying for the Majors. As they retire, the Regionals start losing their senior captains to the Majors as replacements which leads to first officers being promoted. This results in a rapidly growing shortage of qualified Regional first officers. To be an Airline Transport Pilot you need 1500 hours total time and at least 250 hours in airplanes with several specific hourly requirements as PIC, cross country, night, and multi-engine. Helicopter ATP-H pilots already have many of the pilot qualifications and we have found the transition to ATP-A can be done in 60-90 days depending on level of ability, opportunity to fly and access to funding. Most of the Regionals are sponsoring programs that pay for training, offer bonuses, and will hire military up to a year before ETS date to facilitate acquiring qualified first officers in their airplanes.
The primary target for the airlines has been military helicopter pilots that are exiting the service. We have been helping educate the airlines about the very experienced Part 135 helicopter captains that may even be more eligible for the regional airlines than the military. While the military has great experience in aviation, the Part 135 Off-Shore pilots are already very familiar with commercial regulations, customer service, and the delicacies of a commercial flight operation. These helicopter pilots are already ATP qualified as well, so it’s just an ATP-H converted to and ATP-A In today’s challenged oil and gas market, this is a great opportunity for early to mid-career helicopter pilots to make an exciting and lucrative transition.