Regional airlines use smaller aircraft that are right-sized for smaller airports with fewer passengers. These airlines transport smaller groups of passengers domestically or to limited international routes not far from base. Not only do they provide access to smaller markets, but they also help the big airlines beef up their service to medium-sized markets where they'd otherwise only be able to run a flight or two per day. Regional airlines are often subsidiaries to the larger airline, such as Stobart air and Aerlingus, or Compass airlines and Delta.
Regional airlines typically require pilot applicants to have a minimum of 1,500 of flight time, your Airline Transport Pilot certificate and, their multi-engine ratings.
Regional carriers typically operate aircraft, such as regional jets and turboprops, with a seating capacity ranging from 20 to 130 seats, on short to medium-haul routes. Examples of regional aircraft pilots operate are the CRJ 200/700/900, ATR42/72, Dash 8 Q300/Q400, ERJ 170/190. Many of these aircraft feature advanced technology to help ensure a smooth flight experience for passengers, along with specially-designed wingtips and other fuel-saving devices that provide enhanced economic performance. For passengers, especially those in smaller markets not served by larger airlines, regional airlines are a lifeline.
A typical day in the life of a regional aircraft pilot could start with a three-day trip, which means you leave home on the first day and return home on the third day. At the end of the first day, you would stay in a hotel and establish the “showtime” for day two. Once at the airport, after boarding you depart the gate, taxi to the runway, and fly the quick 72-mile flight to the next destination and drive to your hotel for the evening. You wind down, relax and get ready to fly home on day three to your base. When you awake, you repeat the same process and go back to where you started with your flight crew. All told, the flights are short, the route is smooth and the flying is beautiful.
Working for a regional airline is a flying career than can sometimes be overlooked due to the smaller aircraft and lower salary. But being a pilot for a regional airline has many lifestyle benefits that go beyond having a home base. For example, flights are often less than 100 miles, so there is never, never any jetlag and you’ll carry less than 100 passengers. Pilots can have 1-6 flights per day but the average number of flights per day is 4-5. On average, you will fly a total of 6 hours per day on duty. Being hired at a regional airline is a great place to start for the reason that you will be able to build the turbine time necessary to qualify for one of the major air carriers.
In many ways, regional airlines are the career starting point for many aviation professionals. Similar to how major league sports teams develop talent from their minor-league systems, regional airlines provide a talent pipeline for major airlines. Pilots who work for a regional carrier are often moved to the head of the line when a higher-paying spot with a major opens up.
Being a pilot for a regional airline has its perks and privileges. Is it right for you? A sure way is to find out is to apply for the position and experience it all for yourself.
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