Recently I’ve been having a discussion with Jim L around my second career and the choices leading up to it; PA30 ownership; and other topics common to us both. We were having an email discussion on these topics when it occurred to me that I might share this more widely. I’ll attempt to do that in a Q&A format.

Q: You have been very positive about your whole experience thus far. Are there any negatives that have tested your decision to fly for the regionals? (similar question: You’ve described in your blog and emails many wonderful experiences you’ve had preparing for and flying for a regional airline. What are the disadvantages you’ve encountered, especially in relation to where you are in life?)

A: Excellent question, the answer to which changes as the experience continues. Overall, I’m blessed to be doing this and any negatives I express should be tempered by the understanding that things were far worse for those that went before me.

  • Social Life: All of our old friends are off weekends and holidays. My wife and I both miss not being able to catch up with these circles of friends. There are options and it will get better, but this one is noticeable.
  • Schedules: The schedules you fly are tiring and keep you away from home quite a bit. I have 3 and 4 day trips scheduled, and just a few out-and-backs. Schedules are often not ‘pure’, meaning you report at 5:00 am 1st day and land at midnight on the last day. Then you have 2 days scheduled off, but the first day is recovery from getting in at midnight on the last leg. It is difficult to get days off for special events. You bid for your schedule and start out with no seniority / priority. You can get certain days off at Piedmont in my base, but I generally miss 2 out of 3 social events in a given month. I fly tired.
  • Salary: I think I’m getting $30 and hour or just under for the first year. That doesn’t include per diem. I am guaranteed 75 hours per month, and many months get high 80’s pay credit. This is allot of work for little money, but it is what it is for the industry. When I make Captain, I’ll improve the situation and maybe buy more gadgets for my airplane.
  • Food and Exercise: Packing food is a chore, but I do it sometimes. Philly has good choices and Charlotte a bit behind that. The overnights mostly have good places to eat and even have a beer.The gyms at the hotels are mostly acceptable and many times you need something to keep you occupied for late start days. I’m getting older and need to better balance exercise with the sleeping and eating schedule.
  • Medical: Get your 1st class medical out of the way ahead of time.  I had skin cancer a few years ago and there was last minute drama. Watch your blood pressure and exercise.
  • Flight Cases: The iPads carry ALL of the documents we need, but aren’t certified for our use. Thus we carry 70lbs of paper and books, which sucks.

Q: What/who has driven you to your second career choice?

A: It involves timing and a confluence of events – satisfaction with aviation going through the roof as my experience hits critical mass; diminishing interest in my current job (company being bought / resource challenges, the prospect of traveling even more); Getting older and having dealt with skin cancer – don’t know how long I’ll be able to do this or when the opportunities will dry up.

I will talk much more about this in a separate blog to follow. It is a complex subject.

Q: For someone who has 850 hours total time, 350 hours multi, an MEI, and a PA-30, but needs an additional 650 hours of flight time to qualify for the multi-engine ATP, what path would you recommend to achieve this goal (e.g., what type of flying, which avionics, single or dual pilot – CRM)? Assume one has enough money to pay the additional 650 hours of flight operation costs.

A: I would say start flying your butt off.  Find pilots who also need multi-engine time and set up a simple agreement with them to share your costs. One of you is always a safety pilot or PIC. Volunteer for Angel Flights and deduct those expenses from your taxes.

The avionics don’t matter for the job. I am flying on steam gauges the majority of the time, and use an EFIS that is limited compared to what we have available.  I would buy avionics to suit your personal needs, and start flying instruments as often as you can. Stay current and get good at it – you don’t have to be superman either. Normal and proficient (recent) flying skills and scans will show.

Having said that, my EFIS and PFD skills are valuable. We are going to jets eventually, so I’m answering questions  and drawing comparisons for folks.

I would not worry about CRM. They’ll teach you that and it is company specific. Remember that I have limited exposure, but I hear the same from others.

Having a Twin Comanche will really pay off. The systems are complex and the speed is up there with our approach speeds in the Dash. My proficiency in my own machine has given me transferrable skills.

Q: What activities would you recommend to prepare for a multi-engine ATP practical and oral assuming one has 14 months to do so?

A: I prepared a pilot to take his ATP ride and rating using my ELITE simulator. We knew the complete routine used by the ATP school, and worked every one of the approaches over several days in advance. He went down and aced the ride.

Given that experience, I brought down a friend to operate my simulator with me and get me ready for the same thing up in Connecticut.  We followed the same drill and I aced it. I felt so good about that ride, I came home and bought a twin comanche.

Q: From your blog entries, you seem to place a great emphasis on fitness. Other than obtaining a first class medical, describe the physical and mental fitness level required for regional airline flying.

A: I talk about fitness because I’m a bit overweight (5’10” and 225) and I have to make every effort to stay on top of my health. Weight drives blood pressure which is borderline high normal for me. I’ve also had skin cancer and need to have routine exams to make sure I stay clear.  It’s on my mind for sure. It would be all too easy to eat and drink poorly everyday in this job, so health needs to be on your mind.

Q. As evident in your blog and YouTube videos, you exhibit a tremendous positive attitude in your flying activities. How much, do you believe, has this contributed to your current situation?

A. Wow – thank you. It is nice to be perceived in this way, and I appreciate your comments.

I have had an amazing career in engineering, energy trading, software development, management, organization building, and System Operations. Significant responsibilities with tangible results that impacted many lives and careers in a positive way. Leaders trusted me with allot and I made them whole.

I have also had an amazing parallel aviation career and have owned and fully restored and updated two airplanes. My current airplane is fast and complex, which has helped me prepare for this second career. I fly with GA friends everyday who are professionals, and I respect them. I learn something from everyone I fly or work with; even those I teach.

I’ve began sharing this dream with my wife of 18 years since we were just friends. She came into this relationship incredibly supportive, and is the one person who dared me to dream. When I jumped into this, she was right there with me. If it didn’t work out – we’d recover together.

I am living a live-long dream flying professionally;  always seated next to and ever changing array of professional pilots. These pilots are better and more experienced than I am, so I can do nothing but learn.  I will consider myself wildly successful if those professionals consider me a reliable peer.

I am positive about the future. I am happy. I am living an awesome life with an amazing wife. I’ll do what I can to help others enjoy some of what I see and do everyday. The world is amazing.

Q. You have significant technical and managerial experience from your first career. Describe how your experiences have flowed into and influenced your current job with the regional airlines.

A. That experience comes into play in everything I do. I have used that ability to develop study patterns to get me through the systems, limitations, and other exams you have to pass. My ownership of the Twin Comanche – with its speed and complexity – has helped quite allot as well.

Leadership at work; my command of my own airplane; command presence as a flight instructor; and confidence as an experienced instrument pilot will help me as a future captain. In training I had to tone this down a bit, since I started responding to emergencies as if I was the Captain.  No drama, just a little chuckle going on.

Q. What sorts of extracurricular activities do you believe would be beneficial to landing a job with the regional airlines?

A. I think they need pilots badly, and that will only get worse. When they give you something to study – dive in and work hard to do the rote memory you need to pass whatever tests they give you. It is not rocket science, so you’ll do fine with an engineering background.

No DUIs would be incredibly helpful. If you have the misfortune of having one, I don’t think it is a killer, but you should be ready to demonstrate your good behavior since.

You don’t need to do much else in the way of character building. If I was doing the interview, I’d notice Angel Flights or volunteer work, but I really don’t think it will make a difference. Your instrument proficiency is key to your success – talk about that and get out there and do it.

Flight instruction would be good too – Stay busy.

I’ll keep thinking on this one.

Q. What role should the use of flight simulators play in preparation for the ATP?

A. Use one if you have one. I knew all the approaches in advance and brought a friend in to train me on my own FAA Approved Elite Simulator.  Knowing all the frequencies, plates, procedures, and routines ahead of time took a huge  load off of the check-ride. I sailed through my ATP check ride in solid IMC and rain, and I can tell you unequivocally that my simulator prepared me.   I was so excited I came home and bought a twin.

I appreciate your interest.

Fly Safe – fed

By fdorrin

Recently rated Gulfstream 280 pilot, working on instructor qualifications. WestWind and Astra corporate jet flight instructor. Contract corporate pilot. Own and operate a PA30 Twin Comanche. CFII; MEI; ME-ATP; SES; Typed in DHC-8, B-25, IAI-1124, IAI1125, G100, G280. Retired engineer / executive - Delmarva Power, Conectiv Energy, and PEPCO Holdings, Inc.