Home / Business / US airlines attack army helicopter pilots to alleviate the shortage

US airlines attack army helicopter pilots to alleviate the shortage

CHICAGO (Reuters) – US military pilot Shaun Perez flew over Afghanistan with an Apache helicopter for ten hours, providing rifle protection to Special Forces soldiers while hunting for high-quality targets, weapons and weapons ,

Military helicopter pilot Henery Jacobs uses a flight simulator at the Coast Flight Training in San Diego (California, USA) on January 15, 2019. Shot on January 15, 2019. REUTERS / Mike Blake

Returning to his base at dawn, Er Dressed in a fresh uniform before locking himself in a small room to secure the next phase of his career – piloting a commercial airline.

On this day in August 2017, he won the job in a video interview. He teamed with hundreds of other US military helicopter pilots who had accepted attractive offers from domestic airlines to avoid a global pilot shortage.

Perez took advantage of one of the most tense labor markets in the United States, fueled by years of slow hiring, a wave of upcoming retirements at major US carriers and Federal Aviation Administration (2013) regulations that increased the number of required training sessions in 2013 was from 250 to 1,500.

The aggressive recruitment of military helicopter pilots in the industry is one of the most notable examples of the distortions required to rapidly build new commercial aircraft since the FAA raised minimum flight requirements. The pilot shortage threatens the growth of the industry as well as the demand for travel.

According to aviation consultant Kit Darby, airlines were forced to double their 2018 USD from $ 21,000 a decade ago to more than double the entry fee in 2018 to $ 54,000 (excluding bonuses).

Perez, 38, now flies under the banner of United Express, United Airlines' regional office, to a high starting salary, with its training costs covered.

Ten regional US airlines offer helicopter pilots such as Perez up to $ 50,000 for the training of commercial aircraft and, in some cases, additional signing bonuses, according to a Reuters poll.

"This is the first time the industry has used direct funds (essentially a subsidy) to complete this training quickly," said Bryan Simmons, president of Coast Flight Training, who led the helicopter pilot rotor transition program the regional subsidiary of American Airlines Group Inc., Envoy, San Diego.

Perez received $ 38,000 from Trans State Airlines for training that cost him $ 20,000. He was able to make the difference and flew within a few months after leaving Afghanistan a regional passenger jet with 50 seats.

He said he takes home around $ 3,200 a month, with the prospect of earning far more as soon as he has risen to become a major US carrier.

"Even if you had to pay $ 100,000 for training, you go into a field where you know that you can recover that money and more," Perez said.

The regional airlines' helicopter transfer programs offer agreements with pipeline companies and provide new pilots with an interview – and in some cases a job – that matters within a few years.

In order to fly a multi-engine passenger jet that can fly about five times faster than helicopters and has more complex control panels, helicopter veterans must complete the FAA ratings and flight time.

The transition feels natural to Perez.

"We have made several fires on the ground; We had tough missions, "he said. "But once we enter the airline's cockpit, we are humble and work hard."


One important reason airlines pursue military pilots is the fact that the new FAA training rules only require 750 hours of additional training, half of the 1,500 civilians applying for a commercial pilot license.

Military military helicopter pilots only need additional training to fly fixed-wing aircraft, which takes about 90 days. For civilians, obtaining a commercial pilot's license can take years and cost more than $ 100,000.

"We have found the fastest solution to the shortage of pilots," said Erik Sabiston, an Army veteran who founded Rotary in December 2017 as an Airline Group to assist helicopter or rotor pilots in passing passenger jets. The nonprofit group of more than 7,000 pilots and mechanics also assist airlines in the development of rotor transient programs.

American Airlines' regional carrier Envoy said more than a quarter of its 701 new pilots were military helicopters in 2018, compared to 11 percent in 2017 and 5 percent in 2016. In 2016, 626 pilots are expected to be quartered who have gone through the rotor program.

"It's an unused pool of pilots nobody has ever called attention to before," said recruiting deputy pilot Megan Liotta.

Former military helicopter pilots generally adapt quickly to the differences in the speed and controls of an aircraft and achieve a higher landing job success rate than other aspiring airmen, personnel consultants said.

"They come from an environment where they were trained to get on their feet and to be very accommodating," said David Tatum, Director of US Pilot Recruitment.

For former military pilots, the growing interest of airlines is driving down the shrinking number of helicopter-flying jobs to offshore rigs.

An ambassador pilot hired today earns about $ 60,000 or more in his first year as First Officer. They can expect to become captains with a higher salary level within two years before moving to US carrier number one within six years, the company said. Top salaries for Americans surpass $ 300,000.


As regional airlines pay more for the recruitment and retention of pilots, their services become more expensive for large national airlines, which are increasingly using regional airlines for domestic flights to cut costs.

Under these contracts, so-called capacity purchase contracts, labor costs are included in the prices that main line carriers pay to regional employees for their service.


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"Your cost-saving method is losing some of its power," said Andrew Watterson, Southwest Airlines Co's chief revenue officer, which does not cooperate with regional airlines. Aeronautical Advisor Samuel Engel said a 50 percent increase in pilot costs for regional airlines would result in a 7.7 percent increase in the total cost per seat-mile on a 70-seater, thereby reducing part of the cost advantage of regional aircraft on an aircraft per seat mile base.

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So far, airlines have been able to pass on rising costs to passengers, often through additional baggage or seat charges. But analysts have questioned their ability to raise fees further.

Boeing Co estimates that over the next two decades, 790,000 new pilots will be needed in commercial aviation, business aviation and the civilian helicopter industry.

"The problem is," said Darby, "we still do not get enough pilots to meet the needs."

Tracy Rucinski's coverage; Edited by Tim Hepher and Brian Thevenot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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