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Professional Pilot Hiring and Interview Questions

Professional Pilot Hiring and Interview QuestionsThe excerpts below are from a pilot with domestic career, Chris Cooke

The hiring process for the big airlines used to be much more demanding. First, you had to meet the minimum qualifications of flight time; and, if you wanted to be competitive, you had to earn a college degree. Flight time may be acquired through military commitment, or through flight instruction and corporate, charter or commuter flying in the civilian world. Either way, it’s not easy and requires an incredible amount of time, money and dedication.

Historically, it took an average of about 10 years of building flight time and qualifications to meet the minimum requirements to submit an application—but due to a shortage of qualified applicants, today’s requirements are significantly less stringent.

The airline industry is unique in that each pilot is given a seniority number on his date of hire, when he is at the bottom of the list of pilots. The only ways to move up that list are if the airline expands and adds pilots, or if pilots retire off the top. Once a year, the list is adjusted for retirements, deaths, firings or loss of a medical certificate. For airline pilots, seniority is everything. The type of aircraft you fly, your monthly schedule and your vacations all depend on your ranking. The more senior you are, the better your life—and lifestyle—will be.

Regional Airline Pilot Shortage –Current Crisis

Regional airlines, which range from American Eagle and Republic Airways to Air Wisconsin and Mesa, are already facing a hiring crisis and will find it increasingly difficult to fill pilot positions because of the talent drain to the mainline airlines, and more rigorous, federally imposed training requirements.

This pinch could be somewhat offset by the phasing out of some — but not all — 50-seat aircraft, and the transition to larger, and more-efficient regional jets, which should mean fewer pilots per passengers flown.
But, as you’ll see, even that migration to larger regional jets will be convoluted and wild, from the pilots’ perspective, at least.

“In 2014, this is going to hit the fan,” says aviation consultant Kit Darby, adding that Delta is slated to hire some 300 pilots in November, and United plans a pilot-recruitment drive for 2014.

Much of the focus will be on regional airlines, which are already facing their own pilot shortfall, and are fighting over potential hires even before they complete their flight training, with promises of signing bonuses and perks.
As regional airlines take on a higher profile in U.S. aviation, they are coping with new training mandates that make pilot recruitment more of a high-stakes game, and more difficult.

New Requirements

Starting August 1, as a response to the 2009 Colgan Air flight 3407 accident that killed 50 people, co-pilots are required to complete at least 1,500 hours of pilot training to fly commercially and obtain an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Certificate, up from the previous 250 hours of flight experience for a commercial pilot certificate.

Since regional airlines in the U.S. fly about half of the total number of flights and one quarter of the passengers as they feed flyers into the major airlines’ hubs, Darby says with some exaggeration: “The big airlines are not going to run out of pilots, but they are going to run out of passengers.”

In addition to feeding passengers to the mainline airlines, the regionals also supply them with pilot new-hires. “The regionals are going to be a mess from a regional pilot’s point of view,” Darby says. “The majors will be hiring regional captains off of the top of their seniority list and the regionals will be furloughing first officers from the bottom due to the flying reduction if United and American follow the same model as Delta, which seems likely.”
In a seemingly bygone era, when major airlines were smaller than they are today, and prior to their putting such tight restrictions on capacity, “they each hired 1,000 pilots per year in good times,” Darby says.

“The big three (United, Delta and American) could easily absorb the entire excess of pilots in a single year, maybe even 6 months, still leaving a large shortage over time,” Darby says.

Of course, the DOJ suit to block the US Airways-American Airlines merger puts a whole new level of uncertainty into the equation regarding pilot needs for each of the two airlines, if they don’t merge, and the rippling dynamics at associated regional airlines.

All of this is a highly volatile situation for regional airlines, and the pilots and co-pilots that fill — or seek to join — their ranks.

As potential hires dry up because of the increased training requirements, regional airlines are already trying to recruit them with signing bonuses, and sometimes candidates are fielding multiple offers simultaneously. Source

Pilot Interview Questions
For complete list of questions, see source

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