The basics of ETOPS

January 12th, 2015

Aviation is about many things, and one of those things is the pursuit of reliability. Starting with the earliest engines and airframes, the pioneers of the industry have been in constant pursuit of making everything as dependable as possible. In the modern era of flying, this has produced two things: mounds of red tape and bureaucracy, and very dependable processes, airplanes—and engines.

If you’ve ever conducted any international travel, you’ll notice that more and more international flying is done in airplanes with only two engines. After the 747, the next generation of wide-body aircraft to enter service all had either two or three engines: the DC-10, the L-1011, the 757/767, and in the last few decades the 777 and 787. The cost advantages are obvious, but what about safety concerns? After all, if two engines are good, then three or four must be better, right?

The FAA and its foreign counterparts have adapted to the world of long-range flying by creating a program called Extended (Twin) Operations, or ETOPS. ETOPS programs can be established for airplanes with any number of engines, but we’ll stick with the twin-engine derivative here. With an ETOPS program, airlines are able to establish that they can operate twin-engine aircraft for long distances over water with the equivalent safety margins as for a four engine jet.

There are rules that must be followed. One of the most important is that of maintenance. With an ETOPS program, the FARs require that certain procedures be followed if maintenance is being conducted on matching parts. For instance, if a mechanic changes the oil on the left engine, he is not allowed to perform the same task on the right engine. The theory is that if that mechanic makes a mistake or is sloppy in his work, it is best to isolate the possibility of the same negative consequence occurring twice on the same plane. This rule applies to a number of tasks in the routine maintenance of the airplane. It applies to work on the tires and landing gear, engines, and several other systems with duplication.

There are other requirements for ETOPS as well. Because participants must be able to travel great distances over water, communication needs change. There are multiple options to establish and maintain adequate communications. The most common is the high-frequency (HF) radio, which works by bouncing the signal off of the atmosphere, and as a result depends on the weather for a good signal. Another option is the satellite phone, which can also suffer from occasional signal reliability and is expensive to operate. ACARS (Aircraft Communication and Reporting System) is also common, and acts essentially as an onboard email, text, and fax system.

The most obvious need on long ETOPS flights is for extra fuel, and there are a number of FARs and exemptions that can be used to set forth a particular airline’s fuel requirements. But, when comparing the alternate fuel requirements for flight of similar distances over land and water, the water route will carry more fuel and thus will cost more.

ETOPS is generally required for twinjet airplanes when the airplane will be more than 60 minutes from an adequate airport, where the word “adequate” generally means just a runway. It doesn’t need to be new or fancy or even have a ground-based approach. It just needs to be a concrete or asphalt strip long enough to safely land an airplane in the most dire circumstances. A flight operating under an ETOPS flight plan can be dispatched for varying lengths of time. An ETOPS 120 flight is one that will be 120 minutes, or two hours, from an airport at some point in its journey.

It is not uncommon to see 737s with ETOPS approval for flights across the Gulf of Mexico or from the northeast to the Caribbean. The longest stretch of pure open-water flying in the world is between Hawaii and California, and the 737 is a common airplane for the route.

ETOPS adds several layers of safety and protection for passengers and crew, and while it’s a cumbersome process, it pays dividends. Just in the last few weeks, a Delta 757 diverted to Iwo Jima in the Pacific en route to Guam. Iwo Jima is a common alternate for Pacific flights. In this case, the system proved once again that it works as intended—red tape and all.—Chip Wright

Just ahead in the February issue

January 7th, 2015

FrederickIf you routinely touch down in the first third of the runway and give yourself a pat on the back, Budd Davisson throws down in the gauntlet in our February 2015 issue. “Flying should be a never-ending quest for improvement,” he says. In “On the Numbers,” he tells you how to do just that—land on the numbers.

Also in the issue:

  • Be A Ground Instructor. Talk about flying and get paid for it? Sign us up!
  • Flying the Alphabet. We sent one of our editors on a quest to fly to as many classes of airspace as he could in a single day. Here’s how it turned out.
  • Technique: Anatomy of an Approach. Making the transition from cruise to landing in instrument conditions.
  • Debrief: Chris Meloni. If you’ve ever watched “Law and Order: SVU,” you’ve seen this late-blooming pilot pursue his other passion.

February’s digital edition went live on Dec. 24. In-home delivery concluded Jan. 6, and if you’re not yet a subscriber, you’ll find it on newsstands as of Jan. 13. We welcome your letters to the editor; email—Jill W. Tallman

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Time for a change?

January 2nd, 2015

06-492  Learn to FlyThe flight school closed; your favorite CFI got a job with the airlines; you like your flight school but you don’t like driving 50 miles to get to it. Whatever the reason, sometimes you need a change.

If you’re searching for a new flight school or flight instructor, AOPA has some tools that can help you with your search.

  • Our online flight school directory lets you plug in a ZIP code and search parameters (25 to 100 miles). Find it here.
  • Our online flight instructor directory lets you search for a CFI by city and state. Find it here.
  • AOPA Airports is an online database of public and private use airports. Although most pilots use this as a flight planning tool, you can check to see if an airport has a flight school by searching for the airport, then click the “Services, Businesses & FBOs” link at the top of each listing.
  • This is more hit or miss, but you might also post a question on the AOPA Forums. (They’re found here.) There are regional forums, and you also can post learn-to-fly questions in the Left Seat/Right Seat forum.

Seek and ye shall find! Good luck with your flying endeavors in this brand-new year.—Jill W. Tallman

Are you interested in learning to fly? Sign up for a free student trial membership in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and receive six issues of Flight Training magazine plus lots of training tools and resouces for student pilots. Click here for more information.






When does the interview end?

December 29th, 2014

Several friends of mine recently interviewed at a legacy carrier. Three of them interviewed on the same day, back to back to back. I spoke to two of them afterwards, and each was lamenting the fate of the third: In their minds, it was pre-ordained what was going to happen.

In the brief period of time that all three were together in the lobby, one of them was not-so-quietly disparaging his own performance. Now, bear in mind that he wasn’t saying anything negative about the company or the process they used for the interview. Far from it.

The interview was a two-part process. The first part was the actual interview between the candidate and the interviewers, in this case a captain and a representative from human resources. There’s a break between them as people trade places. The fellow in question completed his interview first out of the three, and he was chatting with the other two before leaving to go back to the hotel.

While talking, he was second-guessing his answers to the questions he was asked and openly talking about how poorly he had flown the simulator. Here’s the catch: He really had no idea how his performance compared to anybody else’s. It’s quite possible that he was average or above. The problem with airline sim rides is that they are almost always performed on equipment that you have never flown, so the evaluation is made with that in mind. It’s almost like grading on a curve.

As for the interview itself, chances are that he went in with a lack of confidence to begin with, as though he was expecting to do poorly. While he was in the lobby, he didn’t take into account that the process was still going on, though in a more passive way. The secretary heard him, and at least one of the other folks participating in the hiring process heard him.

In the end, he didn’t get the job. The other two pilots did, and each relayed to me their belief that this individual had done himself some damage by being so self-critical, which also came across as a lack of confidence.

Years ago, at another legacy carrier, a pilot had been provided the standard round-trip transportation to the interview and had received a complimentary first class upgrade on the way to the interview. The interview itself went extremely well, to the point that the interviewer relates that this pilot was one of the few who would have made a lasting impression even without this story. His job offer was ready to go in the mail (this was pre-email) the next day.

At the airport, he was under the impression that he was entitled—entitled!—to a first class seat for the return trip simply because a gate agent in his home town was kind enough to extend one to him as a courtesy on the first flight. He apparently launched into a tirade and caused such a scene that he was denied boarding until a later flight. His reservation stipulated that he was a pilot applicant, and the agent, who was furious, couldn’t call the recruiters soon enough. His offer was rescinded, and a multi-million-dollar career was lost.

Interviews for any airline—major, regional, passenger, or cargo—do not end until you are either hired or are “regretfully informed.” Even while you are waiting for your answer, you should consider it an open process, because if anybody knows about your interview, they can always make a phone call or send an email. Be confident, be nice, and assume that “Big Brother” is watching. He (or she) just might be.—Chip Wright


December 15th, 2014

Jean Moule last wrote for the Flight Training blog about flying in Alaska. She is an emerita faculty member of Oregon State University, and a published writer and artist. Visit her website.—Ed.

Sea cliffs of Molokai, Hawaii.

Sea cliffs of Molokai, Hawaii.

Extreme tradewinds, extreme cliffs (the highest seacliffs in the world), and extreme isolation. We travelled from Oregon, my CFI from Argentina. Jean again tests the training waters, this time in the middle of the ocean in Hawaii.

John, the owner of Maui Aviators, says his endorsement notation for a student pilot for solo flights was questioned when he added the following conditions, “able to handle winds to 25 knots gusting to 30 and a 40 degrees off the nose crosswind.”

People in the midst of training from Kahului Airport must contend with the winds every takeoff and landing. The winds reminded me of the one that blew my preflight sheet off the cowling of the airplane in Salem, Oregon, and elicited the comment from a flight instructor that student pilots would not be allowed to function solo in those winds. “Anything over 6 or 7 knots could be a challenge,” he said.

Here in Maui that is all there is.

mapproachingOf course my CFI Lucas knew how to handle such winds, and I was surprised how easy he made this flight. For the first time a CFI was honest and just put in my log, “scenic flight,” oops, I misread, it says, “basic flight maneuvers.” I have had “mountain flying, bird avoidance, scanning,” and, “climbs [duh],taxi, trim, turns.” The more experienced CFIs have led me through “stalls, steep turns, t.o. and landing.” One of my favorite simple ones: ”Intro to seaplane flying.” Another CFI, recognizing my infrequent lessons, wrote, “Discovery Flight.” Six weeks from my last training flight, I was OK with that.

Though only 29 and in his fourth year as a CFI, Lucas in Maui was wise in the ways of this area and did all he could to increase our air time, doing much of the runup himself as I was in need of review and, of course, most Cessnas are slightly different by year. Fuel injection and no carb heat in this one. And, for the first time, I helped the CFI fuel the airplane. He clearly stated each item on the checklist as he performed it or asked me to do so. I felt refreshed by his manner and the winds.

As usual, I felt the surge of energy as I pushed the throttle in and rotated for takeoff.

We crossed the channel, then we flew near the cliffs of Molokai. Lucas wisely took over the plane as I gawked.

“Wow” and “I had no idea,” I exclaimed over and over as we flew. My photos cannot begin to convey the vastness, the isolation, or the height of these falls. At one point when we flew along, I noted that the cliff tops were higher than the airplane and the altimeter read 2,000 feet. Yep. Highest drop, highest seacliffs in the world. Except some of the falls fell into pools nestled in the rocks before continuing the dizzying descent. Verdant green of many hues, inaccessible except by boat or air. And Lucas calmly communicated with the rare flights near us.

As we flew along the cliffs of Molokai and I took over the airplane again, Lucas asked if I wanted to do a touch and go on a flat spot of the island. “Sure,” I said. This isolated site is reached by mule, boat, or airplane. For many years lepers were dropped near shore to swim to their isolated treatment at this former leper colony.

The excitement of the touch and go kept me from sightseeing here. With help I land and take off and soar again near the cliffs. We edge just a bit closer when I ask Lucas to take the controls while I take photos.

The extreme isolation of the leper colony and its small, short runway reminded me of my last lesson in the Bay Area in California (flight school unnamed). There I reached an extreme I wish not to repeat. The headsets did not work properly. Although I could hear the CFI, he could only hear me if I talked loudly in the cockpit. With such a glitch I was not comfortable landing the airplane, even with detailed instruction and his handling of the radio communication.

Yet I have landed enough so I have a feel for the approach and altitude for a comfortable, non-emergency landing. We had on board my husband and a former college instructor who had been a pilot. Instead of turning in the pattern and lining up the runway, the CFI overshot the end of the runway way too high and, after the necessary correction turn, too little of the runway left in my humble and inexperienced opinion. At this point I heard my former college professor/former pilot calmly and assertively say from the backseat, “We need to go around.”

We did not. The CFI steeply banked the airplane and descended very quickly. With a bit of dryness in my throat I watched as the CFI, knowing the weight in the airplane and the long length in the runway, brought this bird down safely with a bit of runway to spare. One lesson about safe parameters learned, but not one I plan to practice on purpose (or is this a standard lesson? And what about not scaring the student?).

In Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, with help, I landed in the crosswind in between large commercial jets, the runway nicely stretched out in front of us before we taxied to Maui Aviators.

Extreme flight training at its worst and best. Adrenaline high reached on both.—Jean Moule

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Honesty pays

December 8th, 2014
"Honesty is the best policy."---Ben Franklin

“Honesty is the best policy.”—Ben Franklin

I’m on my third airline. At each one, the chief pilot(s) have always insisted on just one thing: Never, ever lie to them. The reality, they each said, is that things happen. Sometimes those things result in damaged equipment, damaged airplanes, injuries, or just embarrassment to the pilot group or the company. But, most of the time, anything that was not done with malicious intent or wanton disregard for safety can be dealt with. There may well be punishment—even harsh punishment—but a suspension is by far better than a termination.

I’ve heard several stories about people trying to hide something. One of the worst was a crew that wanted to move an airplane on the ramp. They failed to look outside, and the movement of the airplane caused considerable damage to the cargo bin because the belt loader was still in position. They lied, got caught, and were fired. Another example is of a pilot—a former chief pilot, no less—who lied to the control tower about a non-existent mechanical problem because he wasn’t ready to go. As soon as he was, he took off. The tower wasn’t sure what to make of the situation, and called the company—which happened to have a base at that airport. An investigation ensued, and the pilot was terminated. He was also punished by the FAA.

Contrast that to this. A first officer was doing a walk-around one winter in the middle of nowhere, and it was bitterly cold and windy with blowing snow. In his haste to get back in the airplane and get warm, he did more jogging than walking, and failed to notice that somebody had placed a cover on one of the pitot tubes. This is not common at the airlines, and it was unheard of at this one. However, it happened, and he missed it. At some point during the takeoff—I’ve never been sure if they rejected the takeoff or actually flew a circuit around the pattern, because I’ve heard both versions—the cautions and chimes started, and it was obvious that something was amiss. After returning to the gate, the problem was found, and the flight departed normally.

The FO immediately went to the chief’s office and did the carpet dance, confessing his sins and placing his fate into the hands of the chief. The chief honored his word, and told the FO that he would be suspended for two weeks. However, the FO could pick the two-week period that he wanted off. He chose Christmas, and his request was honored. He missed two weeks of pay, but his honesty was respected, and his kids had Dad home for Christmas.

It doesn’t always have a happy ending. Some pilots are fired just because what they did is so egregious that they can’t be forgiven. But, more often than not, immediate honesty pays off, and the impact on a career is minimal to non-existent. I know one pilot who misunderstood the change in his trip and didn’t show up the next morning, leading to the cancellation of three flights. The chief told him that ordinarily he would have received a two-week suspension, but because of his history, he’d just get a verbal warning. The pilot knew that the real reason he wasn’t being suspended was because of a staffing shortage, which the chief acknowledged. When he asked to be suspended anyway—after all, he’d be off for two weeks—the chief denied him and sent him back to work. Sometimes, you can’t get punished even when you want to be.—Chip Wright

Pilots and diving

November 24th, 2014

scuba diverAs a private pilot-in-training, you discover that the FAA wants you to learn a modicum of information about the physiology of flight. This need-to-know training continues in instrument and commercial training, and gets more specific if you pursue training in high-altitude flight. Most of modern physiology training centers on hypoxia, night vision, and fatigue, for good reason. Early on, the FAA also talks about some basic knowledge for combining flying and scuba diving. In the interest of simplicity, the feds simply want you to say no flying after diving, and if you say no flying for 24 hours after diving during the oral portion of your checkride, the designated pilot examiner will nod in approval and move on to the next topic.

But what is the real answer? And why?

These are valid questions. Scuba diving is a popular recreational activity, and depending on which source you want to cite, anywhere from 60 to 70 percent of pilots also are certified divers. That should not be a surprise. The two activities have much in common: Each requires specific training; safety is paramount; there are some rules in each that are flexible, and some that are inviolate; pilots have flight plans and divers have dive plans; an attention to detail is key. Most important, each operates in a three-dimensional setting, so that divers often describe the sensation of being “like flying.”

In flying, we concern ourselves with effects of too little oxygen at high altitudes, where atmospheric pressure is low, thus making it difficult to consume as much oxygen as we need in each breath. Divers concern themselves with consuming air while under an increased amount of pressure. The air in the tank is under pressure, and the diver underwater is experiencing greater pressure from the surrounding water. The concern under water is not oxygen, but nitrogen.

The common answer to “Why can’t you fly after scuba diving?” is that you will get “the bends.” But what really happens, and what are the real rules?

When a diver goes underwater, the water exerts pressure on the body, as well as on the scuba tank and the air it contains. At 33 feet of sea water, the body is under twice as much pressure as it is on the surface. At 66 feet, the pressure is three times as much. At 99 feet, it’s four times as much. Divers, like pilots, feel the change in pressure in their ears. They body itself doesn’t feel any different.

As a diver inhales air from his tank, the pressure from the water causes the tissues to absorb more of the gas than is normally absorbed on land. As long as the diver stays within the acceptable limits of recreational diving, this is generally not a big deal with the oxygen. However, the body also absorbs the nitrogen that is in the tank (air is primarily a mix of oxygen and nitrogen, with about 1 percent being other inert gases). Our body needs oxygen, and so metabolizing it is no big deal. However, the body doesn’t need the nitrogen in a gaseous form. In fact, the body wants to get rid of it. But, under the increased pressure experienced underwater, the nitrogen is absorbed.

If this sounds familiar, it should: This is the exact same process that goes into making a carbonated drink. In a soda, the gas is added to the liquid under pressure, so that the saturation level of the liquid is increased. Under water, a diver’s body has an increased saturation point because of the pressure, and so the tissues absorb more of the gas that is inhaled.

As a diver ascends toward the surface, the pressure on the body decreases, and some of the gas that was absorbed into the tissues begins to come out. This is similar to slowly cracking a soda bottle to release some of the pressure before opening it all the way. Divers slow this process by ascending to the surface in a slow, controlled manner, and then perform a safety stop. That is, they ascend to 15 feet, then stay there for three minutes to “off-gas” some of the nitrogen before surfacing.

If the diver ascends too quickly, the nitrogen does not leave the tissues in a controlled fashion, and a very painful injury or even death can occur as the nitrogen bubbles—comes out of solution—in the blood stream. This is commonly called “the bends,” and is more accurately referred to as “decompression illness.”
Even after surfacing, a diver still has nitrogen in the tissues. If a diver was to go flying, the ambient pressure around the diver would continue to decrease as the airplane climbs. That would allow the nitrogen to be released from the body even faster, thus increasing the risk of injury.

So, what is the proper protocol when it comes to diving and flying? If you are flying first, you can safely dive immediately. If you are diving first, PADI (the Professional Association of Scuba Diver Instructors) and DSAT (Diving Science and Technology, Inc) recommend that a diver who has not exceeded decompression limits wait a minimum of 12 hours after a single dive before flying, and 18 hours if the diver has engaged in repetitive or multi-day dives. If the diver has participated in decompression diving (whether intentionally or unintentionally), then a preflight interval of more than 18 hours is suggested.

The blanket rule that some airlines or flight departments have about waiting 24 hours after diving before flying is more of a catch-all designed to eliminate as much risk as possible. But the guidance listed above can safely be followed, as it will allow the diver to safely expel the excess nitrogen before flying. It is very possible that a diver who does a single-tank dive in the morning can take a sightseeing flight at sunset.—Chip Wright

Just ahead in the January issue

November 14th, 2014

takeoffIf it seems like these posts about upcoming issues are coming closer together, well, they are. Our production schedule is compressed somewhat so that we can publish issues while enjoying the holidays. After January 1, 2015, things will settle down a bit.

With the January issue, we go “back to basics.” We are, first and foremost, a training magazine for aspiring pilots. Longtime readers may recognize that we hit certain subjects—landing, weather, maneuvers—over and over again. That’s the nature of our readership; we cycle through topics for primary flight students, because we expect that they will earn their pilot certificates and perhaps move on to our sister publication, AOPA Pilot.

But we also know that we have a group of faithful readers who stay with Flight Training, because “a good pilot is always learning.” That’s why we try to hit on instrument flying and other advanced pilot topics when we can.

What you can look forward to in the January issue:

  • Trading ground for sky. Few things are more basic in aviation than the takeoff. We perform one on our very first flight lesson. But there are ways to take off, and ways to take off that recognize the aerodynamics and make you look better doing it.
  • Work smarter, not longer. If it’s taking you three-quarters of your lesson to get from startup to takeoff, we have some ideas for you.
  • Wise words: a pilot’s guide to the flying life. There are a lot of sayings in aviation, but we’ve distilled some very basic truisms that can be applied to your daily flying and make you a better pilot.

There’s much more, of course.

Our January issue hits digital devices on Nov. 26 (you can read while you digest your turkey!) and starts in-home delivery Dec. 9. As always, we welcome your letters to the editor (—Jill W. Tallman

Are you interested in learning to fly? Sign up for a free student trial membership in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and receive six issues of Flight Training magazine plus lots of training tools and resouces for student pilots. Click here for more information.

Caution: Think before you type

November 5th, 2014

Facebook-logo-thumbs-upWe live in a very connected world, and it’s a vastly different one than the one we had just a few years ago. As our electronics have continued to evolve, so have our communications, and the modern age has given birth to social media. Facebook, Twitter, and the apparently unlimited billboard space of the internet have made it possible to express and postulate online in ways that were unimaginable a few years ago.

Every day, it seems, a story comes out about someone getting caught doing something because of social media. People post things that they don’t give a second thought to, and they often should. I have a Facebook page, but I don’t tweet, and aside from this blog, I do very little posting on websites or online bulletin boards.

But I read what others type. Often it’s embarrassing just to see what people write. Never mind the bad grammar and spelling; the language is enough to make a sailor blush. It’s much worse on sites where a person can hide behind a screen name or an avatar.

I bring this up because many folks who might be reading this may be interested in pursuing a career as professional pilot. It’s important to realize that large corporations now have personnel whose sole job is to monitor social media for mention of the company name. This allows them to respond quickly to negative news, to address rumors or incorrect stories—and to see what current and potential employees are saying.

I see stuff online that makes me cringe, and I often wonder how quickly these people would be to use the same words in a face-to-face meeting with those they are criticizing. Criticism is fine—in fact it’s healthy—but there’s a line between being constructive and being mean, slanderous, or worse.

On a local sports radio show recently, the host was having an exchange with a fan of the Bengals after a game that they would have won had the kicker not missed a field goal. The fan’s tweets were vulgar and, one could argue, borderline criminal. The fan—who was brave enough to call in and give his name—found himself in a very embarrassing situation as he tried to defend his actions and words. In short, he couldn’t, and he gave up trying.

I’ve spoken to a number of folks in large companies, including airlines, who have some hard-to-believe stories about applicants, including pilots, who have submitted posts to websites that they probably thought were cute, funny, or clever. Unfortunately, these are folks who have been denied employment because the company simply could not take a chance on whether they would embarrass the airline as employees. Several have fired employees for violating company policy regarding social media. This includes not just words, but also photos.

A person placed under arrest is read the Miranda rights, including the phrase “anything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law.” Well, when you put something online, it’s quite possible that you will never have the opportunity to defend yourself in a court of anything. Further, you want to make sure that if you did need to defend yourself, you wouldn’t be embarrassed by your own actions.

Think twice, or even three times, before you post. It may haunt you, even years down the road.—Chip Wright

The major airline hiring wave has begun

October 28th, 2014

In the last 18 months, airline hiring has begun to pick up. The majors are hiring steadily, and United alone has announced a need for 1,300 pilots in fewer than two years. American and Delta are also actively hiring. None of this is news.

But, changes are afoot.

Historically, the majors have tried to hire as many pilots as possible who have a lot of FAR Part 121 pilot-in-command (PIC) time. With the advent of the regional jet, the premium moved to turbojet/turbine PIC (TPIC). Further, the airlines made it clear that they wanted a few other items on your resume: a four-year degree was “preferred,” even though it was silently required, and service as a check airman, simulator instructor, chief pilot, or some other work beyond flying the line was a big help. Those qualifications still move you to the front of the line, so to speak.

But the majors are beginning to place a bit less emphasis now on PIC or TPIC time. It still helps to have it, but it isn’t the deal-breaker it used to be. The majors have realized that the recession, the downturn in the airlines, and the change in the mandatory retirement age from 60 to 65 has created a large pool of regional airline first officers who, through no fault of their own, did not have the opportunity to upgrade and gain experience as a captain. Further, they recognize that many of these FOs are good pilots and good people who will make excellent employees.

For years, jetBlue has been aggressive in hiring FOs, but the legacy carriers have been much less flexible. That isn’t to say that they didn’t do it, because they did. They just didn’t do it much. That may be starting to change. Longtime FOs are beginning to get interviewed and hired, which is great news. The requirement for the four-year degree has not been relaxed and isn’t likely to be soon, and it also helps to have a record of volunteerism or social activity on your resume. In fact, for an FO to stand out, it’s even more important to do what you can to boost your resume.

What this also means is that RJ captains can’t count on being the only ones to get calls for an interview. The competition for good jobs is heating up, and it’s quite possible that both pilots on an RJ flight deck on a Friday will be interviewing for the same job on a Monday. It’s been a long time since that’s happened. For pilots who are just entering the industry, it means that they don’t necessarily need to bank on a long period of stagnation like pilots did in the 2007-2012 time frame. There is, indeed, hope.

Pilots who have been captains are still at an obvious advantage, and a regional FO should still take an upgrade ASAP if one opens. But the tide is turning, and classes need to be filled. The long-awaited retirement boon at the majors is here, it’s happening, and it’s real. Also real are the opportunities for regional FOs to go to their airline of choice. Attending job fairs is still important, and so is networking. In fact, maybe more so than ever, a network of contacts can make a big difference in getting the job of choice. But for that network to help, you need to get those applications filled out and keep them up to date.—Chip Wright