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Aviation offers a unique career opportunity. According to the FAA, the number of qualified pilots in this country has dropped by about 30 percent since 1987, sparking a recruitment crisis.

“There’s no better time to become a commercial airline pilot,” says Lyle Hogg, CEO of Piedmont Airlines, a regional airline owned by American Airlines.

Charting a path

Skilled pilots have plenty of opportunities, but not all regional airlines are created equal. Hogg advises any young person interested in aviation to think carefully about their first commercial job.

“Do your homework,” Hogg advises. “Look at what the airline offers in terms of stability, equipment and location. Look at where their crew domiciles are. And you want to look at how long it will take you to get to a major airline if that’s your goal.”

That last point is crucial. Because Piedmont is owned by American Airlines, pilots are given an “automatic flow” to American based on seniority — no interview required.

“Right now that’s around five years,” Hogg says. “Your alternative is to go to a regional carrier that’s not affiliated with a major airline and hope that you are lucky enough to get an interview someday.”

Return on investment

That flow to a legacy airline is important because becoming a pilot is expensive.

“Piedmont Airlines sponsors cadet programs where we contribute to a pilot’s student loans,” Hogg notes. “And we offer a signing bonus. Once you progress to a major carrier, your income increases very quickly.”

Hogg, a pilot for more than thirty years, recommends aviation to everybody. “It doesn’t matter what your background has been. If you want a craft you can take anywhere in the world for a high-paying job, aviation really is the way to go. It really makes for a wonderful career.”

Jeff Somers, [email protected]

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