As a personal injury attorney, I would like to share with you something that is a little disconcerting and raises questions about safety. Throughout the United States regional airline pilots earn less than cab drivers and some pilots earn about the same as people working at fast food restaurants.

Today the regional airplane you get onto may have a pilot that earns roughly equivalent to fast-food wages and less than a cab driver. According to the U.S. pilots union, starting pilot salaries at regional carriers in the United States average $22,400 a year, according to the largest U.S. pilots union. As of 2012, taxi drivers employed directly by taxi cab company have an average income of about $27,670 per year. Some smaller airline carriers pay as little as $15,000 a year, this is about what a full-time worker would earn annually at the $7.25-an-hour federal minimum wage. However, working at Mc Donald’s or Starbucks does not take much special training . However, becoming a commercial pilot takes time and money. In 2010, Congress mandated that airlines’ first officers would need to hold an Airline Transport Pilot certificate and have at least 1,500 flight hours as opposed to the 250 hours and commercial pilot certificate previously required. This mandate was in response to the Continental Express regional flight crash of 2009. FAA investigators linked the Continental Express crash to inadequate pilots’ training.
Getting a commercial pilot license is not cheap and it now costs more than $100,000 for the necessary hours of training flights before getting a first job. Good if you are a passenger on a regional flight.

However, low salaries combined with expensive training costs put many new pilots deep in debt. Not unlike those graduating college or graduate schools. The result of low pay and expensive training, lack of pilots, especially for regional airlines. Exacerbating the situation, is the fact that the airline industry has a mandatory retirement age of 65, which has caused large airlines to replace their pilot ranks by hiring from the regional carriers. Big airlines pay their pilot salaries that are much higher.

Next time you get onto a regional airline, consider that your pilot may be earning about the same as the guy or girl who handed you that hot cup of coffee at Mc Donald’s . . . and less than the Yellow Cab driver who took you to the airport. . . Happy Flying

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