Transitioning to the airlines (Part I)

4 min read

Airline hiring has reached a feverish pace never before seen in the industry. Opportunities are attracting individuals of all background and experience levels with dreams of becoming a professional pilot. To help shed some light on the life of an airline pilot, Sporty’s Student Pilot News is pleased to introduce Mr. Alan Nguyen. Nguyen is a Sporty’s Academy flight instructor and first officer at a regional air carrier. Please enjoy the first installment of this multi-part series on transitioning to the airlines. Ed.


So…you’ve finally met the aeronautical experience requirements to become an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP). It’s time to take the next step in your professional aviation career and you’ve decided to join the ranks of airline pilots. But which airline do you pursue? How do you know what’s the right fit?

Fortunately, in today’s job market, there are many options as virtually all regional air carriers are hiring. In making your choice, you may consider pay, equipment, upgrade time, major airline affiliations, “flow-throughs” and a host of other benefits. There are job fairs as well as great online resources to help you compare airlines including and

The best advice I received was to find an airline where you can base close to home for the best quality of life. If you’re based close to home (the airport where your trips will originate), you avoid the added headache and time of commuting to work and the possible added expense of housing or a “crash-pad” in the city where you are based. It’s one less life disruption during a period in your life with many other changes.

Once you’ve picked your airline and applied for the job, it’s time to prepare for the interview. Some of your most valuable resources will be your peers that have joined the same company and been through the same interview. If you don’t have a trusted source on the inside, there is still a popular online resource,, where other candidates have left insightful information from their interviews for your benefit. Take the time to be comfortable and well-prepared for your big day.

On interview day at my airline, I was flown to the training center where I met other candidates before being called in for a presentation. In the presentation, we learned more about the organization. The presenters discussed scheduling, the bidding system, benefits, and provided a general company overview. After the presentation was complete, we were interviewed one by one.

The first portion of the interview was conducted by a human resources representative where they ask traditional interview questions to figure out who you are as a person. The next phase is a technical interview with pilot representatives. I was asked to read and interpret a METAR and TAF. I also had to answer questions related to the rules on alternate airports for takeoff and landing. I reviewed the basics of Jeppesen instrument approach charts, SIDs, STARs, and overall chart symbology. There are regulations applicable to instrument flying that the airlines will expect candidates to know, such as descent when you may descend below MDA/DH and how to plan descents.

Upon completion of the interview, I was immediately offered a new-hire class date. I was officially an airline pilot and the remainder of my airline pilot training would be sponsored by the airline!

New airline pilot applicants must go through a week-long training course known as the Airline Transport Pilot Certification Training Program (ATP-CTP). The course consists of a 4-day of ground school covering high altitude aerodynamics, automation, adverse weather, air carrier operations, transport category airplane performance, and the crew environment. On the 4th day, we were given a knowledge test on the subjects covered. The next three days were in the simulators utilizing an FTD and a full-motion simulator.

The simulators were used for introducing concepts unique to flying transport category airplanes. These included flight management system (FMS) programming, high altitude operations, high and low altitude stall recoveries, windshear escape maneuvers, ground-proximity warning system (GPWS) and traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS) maneuvers, and automation management. Throughout the course, applicants were expected to study for the FAA knowledge test. ATP-CTP is a pre-requisite to completing the FAA written exam for multiengine ATP (ATM).

With a good score and fresh copy of my ATM knowledge test results and ATP-CTP graduation certificate in hand, it was time to get ready for First Officer training!

Please check back for the next installment discussing First Officer training.