11:05 AM

Regional Airlines Offer Commercial Pilot Opportunities

Sheila Pursglove
Contributing Writer

Every member of Civil Air Patrol is tasked to support its aerospace education mission, a broad-based initiative that extends outside the classroom to include recruiting tomorrow’s aviators for military and civilian pilot jobs. CAP cadets in particular can play a role in enabling commercial aviation to cope with an impending pilot shortage, and flying for regional airlines can provide entry into the field, said Chaplain Lt. Col. Tim Miner, a Boeing 737 pilot for American Airlines and the chaplain for CAP’s Virginia Wing.

Miner recently asked Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines, the world’s largest airline, about the future of careers in aviation.

“Flying is a phenomenal profession that has so much upside going for it. Get your 1,500 hours — figure out a way to do that, and you will have a big future ahead,” said Parker, whose airline just announced the American Airlines Cadet Academy, offering training, loans and a chance for future employment with its three wholly owned regional subsidiaries – Envoy Air, PSA Airlines and Piedmont Airlines.

Miner, who noted that many CAP pilots are now flying for regionals, recently wrote a letter of recommendation for Lt. Col. Clay Wilkins of the Virginia Wing.

A newly hired first officer at CommutAir, which flies for United Express to dozens of U.S. destinations, Wilkins is training at the Dulles Training Center and then will be flying the 50-seat Embraer Regional Jet ERJ-145XR based out of Newark Liberty International and Dulles International airports.

“My first flight was almost 40 years ago, and there has been absolutely no time like the present to pursue a career in the airlines,” Wilkins said. “Because of a unique flow-through agreement with United Airlines, many CommutAir pilots with a four-year degree have recently made the jump to United, some in as little time as just over two years.

“I’m looking forward to growing along with a company that will triple in size in the next two years, becoming a captain next year, and enjoying the travel benefits with my family,” he said.

Having flown nearly 1,000 hours over the last five years as a disaster relief mission pilot, orientation pilot, and flight instructor at several cadet flight academies, Wilkins can attest that Civil Air Patrol has proven instrumental in his journey to an airline career.

“Fortunately, I expect my airline career to allow me the time to continue to pursue my passion in CAP and aerospace education,” he added. “After prior careers as a physician and an Army officer, I’m finding commercial aviation both demanding and tremendously rewarding, especially entering the field somewhat late in life.

“Aviation has proven to me it can truly be an opportunity for both the young, and young at heart.”

Col. Matthew Creed, CAP Great Lakes Region commander and assistant chief pilot for SkyWest Airlines, gained the flight time needed to obtain his Federal Aviation Administration commercial certificate as a CAP mission pilot and cadet orientation pilot.

That experience led to employment as a corporate pilot at Bluegrass Air Charter in Stamping Ground, Kentucky, where he flew the Pilatus PC-12 and Cessna Citation in an executive transport and charter environment.

“I think the most enjoyable part of the job was being able to spend longer overnights in exciting places – a week in Savannah, Georgia, for example. Bluegrass was a huge part of my development as a pilot, and it helped prepare me for my move to the airlines,” Creed said.

SkyWest hired him in November 2011 as a first officer on the Canadair Regional Jet.  Connecting millions of passengers each month to 241 destinations across North America, SkyWest operates in partnership with Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines and Alaska Airlines and has a fleet of 431 aircraft.

Creed initially lived in Minneapolis, commuting from Indianapolis, where he served as CAP’s Indiana Wing vice commander and, later, wing commander. He transferred to SkyWest’s hub at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport when it opened in July 2016 and commutes there from his home in Cincinnati.

“A large number of pilots pursuing careers at legacy airlines or other major carriers start off flying for regional airlines. It’s a great way to prepare to further your career, because you’re working under the same regulations and in many ways doing the same job, just in a smaller airplane,” Creed said.

“One can also make a good career at a regional airline if they choose to do so, and in many cases the airlines are a second and completely different career. I was a career paramedic before I was an airline pilot,” he said.

As assistant chief pilot for SkyWest, Creed is responsible to the regional chief pilot for oversight of all the pilots and flight operations in the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County base. Creed’s rank is captain, and as a line check airman he serves as an instructor and evaluator on the Canadair Regional Jet. Before upgrading to captain, he also served in the Flight Training Department as a procedures instructor. He flies the Canadair Regional Jet 200, 700 and 900, and most of his destinations out of Detroit are in the Midwest or southern United States.

“Besides the obvious thrill of getting to fly a jet and getting to see new places, my assistant chief pilot and check airman roles allow me to guide and mentor both new hire first officers and upgrading captains,” Creed said. “It’s very rewarding to be able to be a part of a pilot’s growth in their new role.”

A CAP cadet in the Kentucky Wing for several years before rejoining with a senior squadron, Creed said his time as a cadet helped encourage his love of aviation and develop the self-discipline needed to succeed in any field of endeavor.

“It’s very rewarding to be able to give back to the program by helping encourage today’s cadets and by serving in leadership roles to create opportunities for our members,” he said.

Capt. Christopher Mayer, chief of pilot/flight operations at Minneapolis St. Paul International, Detroit Metropolitan and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International airports, said he was immediately impressed with Creed’s high level of professionalism and overall leadership attributes.

“It wasn’t long before  CAP came up in our discussion, as I had mentioned my son was interested in becoming a cadet,” Mayer said. “Matt has continued to impress me throughout his six-plus-year tenure here at SkyWest. I strongly feel the leadership and communication skills he has attained while serving as an officer in CAP have definitely helped to propel his career here at SkyWest. Matt also does a tremendous job in managing his responsibilities to both the company and the CAP – sometimes a rather daunting task.”

Col. Martha Morris, Arizona Wing commander, is a JetBlue first officer based at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, flying Airbus A320 and A321 series aircraft all over the Caribbean to South America and to the West coast.

“CAP is a large part of who I am and where I am today,” Morris said. “When I first joined, I was a college student with 300 (flight) hours. My only goal was to become a mission check pilot. But I had so much fun and comradeship I stayed and did that role and so many others.”

Morris, who has served in CAP as a squadron check pilot, check airmen, chief check pilot, standardization evaluation pilot and director of operations, joined the organization as a way to give back and to obtain flying experience.

“It’s been fun to put on my resume ‘volunteer search pilot’ as a part of my flying background,” she said.

When Morris first joined Civil Air Patrol, airline jobs were relatively scarce, so CAP was a good way to continue to fly while doing other things, she said.

“CAP gave me lots of flight time in return for participating,” she said. “CAP can help people obtain those 1,500 flight hours, but to get those hours does require training.

“One of the best parts of this organization is all the mentorship I’ve been given over the years from the more experienced members that has been very valuable to me,” Morris said.