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USN Rotary to Airline Transition?

Jim123

DD-214 in hand and I'm gonna party like it's 1998
pilot
As more and more RTP pilots enter 121 training there seems to be mixed opinions on their performance. Some do fine and others don’t. Extra training events are sometimes required which airlines don’t like.
"Old man brain" is a real thing- the failure rate for 55+ and especially 60+ is shockingly bad. The older you get, if it's your first exposure to big wing flying and flying the 121 way, then the learning curve is really steep. Working your ass off and having positive attitude only goes so far and at some point it's not enough. Time is money!

Age takes a pretty big bite in your aptitude to learn new things, to learn a lot of new things, and most of all to learn them quickly. It would be like someone who's only flown heavies for a decades trying to learn helicopter flying late in the game (not that the market forces will ever drive that). All the things that are typically difficult for twenty-something brains to learn would be a little harder for forty-something brains to learn and that much harder for the fifty and up crowd.

Normal maneuvers and normal flying (basic IFR procedures and whatnot) aren't difficult in any kind of flying, airplane or helicopter or anything else; it's the abnormal procedures and emergencies that are hard to learn- on top of getting your flows down and managing the automation, both of use up a lot of study time and work (brute force memorization). It doesn't mean it's impossible and it's far from it, but it's like you don't know what you don't know.

I do think the regional training departments are gradually adapting to this aspect of their recruiting pool and I guarantee that they're struggling with it, even if they haven't yet decided what to do about it.
 

zippy

Freedom!
pilot
Contributor
Don't regional guys still get a number at a major carrier that may own them? I had lots of copilots from Eagle that had gotten a number years before.
Not currently. It seems the Eagle seniority # at AA thing was a negotiated compromise in exchange for mainline flow backs to the top of the Eagle seniority list during the lost decade. As mentioned by Hokie, new AA WO pilots get AA employee #s but no APA seniority #s.
 

wink

VS NFO. Blue and Gold Officer
None
Super Moderator
Contributor
Learning has taken place. Thanks all.
 

mad dog

assistant to the assistant pao
pilot
Contributor
"Old man brain" is a real thing- the failure rate for 55+ and especially 60+ is shockingly bad. The older you get, if it's your first exposure to big wing flying and flying the 121 way, then the learning curve is really steep. Working your ass off and having positive attitude only goes so far and at some point it's not enough. Time is money!

Age takes a pretty big bite in your aptitude to learn new things, to learn a lot of new things, and most of all to learn them quickly. It would be like someone who's only flown heavies for a decades trying to learn helicopter flying late in the game (not that the market forces will ever drive that). All the things that are typically difficult for twenty-something brains to learn would be a little harder for forty-something brains to learn and that much harder for the fifty and up crowd.

Normal maneuvers and normal flying (basic IFR procedures and whatnot) aren't difficult in any kind of flying, airplane or helicopter or anything else; it's the abnormal procedures and emergencies that are hard to learn- on top of getting your flows down and managing the automation, both of use up a lot of study time and work (brute force memorization). It doesn't mean it's impossible and it's far from it, but it's like you don't know what you don't know.

I do think the regional training departments are gradually adapting to this aspect of their recruiting pool and I guarantee that they're struggling with it, even if they haven't yet decided what to do about it.
Dammit Jim!

Good post...I’ve got that “old man brain” thing [as well as the unfortunate “mad dog brain” thing] going on...a double whammy.
 

zippy

Freedom!
pilot
Contributor
"Old man brain" is a real thing- the failure rate for 55+ and especially 60+ is shockingly bad. The older you get, if it's your first exposure to big wing flying and flying the 121 way, then the learning curve is really steep. Working your ass off and having positive attitude only goes so far and at some point it's not enough. Time is money!

Age takes a pretty big bite in your aptitude to learn new things, to learn a lot of new things, and most of all to learn them quickly. It would be like someone who's only flown heavies for a decades trying to learn helicopter flying late in the game (not that the market forces will ever drive that). All the things that are typically difficult for twenty-something brains to learn would be a little harder for forty-something brains to learn and that much harder for the fifty and up crowd.

Normal maneuvers and normal flying (basic IFR procedures and whatnot) aren't difficult in any kind of flying, airplane or helicopter or anything else; it's the abnormal procedures and emergencies that are hard to learn- on top of getting your flows down and managing the automation, both of use up a lot of study time and work (brute force memorization). It doesn't mean it's impossible and it's far from it, but it's like you don't know what you don't know.

I do think the regional training departments are gradually adapting to this aspect of their recruiting pool and I guarantee that they're struggling with it, even if they haven't yet decided what to do about it.
Old man brain and/or a lack of depth of experience in IFR operation seems to be the culprit with RTP training struggles. There have been pushes made by regional training departments to end RTP programs due to the additional effort needed to get helo transition pilots flying on the line successfully, however RTP program applicants currently make upto 20% of New Hires at some regionals so those pushes get shut down pretty quickly from management as the alternative is to raise pay etc. to attract qualified pilots from other parts of the industry.

If a helo guy gets a chance to go to the VTs, Weekend cross countries and RI out and ins will best prepare them for the 121 world. 300-500mi ccx legs in a T-6B with a alternate filed and 2 approaches (ILS and GPS) at the end replicates a good amount of the stuff they’ll encounter once they make the jump.
 

webmaster

The Grass is Greener!
pilot
Site Admin
Contributor
At least at the AA wholely owned, yes we get a mainline employee number, but that is not a seniority number. One only gets on the seniority list on the first day of class. Whether one gets to class via flow or competitive hiring.
Helps towards vacation accrual.
 

Treetop Flyer

Well-Known Member
pilot
Would one be better off doing ~two more years with a FTS VR/VTP gig, or retiring and jumping into a RTP right at 20? Could you check all the boxes for an airline hire in a three-year fixed-wing FTS tour? Is there any seniority to be gained by starting earlier at a regional in a RTP? If pay difference between regional and FTS FW tour wasn’t a big concern, what would the better option be?
I would go VT’s. You may still wind up at a regional or other stepping stone, but VT’s will get you PIC time, whereas a VR will get you less. You’ll still need to get some ME time on your own, but there are lots of opportunities for time building near any VT.
 

SynixMan

Space Cadet
pilot
Contributor
That’s really good feedback—thank you.

Pay aside, would the VR>VTP>RTP FO apply to QOL as well?
VT IP as a JO is a good deal, gets your FWPIC and instructor time. Can't speak to the others. But I think you're talking about FTS DH gigs, in which case you'll likely do more DH stuff like OPS/Admin/Stucon and less flying that a JO. My pure helo -> VR FTS buddies are planning on getting out as soon as they can just like everyone else, with a few exceptions. VR transition incurs a 36month commitment after the training track, so you're adding ~40 months to the Navy.

Can you retire today (prior I assume)? I'd argue you're making a decision more about risk tolerance, not QoL. Regionals is more risk (although not that much with a retirement check + Tricare added in), but potentially higher reward of a major seniority number earlier. VTs is middle risk, you could do 24 months there as an FTS DH and then walk away, maybe still going to a regional. VR is longer, but maybe you could walk to a major. No one can predict 36 months from now. QoL can be maximized in all cases through various means.
 

HSMPBR

Not a misfit toy
pilot
I would go VT’s. You may still wind up at a regional or other stepping stone, but VT’s will get you PIC time, whereas a VR will get you less. You’ll still need to get some ME time on your own, but there are lots of opportunities for time building near any VT.
That makes sense. T-44 or TC-12 would take care of the ME, but I don’t know how realistic it is to go there as a helo guy—though I know straight helo guys who selected FTS C-40 and VTP advanced in the past year.


VT IP as a JO is a good deal, gets your FWPIC and instructor time. Can't speak to the others. But I think you're talking about FTS DH gigs, in which case you'll likely do more DH stuff like OPS/Admin/Stucon and less flying that a JO. My pure helo -> VR FTS buddies are planning on getting out as soon as they can just like everyone else, with a few exceptions. VR transition incurs a 36month commitment after the training track, so you're adding ~40 months to the Navy.

Can you retire today (prior I assume)? I'd argue you're making a decision more about risk tolerance, not QoL. Regionals is more risk (although not that much with a retirement check + Tricare added in), but potentially higher reward of a major seniority number earlier. VTs is middle risk, you could do 24 months there as an FTS DH and then walk away, maybe still going to a regional. VR is longer, but maybe you could walk to a major. No one can predict 36 months from now. QoL can be maximized in all cases through various means.
Prior with about 18 months until I could apply for FTS. Eligible to retire on DH tour. Depending on FTS community, if selected, I think that would take me to 21-22 years. I want to get in as early as I can, but if there aren’t real seniority implications with building the majority of my FW time as an O4 instead of RTP FO, FTS looks like a nice opportunity. I’d also be happy to get that experience while continuing to serve in some capacity. This is what I expected, but I wanted to see if anyone would suggest running for the regionals at 20 and never looking back.
 

zippy

Freedom!
pilot
Contributor
That’s really good feedback—thank you.

Pay aside, would the VR>VTP>RTP FO apply to QOL as well?
That depends on what you define QOL as.

In the 121 world I’m gone a few nights in a row back a few nights, rinse and repeat but all I do at work is check in fly, check out and go to the hotel. With few exceptions I can’t be called during my rest period. When I’ve checked out from a trip I don’t have to answer my phone until the start of my next trip or respond to emails. I’ve talked to my chief pilot three times in the last 2 and a half years.

My flight school roommate is an OPSO. He’s home every night and gets 500+ Emails a week from senders who feel they require a response and is glued to his phone when not at work because everything in the squadron is his problem in some way shape or form.

My company is known for poor QOL by airline standards but my QOL there is exponentially better than it was in the fleet VPenis or flying every day or the week and 2x weekend a month in the VTs. I went from 4-6 days a month during those two tours to 11-14 days off a month in 121. Some regionals have line holders averaging 16-18 days a month, @HokiePilot can talk more about how his life doesn’t suck at all in terms of QOL.
 
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xmid

Registered User
pilot
Contributor
As a former grey helicopter pilot, then VT IP, then C-40 FTS pilot, I would warn against going VR purely because its the riskiest of the options you're looking at. If you get C-40's you're probably going to be set up pretty well, but there's a decent chance you get Herc's and I have friends that are leaving their Herc tour with only a couple hundred hours. 40 months is a long time to sit in purgatory if your struggling to meet your annual mins in the C-130.

I'd recommend trying to go VTP. Having >1,000 PIC turbine hours as a military instructor pilot will be highly valued, and if you still go to a regional you probably won't be there long. I doubt going the straight regional route will get you to the majors any faster.
 

Fallonflyr

Well-Known Member
pilot
That depends on what you define QOL as.

In the 121 world I’m gone a few nights in a row back a few nights, rinse and repeat but all I do at work is check in fly, check out and go to the hotel. With few exceptions I can’t be called during my rest period. When I’ve checked out from a trip I don’t have to answer my phone until the start of my next trip or respond to emails. I’ve talked to my chief pilot three times in the last 2 and a half years.

My flight school roommate is an OPSO. He’s home every night and gets 500+ Emails a week from senders who feel they require a response and is glued to his phone when not at work because everything in the squadron is his problem in some way shape or form.

My company is known for poor QOL by airline standards but my QOL there is exponentially better than it was in the fleet VPenis or flying every day or the week and 2x weekend a month in the VTs. I went from 4-6 days a month during those two tours to 11-14 days off a month in 121. Some regionals have line holders averaging 16-18 days a month, @HokiePilot can talk more about how his life doesn’t suck at all in terms of QOL.
I’ve only had to talk to a chief pilot twice in 24 years. I plan on being the “who was that guy?” Guy when I retire.
 

zippy

Freedom!
pilot
Contributor
I’ve only had to talk to a chief pilot twice in 24 years. I plan on being the “who was that guy?” Guy when I retire.
Every time I see the head CP he tells me he can’t remember my name and I tell him that is fine, if he doesn’t know it I’m doing my job and he doesn’t need to waste his time learning it.
 

RedFive

Well-Known Member
pilot
None
Contributor
That depends on what you define QOL as.
No snow.

@HSMPBR you can checkout my Grass is Greener thread in PNA if you are looking to read up on more opinions on the FTS/VR dilemma. I had a similar decision to make in the spring and, for some reason, I listened to these guys. Lots of feedback in there talking around the same question which may help you as well. Hopefully it works out for me. 🙃😬

 

Purdue

Chicks Dig Rotors...
pilot
Old man brain and/or a lack of depth of experience in IFR operation seems to be the culprit with RTP training struggles. There have been pushes made by regional training departments to end RTP programs due to the additional effort needed to get helo transition pilots flying on the line successfully, however RTP program applicants currently make upto 20% of New Hires at some regionals so those pushes get shut down pretty quickly from management as the alternative is to raise pay etc. to attract qualified pilots from other parts of the industry.
I haven't heard of any pushes to end RTP programs... however I will say that there is a consensus from some of the non-military Captains that RTP guys are weak in some areas. I'd chalk it up to CAs not understanding the bravado of military aviators... although a recurring theme I've heard espoused is that Army RTP guys specifically are weak at instrument flying and hand-flown IFR approaches. I'd chalk this up to the fact that MOST RTP guys came from the Army... and a portion of Army Helo Bubbas fly birds with no instruments or rarely fly IFR missions. I've heard it be said that an entry into actual IFR was basically considered an EP by them. As a MH-60S guy, I showed up with a substantial amount of actual IFR logged and a few hundred actual ILS approaches logged, and haven't heard any complaints about my instrument skills.

Also, the RTP bubbas are still "the new kids on the block" in the hiring process. Nobody ever likes the new kid, especially if "those guys didn't do it the same way I did!" Combine that with the fact it only takes one bad apple to ruin a Captain's view of RTP guy as a group... and there ya go.
 
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