At some regional airlines, it can take as long as 7 years to upgrade to Captain, even for pilots who are Captain-qualified. And until a regional pilot is a Captain, they can’t start accumulating Pilot in Command, or PIC time.
The Pilot in Command, or PIC, is the crew member ultimately held responsible for the safety of a flight. The number of hours that pilots act in the role of Pilot in Command is called PIC time. The more PIC time that a pilot has, the better their chances of being offered a position with a major carrier.
First Officers facing long upgrade times often find themselves in professional limbo, unable to accumulate the Pilot in Command, time that they need to move on, but understandably hesitant to start over with another regional, as it would require walking away from years of accrued seniority.
Fortunately, GoJet’s Direct Entry Captain program provides a welcome solution for pilots caught between a rock and a hard place. This program allows pilots who are Captain-qualified to join GoJet as a Captain, rather than a First Officer, and immediately start earning PIC time. The program, which is the only of its kind in the country, provides relief for pilots who have been flying as First Officers for years with no upgrade in sight.
One such pilot is GoJet Direct Entry Captain Brad Meyer. He flew as a First Officer at another airline for 8 years, before taking a three year hiatus from the industry. He had no intention of returning to aviation, knowing that he’d have to start over again as a First Officer. However, GoJet’s Direct Entry Captain program changed his mind. “After flying as a First Officer for 8 years, I didn’t want to start over at that level,” he said. “This program allowed me to start flying again, but this time as a Captain.”
Direct Entry Captain Kyle Barrett agrees, remarking, “The Direct Entry Captain program has been perfect for my career.” Kyle, a former regional First Officer, left the regional world several years ago for corporate flying. However, he decided to return to regional flying to gain additional 121 experience that would make him more marketable to a major carrier. Given the depth of his experience, the Direct Entry Captain program made it possible for him to immediately start flying as a Captain, rather than starting over again as a First Officer.
One misconception about the program is that Direct Entry Captains “cut in line” ahead of First Officers already on property, thus increasing the time that it takes for those First Officers to upgrade. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Upgrade time is tied to seniority, and seniority is tied to a pilot’s start date. A First Officer already on property will be higher on the seniority list than a new hire Direct Entry Captain. When a First Officer upgrades, they immediately bypass all Captains junior to them on the seniority list, while a Direct Entry Captain will sit reserve if there are no lines available.
However, Direct Entry Captains get plenty of flying time. Lines open up with attrition, and an average of 15-25 pilots leave GoJet each month to move on to major airlines and legacy carriers. Also, Direct Entry Captains can fly in both seats, which means that a Direct Entry Captain can cover a trip as a First Officer, while still getting paid as a Captain.
In addition to the benefits associated with accumulating PIC time, GoJet offers a host of other advantages that are very attractive to pilots. Direct Entry Captain Robert Brown likes GoJet’s competitive five year contract, while Direct Entry Captain Zach Moore likes the extra time at home afforded by long-call reserve.
Plus, GoJet’s small pilot group means that management takes a personal interest in each pilot’s success. “I couldn’t believe it when the Director of Flight Ops and the Chief Pilot introduced themselves to my training class and shook everyone’s hand,” Robert Brown recalled.
Direct Entry Captain Jason DuVerny, who left corporate flying to be able to fly a more predictable schedule, has also been impressed with what he’s seen from GoJet’s management, as well as the training program. “My simulator instructor really went out of his way to ensure that I was equipped for line flying,” he remarked. “I feel very fortunate to have received such high-level training in this environment.”
Total year one compensation for a Direct Entry Captain starts at just over $91,000 a year. Pilots with a current CL-65 or ERJ-170 type rating can earn in excess in $94,000 in total compensation during their first year. And pilots who take advantage of GoJet’s longevity carryover program can earn even more.