I am currently a First Officer with Pinnacle Airlines, which is an all-jet regional airline that operates North American routes for Northwest Airlines, the world’s 4th largest airline. (All of our aircraft are painted in Northwest’s livery) We currently operate Canadair Regional Jet 200 LR and 440 LR aircraft, with bases/hubs in Minneapolis, Detroit, and Memphis. At present, we have about 80 aircraft, and will have 129 by August of 2005.
I am based in Minneapolis, and have been here for the entire 3 months since I passed my initial check ride. Minneapolis is a VERY COLD city. We operate daily with gusty cross- winds and severe winter weather causing low visibility and icing. All in all, it has been a great operational experience. One nice aspect of the job is that we use Jet-Ways at 90% of the outstations we fly to, so it avoids the adverse weather conditions for our passengers as they de-plane. (And us too!!) At the hubs, we only use Jet-Ways.
The growth that this airline is experiencing is fairly significant. I was on reserve for my first two months, and am now a hard line holder. Upgrade time to Captain is predicted to be 18-24 months. As long as you have the seniority, and 3000 TT, you can upgrade. The 3000 hr. minimum may hold me from the 18 month upgrade, but at the rate I hope to fly, it shouldn’t hold me for too long.
Prior to flying here at Pinnacle, much of my flying experience took place in Florida, as that is where I went to college, and learned to fly. I attended an Aviation University that had a large flight program that was part of my degree program. After leaving Florida, I came back to Vancouver, which is where I was raised for a significant portion of my life. While I was here, I took the opportunity to get float endorsed, and do some float/bush flying. This was an absolute blast, and I recommend it to anybody for both entertainment, and time building. For some, it would also make a great career. I would have liked to get some more bush time, but I can’t complain too much with where I am. I was offered a full time float job in B.C., but had too decline for a class date here at Pinnacle. It was actually a harder decision then some would think.
The CRJ is a fantastic aircraft. It is fully automated, with a competent Flight Management System. On longer legs, we can end up cruising at 39,000 feet, while pulling .81 mach. Our company likes to save money and be ultra fuel efficient, so our profiles call for mach .74, but all is relative.
For those that are interested in working here, it is a great place to get jet/glass cockpit experience. The minimums are 1500 Total time, and 300 hours multi-engine. If you come from an aviation university, and intern here, the minimums are SIGNIFICANTLY reduced. (around 250 hour TT minimum, so I am told) So if bush flying or flight instructing is not for you, I would highly recommend this method. It saves you from having to buy flight time, and will give you an impressive resume. I wish I interned here, it could have saved me some money, and given me an even higher seniority number.
There is no “one path” to the cockpit. As long as you are competent, and have a good attitude, you deserve to be in a cockpit somewhere.
Also, VERY IMPORTANT: an airlines’ best asset is its pilots. And pilots should be treated (and paid) as such.
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