PILOT SHORTAGE: why you can NOT trust data in the press


I recently read an article lambasting a Wall Street Journal article by Ashely Rowe of Wanted Analytics. The data is so flawed, the conclusions are fantasy.

The Wall Street Journal article written by Jack Nicas and Susan Carey was spot on and well researched. It simply shows what I have been writing about for years. The pilot shortage is here because the profession, no scratch that, the job is not worth it. Period. It is quite obvious that Ms Rowe and Wanted Analytics know little to nothing about the pilot profession or even pay scales. In her article she used the following scale:


False; completely and totally false. There simply is no other way to say it. The analysis isn’t shallow or mis leading it is completely and totally wrong! What makes it so glaring is how easy it is to refute it.

Let’s go to the source; Airline Pilot Central published pay scales. I’m not going to sample the Regional Pilot pay scale, I’m going to use them all. In most scientific analysis you toss the data points outside of the 10% and 90% sample, those on the edge of data collected. FIRST AND FOREMOST; you must get on the correct scale. The starting position for pilots is First Officer, commonly called a co-pilot. The scales for Captain start at 1 year, but it is extremely rare for anyone to make it that fast or be hired directly into the left seat. Regionals are all seniority based, upgrades are normally 5-10 years. At my Airline (the worlds largest) upgrade is running at the 20 year mark.

The only explanation I can come up with for such blatantly inaccurate numbers is Wanted Analytics used the wrong scale, the Captain scale. So what are the real numbers?

I sampled all of the Regional Airlines on the site, a total of 17, and dropped the high ($30) and low ($9). The new high came to $26 with a low of $16. That is PER FLIGHT HOUR; not hours on duty, which are not compensated normally except with what is called duty rigs. For my airline it is 3:1; so for example if I sit 3 hours between flights I get paid 1. It is only for time between legs and it is figured into monthly lines. So for the hourly average for starting pay at all of the published Regionals comes to $22.92, but for simplicity I’ll round up to $23. I did not use all 15 remaining Regional scales because two paid by salary. I will factor those in on the average.

Now we have to figure out the flight hours, or as a lawyer or doctor would call it, billable hours. A new pilot will sit reserve; on reserve he or she will get a reserve guarantee. They vary usually around 73 for reserve and lower for a line holder. My airline is 73 and 64 respectively. Most pilots fly high time now when able; so for the range I will factor from reserve guarantee (minimum) to FAR limits of 1,000 flight hours a year (the maximum allowed by law).

Our two salary operators: one comes in dead on the initial high at $23,000 a year, the other lists 2731 which I would assume is per month thus would be our new high and dropped. With the new high of 30 we get a bump of .42 cents per flight hour or $420 a year increase.


Reserve- $20,524 per year.

Line holder- $23,420 MAXIMUM per year.

The only other explanation for the grossly inflated numbers is the author may have used government, corporate, or other specialized pilot jobs such as test pilot, for the range. These are NOT entry level positions; with the possible exception of some corporate jobs. However, the WSJ article was about the Regional Airline Industry’s pilot shortage. And it still does not account for the stated range in Chicago of $25,000-$62,000. As I show above the average maximum salary of a Regional First Officer does not even reach the low of the range.

In fact, when you double the ACTUAL maximum salary average for Regionals you still have not reached the bottom of the authors published chart. Irresponsible reporting at best and just one more example of why you can not trust the data in the press.


Read more about Aviation and Airline Pilot exploits in the Aviators Series:

#3 ENDGAME #2 Vengeance #1 Project Seven Alpha

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  1. […] on pilot work force, stated the biggest cause for the current shortage was low pay rates. As my article stated yesterday the approximate 24,000 dollar a year jobs are simply not drawing pilots. The numbers I came up with […]