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It takes a special breed of competent, cool-headed helicopter pilots to fly for the U.S. military. That is why regional airline Envoy Air, a wholly owned subsidiary of American Airlines (AA), is seeking to attract retiring helicopter pilots to the cockpits of its fixed-wing jetliners, through an innovative Rotor Transition Program (RTP).
By signing up for the RTP when they retire, U.S. military helicopter pilots can receive the fast-track training they need to transition to fixed-wing commercial flight. These pilots will fly first for regional airline Envoy Air, then ultimately move into the larger passenger jets flown by American Airlines itself. (Envoy manages the RTP.)
In choosing this path, retiring military pilots will receive training credit for the flight experience they have, instruction tailored to their specific needs, plus generous salaries and benefits for the rest of their flying careers. Better yet, these pilots can find themselves moving from the cockpits of military helicopters to the flight decks of AA jets in less than six years!
“Military helicopter pilots are seasoned, trained professionals who have already proven themselves in some of the toughest flying situations out there,” said Jon Reibach, director of pilot recruitment at Envoy Air. “Bringing them into Envoy and then flowing through to American Airlines is a win-win for these pilots and the company, especially at a time when Baby Boomer pilots are retiring from commercial fleets. Our passengers also win, because they get flown by some of the best, most experienced pilots in the business.”
Here’s how the RTP works: After signing up for the program, Envoy Air’s RTP instructors meet with each of the former military pilots to assess their flight experience to date and create training programs that get them into fixed-wing commercial flight as soon as possible.
“Military aviators qualify for the lowest minimum R-ATP [restricted airline transport pilot] certificate at just 750 hours total time and 250 fixed-wing PIC [pilot-in-command],” said Reibach. “Most military aviators have the total time requirements but lack the fixed-wing component. That’s where we can help.”
To bring former military helicopter pilots up to speed, Envoy has partnered with Coast Flight Training in San Diego to offer a fixed-wing transition program for RTP participants. Coast recently opened an additional training facility in San Marcos, Texas.
“Envoy will help you with the required funding to obtain the 250 hours of required fixed-wing time,” said Reibach. “We’ll show you how to apply your VA (Veterans Affairs) benefit of up to US$12,554 per year. Envoy will also provide up to $23,000 toward your transition training.”
Once a former military helicopter pilot has graduated from the RTP–a process that can take three to five months, depending on the additional skills each pilot requires to move to fixed-wing commercial flight–they will start flying Envoy’s Bombardier CRJ-700 and Embraer EMB-145/EMB-175 regional jets. (Envoy flies more than 800 daily departures under the American Eagle Brand to 150 destinations in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, and has hubs in Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, and New York.)
“We offer a new hire signing bonus to be paid out on the first day of Envoy training of up to $22,100, dependent on fleet type,” said Reibach. “Envoy also offers a competitive benefits package including medical, dental, vision, life insurance, and 401(k), among others. As well, all Envoy employees and their families enjoy free and unlimited personal travel anywhere throughout the American Airlines global network.”
Now onto the RTP’s career path for successful participants: A new hire joining Envoy today is projected to upgrade from First Officer to Captain in less than three years. They will then have a guaranteed job flying for American Airlines in just about six years, with no further interview required.
“Once you are flying for AA, your successful career path is set,” said Reibach. “You are now an elite aviator with one of the world’s most prestigious and well-paying airlines. This is the aviation equivalent of the major leagues. It does not get any better for career-minded lifetime pilots than this.”
Clearly, Envoy’s Rotor Transition Program is an incredible opportunity for retiring military helicopter pilots. It offers them the long-term post-service career path they’ve been looking for; one that combines the excitement of flying the world’s biggest and best jetliners with the prestige and high pay of being top-level commercial pilots.
To take advantage of this opportunity, all retiring military pilots have to do is complete an application at www.airlineapps.com. “Please make sure that you check Rotor Transition Program (RTP) on the ‘Affiliation’ section of the application,” advised Reibach. “For more information, email us at [email protected], or contact us using the information listed below.”
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