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Airline hiring prep, gouge, advice


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I have been with this board since shortly after its inception - I joined as a young Captain and tapered off after retiring two years ago as a Lt Col.  Due to my departure and shrinking level of current USAF knowledge, my contributions to this board have diminished.  But it occurred to me after a PM from a board member that myself and others in my situation still have a valuable contribution to those who are looking towards a post-AF career.

So I'm starting this thread as a specific Q&A for airline hiring, with emphasis on direct connection to guys working for the airlines who can mentor and assist.  I am not posting this in the "Leaving the Air Force for the Airlines" thread because I want this to be less bitching and more informational.  For those who currently fly, please chime in and provide credentials.  Ideally we can provide an accurate picture of what it's like for our specific airlines.  I'll start.

American Airlines DFW 737 First Officer.  

Feb 2016 hire, previously MIA based.  The grass is definitely greener - no queep, no work once you're done.  On reserve, 12/13 days off a month and guarantee pay of 73-76 hours a month as a reserve pilot (higher pay as a lineholder).  Commuting blows ass, first year pay ain't great, but 2nd year pay is equivalent to my retirement pay as an O-5.  Some of the work rules aren't great, but from a relative perspective of 20 years in the Air Force, this is a sweet gig.

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Can't comment on anything regarding the hiring process since I was hired at AA in January of 99. I am a 787 FO. Flying history-wise has been the 727, 757/767, MD80, back to the 757/767, 737, and 787. Currently got a bid in for the 777. All was sitting reserve except the 737. 

I live just over an hour from DFW so I bid short call since I'm too junior to hold a line. Sitting short call means I don't fly much, maybe one or two trips a month. I went 95 days last Spring and 105 days last Fall between trips.  My observation is wide body international is a completely different airline than domestic narrow body. 

The airline life sucked in the 2003-2015 range with our faux bankruptcy then the real bankruptcy but things have definitely improved regarding pay but work rules have taken a hit.  

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1 hour ago, Lord Ratner said:

I have an interview with AA in a few weeks. Any areas to focus on other than the usual ECIC?

Just relax and be yourself.  My personal 0.02 is not to get too wrapped up with your interview Q&A.  I did ECIC, but elected not to do the phone follow up because I didn't want to come off as having canned answers. Rather than try to think of stories for every possible TMAAT scenario, I tried to pick 6-9 stories that each covered several question areas so I could apply one to a number of different questions.

Below is what I summarized for the AA hiring process to several people who followed me.  I have attached a close version of the cognitive test they use.


Here’s a bit of a timeline of what you can expect during the application / hiring process.  For me it was about six months from when I submitted my application to when I received an email for a video interview, but this was in mid-2015 when the high number of furlough recalls and flow-through guys caused them to stop interviewing for a while.  The first response you'll get is an email from AA Support Department (aasupport@pilotcredentials.com) asking you to do a video interview.  Make sure you check your junk mail regularly and/or add that e-mail to your filters.  I've heard of lots of folks who missed notifications that went to junk mail.

You have a few days to do the video interview.  If you already have your suit, wear it.  If you don't, at least wear a nice shirt and tie.  Do it against a neutral background and remove any distractions (wife, kids, pets, turn off phones, etc.).  Have a piece of paper and pen handy.  It's not an interview per se, you'll be asked five pre-recorded questions and after a 60 second prep period to compose your answer, it will start recording and you'll give your answer (which can be up to three minutes). If you don't already read Airline Pilot Forums, I would recommend it.  There are a lot of topics, but for American there is long running thread about the interview process.

Here is my best memory at the expanded video interview questions:

1 - "Why do you want to fly with AA?"

2 – You are given a brief about an approach (frequencies, altitudes, runways, etc.).  You’re not specifically told to write it down, but you’re told to have a pen/pencil and paper beforehand, so I recommend writing it down as it’s being given to you.  When you brief it back, try not to make it too obvious that you’re reading it from the paper.

4 – I was given a notional airport and five NOTAMs about the airport.  You needed to pick your top 3 concerns and brief why they might be a problem.  I don’t remember them all, but the ones I picked were nearby VFR traffic (might be a hazard, especially if they’re not talking to anybody or on flight following), tendency to be switch to a different runway on final (potential for runway incursion/violation), and potential for fog to pop up (possibility to have to hold or divert with short notice).

5 - TMAAT you had to deal with a delay with customers.  I explained that I have never dealt with it in a traditional sense, but that my job as a fighter pilot was always to be in place on time to support troops on the ground (my customers).  I explained having had weather delays while flying commercial, and chatting up other folks who were likewise delayed and explaining that it was beyond the control of the airline.

Most folks consider the video interview a formality - they just want to make sure you don't have three eyes, and you can compose a few sentences and not sound like a bumbling idiot.  About two weeks after the video interview is done you should receive an email from the AA support department asking you to input additional info (SSN, DOB) into Pilot Credentials (check your junk mail).  I'm guessing they start your background checks with this info.  A week after I entered the info I received a call for a face to face interview.

 The interview is a two day process and they will get you a round trip flight and hotel.  The first day is business casual (slacks and a collared shirt).  They collect your paperwork and give you a cognitive test called Pilot Skills Test.  It seems very similar to Delta's test, however, the unofficial word is that these tests are a data point for reference only and it does not affect your outcome.  They are designed to test you to failure - I felt drained and like I failed by the time it was complete (it's about four hours total).  The attached PPT covers what you can expect to see.

Second day is the interview process.  They read from scripts and a list of questions, but it still led to a good amount of back and forth and seemed very casual once we started going.  The first interview is with a pilot crew - one Captain and one FO in most situations.  They start with introductions of themselves and don't ask about your background (they have studied your resume and will tell you what you did...."So when you were flying XXXX at XXXXX, tell me about....")

Here's the questions I got...

TMAAT you had a crew member give you criticism you didn't like or didn't think was warranted.

Tell me how important communication is, how you communicate and break down barriers to communication.

TMAAT you intervened in something flying related that you thought was unsafe.

TMAAT you didn't get along with somebody TMAAT you disagreed with a policy

Then they went to scenarios.  They had a 3x5 spiral notebook with what I'd guess was at least 20 scenarios. They picked three total, and for each one they read it aloud and gave me as much time as I wanted to think.

During my response, it was somewhat interactive - I feel like it was supposed to cover several areas of responses, and if I was missing something, they would give me a prod in the right direction. 

My Scenarios:

- You're holding #3 for takeoff on runway 27 with a thunderstorm six miles off the field to the west.  An aircraft taking off requests an immediate turn to 180 to avoid the storm.  An aircraft landing on 33 reports windshear on final and loss of 15 knots.  Winds are 290 at 15G23.  Now you're #1 and cleared for takeoff - WWYD?  I tried to gather as much SA on the weather from available resources (departing aircraft, weather, dispatch), and after conferring with the FO the decision was basically that if we could do it safely, we would take off.  If there was any doubt that the weather (thunderstorms and windshear) were going to be a factor, we would delay on the ground.  When I directed all my attention to taking off (or not taking off) from runway 27, one of my guys said, "What about runway 33?" which prompted a few more points of discussion since it wasn't a takeoff directly into the storm.

- You're at FL350 going into JFK and you're at the point where you need to descend.  Weather is right at CAT I mins at JFK and very low at nearby alternates.  You query the controllers and get no response, and when you go back to your previous frequency you likewise get no response.  You're doing 530 GS - WWYD?  I basically ran NORDO procedures in detail from approach to rollout.

- Third scenario was that you show up to the gate as the Captain and find that the aircraft has a hydraulic malfunction that is going to delay it for 3.5 hours.  I said I would standby the gate crew as they made announcement (or make it myself if they weren't around to do it), then be ready to calm down angry passengers.  They asked how I was going to calm people down; explain that I had the same interest in getting home - maybe it was my last flight of the day and I want to get home to see my family - but I can't have my passengers on an unsafe aircraft.  Try to coordinate for alternate flights with open seats, maybe a standby aircraft.  Keep in touch with MX for the status.  Regarding the information or wait time, they asked if I would lie to the passengers to calm folks down, and I told them absolutely not.

The next was a one-on-one HR portion that seemed very (almost too) short with only two questions and a little paperwork.

- For the first question, she took out the first (NORDO) scenario from my previous interview and said, "I'm not a pilot, tell me what this scenario means in layman's terms."  I dumbed it down to civil speak and there was no follow up discussion.

- Question 2 "What are the factors that affect airline profitability?"  This seemed completely out of left field, so I stumbled for a bit, but then talked about the number of airplanes, routes, and pilots.  Talked about assessing routes and streamlining or removing routes were passenger numbers were low.  I mentioned the recent US Airways merger and combining forces., as well as gas prices  I didn't feel like my answer was great, but I couldn't gauge her impression on my answer.

AA Cognitive Test V4.pptx

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I’ll pile on that the ECIC phone top off is not where they give you “canned answers.” (They really never do that). 

Its basically last minute practice. 

They ask you interview style questions and you get to practice applying your 6-9 well thought out stories that you intend to apply or bend to fit. 

Its a one on one chance to calm any jitters, practice speaking out loud, and build your confidence. 

The phone top offs are worth your time. 

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6 minutes ago, BashiChuni said:

how far out from date of separation from the Air Force would you join/hire prep companies such as ECIC? asking for a friend.

A year or so.  Go to an in residence seminar sometime around 12 months prior to your planned separation date to get a solid feel for what you need to do to prep.  I thought I had my shit together and was surprised at what I still needed to work on.  And with ECIC, you can the attend future in person seminars again for free (at least you used to be able to).   So I attended another one once I got my interview invite (about 2 months prior to the interview) and then did the phone top off the day prior.  Was supremely helpful.  

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Delta 330 FO - Hired in mid 2014. 

Once you get to a WB, expect to work 9-15 days/month for 69-90 hours of pay, while flying a line.  With reserve it's 12-15 hard no-fly days, for 72-80 hours of pay.  If you live in base, life on WB reserve is pretty awesome.  Haven't touched a jet in 21 days and don't go back on call for another 6 days...my beard is getting out of control.  Admittedly, it's the slow time of year...summer months you'll likely get used more on reserve.  

I highly recommend ECIC as they helped me immensely as they helped me get hired at 2 legacies.  I never actually went to one in person, I only did the online preps and I felt that they were more than adequate.  Also did a phone top-off prior to each interview.  I've probably lost the pulse of the interview process, but can answer questions on the day-to-day life.  

My biggest piece of advice is to go wherever you can live in base.  Living in base is the single most important item for QOL.  I don't care how much someone justifies, "well it's an easy commute."  It's still a commute and nothing beats driving to work.  Always glad to answer questions and help.   

Pay...as always sucked on 1st year pay, but it's up to $88/hr in 2018 ($91 in 2019).  Year 2 you'll likely be around your mil pay depending on your rank/bonus.  Year 3, I have blown my mil pay out of the water...I'm a 16 year, O-4 that's still ineligible for the bonus (UPT commitment).  That was with half the year on a NB and half on the WB.    

4 hours ago, BashiChuni said:

how far out from date of separation from the Air Force would you join/hire prep companies such as ECIC? asking for a friend.


Albie Hagan posted these quite a few years ago, but they still ring true.  Both are great posts.  For any who don't know Albie is a former Eagle driver/FDX Captain/ECIC owner (I beleive).  



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SWA FO. Started Feb 2017.

6 months to get into my desired base. Only one base that I couldn’t get into at this point (ATL). Able to get into any other within 4-6 months.

15 days on if you’re a reserve. Lines average anywhere from 12-15 days/month. Typically efficient, densely packed pairings. You can work more, up to FAR 117 limits to earn more $$. On first-year anything extra that you pick up from the company is paid at second-year rates. I drive to work, hustle and average 130-140 credit per month working 18-20 days/month. This helps take the sting off of first-year pay.

I too did ECIC and highly recommend. They are excellent at helping you organize your thoughts and stories into a coherent framework that made the interview go very smoothly for me.

It’s true that you will work for your money here but i enjoy the flexibility and ability to earn more if desired. PM me if you have any questions.

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At United, 737, been there over a year, mostly on reserve.  Chose UAL as its closest to home, easy commute, looking at decent growth, has both domestic and international ops, and appears to have a good leadership team. 

Did ECIC x2.  Interviewed with Endeavor, Atlas, SWA, and Delta.  Even though I didn't want to fly regionals or 2nd tier cargo, I took those interviews and I don't regret the experience one bit.  It all counts.  Even after ECIC prep in person and via phone, there's nothing like doing the real deal. 

Interview stories.  There's a short list of general topic areas to develop your stories and often our stories can fulfill multiple areas.  In one interview, I was asked a question I hadn't really thought about nor had a well fitted story for.  But I took their question and somewhat morphed it into a story I did have.  Of course I shortly explained the theme and asked if they'd like to hear that one and they said sure. 

Oh, one other quick thing as I read Toro's post.  If they say you're the Capt, sometimes it really helps you answer by understanding Capt's stuff at airline X.  "Well sir, as a Capt at AA, I should have x years experience and fully understand SOPs regarding this kind if issue."  Ask questions and go.

4 hours ago, Toro said:

I said I would standby the gate crew as they made announcement (or make it myself if they weren't around to do it), then be ready to calm down angry passengers. 

Funny Toro.  Interview life vs real life.

Oh can't forget, pay (why I edited).

1st year with retirement and 90 days leave sell back, broke even and that was awesome (doesn't include company 17% 401k contributions).  2nd year I estimate about 20K more plus about 20K in 401k.

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Start early!

It can and probably should take about 6 months to get your app up to the 99% solution...independent of the time it takes to study, prep, etc. 

dont beleive me?

-what’s the mailing address where you went to AFEO (Life support Officer) school?

-what were the exact date you were at SoS? B-course? Etc  

-what was the phone number to the ops desk at a squadron that’s now at Holloman?  Closed?

-what’s the disposition of that speeding ticket you got around 2008?  What was the date? Where?  If you just mail in a payment have you been found guilty?  Is that different in Virginia vs Nevada?

-who was your supervisor at your college job?

-do you have sealed high school and college transcripts?

-what’s on your faa record?


all of the information is out there...it just takes time and leg work to get.  The 99% application takes OCD level attention to detail  


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To add to the post above.  If you haven't already, it's never to early to start creating your binder o' justice.  Some of this was completely unnecessary/overkill (High school transcript), but having this binder already made up, made life much easier when filling out applications and going to interviews.  I bought a 3 ring binder, plastic sleeve protectors and made 5 copies of everything...just don't lose it.  

- Cover Letter (never needed it)

- Resume (never needed it)

- High School Transcript (never needed it ) 

- High School Diploma (don't think I ever used it for anything other than my GPA)

- College Transcript (ordered 5 copies...AAL required sealed transcripts)

- Driving Record

- Passport

- ATP Written Results

- All DD-214s (ARC guys get multiple throughout their career)

- OPRs

- Form 8s

- From 942

- Birth Certificate

- Social Security Card

- Aviation Certificates

- FAA medical (Class 1)

- FCC Restricted Radio Operators Certificate

- Driver License

- Letters of Recommendation 

- Voided Check (for you desired bank account)

- Current proof of residence (mortgage/utility bill)

- List of references, their address and phone number

- List of residence history (with addresses, dates and contact info for any roommates)

- List of work history (addresses, dates, phone number, name of supervisor)

- List of civilian schooling (addresses, dates, degrees earned)

- List of military schooling (addresses, dates, supervisors)

- List of volunteer work (names and dates) 

- Military Graduation Certificates/awards (UPT/IFF/FTU/etc...)

- Educational Awards

- Marriage Certificate...and Divorce Certificate

- Any information pertaining to arrests, driving tickets, etc...

- I don't have a wife or kids so I'm not sure what all is required to get them in the system, but it could hurt to add in whatever is need to input them in the system during indoc (Birth certificate?  SSN?).  I just seem to remember everyone calling their spouses to track down the info during break. 

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Ret. AF, hired at UA in Jul 15. I did all the prep (ECIC, job fairs, sim prep, etc.) and the one thing I always tell people that I believe got me the call was using an application review service. There's a few out there, pick one and drop the $99. Can't say with 100% certainty it made the difference, but I got 3 calls within weeks after having my apps on file for over a year.

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I've been at United for eleven years this month.

Currently a 737 Captain at LAX. Held the left seat at nine years and currently am sitting reserve at home in SoCal. I flew the 737, 757, 767 and very briefly, the 787.

I have loved every minute of this job. Great coworkers, generous pay and benefits, more time off than anybody I can think of that actually has a job. My former 787 FO peeps on reserve have all grown Grizzly Adams beards. I flew with plenty of prior service folks when I was in the right seat, but it's been a real pleasure to work with a younger generation who are a little bit closer to my age, fresh off their military careers and not yet bitter and angry with the industry. And with the leadership we currently have, I am cautiously optimistic they never will! I have been very fortunate to fly with consistently high quality folks from all aviation backgrounds. I am grateful I upgraded as soon as I could. Even with the temporary commute I did to SFO and the vagrancies of life on reserve, it's been a total pleasure to be in command again and set the tone at work.

I can highly recommend the ECIC prep, it really took the stress off and allowed me to just concentrate on communicating. Spend the time and money, it's worth the peace of mind and there's way too much money at stake to leave things to chance and not to come loaded for bear. Checked and Set is an excellent resource too, Charlie Venema is just as sharp as Aaron.

Anybody who's got a question about UAL they'd like answered should feel free to drop me a PM. If you're in LA, let me know, we'll get together and I'll give you the fifty cent tour of the flight office. I'm immensely proud of our company and our relationship with veterans. In addition to former military pilots, I've flown with former NAVs, FEs, controllers, tank company commanders, Delta force, black-shoe navy submarine commanders, grunts and even shoe clerks.

Haven't had a bad day yet.

Edited by LJDRVR
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ANG LC-130 IP, hit my 20 this coming January.

Jetblue Airways First Officer since 2011.  ERJ-190 from 9/2011 to 3/2017, now on the Airbus 320/321, based in Boston.  Great plane, love to fly it.  Jetblue interview questions is all TMAAT questions.

You can also go here:



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Hi all, A few years ago I went through the daunting process of military to airline transition. I'm retired Air Force, did 20 years flying F-16s, T-37s, and T-6s. I'm now an FO at Southwest Airlines. Like many of you, I waited until I was within about a year from my availability date (something all airlines will make you list on your application) before I really got serious about my transition. I thought I had a pretty good handle on the transition process and the steps required but the more I asked around, the more I learned that I was not all prepared the way I should of been. There was a ton of information out there but it's scattered across many various websites, and you mostly hear about it word of mouth.  Long story short, it took me approximately one year from retirement to my "forever airline" at Southwest. A few months after retirement I found myself working long hours for little pay doing general aviation CFI work and flying doctors around in a Beechcraft Bonanza. I remember driving to work one morning at about 4:30 AM and suddenly getting so nauseated that I had to pull off the road...it was the stress of career transition talking. I asked myself how in the hell I got to this spot after a very successful 20 year flying career in the Air Force?  The answer is, I didn't know enough about the transition process I was about to undertake. In that moment, I made a decision to help all military pilots never have to experience what I was going through. I started taking detailed notes throughout my transition about all the things I wish someone had told me years ago before I started my airline transition. Along the way I attended multiple job fairs, interviewed with and received a CJO (Conditional Job Offer) from XOJET, Delta, JetBlue and ultimately Southwest. The knowledge I gained through my journey became a book of transition gouge so that no military aviator ever has to pull off the road to cope with career transition stress like I did.  Instead of having to scour multiple forums, websites, and services, I have saved you the time and effort by packaging it all in one resource.  Cockpit to Cockpit is available at www.cockpit2cockpit.com. I encourage you to read the reviews and decide for yourself if you think it might help you fulfill your goal of landing a second flying career with the airlines. Cockpit to Cockpit has already helped hundreds of pilots get hired at the major airlines. For the record, I hate having to sound like a traveling salesman. I'm a pilot, just like you, and I just want to help other military pilots get hired at the airlines. If you have any questions, feel free to fire away. If anyone on here has already read the book, please share your thoughts on it.


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