Railroad or Pilot?

General discussion about working in the railroad industry. Industry employers are welcome to post openings here.

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Railroad or Pilot?

Postby abc8251 » Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:29 am

I have an interview next week with a railroad, though I don't really want the job. Well, it's not that I don't want the job, it's mainly I'm feeling indifferent about it. The pay and benefits are good, and I am unfortunately out of work right now. I've been taking flying lessons actually, and really enjoy it. I have been considering becoming a commercial pilot. Your earning potential as a pilot is a lot higher than on the railroad. It'll be hard to pursue a career as a pilot and work on the railroad however. Flying requires virtually a full-time commitment to become proficient.
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Re: Railroad or Pilot?

Postby phillyrube » Tue Feb 26, 2019 11:08 am

Long road ahead to be a pilot, unless you come from the military. Years ago, picked up my SEL just for fun, and then paid to convey that to MEL, instrument and commercial ratings. Plan was to get a job just flying checks, which was common then. By the time I reached all those, 1995, check flying had pretty much gone. Couldn't afford to convert avgas into noise anymore.

Friend of mine, police officer. Retired from Navy after 20, rank of commander, C130 guy, TACAMOs. Lots of heavy turboprop time. Went to the airlines, and was flying commuter for 25,000 a year. HUH? Airlines, got to start at the bottom and work up. Quit the airlines and became a cop.

Kinda wish I could have gone to the railroads when I retired from Navy, but went to the cops instead. Got two nice retirement checks but never go to ride a locomotive.
Last edited by phillyrube on Tue Feb 26, 2019 5:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Railroad or Pilot?

Postby Cowford » Tue Feb 26, 2019 2:57 pm

Reminds me of the old joke: What's the difference between a pilot and a pizza? A pizza can feed a family of four.
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Re: Railroad or Pilot?

Postby Engineer Spike » Wed Feb 27, 2019 1:26 pm

The hotel where I lay over also houses pilots and stews. I’ve spoken to a few over the breakfast buffet, and their plight doesn’t seem too much different than the railroad.
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Re: Railroad or Pilot?

Postby SlotCanyoneer » Thu Feb 28, 2019 7:13 pm

I’ve read that it takes a long time to make decent money as a pilot and quite a bit of a financial commitment as well because of paying for one’s flight lessons. I read that many pilots struggle with low wages at first. However once the position of captain or even co-pilot is obtained the pay becomes much more lucrative. I think six figures is not uncommon with some of the bigger airlines. Compare that with the railroad. I think the starting salary for most hourly positions with RR tend to start around 50-60k base. Not a bad salary to start. Unless you work a ton of overtime which is possible I don’t think six figures would be as easy to obtain however. I think most pilots do it for the love, not the money. I worked with a pilot that was a part time manager where I was. He loved flying but I remember him saying that it wasn’t easy to support himself starting out.
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Re: Railroad or Pilot?

Postby eolesen » Thu Feb 28, 2019 10:19 pm

There's never been a better time to be a pilot trainee, but it's not free. The challenge is having enough hours to get hired by a commercial airline. If you go thru a Bachelors program like Univ of North Dakota has, you only need 1000 hours to be eligible. Without the accredited program, you need 1500 hours, and unless you're working as an instructor, you're paying for each one of those hours somehow.
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Re: Railroad or Pilot?

Postby abc8251 » Fri Mar 01, 2019 11:53 am

SlotCanyoneer wrote:I’ve read that it takes a long time to make decent money as a pilot and quite a bit of a financial commitment as well because of paying for one’s flight lessons. I read that many pilots struggle with low wages at first. However once the position of captain or even co-pilot is obtained the pay becomes much more lucrative. I think six figures is not uncommon with some of the bigger airlines. Compare that with the railroad. I think the starting salary for most hourly positions with RR tend to start around 50-60k base. Not a bad salary to start. Unless you work a ton of overtime which is possible I don’t think six figures would be as easy to obtain however. I think most pilots do it for the love, not the money. I worked with a pilot that was a part time manager where I was. He loved flying but I remember him saying that it wasn’t easy to support himself starting out.



Yeah, starting salaries in aviation are not very good unfortunately. Around 30K or so (sometimes even less). The railroad offers better starting pay. A lot of pilots beginning their careers struggle financially for a while. A captain at a major airline can earn 300K or more, but it takes a while to get there. There is a major pilot shortage though, and I've heard it's pretty easy getting a flying job once you're qualified.
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Re: Railroad or Pilot?

Postby abc8251 » Fri Mar 01, 2019 12:05 pm

eolesen wrote:There's never been a better time to be a pilot trainee, but it's not free. The challenge is having enough hours to get hired by a commercial airline. If you go thru a Bachelors program like Univ of North Dakota has, you only need 1000 hours to be eligible. Without the accredited program, you need 1500 hours, and unless you're working as an instructor, you're paying for each one of those hours somehow.



Yes, you are responsible for paying for your own training. A railroad trains you and also pays you a training wage. It would be nice if the airlines did that.
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Re: Railroad or Pilot?

Postby eolesen » Fri Mar 01, 2019 7:31 pm

Pilots go into the business knowing there's a payoff. Sort of like doctors and lawyers. Huge up-front cost, but they usually recoup all that after 10 years of actual work.

Certainly, starting pay as a pilot builds up flying time can be horrible, but by the time you have enough hours to make it to a major airline, you're at $70K on the low end, and usually above $120K at 5-10 years, and you only fly 10-15 days a month.

I don't know what engineers tend to top out at, but I don't think it's anywhere near the $200K that a senior captain on a widebody does, and I suspect they spend more time on the property.
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Re: Railroad or Pilot?

Postby abc8251 » Sat Mar 02, 2019 12:11 pm

eolesen wrote:Pilots go into the business knowing there's a payoff. Sort of like doctors and lawyers. Huge up-front cost, but they usually recoup all that after 10 years of actual work.

Certainly, starting pay as a pilot builds up flying time can be horrible, but by the time you have enough hours to make it to a major airline, you're at $70K on the low end, and usually above $120K at 5-10 years, and you only fly 10-15 days a month.

I don't know what engineers tend to top out at, but I don't think it's anywhere near the $200K that a senior captain on a widebody does, and I suspect they spend more time on the property.



Yeah, the money is at the major airlines. A friend of mine is a co-pilot at Delta (28 years old) and is making around 130K. He gets tons of time off too. Much more than on any railroad. Engineers typically top out at 35-40 an hour.
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Re: Railroad or Pilot?

Postby freightguy » Sat Mar 02, 2019 4:21 pm

Engineers in the northeast can make that sort of money in passenger(200k). Maybe also guys in the big freight pools out west. A few guys at my job have left the airlines for better money and security in passenger railroading.
Signed off
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Re: Railroad or Pilot?

Postby 8th Notch » Thu Mar 07, 2019 9:03 pm

abc8251 wrote:
eolesen wrote:Pilots go into the business knowing there's a payoff. Sort of like doctors and lawyers. Huge up-front cost, but they usually recoup all that after 10 years of actual work.

Certainly, starting pay as a pilot builds up flying time can be horrible, but by the time you have enough hours to make it to a major airline, you're at $70K on the low end, and usually above $120K at 5-10 years, and you only fly 10-15 days a month.

I don't know what engineers tend to top out at, but I don't think it's anywhere near the $200K that a senior captain on a widebody does, and I suspect they spend more time on the property.



Yeah, the money is at the major airlines. A friend of mine is a co-pilot at Delta (28 years old) and is making around 130K. He gets tons of time off too. Much more than on any railroad. Engineers typically top out at 35-40 an hour.


You are slightly off with those numbers, right now top rate for engr is about $45 per hour roughly with it being $50 within the next few years. Some of the higher paying senior jobs on the corridor do see well above 150k a year but of course you won’t be able to hold one in the early years. You have to also consider the benefits to both as well and not just salary, unless you have a dream to fly.
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