Railroad or Pilot?

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

Moderator: thebigc

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.
abc8251
 
Posts: 59
Joined: Fri Jun 12, 2015 10:09 pm

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.
phillyrube
 
Posts: 54
Joined: Wed May 31, 2017 2:04 pm

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.
Cowford
 
Posts: 2792
Joined: Thu Mar 18, 2004 12:34 pm
Location: Florida

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.
Engineer Spike
 
Posts: 1875
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2004 3:24 pm

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.
SlotCanyoneer
 
Posts: 24
Joined: Wed Nov 02, 2016 8:11 am

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.
eolesen
 
Posts: 397
Joined: Sat Apr 17, 2010 12:01 am

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.
abc8251
 
Posts: 59
Joined: Fri Jun 12, 2015 10:09 pm

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.
abc8251
 
Posts: 59
Joined: Fri Jun 12, 2015 10:09 pm

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.
eolesen
 
Posts: 397
Joined: Sat Apr 17, 2010 12:01 am

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.
abc8251
 
Posts: 59
Joined: Fri Jun 12, 2015 10:09 pm

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
freightguy
 
Posts: 1225
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2004 3:18 pm
Location: Medford, NY

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.
8th Notch
 
Posts: 617
Joined: Fri Jan 17, 2014 1:23 pm

Re: Railroad or Pilot?

Postby biigD » Sat May 25, 2019 11:10 am

A little late to the game on this thread - I just now saw it. :)

I've been flying professionally for about 17 years, and am currently an FO at a major airline. It's been a good career for me, but you've got to approach it from a desire to fly, and understand that the lifestyle isn't necessarily for everyone. The industry is cyclical with the economy, and although things are on an upswing at the moment, the music can stop at any time. The career path is strewn with pilots that got into this gig thinking of the $$$ of major airline pay, but because of timing or just poor luck ended up stuck in lower paying jobs through no fault of their own. If you enjoy the flying and are cool with the lifestyle, then getting 'stuck' somewhere that's not a major airline isn't as big a deal, as there are tons of other flying gigs out there that are pretty cool in their own right. Just go into it with your eyes open.

As others have mentioned, it won't be cheap to get all your ratings, and then you have to figure out a way to get to 1500 hours to be employable at a regional airline. Whether it's flight instructing, towing banners, or whatever else, you're not going to be making much money for the couple of years it'll take to get that flight time. Fortunately regional pay has really come up in the last few years because of the pilot shortage - with hiring bonuses $60K+ isn't unreasonable to start, and with upgrade to Captain in a year or two the pay jumps into the low six figures.

The money gets pretty good once you get out of the regional level. Even places like Frontier, Spirit or JetBlue have gotten decent contracts in the last few years, and while they're not quite at the level of the Big 3, they're pretty close. Just remember that if you're struggling with the lifestyle - being on the road for days at a time, dragging your bags through throngs of people in the terminal, working weekends and holidays when you're junior, hotels rooms and hotel bars, etc....the money doesn't make any of it better. So like I said, you've got to be cool with the lifestyle for any of it to work.
biigD
 
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Nov 20, 2016 10:06 am


Return to Employment

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests