If you’re a pilot, THIS is your time. With a national shortage of skilled aviators, it’s a pilot’s market. You’ve got choices and you’ve got the time to decide what you really want from an airline.
A Part of the Family, Not Just a Number
First Officer Vlad Kouzniaev’s mom loves seeing him on the company Instagram, and comments every time.
Captain Courtney Schoch runs marathons for literacy all over the world.
Captain Kevin Houser used to play in the NFL.
Check Airman Don Martel became a pilot after his wife got him a flying lesson as an anniversary gift.
First Officer Pablo Frias-Almonte’s wife is a professional photographer who has him a thing or two about capturing compelling aviation photos.
They all fly for CommutAir, a United Express partner.
CommutAir knows these stories —and countless others — because the company is still small enough to know the employees as individuals, not numbers. From day one, employees are part of the CommutAir Family. It’s a culture CommutAir has fought hard to maintain for the last thirty years —and they’ve been successful at it, even during exponential growth.
A Personal Touch
Sign-on bonuses, base locations, reserve times, and mainline partners are all things that pilots must consider, and every regional has something to offer.
“It is difficult to compare CommutAir to other carriers,” said Bob Scheu, who joined the CommutAir family as a direct-entry captain. “Some have a large infrastructure system and mature jet program, but reserve times and upgrades are measured in years. Another has a fantastic route map and great overnights, but the junior assignments and loss of pilots is crippling.” After weighing his options, he knows CommutAir was the right choice for his career.
Cassie Outcult, a recruiter for CommutAir, recognizes that every pilot is different. “Selecting an airline is such a personal decision, and it really depends on the pilot’s career goals and the unique needs of his or her family.”
The recruiters want every candidate to be fully informed about the opportunities the company has to offer. Monthly Virtual Socials provide candidates with the chance to learn more about the CommutAir Family in a low-pressure setting. The call-in Q&A features a CommutAir Captain, as well as the Vice President of Flight Ops and the company’s COO. Callers can ask questions about what matters most to them and remain anonymous if they choose.
“It’s the first opportunity for these pilots to engage with our senior leadership,” Outcult explained. “And if they join C5, it’s the first opportunity of many. Our leadership team does an outstanding job of showing the pilots that we’re all in this together.”
It All Starts Day 1
CommutAir founder and current Chairman of the Board John Sullivan — along with the CEO, COO, and other members of senior leadership —meet with every new pilot class. CommutAir proudly celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2019, and the company wants new pilots to know they will be an integral part of the next generation. Following a historical presentation, senior leadership hosts a reception mixer, allowing you to get to know them in a casual setting, outside the formality of the office. Relationship building is important, and events like these ensure you know that your comments and ideas are always welcomed by CommutAir’s leadership team.
It doesn’t end with the welcome mixer. Members of the leadership team make regular trips to the bases to spend time in the crew rooms and make sure you have everything you need for continued success. An “open door” policy ensures everyone is heard.
“Not only do we have a great sense of comradery on the line, but there’s constant communication from management,” said Lead Technical Pilot Andrew Strojny. “Everyone is really approachable, even up to the President of the company. You really won’t find that anywhere else.”
The Family Atmosphere
The family-feeling is pervasive throughout the company but even more so on the line.
“There are lots of high-fives between crews as we swap aircraft and seeing a smiling familiar face is always nice,” Scheu said.
First Officer D’Troy Pastor came to CommutAir upon a recommendation from a mentor and friend. “My instructor here was actually the one who taught me how to fly five years ago. When he came to CommutAir, I wanted to follow him.”
He’s also made new friends at the airline, and insisted that a good crew can make a trip. “Look, flying is flying. But when you work well together, when you know they are professional and safe — you can really have fun.”
“All of the captains I flew with in my first year pulled and pushed me to be better, every day, and every flight leg,” said Captain Curtis Horton II, who has been with CommutAir more than six years. “They set excellent examples and also gave meaningful feedback. It was just the experience I needed! I try to foster the same encouraging environment in the flight deck.”
“CommutAir has given me tremendous opportunities that I don’t think would have been available at other regional airlines,” said Strojny, who was hired at 18 and flying the Beech 1900D shortly after.
Once he upgraded to the left seat, he had the opportunity to become a simulator instructor and took on other roles in training. He now fills the role of Lead Technical Pilot, a position he’s well suited for due to the Electrical Engineering degree he earned as a First Officer.
John Darke, CommutAir’s Managing Director of Safety, once flew the line as a pilot in the Dash 8. After several years, he moved to the training department, and then to the safety department, eventually leading it.
“I think it’s a hallmark of the company, promoting within,” he said. “CommutAir values its people, encourages you to explore, allows you to excel and try to improve yourself to advance the company.”
Pilots who want to broaden their horizons outside of the flight deck have the opportunity to help hire the next generation of pilots by conducting interviews with the recruiting team and also actively participate in the different phases of training.
“As our pilot group grows, so does our need for more Line Check Airman,” David Fitzgerald, VP of Flight Ops said. “If a pilot shows interest, we do what we can to make it happen.”
A Clear Path to United
For some pilots, a regional airline is where they choose to stay, explained CommutAir Captain and Check Airman Don Martel. He’s been a CommutAir employee for nearly 20 years. “Be it the convenience of the commute, personal preference, or accommodation of an outside interest, there is a life balance wherein swimming in a smaller pond works.”
Captain Courtney Schoch has spent more than 12 years at CommutAir. The seniority she’s accrued allows her the freedom to pursue her passion for running and her schedule accommodates her public speaking engagements.
For many, however, building flight hours at a regional is a stepping-stone to mainline. CommutAir has something to offer those pilots, as well.
Through the new Aviate program with United Airlines, CommutAir pilots have a clear career progression mapped out from the day they are accepted into the program.
“We were the first carrier to implement United’s original Career Path Program,” said Petra Kliman, CommutAir Recruiting Manager. “And now we’re thrilled to be one of only four regionals to be selected as an Aviate program partner.”
The Aviate program operates on a first-on / first-off list. The sooner a pilot is accepted into the program and completes their hours at CommutAir, the sooner they’ll get the call to United. By virtue of its unprecedented growth, this means CommutAir offers a direct and fast path to the mainline.
“Our family-friendly culture focuses on safety, reliability, and caring. A pilot’s time with us really prepares them for the next step in their careers,” Kliman said.
Join the CommutAir Family
“It’s a great time to join a company when it’s small and growing, because then you are part of all the exciting new stuff,” Pastor said. “The last Dash was on its way out when I started, and now we have a fleet of all jets. I see definite progress being made in this company…and I like it!”
To learn more about the CommutAir Family and opportunities for pilots, visit flycommutair.com or email a recruiter at email@example.com. Watch videos on our YouTube channel, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Craig: How do you select applicants to be brought in for an interview?
Petra Kliman: We review every application or resume that we receive through various channels, whether it is airlineapps, our website, or an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone who meets our current hiring criteria will get a call from one of our recruiters for a phone screen.
C: Can you explain the point system associated with online application process and what types of things count for points?
A: We do not apply an automated point system, but instead our recruiters look at the applicant as a person. We look to see if the applicant’s needs match what we can offer, and vice versa.
C: What can an applicant do to increase their chances of being called for an interview?
A: It is really quite simple — provide us with your availability and we are happy to give you a call. Professional communications and a complete application will definitely make an applicant stand out.
C: How critical is it to attend a job fair to get an interview?
A: Attending a job fair is not necessary. However, we encourage pilots to research and follow our company — and a job fair is a great opportunity to connect in person with our pilots and recruiters. Often, our events allow time for an in-person interview.
For pilots that can’t make it to a job fair, we host monthly Virtual Fairs, a call-in question-answer session featuring our VP of Flight Ops, our COO, and a Captain. This gives pilots considering CommutAir the ability to hear from our leadership and ask the questions that really matter to them, as well as hear the answers to questions others ask.
C: What is the best way to prepare for an interview with your company?
A: Our test contains ATP written questions and we will ask you to finger-fly an approach with Jeppesen plates, as well as decode weather information. Aside from the technical evaluation, we really just want to get to know you and your personality. Since our upgrade times are so short, we also evaluate our applicants on leadership experience. We will review all of the pilot relevant documents, like logbooks and certificates. Make sure those items are current and updated.
C: Do you recommend that applicants get to your headquarters city the day before and get a hotel room for the night?
A: : We recognize that travelling and making time for an in-person interview is not always possible or convenient, so we conduct a lot of our interviews via Skype. If your interview is successful and you have a conditional offer of employment, we will bring you to Cleveland to meet the team and complete any necessary paperwork and background checks. We provide flights to our Cleveland headquarters and if a day-trip is not possible, we provide lodging overnight.
C: Can you walk me through a typical day of interviews?
A: Most of our initial interview are conducted via Skype. Whether a candidate arrives at the office or joins us via Skype, they go through an HR and technical interview with our pilots and recruiters. We present detailed information on the company, work rules, benefits and the training footprint, with plenty of opportunity to ask questions and interview us as well.
Our interview team reviews pilot credentials and any other necessary paperwork after a quick tour of our facility, and most importantly introduces applicants to members our Flight Operations staff. Overall, our interview is a fairly laid-back experience that we try to make as convenient as possible for our applicants.
C: What kind of questions can an applicant expect to be asked?
A: We ask questions about an applicants’ experience in relevant situations and give hypothetical scenarios—such as dealing with an adverse situation in the flight deck or with a coworker—to gauge how someone communicates.
C: Can you give me some examples of the TMAAT questions that you like to ask?
A: We aim to find and hire team members who truly live safety in their daily work and routine, so questions like “Tell us about a time, when you felt the safety of your flight was compromised and how you dealt with it” are part of every interview.
C: If the TMAAT question being asked does not apply to that applicant can that question be skipped?
A: Of course. We have a very diverse group of pilots with all kinds of different backgrounds and our interview is tailored to the applicant’s individual background as much as possible.
C: What are some of the biggest mistakes that applicants make during the interview process?
A: One of the biggest mistakes we see are applicants not taking the process seriously. Don’t be fooled by our laid-back atmosphere — it is still an interview for a professional position. Applicants need to conduct themselves accordingly have done their homework about the company. We are looking for aviators dedicated to their profession, who are willing to help us make this new era for CommutAir the most successful one yet. We invest a lot of time and energy in selecting the right people for the CommutAir family, who their stuff and are team players.
C: Is there a written or computer test?
A: Yes, we use an online technical test. It contains 40 questions that are ATP exam-related topics.
C: What can you recommend applicants study for that test? At what point is this test taken?
A: If someone has recently taken their ATP, or is even still a Commercial pilot who is up to date on their aeronautical knowledge, they will score just fine. Current instrument knowledge, aerodynamics, and weather are the most important items to study. The test link is sent to applicants and completed prior to the actual interview.
C: Is there a personality test?
A: No, not currently.
C: Do you have a simulator ride?
C: Do you tell applicants they are hired in person that day?
A: We have been known to tell applicants the result the same day, but typically we contact them within 2-3 days.
C: How soon can an applicant expect a class date after being hired?
A: Currently, we have classes twice a month, at the beginning and middle of the month, and qualified Captains can start training in the very next class. First Officers will be offered class dates for Quarter 2, 2020. This may change with operational need, of course. Even if someone needs to build some time, we include a tentative class date in every offer letter.
C: How many pilots does your airline expect to hire this year?
A: We expect to hire approximately 200 pilots this year, both Captain-Qualified and First Officers.
C: Can you explain the ATP-CQP class that your company offers?
A: We partner with an outside provider, ATP Flight School, for the CTP-course. There is no out-of-pocket cost for the applicant. CommutAir covers course cost, lodging and travel, as well as the FAA ATP written test cost.
C: Do you have a hiring bonus? Is there any specific criterion to qualify for the bonus?
A: Yes, we certainly do. As of December 19, 2019. our sign-on bonus is $22,100 for First Officers and $50,000 for Captain-Qualified applicants, paid up-front. Experienced pilots have the opportunity to upgrade immediately after coming on board during Basic Indoc and will complete initial training in the left seat.
C: Does CommutAir have a pilot referral program?
A: Our pilots are some of our best recruiters! Many of them embrace the opportunity to have input on who joins them in the flight deck. Great people bring us other great people, who will fit best into our company and culture. We have maintained a referral program and pay out every month.
C: Can you describe the career path program that CommutAir has with United Airlines?
A: We are very proud to partner with United Airlines in their Aviate program. As many of your readers know, Aviate applicants have the opportunity to start the interview process for a position at United Airlines even before they start training at CommutAir or they may choose to apply and interview with United at a later time, once they are a bit more familiar with the 121 world.
After building flight time and airline experience at CommutAir, and once their number comes up on United’s FIFO list, qualified participants will receive a conditional Job offer (CJO) from United Airlines and are assigned a spot in a United training class.
CommutAir Fast Facts
|Name:||CommutAir dba United Express|
|Headquarters:||North Olmsted (Cleveland), Ohio|
|Number of employees:||~1,100|
|Number of Aircraft:||38|
|Number of Pilots:||494|
|Most junior Captain hired (Mo/Yr):||11/2019|
|Number of Passengers (yearly):||2.2 Million|
|Number of Bases:||2 Crew, 1 MX|
|Bases:||IAD, EWR, ALB MX Hangar|
|Number of Cities served:||50+|
|Social Media Links:|