From humble beginnings as a Memphis-based “beach airline” to one of America’s fasted growing commuter carriers, Southern Airways Express has developed a route structure and corporate infrastructure for long-term, sustainable growth.
Southern began in 2012 in the former Northwest Airlines hub of Memphis. Local attorney Stan Little was on a diving trip in the Bahamas when he informed his private pilot that his Cessna 421 Golden Eagle would be quite busy for the next few weeks due to friends and family wanting to use it for summer beach trips to Destin. After seeing the demand for a non-stop option from Memphis to the Florida coast flight amongst friends Little knew there would be countless others looking for the same thing.
The dive trip took place in November of 2012. The ensuing weeks consisted of route development, aircraft acquisition, regulatory approvals, and initial hiring. With Little’s constant guidance, the first flights took off on June 6, 2013, just seven months from the idea’s inception.
After three years of covering the Gulf region with affordable non-stop flights from larger markets to vacation destinations, Southern Airways made the move to acquire a larger Part 135 commuter operator and expand its class of service and geographical footprint. The acquisition resulted in the addition of six Essential Air Service contracts in the mid-Atlantic. The operation has since grown to include a dozen cities in the region, with hubs at Pittsburgh and Baltimore (This year, Southern Airways became the second-largest carrier at PIT by peak-day departures.)
Southern has grown in the mid-South, as well, with three Essential Air Service contracts in Arkansas that are hubbed out of Dallas (DFW) and Memphis, as well as medium-sized business markets like Nashville and Jackson, Mississippi.
With the combination of Essential Air Service and true market-based routes, Southern operates more than 100 daily flights. Southern relies on two-pilot crews to operate its fleet of nineteen Cessna Caravan 208s and three Piper Chieftains. Southern’s Captains are among the highest paid in the industry for this class of aircraft. Southern offers flexible pilot scheduling, including a unique opportunity for part-time Captains. (Southern even has a “Senior Captain Mentor Program” for pilots over 65 years of age!) For First Officers, Southern has the most innovative program in the industry with a direct path for FO’s to reach their career goals with the major carriers. Partnering with Mesa Airlines, Southern First Officers (beginning with as little as 200 hours) receive a $10,000 signing bonus upon entry into the program from Mesa and a $5,000 bonus upon reaching 1200 hours from Southern. While working with Southern, First Officers receive full travel benefits on Mesa and its partners all the while accruing seniority at Mesa. After reaching 1800 hours with Southern, First Officers have their choice of equipment and domicile when upgrading to Mesa.
In addition to the career opportunity itself, the quality of life that Southern pilots receive is as important as the direct employment benefits. Southern pilots typically work four on and four off, receive productivity pay for hours flown over 65 per month, a robust employee benefits package, –and due to Southern’s philosophy of out-station basing– Southern’s pilots are home every night and reside in communities with an affordable cost of living.
Please see the following summary of what Southern has to offer. Contact Julie Puckhaber at j.puckhaber@iFlySouthern.com or call 561-445-5799 for more information.
PIC Opportunities and Requirements
- Full Time: 65 hour/month guarantee; productivity pay thereafter
- Part Time: Work as little as 6 days /month (subject to meeting requirements)
- Pilots 65 years of age and older are encouraged to apply
- Signing bonuses
- 1200 Hours Total Time
- 500 Hours Cross Country
- 100 Hours Night
- 75 Hours Instrument (no more than 25 hours simulated)
- First Class Medical
First officer Opportunities and Requirements
- 200-hour minimum
- $15,000 in potential signing bonuses
- Upgrade to PIC at 1200
- Direct advance to MESA FO at 1800
- Full travel benefits on AA
While Southern Airways has enjoyed immense growth over the past five years, I’m proud to say at a few things here haven’t changed. We still view our co-workers as family, we know everyone on a personal basis, and we enjoy coming to work everyday.
We started an airline (with two planes and three pilots) to have fun and to provide a needed service to our community. We’re still doing that today, with nearly 80 pilots and over 200 others in our support team. It’s my pleasure to lead this team, and it’s my pleasure to welcome aboard each new member of the family. If you’ve got what it takes to be part of this great group of people, I hope you’ll reach out and let us know.
Onward and upward,
Chairman and CEO
Interview with Julie Puckhaber, Manager, Pilot Hiring
Craig: How do you select applicants to be brought in for an interview?
Julie: Each resume’ that I receive, I review and check to be sure that they meet the minimum criteria. If they do then I call them to discuss what it is they are looking for. I want to be sure they are a good match and that they are aware what SAE is all about.
C: What can an applicant do to increase their chances of being called for an interview?
J: It always helps to have a referral from someone within the company.
C: How critical is it to attend a job fair to get an interview?
J: Not critical.
C: What is the best way to prepare for an interview with your company?
J: Be honest & be yourself. Do some research about our company prior to your interview.
C: Do you recommend that applicants get to your headquarters city the day before and get a hotel room for the night?
J: Not necessary.
C: Can you walk me through a typical day of interviews?
J: Our current interviews are predominately done on the phone. There is no technical or SIM.
C: What kind of questions can an applicant expect to be asked?
J: I ask about their training background. Any oral failures, written failures, check ride failures, incidents, accidents, etc.
C: Can you give me some examples of the TMAAT questions that you like to ask?
J: Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond to assist a customer.
C: If the TMAAT question being asked does not apply to that applicant can that question be skipped?
C: What are some of the biggest mistakes that applicants make during the interview process?
J: Not take responsibility and blame others for their training failures.
C: Is there a written or computer test?
C: Is there a personality test?
C: Do you have a simulator ride?
J: No, not until training.
C: Do you tell applicants they are hired in person that day?
J: Generally, they have to finish their application. Once received and reviewed I compare to our interview notes and they are contacted.
C: If not, how long do applicants have to wait to know if they are hired?
J: Within a few days, at most.
C: How soon can an applicant expect a class date after being hired?
J: Depending on availability, within a few weeks.
C: How many pilots does your airline expect to hire this year?
J: Approximately 50 – 60.
C: Do you have a hiring bonus? Is there any specific criterion to qualify for the bonus?
J: Captain Bonus – $7,500 (½ paid when released to the line, ½ paid when employed 6 months.)
C: Does SAE have a pilot referral program?
J: Yes, we have an employee referral programs for Captains.
C: Can you describe the career path program that SAE has with MESA?
J: We have a great Cadet program with MESA. First Officers can “takeoff” at Southern Airways Express and “land” at MESA Airlines. A total of 15k in bonus’ combined for Cadets upon enrollment and upgrade at Southern Airways Express. In addition, Cadets accrue longevity for pay, vacation, travel benefits and employee purposes at MESA upon enrollment into the program. For further details call: Julie Puckhaber 561-445-5799.
Headquarters: Pompano Beach, Fla.
Year Founded: 2013
Number of employees: 220
Number of Pilots: 81
Number of Aircraft: 22
Most Junior Captian: August, 2017
Nubmer of Passengers (Yearly) 160,000
Number of Cities Served: 20
Bases: In Pennsylvania: Lancaster, Altoona, Johnstown, DuBois, Franklin, and Bradford. In Arkansas: Harrison, El Dorado, and Hot Springs. Other bases in Morgantown, West Virginia; Hagerstown, Maryland; Memphis, Tennessee, and Destin, Florida. Coming Soon: Nashville, Tennessee’ Atlanta, Georgia; and West Palm Beach, Florida
Key Benefits: $7,500 incentive bonus for Captains; $50K annual base salary with a 65 hour monthly guarantee ($40 per hour over monthly guarantee); medical, dental, and vision insurance; CASS participant; Family travel benefits on major carriers; company paid for life insurance; Paid training.
Phone: (901) 629-0485
Julie Puckhaber: Manager, Pilot Hiring
Keith Sisson: Chief Marketing Officer