Silver Airways to offer $12,000 signing bonuses to new pilots

Hello everybody. I’m back — a couple of days early, in fact. Thank you all for your patience and kind words. Being young helps quicken the healing process, I think.

Now let’s get to the news. Minor news, but news nonetheless.

Silver Airways, a commuter airline that flies under its own brand and as United Express, will now pay a $12,000 signing bonus to new hire pilots, though it won’t be paid all at once.

A Silver Airways airplane. Photo: Silver Airways.

A Silver Airways airplane. Photo: Silver Airways.

We know this isn’t about altruism. Silver Airways operates a relatively small fleet of Saab 340B and Beechcraft 1900D airplanes, which means the Fort Lauderdale-based carrier is near the bottom of the pilot food chain. For a long time, that did not matter. There were more qualified pilots than job, and Silver could hire the pilots it needed. But things have changed quickly, partially due to new FAA rules governing pilot training and rest.

Now, at least at some regional airlines, there are sometimes more vacancies than qualified pilots. (Or at least qualified pilots willing to work at a low wage.)

Airlines like Silver have been making changes. Last month, Silver announced it would stop flying from Cleveland as United Express. It also announced it would retire its Beechcraft 1900s, which seat only 19 passengers. It is sticking with its fleet of 28 Saabs. Those planes seat 34 passengers.

But the airline still needs pilots. It had been giving new hires $6,000, but that bonus is now doubling. Silver claims it is the highest signing bonus in the regional airline industry, which makes sense, as the bigger the airplanes, the less trouble the airline has filling vacancies. In this case, pilots will have to stay at the airline two years to receive the full bonus.

“We have had good success with our pilot signing bonus, and this increased financial incentive will not only help us attract and retain more qualified pilots, it will also allow us to enhance our commercial success and continue to grow as a new independent regional airline,” Silver President and CEO Dave Pflieger said in a statement.

Keep in mind that lower level regional pilots remain poorly paid. Business Week reports that many new first officers are regional airlines earn about $21,000 per year.

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