Skip to main content

Southwest Airlines Community

How much experience do pilots need to get hired?

Adventurer B
How much experience do pilots need to get hired? 

All airlines have a "minimum" experience level for applicants. Most involve hours logged in flight. There are different categories of pilot time, the most important being "Pilot In Command" time. Basically, if you were a Captain elsewhere or flew single seat planes (general aviation or fighter aircraft) all those hours count. The "biggie" hours are the Pilot In Command (PIC) hours in a pilot's logbook. Most commuter airlines require between 500-750 hours total time to apply, with the bulk of that being PIC time. Major airlines require something like 2,500 total hours minimum with a minimum of 1,000-1,500 hours PIC. Of course, requirements vary and with what seems like a billion folks on the street after airline downsizing, the airlines can adjust their minimums at will. Southwest Airlines goes one big step further. Aside from the hourly minimum requirement, we require all applicants to have a type rating in the 737 before starting class. This requires a serious investment of time and money for each applicant. 737 types go for between $8-10,000. And that doesn't guarantee you an interview. What it does help guarantee is commitment to wanting to fly for this Company. It also helps weed out those who aren't up to the task of flying an airliner (which is a lot harder than it looks). We regularly have Top Gun fighter guys sweating through initial training because the type of flying we do here is so very different from what they did in the past. Our civilian applicants are challenged as well. It is a tough course, and their whole future is riding on their performance. You can imagine the pressure they feel knowing the bread on the table of their family at home literally hangs in the balance. After this kind of pressure and stress, navigating around a thunderstorm is more of a nuisance. Once signed-off after training, each applicant is monitored for performance during his or her probationary year and given additional training if necessary. Aviation ratings are kind of like medical specialties. The Grand Poo-Bah rating is the Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Rating. This is the pinnacle rating and what every Captain must have to hold his/her position. With competition for jobs, every major airline applicant already has this rating. Think of it as a general "doctoral of medicine" degree. You can practice but you have no specialty. The type rating is like a medical specialty (urologist, surgeon, neurologist, etc). It certifies the pilot as having shown proficiency under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) scrutiny to fly a specific airplane as Captain. The oral exams and simulators for the ATP and type rating are virtually identical. In fact, the recurrent Proficiency Check I  performed on the 5th of April is virtually the same profile: Instrument work in the weather, engine fires/failures, hydraulic problems --you name it. I have to do this every 12 months here at SWA (in addition to a line check where a Check Pilot rides with me from point A to point B to see how I do with just driving the plane). In fact, for my line check a few weeks ago, I had a Check Pilot watching me and a FAA Safety Inspector watching him and me. It was really cozy up front!
Explorer A
This is a second-hand story, but I like repeating it. One of my associates said he knew a guy who was a captain with Braniff, UPS, and Continental. Then, he took a co-pilot's job just to get on with Southwest. It sounds like Southwest is the airline pilots want to work for. It makes me feel safer when I am on a Southwest plane.
Explorer C
Nice article Ray. I am getting another chance to interview this fall. Yippee! Hopefully my e-mail address will become a reality for me and my family. We LUV Southwest! In fact, we pay to fly Southwest rather than fly free on my current airline. Blue sky and tailwinds to you and the great group at Southwest!
Explorer C
I enjoyed the article, Ray. Glad to hear that SWA makes every effort to ensure that the pilots are qualified. Be well!
Explorer C
I'll tell ya. It's the place to be. I've been with Southwest over 12 years and I still think there's no other company like it. My son-in-law has been a captain with another carrier for 6 years and has hopes of getting on with Southwest. He can't believe the difference in his company and Southwest.
Explorer C
Thanks for the neat article Capt Stark!Good info too.
Explorer C
Maybe buying a 737 type rating makes you feel qualified. What happened to the days where you earned the rating and did not buy it just to get an interview. How many pilots I know, these wonder RJ drivers who buy a type rating on an airplane they have never flown. Yes indeed, that really says alot. See the difference is that I earned every one of my ratings. Which include the 727, 747, 757/767 A320 and several corporate ratings. No I did not buy them, by furture, I flew these aircraft and became a Captain on them. Now, maybe SW has not called me because I did not buy a 737 type rating through Higher Power. Which everyone knows, gets you an interview if you meet the minimum requirements. No, I believe in earning a job, not buying one. One last thing on your line check. The captains get the line check, not you F/Os. They might look at the group as a whole, but it is not you, it's the captain. Keep the industry down, buy a job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Explorer C
There's got to be more it than having the type rating and the number of hours. My husband has triple the time requirements, the 737 type rating and TEACHES in the 737 sim...the very guys that have job offers...and he has yet to be called for an interview. Like so many other guys, Southwest is his dream job. He's so, so disappointed that he's being passed over. Everyone keeps telling him to hang in there but it's really hard for him.
Explorer C
i would work there but i don't like there peanuts:(
Explorer C
My name is JiaPenglin.I am a chinese,A frist officer for Boeing737. I can Control the Boeing737-300/700/800.My total flight time is above 2700 hours,include 2300 hours on Boeing737.Now I am working for China Shandong airlines.I hope one day I can working for Southwest arilines,but I don't know how to get it.Could you help me?Tell me how I should to do to get working for the Southwest airlines.Wait your reply,thank you very much.
Explorer C
Hello all: I know the type is not required for the interview these days, but will they interview guys like me who have the mins but no type? I have about 8000 total time, 1600 PIC turbine. I currently fly for a regional as an RJ CA. Thanks.
Explorer C
I am at the PanAm training center in Las Vegas right now finishing up a 737 type in hopes of working for SW when they start hiring again. I currently fly an ERJ for XJT out of Houston, but live in San Jose so the OAK base with South West would be PERFECT for me. I have jump seated on SW many many times and absolutely love the airline, the aircraft and the crew. I have never had so much fun commuting to work as I have on a SW flight. For those of you out there wondering if buying the type rating is worth it just to work for this airline, the answer is unequivocally yes. I don't have any military time, but I do have some experience in different figher aircraft, which as given me some unbelieveable experiences. I am hoping that if given the opportunity to interview, I will be offered the job of my dreams!
Explorer C
My uncle Capt John Matter was one of the first pilots Southwest hired! My cousin,also named John is a pilot for them too. Say hi if you know him-tell him Lee still wants that PLAYBOY JET PHOTO showing uncle john at the controls!!