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Airline Cadet Programs – What Are They?

The world of professional aviation can take many forms from airliners to corporate flying, career flight instructing to skydiving operations.  The largest portion of university students hoping to become professional pilots will ultimately head to the airlines.  To help bridge the gap between school and employment, many regional airlines have created cadet programs which give students resources not available to the general public applying for the same positions.

Cadet programs are only available to schools whom have partnership with the individual airline.  The programs can differ in their benefits ranging from just mentorship all the way to conditional employment offers.California Aeronautical University currently has eight regional airline partnerships (of the major twelve in the US)including Air Wisconsin, Compass Airlines, Envoy, GoJet, Mesa Airlines, Piedmont, SkyWest, and Trans States Airlines.  What many travelers and new pilots do not know or understand, the regional airlines (American Eagle, Delta Connection, United Express, etc.) are not actually operated by the major airline themselves.  Instead, these regional services are contracted or wholly own operated by the above companies.

Once a student has decided they wish to pursue a career with the airlines, they start researching which of the airlines they would prefer to be employed with after graduation.  Each of these airlines come to campus regularly to provide prospective pilots with what they have to offer.  Each airline has different requirements to join their cadet program as well.  Some of the cadet programs are offered after obtaining just your private pilot certificate, others require you to complete your commercial or flight instructor certificate.

Cadet programs such as Trans States Airlines,for example, there is not an obligation of employment post-graduation.  But the program gives you flight benefits allowing you to fly for free on American and United flights, provides an airline pilot with the company as a mentor, and semi-annual meetings at the airline headquarters.  These meetings allow cadets to be flown to the meeting, provided a hotel room and meals, tour company maintenance hangers, talk to pilots, logclass D jet simulator time, and more.

Other airlines such as Envoy have a multiple tiered cadet program.  Once obtaining your private pilot, you can join Envoy’s cadet program.  The benefits are similar to other programs.  For the last tier, you are offered a conditional employment contract.  This means that a student can secure a job a year or two before graduating from school and build a seniority number within the ranks of pilots!  A handful of our partnership airlines offer conditional contracts.

These are just two examples of two types of cadet programs.  Each airline’s program falls in line with one of these, but each differ in some way.  Each cadet program allows you to have airline pilot mentors, flight benefits, and complete portions of employment interviews or all of your required interviews.

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