top of page
  • info

Are Pilot Cadet Programs Worth It?

It is no small secret that the air transit industry is facing a pilot shortage. This shortage has caused countless problems for air carriers nationwide as they lack sufficient pilots to fly their fleet and keep their operations running. Because of this, airlines have done various things to attract additional pilots. These methods of enticement range from raising pilot salaries to improving quality of life. But in this article, we will focus on the technique that is becoming increasingly common, which is the implementation of pilot cadet programs.

What Are Pilot Cadet Programs?

Pilot cadet programs are courses new pilots may enroll in that will help them secure a position with an airline. Each program is unique, meaning pilots will have different experiences going through each program. They are typically free to join and have little to nothing to do with a pilot's initial training.

These programs typically give pilots training regarding interview prep and airline operations. They do not typically provide them with training in regards to flying or for any pre-Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) training. They are meant to give pilots a clear path to their airline by helping them secure and prepare for an interview.

Aspiring pilots can benefit greatly from these programs as they help them secure an interview at an airline. Airlines also benefit significantly from these programs because they provide a steady stream of new pilots.

While cadet programs existed long before the pilot shortage, their importance has grown immensely. Many existing programs have been expanded as airlines increase funding, hoping to secure more talent through them. Many airlines that did not previously have cadet programs have added them, such as the United Aviates program.

What programs are out there?

Numerous cadet programs are available to aspiring pilots, but this article will focus on the most popular available to the largest pool of pilots. It is important to note that many programs are only available to specific students at specific flight schools, meaning that this list is not all-encompassing.

SkyWest Cadet Program

The first on our list is a house favorite, as Axiom Aviation is a top-tier partner with SkyWest Airlines. SkyWest is a regional airline that operates flights on behalf of Delta, Alaska, United, and American Airlines. It flies the Embraer E175, Bombardier CRJ200, CRJ 700, and CRJ 900.

Pilots hold employee seniority at the airline through the SkyWest Cadet Program from the day they enroll. They also get access to interview prep and career guidance.

MESA Airlines Pilot Cadet Program

MESA Airlines is another regional airline that operates flights on behalf of United Airlines. It also flies cargo for DHL. The airline operates a fleet of Embraer E175s and Boeing 737s. Like SkyWest's Cadet program, MESA Airlines' cadets gain employee seniority and can utilize pilot mentorship.

Republic Airways RJet Cadet

Through Republic Airways' RJet Cadet program, pilots are able to receive a conditional offer of employment, pilot mentorship and have priority in class date selection. If hired, these pilots will be able to fly the Embraer E170 and E175 on behalf of Delta, United, and American Airlines.

PSA Cadet Program

PSA Airlines' Cadet Program enables green pilots to access the company's internal pilot mentorship program along with up to $30,000 in bonuses and tuition reimbursement. Cadets hired by PSA will have the opportunity to fly CRJ700s and CRJ900s on behalf of American Airlines. Another perk with PSA is that its pilots are guaranteed a flow through to American Airlines after five years.

Endeavor STEP

Students attending select flight schools and universities may participate in Endeavor's STEP program. A complete list of participating institutions may be found on Endeavor's website.

STEP stands for Student To Endeavor Pilot. Through this program, pilots may undergo an interview when they are within 18 months of reaching 1500 hours. Following the interview, they may receive a conditional job offer. After which, they will be given a pilot mentor to guide them through preparing to join Endeavor. Once hired, pilots can fly the CRJ700 and CRJ900 across the country, operating flights for Delta Air Lines.

Piedmont Cadet Program

To qualify for Piedmont Airlines' Cadet Program, a pilot must submit an application once they have acquired at least 500 flight hours and a Commercial Pilot Certificate with multi-engine and instrument ratings. Those chosen to be Piedmont pilots will fly the Embraer E145 painted with the American Eagle livery around the country from the airline's three east coast bases.

Horizon Air Pilot Development Program

Alaska Airlines' subsidiary regional carrier, Horizon Airlines, has launched its own cadet program geared to take cadets from their Private Pilot License through ATP training. Cadets may also receive up to $12,500 in tuition reimbursement. Once Horizon has hired them, they will fly the Embraer E175 jet.

United Aviates

United Aviates is a unique pilot cadet program geared toward helping pilots prepare to go to a major airline instead of a regional one. Students at select flight schools may participate in the program, giving them a clear path to United Airlines. However, it should be noted that these pilots will still need to go to a regional airline to acquire sufficient experience in a jet to fly for a major airline. But it will enable them to get hired by United much sooner than they would if they had not gone through the program.

While pilots at select schools may enroll in this program, it is primarily geared toward students that attend United Aviates Academy in Arizona. This is the first flight school launched by a major airline.

But which is the best?

Most pilot cadet programs are comparable in many regards, with a select few having a few unique differences. Despite these differences, there is no one clear winner. However, one may fit better with a person's career goals than another. Regardless, the best thing a new pilot can do is join as many as possible.

Most programs do not have binding contracts for pilots, meaning that they can and should take advantage of the plethora of opportunities that await them. With that in mind, the best thing an aspiring pilot could do right now is get started! There has never been a better time to become a pilot.

Ready to start flight training? Or have questions about pilot cadet programs? Reach out to us anytime at Or give us a call at 262-297-4568.


bottom of page