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Pilot starting pay similar to fast food workers

CINCINNATI (Jeff Hirsh) -- It's one of the most glamorous jobs to imagine, an airline pilot.
They get to travel, wear cool uniforms and they make lots of money... well, two out of three isn't bad, at least to start.  As long as there have been airplanes there have been children dreaming of growing up and flying them.
Andrew Baker is taking flying lessons, "My first flight was at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina with my dad."
But if the flying thing doesn't work out there's always something else the Covington native could fall back on where, at least to start, he'd make pretty close to the same money.  At the beginning, there's not much difference pay-wise between this being a pilot and working at a fast food restaurant.
Sling burgers for minimum wage at $7.95 an hour in Ohio and you make about $16,500  a year.

Fly a multimillion dollar complex piece of machinery, where you are responsible for dozens of lives including your own, and the average guaranteed starting salary at a regional airline is, according to the Government Accountability Office,  $21,600 a year.  That's for first officers, the co-pilot.  The salary is so low there is actually, at The Regionals, a pilot shortage.

Baker is picking up a college degree as well, in his case an associate degree in aviation technology offered by UC Clemont, in conjunction with Sporty's Academy at the Clermont County Airport. 
The fascination with flying was always under the radar.  But then, a couple of years ago, on a whim Baker bought a half price coupon for an introductory-up-in-the-air lesson.

"I took the discovery flight and after that I knew this was what I wanted to do," said Baker.
Several years ago, it took less time for a pilot to make it from student to airline.  But as a result of the fatal Colgan Airlines crash in Buffalo in 2009 where 50 people were killed, the FAA increased the number of flight hours required to get an airline pilot's license from 250 hours to 1500.  That maximum can be reduced a bit for pilots in college programs, but UC's aviation director says the additional hours, more than any other factor, even low pay, is behind the pilot shortage.

Pilot pay does go up with seniority and can go up quite a bit over time. 

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