Kurt Jahr, 26, is an Air Canada Jazz pilot - Macleans.ca

Kurt Jahr, 26, is an Air Canada Jazz pilot

Aviation careers start with long days at low pay


Your Job Makes Me Jealous is a weekly podcast with a young Canadian whose career is so neat that people at parties crowd around to hear about it. We talk about the ups, the downs and the pay.

For this inaugural podcast, I interviewed Kurt Jahr, a 26 year-old from Markham, Ont. who landed his dream job flying for Air Canada Jazz out of Toronto’s Pearson Airport. He started in January.

Jahr got the job was after paying his dues in Gander, Nfld. and Timmins, Ont. He’s been flying since age 14 and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in Aviation & Operations Management at the University of New Brunswick in 2007.

Click here to listen to the podcast with Air Canada Jazz pilot Kurt Jahr (4:48)

The transcript:

What was your first job like?

I was employed by Capital Airways and Capital Airways is who I did my training with. They’re coupled with the University of New Brunswick. I worked the ramps, I cleaned planes, I fueled planes, I worked the hangar. I worked as dispatch and then I got to fly, maybe a couple hours every week.

I moved on to instructing a couple months after that, I moved to Gander Newfoundland where I had to teach people how to fly. Same thing. You’re making maybe $25,000 per year and you’re working 12 to 14 hour days, so there’s a lot of work in it. But what you’re basically trying to do is build your hours, get experience for that next job, build experience for your next job and eventually make it up to the airlines.

You’re from suburban Toronto. What was it like to move to Gander?

It was a bit of a culture shock moving to Gander. I wasn’t really ready when I moved there because I just threw everything in the back of my car, drove out there and realized there’s a Wal-Mart, a car dealership and that’s about it. It’s a different experience, but it really forces you to broaden your horizon. Not only to the different types of places Canada has, but it really forces you to meet all kinds of different people as well.

Is flying really as exciting as it looks on television?

I remember one time a plane got stuck in Attawapiskat. The battery exploded. It was minus 50 something and you just couldn’t go out. You had to fly maintenance in. Or I was stuck underneath the plane loading the cargo pod in blistering winds. So it’s days like that I was praying for this airline job. But the flying up there was really enjoyable. I really enjoyed the hands-and-feet flying. In the airline world it’s more… you still hand-fly the aircraft, but maybe for the first couple thousand feet and maybe you hand-fly the landing, but beyond that you’re button pushing. You become more of a systems manager.

Have you ever had any emergencies?

My student sniffed the air. He said “Sir, there’s smoke!” I looked at the air and yeah, there was smoke in the cockpit. That’s when you revert to your training, you run the checklist and you deal with the situation.

What’s the pay like?

In Canada at the regionals you start at anywhere from $40,000 to $45,000 and on top of that $5,000 to $15,000 untaxed of per diems. And that’s an allowance for meals and stuff like that while you’re away, but it shows up as a paycheque and you treat it as such. Pay tops out in the airlines at $150,000 to $300,000 for some of the older legacy carriers. It does take a long time to get there, but I know a few captains at my airline who are making $100,000 to $110,000 and they’re 30 to 32 years old.

How’s the schedule?

I’ll sometimes do two four day pairings back-to-back. So I’ll be here 12 hours in eight days. Just enough time to do laundry and get out the door. So you learn how to live out of your suitcase pretty efficiently. If I had a family right now, it would be a lot tougher.

Is it fun to travel to all these cities or does it kind of get old?

It can grow tiresome, but it’s also kind of cool because everybody has their own favorite little restaurants to go to after work. There’s usually enough time to go to the gym and take some time and wander around downtown and do some shopping, stuff like that.

What was your best day so far as a pilot?

I was instructing, in Gander of course. I remember one day we essentially had free reign on the aircraft that one day before we sent our students back to China there and we had a few hours of extra flight time. They’ve all passed their exams and all that so we could use it in a more fun way, as opposed to training hard. So what seven of us did. Seven students and seven instructors. We flew all around Newfoundland in formation. It was really cool because it’s one of those days when you look out the window and you realize “hey, I’m getting paid for this.”


Kurt Jahr, 26, is an Air Canada Jazz pilot

  1. Sorry to hear you are in the flying industry, my spouse is currently a pilot for Air Canada, at one time they thought that flying was going to be the dream job but during the last two years of battling with a greedy corrupt AC management and fascist Conservative government the job is now a nightmare. I really hope your career works out better than the current AC pilots. I would also like to warn anyone that flying is not what is used to be.


  2. woopy-doo a pilot……..bla bla bla

    • That’s mean. I think it sounds like an exciting career that takes skill and dedication.

  3. Just like all Jazz pilots. They THINK they work for Air Canada but they don’t. They work for Chorus Aviation who does a contract for Air Canada. They are not Air Canada pilots and being an Air Canada pilot I am quite astonished they use my Air lines Name. Get with it boys. You are Jazz and always will be. No more seniority for you.

    • hahahahahaha.

    • Wow, your so full of yourself just like every Air Canada pilot THINKS they are Gods gift to aviation. You are on a sinking ship and still look down your nose at everyone else. You can even get along with each other.
      Once again WOW, what a tool.

    • Wow Kevin, you are definitely the quintessential Air Canada pilot…arrogant with a bloated sense of self worth. Hope you still have a job next year.

    • Kevin,
      You come across as a very bitter employee.
      He’s only been with Jazz for 7 months.
      Do you really think he cares about Air Canada

    • Kevin,

      As one of your co-workers while I have to agree that they do work for Chorus the rest of your comments are sad. Come on man, we are all one. We are all pilots whether you work for Jazz, AC, WS or Jazz why do we need to knock people when they are on the ground? It’s really too bad all the pilot groups in Canada didn’t get along and just let management duke it out. I bet you’re one of those guys that don’t let a Jazz Pilot up front either…


    • I’d rather work for Jazz than Air Canada. It just shows the type of arrogant tools you guys are over there! Hence why you’re in the situation your ACPA boys put you in! Well deserved too! And I use the term ‘boys’ because you’re maturity level is obviously that of one. It’s really a shame. It’s your culture and attitude that turned me off of applying at AC. Thank god I did. You got more coming to ya with that attitude! Keep it up! ;)

  4. Heeeeey I wish I could have an emergency in my cockpit with Kurt. There would be more than just smoke if you get my drift. Get it? Drift? George Berkeley would be so proud of you. Kurrrrt ;)

    Remember me?…


  5. That is a great salary, He says that pay tops out at 150 to 300 after 30 to 32 years, excellent in my book. After 39 years in the military I did not top out at 150 and worked more hours than he does…..

  6. Wow Kevin, if you are going to pick on someone and try to belittle them, at least know your facts. Its Jazz Air that has the contract not Chorus…but good try. Also I dont remember him making any specific mention of hime being an AIR CANADA pilot… the journalist wrote that he was a Air Canada Jazz Pilot which is exactly that…he has the AC uniform and flies a plane that says Air Canada Jazz, so why would the reporter assume any other job title? As a Flight Attendant for “Jazz Air” I can assure you that the majority of pilots/flight attendants ect working at Jazz are well aware of what airline they work for. Yes many do aspire to make it to mainline one day, but many are happy at Jazz and love the fact that they can gain seniority 5 times quicker than any “Air Canada” pilot and enjoy the local north American destinations. Your snotty conceeded attitude is actually the biggest reason many dont go to mainline…they dont want to work with stuck up “Sky Gods” like you.

  7. Colette: Kurt said 30 to 32 years of age, not experience. Would be very nice indeed to make that much money at that age. (And yes, to make that much money in the military, period.)
    But let’s just remember that, aside from the income – or lack thereof – he chose his profession as did you.
    NB And before anyone gets on MY case, my spouse was in the military as is my son now. So yes, I DO know of what I speak.

  8. Kevin, you sound so upset. That doesn’t seem like an attitude that would be safe going into the air. What could possibly be making you so upset?

    This young man seems to be enjoying his path through life. Are you?

  9. So, why didn’t you join the RCAF? You could fly everyday and have a very satisfying and much more exciting career and then after retiring with thousands of hours continue to fly as a civilian.

  10. Chantal….well said ! Some people just like to hear the sound of their own voice. You and all of Air Canada Jazz personnel do an amazing job and those people who ‘think’ they could do better, are just jealous ! You go girl.

  11. Ever notice people that comment are likely lacking brain cells? Great podcast. Look forward to the next one.

    • It’s nice that the whole country can see the true colours of the Air Canada pilot shine threw, you make the Pilot group soon proud over there at ACPA Kevin .

      As for everyone else this is type of person flying you around in thoses big shiney jets.

      Back to the article though, best of luck with your career at Jazz and now you see behind the curtain at how the ACPA boys like to treat others including their own members.

      That’s it Kevin ….eat your young, through them under the bus, do what you ACAP pilots do best….belittle everyone else and stay delusional about reality.
      But wait, is it that Kevin just works in a toxic company that everyone is miserable ?
      I’m sure you have been a tool at every company you worked for, cause it seems AC only hires you arrogant, self righteous, type.

      I’ve had enough dealings with ACPA boys to know you can’t be trusted.
      But hey who cares what I say cause your a big brave pilot! Btw your Dad get you that job?

  12. Hi there, just want to chime in here. I believe most of what I sense as frustration had to come from years of hard work to attain the position as an Air Canada pilot. Myself having been a captain for a little over two years and the knowledge I bestow down to my co-pilots is something that some should never take for granted. A “feeder ” pilot is a position where you build time and experience before you move over ( if allowed ) to the Mainline. Their career is to provide me with passengers from the remote communities not accessable by my larger Jet. This pilot may find a transition to Air Canada too difficult to attain and and thus applying for jobs like Canjet, Sunwing ,WestJet where the process is a little more easy as the low cost carries need pilots and are not too fussy about hiring some of our castaways.

    • Wow !!! There is that attitude all over again but from a new source.

      Birds of a Feather. Attention Canada!! this is the attitude of the Air Canada Pilot.

      All high and mighty where no one is worth nothing unless they fly for AC.

      GET A GRIP, your a glorified bus driver!

      Not only did you make yourself look bad but you just put every other pilot and airline down in Canada.

      You must be sooo proud!

      You ACAP boys are cut from the same arrogant conceded cloth.
      No wonder pilots are not showing up for your Ground schools.

    • Incredible. I know that all the Air Canada Pilots aren’t like you but you make your entire group look bad.

      Just because people choose to work at companies other than Air Canada does not mean that their jobs are less demanding or less difficult than yours. Nor does it mean that they haven’t worked as hard as you to get the job they now have. In fact, I would argue that your job is among the easiest and safest of all flying jobs out there.

      You and others like you need to ditch that attitude and learn some humility. Then maybe you’ll see that if we as different pilot groups work with eachother, we’d all be better off.

    • What makes you think every pilot in Canada wants to work for Air Canada? You guys aren’t ‘The Goal’. Jazz is a career job. Their contracts are ‘career contracts’. Yours is terrible.

      Folks, I worked for Air Canada for 2 years on the Embraer before moving over to WestJet.I actually wanted Air Canada my whole life. It did not take me ‘years of hard work’, like Troy says. It took me 1 year of working in the bush, and the rest was at a cushy corporate job. I then moved to Air Canada after only 3 years of experience, and spent 2 years. I then moved to WestJet and am about to complete my 1st year. So, why did I move to WJ? The planes, flying, sched at Air Canada wasn’t half bad for me. What ruined the experience, were the people I worked with. For the most part, the Embraer captains were a bit younger and more relaxed (out of Vancouver anyways, out East is very different). It was the older guys with the back in the day mentality. All the groups, ground handlers, gate agents, FA’s, pilots etc, usually segregate from eachother. It was such a turn off to see this animosity. I moved over with much hesitation to WestJet and I have regretted not coming here sooner. There is much love here and the group doesn’t put itself above any other pilot in this country.

      I have a friend at Air Georgian, who is a Tier 3 carrier for Air Canada. I have read their contract and in a lot of ways it was better then the one we had when I was at Air Canada!!! Imagine that!! Jazz has a great contract and is a great place to hang your hat. When I was at AC, I sat jump commuting to Toronto once and I got off the plane with the crew. I remember passing a couple of Georgian or Sky Regional pilots, couldn’t tell, and they said hello to the crew of the 767 who flew me in to Toronto. They ignored the greeting and continued walking. This opened my eyes to attitudes of Air Canada pilots. In all fairness, and this is an obvious statement, but there are a lot of great people at AC. However, the majority are conceted. Even new guys who get on with the airline feel some sense of entitlement and they feel they are above anyone who flys for an airline that isn’t theirs. Well, I say good luck with your future! You WILL need it. I wonder if Karma will help you though.

  13. Wow Troy D grow up… I know some fantastics guys at all airlines as well as some not so great. Which one are you

  14. Troy and Kevin, if your attitudes are typical of AC pilots then I am truly glad I turned down AC. Fortunately, I have many friends at AC that have much more mature, humble attitudes.

    ‘Best and brightest’ you are not!

  15. Folks I think Kevin is not even a pilot. He’s just winding you up.

  16. Nice interview, just woundering which airline as 300 000$ paid pilot. I will apply right now. I know none around here that offer close to that and round here is Canada. And for per diem, I dont count it as my salary, has I have to eat while away, and sandwich in your room everyday can beat up your health and your moral.