There may be other flying opportunities you have
overlooked. For inexperienced pilots, flight
people think of a commercial pilot, the first thing
comes to mind
is often the airline pilot. But for those
career, becoming an airline
pilot is not their only option.
careers run the
gambit, from crop duster to wide body airline
instructing, flying traffic watch, pipeline patrol and
skydive pilot are a great way to gain experience
and build flight time. These types of flying jobs, along
with charter pilot and corporate pilot, are
often considered stepping stones to an airline career. And
while these flying jobs will never be as
as flying for a major airline, they can be rewarding careers
Choosing a career as a pilot will require a lot of
training. The first step will be to acquire your
private pilots license. This will require a
minimum of 40 hour of flight time, including 20 hours of
flight instruction and 10 hours of solo flight. Next
you will want to add an instrument rating.
rating will allow you to fly the aircraft by reference to
instruments only. The instrument rating
requires 40 hours of actual or simulated instrument time of
which 15 hours are received form an
instrument flight instructor.
The next goal should be your commercial license. You
will need to log 250 hours, which includes:
100 hours of pilot in command (PIC), 50 hours of cross country flying
and receive 20 hours off light
instruction to acquire the commercial
license. This would be a good time to add the multi-engine
rating. At this point you will have logged around 300
hours. And while you have a commercial
license, your experience and
flight time qualify you for very
few flying jobs. More on that latter.
Most students will want to get their flight
instructor rating. This will allow them to build flight
and get paid for doing it.
The ultimate goal is to receive the Airline Transport Rating (ATP).
For an ATP, the pilot must be at
least 23 years of age and have logged 1500 hours of flight time,
including: 250 hours PIC, 500 hours
of cross country, 100 hours of night and 75 hours of
For each of these license and
ratings, you will also need to pass a written exam and a practical
While the military use to be the
training ground for airlines, today with military cut backs
incentives for military pilots to service longer, airlines
are hiring fewer and fewer of these pilots.
pilots choosing the civilian route, there are basically
three ways to train for a flying career:
Aviation University: These universities offer basic flight
training through advanced license.
private and commercial license, instrument and multi-engine
ratings and flight instructor
). If you choose a 4 year aviation degree, you can
receive college credit for flight
Airlines do not require a degree in aviation, however most
do require a 4 year degree.
are airlines that don't require a 4 year degree, but keep in
mind airline jobs are very
and most airline applicants will have a degree.
Combine a college degree
flight training, and you are looking at an expensive
education. These university
start at around $70,000 and escalate to over $200,000
for the most prestigious
Aviation Academy/ab initio: Often called "pay for hire",
these academies are sometimes
a regional airline. They offer basic flight training
through advanced license.
associated with a regional airline, a candidate, after
successfully completing the program, is
interview with the affiliate airline. There is however, no
job guarantee. Look
pay from $65,000 to $85,000 for one of these programs.
Flight School: Your local airport more than likely has a
flight school. These flight schools are
than a university or aviation academy program.
Students can train on their
as much time as needed to acquire their license. A
flight school can prepare a
for the same license as the university or academy.
Expect to spend between $40,000
$60,000 for license and ratings. ( private,
commercial, instrument, multi-engine and flight
you are one of the few who served as a military pilot , you
are almost guaranteed an airline
once you have completed your commitment with the
military. For all other aspiring pilots,
will acquire your training through one of the programs
mentioned above. Once you have
your flight training, you will want to concentrate on
building flight time. Becoming a
instructor is a quick way to build time and get paid while
doing it. Keep in mind, flight
pay is relatively low, so you will not be getting rich
flight instructing. A few other ways
build time are towing banners, flying skydivers, and flying
traffic watch . After you have built
time and experience, there are opportunities flying for
small cargo operators. These cargo
usually fly single engine and small twin engine
aircraft. After you have gained
experience flying in this type of
operation, you will have amassed enough time to began
airlines and corporate / charter operators. At this
career level, you may find the pay
life style meets your needs and not seek a job with a major
airline. If your goal is to fly for a
airline, you will be in good shape, as the majority of
pilots flying for a major airline come
the ranks of regional airlines or corporate
/ charter operators.
What to Expect
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
If you enjoy the challenge of working in a dynamic
environment, a pilot career may be
for you. As a pilot you will
have to use your decision making skills, technical knowledge
eye hand coordination in order to complete a safe,
successful flight. You wont be stuck in an
office cubical. Your office will be mobile and come
with a spectacular view! If you enjoy travel,
as a pilot you will get paid to do it. Flying jobs are
not 9-5, Monday through Friday. You will fly a
of schedules and as you become more senior, you will be able
to dictate what type of
you fly. Pilots general have more days off than those
with traditional jobs. Flying for an
you can expect to have 13-15 days off a month.
More days off if you are a senior
pilot and fewer if you are a junior pilot. As for pay,
the entry level flying jobs are not
to pay much. As you move up the ladder, you can expect
to be paid accordingly. Starting
for a corporate pilot will be $20,000 to $30,000. The
top tier Gulfstream captain will average
a year. Starting pay at a regional airline is in the
low 20's. First officers with 10 years of
can expect to make between $35,000 and $45,000 a year.
A captain at a regional will top
between $95,000 and $105,000. Starting pay at a major
airline averages around $40,000 and
10 year first officer will earn an average of $95,000.
A 10 year captain flying for a major
can expect to earn an average of $140,000 per year.
The Bad and The Ugly:
aviation industry, especially the airline industry are
is doing well, the aviation industry does well also.
When the economy is bad, the
industry does real bad. There is a saying that when
business is bad, the corporate
is the first thing to go. The airline industry is a
very low margin business. A down turn
the economy or a spike in fuel prices can send an airline
into an economic tail spin, leading
cutbacks and furloughs. For pilots, there always seems
to be some uncertainty about the
As a junior pilot, you will most likely be on reserve (on
call). You will work weekends,
and fly red-eyes. And if your airline is not
expanding, the prospect of getting off
or upgrading to captain will be very slow.
News: Airline pilots hired during the boom times of the
80's and 90's are now
new mandatory retirement age of 65. It is predicted
that airlines will hire 40,000
50,000 pilots over the next 10 years do to retirement and
attrition. With these retirements,
in emerging markets and recovery from the great recession,
Boeing predicts the need for
450,000 pilots worldwide over the next 20 years, including
over 97,000 in North
These factors could finally lead to a pilot shortage that
has been predicted for decades.
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