How to Become an Airline Pilot

Working as an airline pilot offers a great range of benefits.

If you’ve ever flown a plane, or even been a passenger on a flight, you’ll know that it’s an exhilarating experience.

Most pilots begin their career because of their genuine interest in flying, aircraft, and aviation.

Employment prospects are good, as are the salary and working conditions of pilots.

There is also a great deal of opportunity for travel in this role.

Education Requirements to Become an Airline Pilot

While it’s not a formal requirement, most pilots have a college degree, usually in a field such as engineering, physics, or other sciences.

Commercial airlines will prefer to employ pilots with this kind of academic background.

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To become an airline pilot, you must have a commercial pilot’s license.

This license has several parts to it.

To be successful, you must be eighteen years of age or older.

You will then need to complete 250 hours of supervised flight experience.

Once this is complete you can complete your test, which is made up of two parts.

The first is a theory test, FAA rules, flight and navigation knowledge, and safety information will be tested.

You will then need to complete the practical part of the test in an aircraft.

There is also a physical, you will need to be in good health, have good hearing, along with vision at or corrected to 20/20.

The next step to becoming an airline pilot is to gain more experience and flying hours, along with further qualifications.

Before a commercial airline employs a pilot, they will require them to take further tests, including psychological screening and other aptitude tests.

A radio operator’s permit is required within the United States.

Most airlines will also expect pilots to have an airline transport license.

You can train to be a pilot at one of the many FAA schools around the country.

Training to become a pilot is not cheap, and can take years of training and hard work.

One path that many commercial airline pilots have taken is a career in the armed forces as a pilot.

This allows a pilot to train and gain experience, while working and earning money.

Keep in mind that if you earn your pilot’s license with the armed forces, you will have a return of service agreement, where you will need to stay working with them for a certain amount of years.

Airline Pilot Job Description

  • Determining weather and conditions before a flight
  • Deciding on a flight path
  • Checking equipment meets safety requirements
  • Taxiing out, taking off, flying, and landing a plane
  • Dealing with dangerous situations
  • Talking with air traffic control

An airline pilot will spend about 16 days a month working.

Due to strict regulations, a pilot can fly no more than 100 hours in a month, and no more than 1000 hours in a year.

This is because working as a pilot can be stressful, and while on the job they must always be keen and alert.

Airline Pilot Salary and Career Path

Some airline pilots begin their career in the armed forces, others complete a college degree, then work their way through the ranks of an airline.

A qualified commercial pilot might start their career as a flight officer, then be promoted to first officer.

Those who work with regional airlines may find that career progression is faster, however a larger company is always going to be able to offer larger diversity of roles.

Once employed as an airline captain, you will have reached the top of your career ladder.

A brand new pilot at a regional airline might expect to earn around $25,000 to $30,000, however according to, new pilots hired my a major airline can expect to earn around $50,000.

The current median salary of an airline pilot is roughly $100,000 per year.

Senior captains on international routes may earn up to $165,000 per year.

Salary will depend on many things such as the pilots employer, the type of plane they fly, and the routes they fly.

The path to become an airline pilot can be a long one, but if aviation is your passion and you have decided being a pilot is the career for you, then the best advice you can get is to start working towards your pilot’s license as soon as possible.

Enrolling in a college degree with an engineering or science background, or embarking on a career in the military, is a good path to take.

It’s also a good idea to start taking lessons with a certified flight instructor (CFI), and start building up your hours now.

A rewarding career is available for those that are willing to put in the time and the work.

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