Aircraft Pilot Salary

Salary Overview

Wages and salary for a commercial pilot will differ in accordance to her or his experience and is also dependent on if the pilot is the pilot in command (PIC) or the co-pilot. Beginning wages happen at the flight instructor level and pay is calculated by commission dependent on the number of students the CFI is training. Being employed with an international carrier usually starts at $120,000 yearly for the co-pilot, with the chance to advance to the left seat as PIC and the industry’s highest level of pay. Pilots flying international routes earn more than those who navigate domestic skies, making transatlantic positions much more competitive inside of airline companies.*

In May 2008 the median yearly earning of commercial pilots were $65,340. The middle 50 percent made anywhere between $45,680 and $89,540. The lowest 10 percent made less than $32,022, and the highest 10 percent made more than $129,580.*

*According to the BLS,

Health and life insurance is available to airline pilots in most cases. Pilots also get retirement benefits and disability payments if at any time in their career they should fail the FAA physical exam. Pilots are also awarded with “per diem,” or an expense allowance, for every hour away from home.

Job Description and Outlook

Aircraft pilots are professionals with extensive training who fly helicopters or airplanes to complete a varied range of tasks. A majority are copilots, flight engineers, and pilots who carry passengers and cargo. 34 percent are commercial pilots that deal with dusting crops, spreading seed for reforestation, flying passengers and cargo to places not serviced by regular airline, testing aircraft, keeping an eye on traffic, and evacuating and rescuing injured persons.

With the exception of small aircraft, two pilots make up the cockpit crew. Usually the captain, the pilot with the most experience, is in charge and watches over all other crew members. The pilot and the copilot, usually called the first officer, take up the task and flying and other responsibilities, such as keeping in communication with air traffic controllers and keeping watch over the instruments.

A few large aircrafts have an additional crewmember, the flight engineer whose job it is to assist the pilots by operating and monitoring several of the systems and instruments, performing minor in-flight repairs, and monitoring for other aircraft.

A few pilots are flight instructors. They instruct students in ground-school courses, dual-controlled helicopters and planes, and in simulators. Some specially trained pilots are check pilots or examiners. The sometimes fly with pilots license applicants to ensure that they are adept.

The job opportunities are projected to be advantageous for pilots with experience with the regional airlines and low-cost carriers, which are projected to blossom faster than the leading airlines. Opportunities with air cargo carriers should also arise because of mounting security requirements for shipping freight on passenger airlines, increase in electronic commerce, and higher demand for global freight.*

*According to the BLS,

Training and Education Requirements

Even though a few small airlines take high school graduates, a majority of airlines require that you have at least 2 years of college and much prefer to hire college graduates. Several entrants to this occupation have a college degree of some kind. As the number of applicants with a college education increase, several employers are requiring a college degree as an educational requirement.

Training to become a pilot may be achieved though the military, but it is usually done the civilian way. Private flight academies are bountiful to accept the novice pilot from the Private Pilot license through the CFI for immediate aviation employment. The pilot in training that desires to advance through the jet instruction may save money and time by going to a flight school that can guide the student through the higher levels of ratings and certificates. This kind of commercial pilot package may be paid for through those who sign contracts through the flight schools or through independent leading institutions.

Aspiring pilots may pay for their flight training a single package or a time, or they may save thousands of dollars by lumping their training at one flight academy for a commercial jet program.


Pilots can be awarded with the Commercial Pilot license at approximately 250 hours of flight time and by successfully completing the medical examination. From this point a new pilot may receive their Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) certificate. Pilots desiring to go on to jumbo jets for jobs in commercial and corporate passenger carriers will take the Airline Transport Pilot test and start training for a career with the airlines.

Professional Associations

Associations like the Civil Air Patrol provide qualified pilots the opportunity to provide valuable search and rescue help to authorities. The Airline Pilot’s Association, or ALPA, is the leading source for information on airline industry careers and provides a comprehensive listing of profitable pilot career links to help current and future pilots. Pilots with their own aircraft might consider joining the Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association for continued training, safety, and aircraft reviews. AOPA members have instant access to the aviation help desk, and a one year subscription to AOPA Flight Training magazine.

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