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How to become an airline pilot

Published: Friday 30th October 2020

Wman airline pilot getting ready for take off

Have you ever wondered how to become an airline pilot? Zoek US takes you through everything you need to know to get started on this exciting career path!

What is an airline pilot?

An airline pilot is an individual who pilots airplanes, whether they be for commercial or freight purposes. They often work to strict schedules and timetables. Airline pilots can also work as commercial pilots for companies that offer charter flights, conduct rescue operations, or produce aerial photography and video.

Airline pilots often work in the cockpit of the airplane as part of a two-man team consisting of a captain and a co-pilot. These two people are responsible for take offs and landings, steering the airplane, communicating with traffic controllers, and watching their instruments.

What education do I need to become an airline pilot?

While you do not need much formal education to become an airline pilot, most pilots have a bare minimum of a high school degree and two years of college, and most pilots hold a bachelor’s degree. Education conducted should include courses in English, math, physics, and aeronautical engineering.

Do I need any other experience or certifications?

Man learning how to fly an airplane

To become an airline pilot, you will need to undertake some training. While some people will learn to fly when they join the military or air force, most pilots need to attend a Federal Aviation Administration-certified flight school to earn a commercial pilot’s license, medical certificate, instrument certificate, and multi-engine rating. Most pilots also go on to get their airline transport pilot certificate – the highest pilot certificate that allows you to pilot and command a large commercial aircraft.

Most certifications will require you to log a certain number of hours in the air. However, you will need more flight hours than that if you want to be hired by an airline. Your experience will be evaluated based on the type and complexity of the flying you’ve done (ie, types of plane, day or night flying, local or cross-country, etc).

Main duties

Your duties will vary depending on the type of pilot you become and the jobs you work. However, most airline pilot duties will include:

  • Flying the airplane
  • Pre- and post-flight inspections of the airplane
  • Planning flight routes
  • Assessing risk
  • Complying with quality assurance and compliance measures
  • Record keeping
  • Communicating with agencies and ground control
  • Ensuring the safety of passengers and crew

Where are all the airline pilot jobs?

Working as an airline pilot will usually mean working for an airline or transportation company. Popular employers include American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic International, Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines. There are also many other smaller airlines that are seeking skilled pilots.

Salary

Smiling pilot standing in front of an airplane

Salaries for pilots at major airlines are determined by whether you’re a captain or co-pilot.

Starting salaries for co-pilots range from $37,000 to $97,000. Mid-level salaries range between $96,000 to $188,000. Co-pilots with more than 12 years of experience can earn between $82,000 and $250,000.

Starting salaries for captains range between $95,000 to $270,000, depending on experience. Mid-level salaries range between $112,000 to $289,000. Pilots with more than 12 years of experience can earn between $197,000 to $370,000.

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