Pilot Careers 

       

When most people think of a commercial pilot, the first thing that

comes to mind is often the airline pilot.  But for those seeking a

flying career, becoming an airline pilot is not their only option.

Pilot careers run the gambit, from crop duster to wide body airline pilot.


      There may be other flying opportunities you have overlooked.  For inexperienced pilots, flight

      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

      lucrative as flying for a major airline, they can be rewarding careers in themselves.

     Pilot Training



      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.  This

      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 ratingThis will allow them to build flight time
     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 instrument. 
     For each of these license and ratings, you will also
need to pass a written exam and a practical
     flight exam.

    
     While the military use to be the training ground for airlines, today with military cut backs and

     incentives for military pilots to service longer, airlines are hiring fewer and fewer of these pilots.


      For 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

       license ).  If you choose a 4 year aviation degree, you can receive college credit for flight

       training.  Airlines do not require a degree in aviation, however most do require a 4 year degree. 

       There are airlines that don't require a 4 year degree, but keep in mind airline jobs are very

       competitive and most airline applicants will have a degree.  Combine a college degree 

       program and flight training, and you are looking at an expensive education.  These university 

       programs start at around $70,000 and escalate to over $200,000 for the most prestigious 

       aviation universities.

 

    * Aviation Academy/ab initio: Often called "pay for hire", these academies are sometimes

      affiliated with a regional airline.  They offer basic flight training through advanced license. 

      If associated with a regional airline, a candidate, after successfully completing the program, is 

      guaranteed an interview with the affiliate airline. There is however, no job guarantee.  Look 

      to 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

      less structured than a university or aviation academy program.  Students can train on their

      schedule, taking as much time as needed to acquire their license.  A flight school can prepare a

      student for the same license as the university or academy.  Expect to spend between $40,000

      and $60,000 for license and ratings.  ( private, commercial, instrument, multi-engine and flight

      instructor ).


      Career Paths 


 

     If you are one of the few who served as a military pilot , you are almost guaranteed an airline

      job once you have completed your commitment with the military.  For all other aspiring pilots,

      you will acquire your training through one of the programs mentioned above.  Once you have

      completed your flight training, you will want to concentrate on building flight time.  Becoming a

      flight instructor is a quick way to build time and get paid while doing it.  Keep in mind, flight

      instructor pay is relatively low, so you will not  be getting rich flight instructing.  A few other ways

      to build time are towing banners, flying skydivers, and flying traffic watch .  After you have built

      some time and experience, there are opportunities flying for small cargo operators. These cargo 

      operators 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 applying 

      with regional airlines and corporate / charter operators.  At this career level, you may find the pay

      and life style meets your needs and not seek a job with a major airline.  If your goal is to fly for a

      major airline, you will be in good shape, as the majority of pilots flying for a major airline come

      form the ranks of regional airlines or corporate / charter operators.


      What to Expect

      The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


     The Good: 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 and

     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

     verity of schedules and as you become more senior, you will be able to dictate what type of

     schedule you fly.  Pilots general have more days off than those with traditional jobs.  Flying for an

     airline, you can expect to have 13-15 days off a month.  More days off if you are a senior

     international pilot and fewer if you are a junior pilot.  As for pay, the entry level flying jobs are not

     going to pay much.  As you move up the ladder, you can expect to be paid accordingly.  Starting

     pay for a corporate pilot will be $20,000 to $30,000.  The top tier Gulfstream captain will average

     $140,000 a year.  Starting pay at a regional airline is in the low 20's.  First officers with 10 years of

     seniority can expect to make between $35,000 and $45,000 a year.  A captain at a regional will top

     out between $95,000 and $105,000.  Starting pay at a major airline averages around $40,000 and

     a 10 year first officer will earn an average of $95,000.  A 10 year captain flying for a major

     airline can expect to earn an average of $140,000 per year.

 

     The Bad and The Ugly:  The aviation industry, especially the airline industry are cyclical.  When

     the economy is doing well, the aviation industry does well also.  When the economy is bad, the

     aviation industry does real bad.  There is a saying that when business is bad, the corporate 

     airplane is the first thing to go.  The airline industry is a very low margin business.  A down turn 

     in the economy or a spike in fuel prices can send an airline into an economic tail spin, leading 

     to cutbacks and furloughs.  For pilots, there always seems to be some uncertainty about the

     future.  As a junior pilot, you will most likely be on reserve (on call).  You will work weekends,

     holidays and fly red-eyes.  And if your airline is not expanding, the prospect of getting off 

     reserve or upgrading to captain will be very slow.

 

     Some Good News:  Airline pilots hired during the boom times of the 80's and 90's are now

     reaching the new mandatory retirement age of 65.  It is predicted that airlines will hire 40,000

     to 50,000 pilots over the next 10 years do to retirement and attrition.  With these retirements, 

     growth in emerging markets and recovery from the great recession, Boeing predicts the need for

     more than 450,000 pilots worldwide over the next 20 years, including over 97,000 in North 

     America.  These factors could finally lead to a pilot shortage that has been predicted for decades.


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