become an airline pilot

What does a Pilot do?

Military and commercial pilots fly and navigate aircraft like airplanes and helicopters. Airline pilots transport cargo and people on a planned flight and fixed schedule for an airline. Pilots can even work for tour companies. A commercial pilot flies aircraft for purposes like crop dusting, aerial photography, rescue operations, and other purposes. They work inside aircraft with variable schedules and typically spend a lot of time away from home.

Watch a video to learn what a pilot does.

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How to Become an Airline and Commercial Pilot

Airline pilots usually require a bachelor’s degree in addition to a commercial pilot license and the Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Typically, an aspirant begins their career as a commercial pilot and then gains the thousands of hours of flight experience needed to work for major or regional airlines. Those with military experience as a pilot can usually transfer to a civilian aviation directly into the airlines without working in commercial aviation because of their extensive training.

Commercial pilots require a high school diploma or the equivalent and have a commercial pilots license. There may be additional requirements depending on their specific type of job. They usually start out flight training with independent FAA-certified flight instructors or other flight training schools. There are some colleges and universities that offer pilot training. This training is part of a 2 or 4-year aviation degree.

All pilots require the FAA’s commercial pilot license before they can be paid to fly. An instrument rating is also needed to carry passengers of more than 50 miles from the point of origin or conditions that limit visibility, like clouds or at night. Interviewing for a job with major and regional airlines can be intense and reflect the FAA exams for instrument ratings, pilot licenses, and certificates.

Airlines normally conduct an aptitude and psychological test. Newly hired pilots also receive moderate on-the-job training for 6-8 weeks of ground school and 25 hours of flight time in accordance with Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs). All pilots must maintain experience in performing particular maneuvers and procedures for a given number of times in a specific amount of time and receive periodic training and medical examinations.

Job description of a Airline and Commercial Pilot

The duties of a pilot typically include checking the overall condition of the aircraft before and after every flight. They ensure their aircraft is below its weight limit and balanced, as well as checking the fuel supply and weather conditions. They must submit flight plans to air traffic control and communicate with them through the aircraft’s radio system.

He or she operates and controls the aircraft during take-off and landing and along planned routes. An airline and commercial pilot has the job of monitoring engines, fuel consumption and other systems during the flight. They navigate the aircraft by using visual references and cockpit instruments. He or she must know how to respond to emergencies or changing weather conditions. Other duties would depend on the type of pilot and his or her specific job requirements.

Military Pilot Career Video Transcript

You know there’s no better feeling than being up in the air and being able to take your airplane and go wherever you need to go. It is one of the greatest jobs that you could have. It is thoroughly rewarding. I wanted to become a pilot because my dad’s a pilot and I wanted to be in the military. I wanted to serve my country and it’s really cool.

Captain Benning flies the Osprey, a tilt-rotor aircraft. It’s both a plane and a helicopter. You can move the propellers from a down position, like an airplane, or you can move them up like a helicopter. There are two sets of controls in the aircraft so either pilot can fly. You have your screens here which pass you all your flight information, altitude, airspeed. This screen in the middle here that kinda helps with your navigation and monitors your systems that are on your aircraft. Let’s you know how your engines are running and how much fuel you have.

So the part I like most about my job is that it’s very fluid. There’s something always happening, there’s something always changing. There’s always a new mission, there’s always a new flight to go on. In the last couple of months I’ve been to San Fransisco, New York, Chicago, Normandy France.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Airline and Commercial Pilots.

National Center for O*NET Development. 53-2012.00. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is in the Public Domain and originally hosted on which is now, an interagency product administered by USAGov, a division of the U.S. General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Service.

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