With salaries as high as $250,000 a year, a commercial pilot’s job is a much envied one. Here are a few things you might want to know if this career option sets cash registers ringing in your head. This CareerStint article presents information on how the salaries of commercial pilots vary according to the years of experience and types of jets flown by them.
According to the data presented by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the lowest 10 percent of commercial pilots earned less than $38,520, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $134,990.
”Up up and away!” Most, if not all of us, have always been fascinated with the thought of soaring into the skies. While you might not get to wear a cape (but then again you never know!), or zip around saving the world, there is one thing that comes real close to this dream – a commercial pilot’s job. The chance to zoom above the clouds, and see everything from an eagle’s point of view has fixated us for many centuries. Over the years, we have invented various machines, and technology today permits us to turn these dreams into a reality. It is the commercial pilots who are living their dream, as millions of businessmen and families fly thousands of miles everyday. For carrying out this highly satisfying, and often dangerous job, it goes without saying that the salary range is fairly substantial.
Factors that Determine the Salary
As mentioned earlier, this profession has many special requirements, and the rewards reflect that. The remuneration received depends on the nature of the cargo (people or goods), type of aircraft, reputation and size of the airline, speed of the aircraft, total distance to fly, location, and experience of the pilot, etc. Co-pilots at regional airlines obviously get a lower pay package. Studies show that regional airline pilots, in the lower ranks, at least, barely make minimum wage. It takes considerable time to move up the ranks and get a pilot’s job at a big international airline. A long-haul pilot with lots of experience can command among the highest salaries in the country. All airlines have their own pay structures and employment policies. In the airline world, seniority determines the salary. However, it becomes worthless if your company shuts down!
Commercial pilots can work as charter pilots, air ambulance / air tour pilots, air-taxi pilots, on-demand charter pilots, regional, national, and international airline pilots. They can even train others to fly. They can work for various government agencies, they can help extinguish fires by releasing a load of chemical fire retardant, or they can fly low and tow banners over beaches. One needs to have about 2,000 hours of flight experience to join a regional airline. Major airlines hire pilots who have about 4,000 hours of flight experience.
According to the ‘Air Line Pilots Association, International’, most airline pilots begin their careers earning about $20,000 per year. A senior captain (a major airline pilot) flying mega-size airplanes (i.e., Boeing 747/777) can earn $245,000 or more annually. Here’s a look at the average salaries of pilots/captains employed with some minor as well as major commercial American carriers. The salary may vary according to the type of industry, type of aircraft, company size, location, years of experience, and level of education.
Average Salary of a Commercial Pilot (Small Jet)
- Median annual salary with Bonus: $110,858
- The annual salary of a pilot with 5-6 years experience can be $96,947-$105,954.
- The annual salary of a pilot with 10-14 years experience can be $103,684-$114,165.
- The annual salary of a pilot with 15-19 years experience can be $105,368-$116,511.
- The annual salary of a pilot with 20+ years experience can be $107,274-$118,637.
Average Salary of a Commercial Pilot (Large Jet)
- Median annual salary with Bonus: $131,962
- The annual salary of a pilot with 5-6 years experience can be $114,201-$123,667. (they can save up to buy their own plane in time!)
- The annual salary of a pilot with 10-14 years experience can be $121,390-$130,383.
- The annual salary of a pilot with 15-19 years experience can be $123,187-$132,302.
- The annual salary of a pilot with 20+ years experience can be $125,274-$135,637.
* Source: salary dot com
In spite of the big payout, a pilot’s life is not easy, as he/she is subject to a lot of stress, and there’s plenty of hard work involved. Not to mention, you can never have the excuse of having missed your flight! If you think you can handle it, then you may easily find yourself on cloud number 9. (quite literally so!). Given below is the job description of a commercial pilot.
A pilot flies the plane from point A to point B. Sounds simple enough eh! Not quite. There’s a LOT more that goes into being a pilot. While Mr. Schwarzenegger in True Lies might make flying a plane seem like a child’s play, anyone who’s seen a plane’s cockpit will tell you that just the sight of the many controls and dials on board will get your head spinning! Years of training and practice go into making a pilot, and no matter how high you think you can jump (you feel you can touch the sky), flying is a totally different ball game altogether. The job comes with heavy responsibility and personal commitment. Recurrent training and consistency in flying is essential if you want to maintain your license. It is the countless hours and the huge sums of money invested in this training that justifies the huge paychecks that pilots take back home. However, it should be kept in mind that a pilot has to spend a considerable amount of time away from home because of overnight layovers. A brief overview of the many responsibilities of a pilot goes as follows –
- Check the validity of information pertaining to the route, weather conditions, passenger details, and aircraft safety.
- List out the flight plan which includes speed, altitude, and route, to ensure that the flight reaches on schedule.
- Keeping track of the fuel that would be required for the flight.
- Ensuring that all safety measures are in order.
- Briefing the cabin crew, and maintaining contact with them throughout the flight.
- Checking if navigation systems are working properly before take off.
- Maintaining contact, and constantly updating the Air Traffic Control about the status of the plane.
- Ensuring that all safety regulations are followed by the passengers.
- Analyzing data from the various instruments of the aircraft.
- Reacting promptly to any emergencies.
- Maintaining a logbook, and reporting after the flight has landed.
All these are highly complicated tasks and they require a lot of skill from the pilot. Someone who carries out so many activities deserves to be adequately remunerated, as there are many lives depending on the competency of this one person. This explains the high levels of salaries.
Flying a radio-controlled plane might be loads of fun, but it doesn’t quite count as experience when it comes to flying! Here’s a look at some of the requirements for enrolling to become a pilot.
- All pilots must have a license, be over 18 years of age. They should be mentally and physically fit.
- A degree in science, or any scientific or aviation-related field is mandatory.
- Before taking to the skies, the pilot should have at least 250 hours of flying experience. Individuals who are enrolled in FAA flight schools may have fewer hours of flight experience.
- There are certain physical requirements for airline jobs as well, as a pilot must have excellent vision and hearing.
- There are a number of tests that a pilot must pass before he can fly. These include written tests about the various rules, techniques, principles, and fundamentals of safe flying, and also real-time flight module tests to check a potential pilot’s temperament.
- Commercial flight schools have their own requirements for enrolling a person, and only academically sound individuals are considered.
It goes unsaid, that if looking down from a tall flight of stairs gets you in a tizzy, you might be better off looking for a more ‘grounded’ profession!
NOTE: The salary bracket mentioned in the article is only indicative of the current market trend. The salaries may vary depending on the region, experience, and the employer.