Numerous individuals already aspire to fly an airplane or be inside it at a very young age. The fascination of how an airplane works, its strange yet wondrous structure, its uniqueness as well as the excitement of being on it are what attract them.

It’s indeed a very amazing profession. However, becoming one requires you to have a true passion and love for flying. In addition, being an airline pilot entails a great responsibility such as worrying about the passengers’ lives.

It is never an easy profession; to be capable of flying a plane, you first need to undergo pilot training to develop your skills and expand your knowledge.

In this article, essential things about being an airline pilot will be discussed — how much they earn within a year, how to truly become a pilot, the requirements you need and how long the process takes to become one.

Pilot Salary

The salaries received by every pilot varies according to different factors: the type of aircraft they’re flying, their level of experience (how long they’ve been in the industry), region or country, whether they’re in a regional or major airline and their position in the airline company.

Pilots do not earn based on a fixed salary like some other professions; they earn on an hourly basis wherein they need to reach the minimum hours of work (usually 75 hours per month) set per month to ensure that they are receiving a monthly minimum salary.

Beginning Salaries

If you’re a pilot in a regional airline in the U.S., your starting salary has a rate of $20 – $50 per hour. In a year, its equivalent value is around $20,000-$40,000.

Being in a major airline is a different case; your initial or beginning salary would have a higher rate. The rates would, of course, still differ depending on the airline. However, it would usually be around $60-$90 per hour thus, its estimated value per year would be $50,000 – $80,000.

As I have mentioned earlier, the salary amount they receive depends on the type of aircraft they’re flying as well as how long they’ve been in the airline.

For example, the standard annual salary of a pilot flying a large jet would be around $120,000 but for smaller jets, it would only be around $100,000. However, if a pilot flies a non-jet plane, their salary would be lesser than the aforementioned amount.

Steps Towards Becoming a Pilot

Becoming a pilot does not happen in an instant, you need to invest a lot of your time and effort in learning all the essential things about aircraft and everything related to it. To give you an idea about how you can officially become one, here are some of the steps:

1. You should attain a college education.

College degree programs regarding piloting are greatly available if you haven’t had any existing knowledge and experience in flying an airplane. It is more advisable to get a college degree than just an associates’ degree since it is what commercial airlines prefer among their applicants.

2. Have at least the minimum hours of flight experience.

Before you become a pilot, you should be able to fly a plane for a total of 250 hours, which is the minimum hours of flight experience.  In doing so, you would be accompanied by flight instructors in flight schools to always ensure a safe flight.

3. Get a pilot’s license.

After completing the minimum number of flying hours, you could now apply for a commercial pilot’s license by completing all other requirements they’re asking for.

Pilots must first undergo and pass the physical examination to ensure that their hearing and vision have no physical impairments. Afterward, they need to take the written examination that includes all the safety information and would also asses their skills.

4. Take additional pilot training and start working as a pilot.

Selected airlines require their pilot to take some special tests before they officially hire them as their pilot. Moreover, you need to gain a great number of flying hours (at least 4,000 in total) since they do not accept inexperienced pilots.

Pilot Training Requirements and Process

Some of the people easily get discouraged when they learn about the processes and requirements needed in training to become a pilot. Before you officially obtain an FAA Airline Transport Certificate, you need to first complete the requirement of having a total of 1,500 hours of flight experience.

It may seem like a big number but, if you are really determined to become one, this would not be a hindrance. The time it takes to be a pilot depend on the training you’d undergo as well as on the kind of pilot school you would get enrolled at.

If you focus a lot on your pilot training, maybe it would take you lesser time to become one; it could be shortened to less than a year. If the pilot school you get enrolled at lets you fly a plane for around once a week, then you would be spending quite a long time before you reach the minimum.

But, if the school lets you fly for twice or thrice a week, then you’ll have a faster progression.

Training Requirements

If you aspire to become a professional pilot, you need to acquire three important things first — private license, instrument, and commercial. A private pilot license allows you to only fly the plane for enjoyment.

An instrument is a rating that would be added to your license and allows you to fly by reference to the aircraft’s equipment. Lastly, a commercial license gives you the right to get paid by flying. Aside from that, there are educational requirements you need to complete to be able to qualify in pilot training.

Most airline pilots are required to have a bachelor’s degree with any major than just a college degree. Regardless of your major, it is essential to complete and pass coursework in English, Math, Aeronautical Engineering and Physics.

In addition, it is also more advisable to be enrolled in the aeronautics program for it will give you a lot of advantage and would also develop your knowledge.

Types of Pilot Certifications

If you are training to become a pilot, there are various types of certificates you could obtain. The type of training you would undergo would also vary on the kind of certificate you wish to receive. Pilot certificates are also called as pilot licenses and some of its types are as follow:

Private Pilot License

This category has 4 different types under it — student, sport, recreational, and private. A private pilot license is the most common type that most pilots have. This certificate allows you to fly any aircraft.

However, you are not permitted to fly for commercial purposes and would not receive compensation for flying. You should have at least 35 or 40 total number of flying hours to obtain this.

Commercial Pilot License

Acquiring a CPL allows you to get paid for all your flying services but, requires you to abide by any federal aviation regulations. Being a commercial pilot also means that you are to study and to fly more complex aircraft which requires knowledge about professional flight operations.

Flight Instructor

Being a flight instructor allows you to teach a lot of pilot students to fly different types of aircraft. Most people who wish to become a pilot first try to become a flight instructor to gain experience while getting paid for flying. Before you could become one, you need to complete certain requirements such as having a CPL.

Airline Transport Pilot

The ATP license is considered as the most advanced certificate that could be received by any pilot students. In commercial airlines, they now require and hire applicants that have obtained this type of license. To obtain this certificate, you need to have the following requirements:

  • At least 23 years old
  • Have at least a total of 1,500 flying hours
  • Pass all exams and tests (medical, physical or written)

Pilot Ratings

Some individuals get easily confused between pilot certificates and ratings. To clearly differentiate the two, ratings are additional tests and training added to their certificate to improve or acquire greater opportunities. Some example of ratings are:


There are certain requirements you need to complete before obtaining this type of rating. This could be added to certificates such as PPL or CPL. Instrument rating pertains to the qualifications a pilot must have under the Instrument Flight Rules (IFR).


This type of rating enables you to effectively control an aircraft with multiple engines and with retractable gear. It could be added to your certificate as a private pilot. For certain training schools, this type of rating is necessary but is just optional for others.

Instrument Instructor

This rating, when added to your certificate, allows you to instruct advance students regarding flying an aircraft. It is an essential rating to add in an airline transport license for it allows you for greater opportunities.

The type of students you would be teaching are those who wish to apply for instrument rating as well as those aiming for an airline transport license (ATP).

Multi-engine Instructor

In achieving a rating, certificate or endorsement, pilot students are required to receive a certain amount of training, both in air and ground. MEIs are considered responsible for teaching or instructing students who wish to efficiently and effectively fly multi-engine aircraft.

Activities in Pilot Training

Pilot students definitely learn a lot of things during their pilot training. Aeronautics is broad and therefore, requires you a lot of time and training to master all the important things about it. Students undergo ground and air training; several things they do in training are the following:

Takeoffs and Landings

One of the easiest tasks of a pilot is learning how to take off and land. However, it gets harder when they start learning about the different types of it — normal, crosswind, soft field, and a short field. They must learn how to land on various types of fields such as on grass, soft and short runways.

Ground Reference Maneuvers

This refers to learning how to turn around a point, on a rectangular course and S- turns. It is an essential part of the training for it is best used to counterbalance the strong effects of the wind during a flight.

Stalls and Stall Recovery

Stalls happen when the wing of an airplane or an aircraft is hardly damaged and make it difficult for the plane to lift itself or to fly any longer. It’s greatly dangerous at takeoffs and landing for they are at low altitudes.

Practicing stall recovery occurs on high altitudes for increased safety as well as to know how to recover properly if ever it occurs on a plane flight.

Performance Maneuvers

This is also often called as advanced maneuvers since the skill required in properly executing it is not acquired unless proper control of normal maneuvers has been mastered.

Learning this type of maneuver enable you to hone and develop the skills that could enable you to cope with unforeseen emergencies encountered in a flight. The types of things you learn are steep turns, steep spiral, and chandelle.

Flight Planning and Navigation

A pilot must learn and master how to plan a cross-country flight with the use of knowing the routes, weather conditions, and regulations. Flight planning and navigation have been simplified nowadays due to the existence of GPS devices.

However, they should still learn how to navigate in case of emergencies such as GPS failure. When you talk about flight planning, it refers to magnetic heading and airspeed calculation, plotting in maps or charts, and taking into consideration the fuel usage.

As mentioned in the first paragraph, being a pilot is never an easy profession. In fact, there are no easy jobs or professions. It would only look easier once you have the determination to achieve it as well as have the passion to continue pursuing it.