Everything you need to know to become a commercial pilot

Many people assume commercial pilots are those who work for an airline company. However, a commercial pilot is anyone allowed (by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)) to charge money for their services. They can be all sorts of pilots, including:

  • Cargo pilots

  • Tour pilots

  • Backcountry pilots

  • Ferry pilots

  • Glider tow pilots

  • Flight instructors 

The Aerospace industry is full of benefits, opportunities, and challenges regardless of which path you choose, so you should expect the same as a commercial pilot. 

In this article, you will find everything you need to know to become a commercial pilot. 

How to become a commercial pilot 

Step 1: Know the Requirements

  • Must be at least 18 years of age 
  • Must hold at least one private pilot certificate, which you can obtain by passing both a written knowledge test and a practical test
  • Must have some flighting experience. You’re required to have at least 250 hours of flight time. 
  • Verbal communication skills
  • Excellent vision 

Are you thinking of working for commercial airlines?

Expect additional requirements if you’re thinking of working for a commercial airline. These are the requirements:

Individual airlines may have additional requirements in terms of education and flight experience. 

Step 2: Obtain Required Certificates

To get the most out of your commercial pilot privileges, a 2nd Class Medical certificate is recommended. You can obtain this certificate through an Aeromedical Examiner (AME). The medical certificate should take about 12 months to complete.

Step 3: Take the FAA Exam

To become licensed, commercial pilots must pass the FAA practical test administered by a registered official. 

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Candidates are required to participate in various operational tasks and demonstrate their knowledge of navigation, safety, and regulations in a written exam. The FAA exam gives prospective commercial pilots the “Greenlight” to start gaining all practical experience. 

Step 4: Gain Flying Experience  

To earn a commercial pilot license (under CFR Part 61), you must meet the following aeronautical flight experience:

  • 250 hours of flight time 
  • 100 hours of Pilot-In-Command (PIC)
  • 50 hours of Cross-Country PIC
  • 10 hours of Instrument Training 
  • 10 hours of Technically Advanced Airplane (TAA)

Commercial pilot training will be much different than the private pilot training. You will participate in more rigorous and longer training sessions. For instance, you will be required to fly cross-country in both day and nighttime conditions with specific takeoffs and landings in extreme weather conditions. On a more positive side, you will have the opportunity to learn new maneuvers.  

Step 5: Sign up for the checkride

Once you get to step 5, you have learned all the privileges and limitations of becoming a commercial pilot. Now it’s time to schedule a checkride (with your instructor’s approval).

Think of the checkride as your “Road test.” The examiner will be evaluating your actions to determine what kind of commercial pilot you will be. Make sure to stick your flighting routine and carry yourself with precision.

Responsibilities

As a commercial pilot, you will have significant responsibilities, such as:

  • Flying an aircraft
  • Effective communication with air traffic controllers
  • Operation and control of aircraft 
  • Execute of emergency procedures (if necessary)

Salary 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics‘ 2018-2028 employment forecast information showed that commercial pilots’ jobs are expected to grow by 8%. Glassdoor estimated the average salary for Commercial Pilot was $80,605 in 2019. 

Like any other occupation, there are benefits and drawbacks to being a commercial pilot. 

Pros and Cons of Becoming a Commercial Pilot 

Below you will find a list of some benefits and drawbacks.

Pros

  • Numerous perks 
  • Free travel around the world 
  • Flexible working hours
  • Competitive pay 
  • Free food and accommodation (if applicable)

Cons

  • Expensive training programs
  • Limited time at home 
  • Limited job opportunities for those with less work experience 
  • Must maintain good health 

We hope this article gave a clear idea of what it takes to become a commercial pilot.