If the vast open skies beckon you and you dream of being one with the clouds, flying is the career for you. There are many ways to fulfil your ambition of becoming a commercial pilot. The type of aircraft you want to fly will determine the kind of commercial flying license you obtain as there is an entire range of flying licenses. However, before qualifying for a commercial flying license, you need to have a Private Pilot License. It’s only after you have gathered sufficient flying hours that you can apply for a commercial pilot license. In the U.S, only a commercial pilot is entitled to be paid for flying an aircraft.
The Federal Aviation Administration has laid down certain stipulations that you would need to meet before qualifying for a commercial pilot’s license:-
- At least 18 years old
- Excellent communications skills in English – written and spoken
- A Private Pilot license from the FAA
- Aviation experience in sync with the type of work and aircraft sought
- Cleared the practical flying and knowledge test
Types of Commercial Pilot
Before delving further about how to become a commercial pilot, it would be interesting to familiarize yourself with the various options you have as a commercial pilot and the types of aircraft you can fly. There are two kinds of aircraft – small planes and jets. These in turn diverge into a range of specialized services – like Air Ambulance, Coastal Surveillance, Agricultural Spraying, Charter Pilot, Survey Pilot, Search and Rescue Pilot and Flying Instructor.
The options available
There are various means by which you can go about achieving your aim of becoming a commercial pilot. One method is to join a flying school that first trains you to obtain your private pilot licence which is a mandatory requisite to be met before you can try for your commercial pilot’s license. Once you earn your private pilot license, most flying schools offer continued training to get commercial flying licenses for smaller aircraft that are motored by the propeller. However if you wish to opt for jets and commercial liners, you would have to attend a specialized institute that offers this kind of training. Even after you complete this training, most airline companies make it compulsory for you to attend their own flight training school.
Another way which involves no cost from your side, where you can actually be paid while learning to fly is to join the Air Force. However you will have to sign a bond that you will not leave before serving in the military for a stipulated number of years. After serving your tenure in the Air Force, your experience and the type of aircraft you have flown will determine whether or not you will directly be given the opportunity to fly a commercial carrier. Some additional training in the specialized airline schools will enable you to get hired by an airline company.
Another recourse is to head for foreign shores. More and more people prefer air travel nowadays and hence the demand for pilots is ever increasing in many small countries which do not as yet have a flourishing aviation industry. The airline services of these countries are looking to hire trained pilots with a basic commercial license. You can get added experience with them which will also help you to pay for the rest of your training.
How long does the training take?
The duration of the entire training program for a commercial pilot is 250 days. After the completion of the first 190 days, the trainee will obtain the private pilot’s license and will earn the commercial license after the remaining 60 days.
Your salary would depend on the type of aircraft you fly. Jet pilots that fly commercial airlines can earn upto $100,000 a year while flight instructors would make around $80,000. Pilots of propeller aircraft usually earn a lower salary since you have just begun your career. With the accumulation of more experience, good fitness levels and by updating your qualification you can scale greater heights of success. Then the sky would be your limit- literally!