We know: How to Become a Pilot

What do pilots do?

Most airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers transport passengers and cargo, but 1 out of 5 pilots is a commercial pilot involved in more unusual tasks, such as dusting crops, testing aircraft, directing firefighting efforts, monitoring traffic, and rescuing and evacuating injured persons.

Whatís the standard pay for pilots?

According to the governmentís Occupational Outlook Handbook, earnings of airline pilots are among the highest in the Nation, and depend on factors such as the type, size, and maximum speed of the plane and the number of hours and miles flown.


In 2002, median annual earnings of airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers were $109,580. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $55,800. More than 25 percent earned over $145,000.


Median annual earnings of commercial pilots were $47,970 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $33,830 and $70,140. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,100, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $101,460.

What kind of training is required to be a pilot?

Requirements include:

  • All pilots who are paid to transport passengers or cargo must have a commercial pilotís license with an instrument rating issued by the FAA.
  • Helicopter pilots must hold a commercial pilotís certificate with a helicopter rating.
  • To qualify for these licenses, applicants must be at least 18 years old and have at least 250 hours of flight experience. The experience required can be reduced through participation in certain flight school curricula approved by the FAA.
  • Applicants also must pass a strict physical examination to make sure that they are in good health and have 20/20 vision.
  • Applicants must pass a written test and must demonstrate their flying ability to FAA or designated examiners.


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