What Are the Requirements to Becoming a Commercial Airline Pilot?

Pilots usually begin their career flying for smaller commuter airlines or private shipping companies. Commercial airlines have additional requirements to meet before you can pilot their planes. Read this article to learn more about the requirements for becoming a commercial airline pilot. Schools offering Aviation Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Becoming a Commercial Airline Pilot Overview

To pilot a commercial airline, captains must obtain an airline transport pilot's license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Applicants for this license must be at least 18 years old. Pilots also must also meet flight time requirements, pass a written and flight exam and meet health standards. Post-secondary education may also be necessary to be competitive in the job market.

Important Facts About Commercial Airline Pilots

Median Salary (2014) $75,620
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 5%
Key Skills Excellent oration, astute observation, problem solving, quick reactions and decision making, calm demeanor, stress management
Similar Occupations Air traffic controller, air and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians, construction equipment operators

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Flight Time Requirement

The FAA requires pilots to have 1,500 hours of flight time to be eligible for an airline transport license. A certain portion of this flight time must include night flying and instrument flying, which means navigating by use of instruments during periods of low visibility. Pilots work up to the required flight experience through training programs, military experience and by flying on their own or for jobs that require less experience.

The Federal Aviation Administration Exam

The FAA exam includes a written portion testing on flight skills, such as navigation techniques, regulations and flight safety. The exam also includes and a practical portion, where applicants must demonstrate operational skills to the test administrators.

Health Requirements

Pilots must prove they are in good physical and mental health. Pilots are given a physical examination to demonstrate 20/20 vision and to show they don't have hearing impairments or physical handicaps that would hinder their piloting ability. In addition, many airlines require pilots to take a psychological and aptitude test to ensure their ability to make decisions under pressure.

Educational Requirements

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that while commercial pilots usually only need a high school diploma or it's equivalent, airline pilots are expected to have a bachelor's degree and an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate. Flight training can be attained through independent instructors or flight schools.

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