How to Become a Commercial Pilot

How to Become a Commercial Pilot in the U.S.

If you’re passionate about becoming a flight instructor and charge passenger for your services, then this guide is for you. With this how to become a commercial pilot guide, you can know all that it takes to work as a full-time commercial pilot and earn good sum. But, before reading any further, you must not confuse airline pilot with commercial pilot. Although an airline pilot comes under the category of a commercial pilot, the other way round is not necessarily possible. So, to know other career options available in becoming a pilot, you need to hold onto reading till the last paragraph.

For a full-time job as a pilot, you can also read our blog:

How to Become a Pilot 

Who Are Commercial Pilots?

Commercial pilots are professionals also referred as cargo pilots, tour pilots, or backcountry pilots. The primary factor for becoming a commercial pilot is the allowance by the FAA to charge for the services. If you’re already working as an airline pilot, you require a commercial pilot certificate along with an Airline Transport Certificate (ATP). Then, you’ll get eligible to work for a scheduled air career or a certificated operator to charge money. So, if your career goals and the commercial pilot’s requirement criteria match, you too can become one.

5 Easy Steps to Become a Commercial Pilot

Now, that you know a bit of things required to become a commercial pilot, there is an easy five step process too for knowing the complete criteria.

Step 1#Know the Eligibility Criteria

First things first, a commercial pilot applicant should have an age of at-least 18 years. Then, they need to know basics of reading, speaking, writing, and understanding English language. More so, they have to hold a private pilot certificate for sure. And as discussed above, a pilot must carry a commercial pilot certificate to finally settle for a career.

Step 2# Get a 2nd Class Medical Certificate and Give an FFA Medical Exam

After you achieve all the flying hours that is needed then you will have to sit for a test on aeronautical knowledge and pass through an oral test by FAA’s inspectors and examiners. Furthermore, you will need to hold a second class medical certificate issued by AME (Aviation Medical Examiner). For a 3rd class medical certificate, you might also need a 2nd class medical certificate to utilize the privileges you get.

If you meet all these above requirements you will be given a commercial pilot certificate. You can now be hired as a commercial pilot but you cannot set up your own business as a commercial pilot as it is against the aviation regulations.

Step 3# Start Flying for an Experience

To get a commercial pilot certificate (CPC) in the first place, you need to get a PPC.  A CPC endorses you to fly passengers’ long distance and carry shipment from one place to another for a charge. To get a CPC you will need 250 flying hours, which includes the 60 hours you received while obtaining your PPC, 20 hours that you spent flying with an instructor during training and 10 hours in solo flying.

In addition you will need more than 50 nautical miles in cross country flights with a flight instructor with you during night flights and you will need to do a solo cross country.

Step 4#Sign Off for a Check Ride

Now that you’re well aware with all the requirements for becoming a commercial pilot,  you need to take the final step in the course – taking a check ride. For the final move, your instructor will get you to a check ride. So, the basic criteria for signing off a check ride are- couple of hours of groundwork for the verbal portion of the exam and a quick flight. Since this check ride is to ensure what type of a commercial pilot you’ll become, act professional, don’t look under confident, and trust your skills and learnings.

Step 5#Know the Average Annual Salary of a Commercial Pilot

To know the salary of a commercial pilot, you need to know the various criteria on which it depends. It depends on how much flying experience you have, for which airline you are working, and is it international or regional carriers. So the more flying hours you have, the bigger the airline company, and if it is an international carrier you might earn a much better salary.

For commercial pilots with less than a years experience will draw an average salary in between $24,600 to $55,000 annually. If a pilot has flying experience from one to four years then they would earn somewhere in between $35,000 to $75,000 avg per year. Pilots working from five to nine years will get in between $40,000 to $85,000 annually. If you have more than twenty years of experience you can earn any where in between $110,000 to 210,000 avg per year.

How to Become a Helicopter Pilot

Another career option available if you’re a commercial pilot or an airline pilot is to become a helicopter pilot. They are professionals who can work for the armed forces, corporate and government entities, police forces*, rescue and emergency services, and agriculture sector. This looks like an interesting career.

As a helicopter pilot you can fly into places that general planes cannot fly into. Helicopters are interesting flying machines to learn, only make sure you get the right training to fly them.

Eligibility Criteria For a Helicopter Pilot’s Job

To become a helicopter pilot you need to have your commercial pilot certificate (CPC) or an airline transport certificate (ATPC). Incase you have either one of these then you will have to obtain your Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI) certificate. Then you need 1000 flight hours. The only way to gain these 1000 flight hours is to teach prospective students flying. The only condition being that you pass out as a certificated flight instructor.

As a flight instructor you might not get paid very well but after you gain these 1000 flight hours. So another option is to become a helicopter pilot which is a value for time invested.

How Much Does a Helicopter Pilot Earn?

A helicopter pilot working for a medical center would earn about $50,000 to $90,000 avg per year. A pilot working in the agriculture sector will earn any where in between $70,000 to $150,000. A helicopter pilot working for the police forces may get any where in between $45,000 to $80,000. The highest paid helicopter pilots are those who work for the armed forces (navy, army and air force); they get about $80,000 to $180,000 avg per year.

*Helicopter pilots working for the police might have to first work as a police officer on ground duty. Then, they get green signal to use their flight instructor certificate to fly police helicopters.

So, follow your passion and make way beyond the clouds. For, you know, if you dream big, if sky is not the limit.


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