The simplest definition of a licensed commercial pilot is someone who is responsible for flying an aircraft — anything from commercial jets to charter planes, and from crop dusters to emergency planes. However, there is so much that goes into the work of a licensed commercial pilot that a dictionary definition can’t expound upon in a mere sentence or two. Licensed commercial pilots are essentially responsible for communicating with air traffic control, ensuring that his or her aircraft is balanced, and of course, operating the plane, monitoring gauges, and navigating the skies.
In quick stat form, the requirements to become a licensed commercial pilot are as follows:
None; although some commercial airlines require a bachelor’s degree or 2 years of college
Must be 23 years old and have logged a minimum of 1,500 flight hours.
Licensure and Certification
Must log 250 hours of flying time and pass the Federal Aviation Administration (FAS) practical test for licensing; Certification is required to work for commercial airlines.
Communication skills; excellent vision and physical health; aeronautical knowledge
In 2018, the median pay for airline and commercial pilots was $115,670 (Source: U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Now, while there may be quite a lot of quality blood, sweat, and tears that go into the intricate process of becoming a licensed commercial pilot, we’ve broken down that process into 5 easy-to-digest steps, to be used as a basic career guide for anyone interested in pursuing this rewarding and exhilarating line of work:
1. You’ll Have to Meet Basic Requirements
There are several basic requirements for anyone pursuing a commercial pilot’s license. To start, applicants must be at least 18 years old. Having effective communication skills is another. All applicants must also pass a physical exam that involves a vision test, as well as have logbook endorsements from an authorized flight instructor to verify their experience level and that they are able to demonstrate aeronautical knowledge.
2. Train as a Private Pilot
Aspiring pilots can train initially as private pilots. This enables them to learn the flight process, as well as become more educated about airport communications, airplane operations and maintenance, and maneuvering. Some flight schools actually offer private or recreational training courses as prerequisites for commercial pilot training, allowing students to progress through the required levels in a streamlined fashion without having to attend multiple sessions.
3. Log Those Flight Hours!
Of a prospective pilot’s 1500 logged hours, 250 of them must be spent in flight in very specific situations. These include completing instrument training, piloting a plane with designated gear, and flying both solo and as the pilot-in-command. Other general requirements include flying cross-country in both daytime and nighttime conditions, as well as completing a specified number of takeoffs and landings. This is where a Pilot2Pilot.com membership can help.
4. Take (And Pass!) Required Tests
Commercial pilots must pass the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) practical test, administered by a registered official, in order to become licensed. During this test, candidates will be required to perform a variety of operational tasks, exhibit proficiency in flying and demonstrate their ability to meet industry standards. Furthermore, they must also pass a written exam to demonstrate their proficiency in navigation, regulations, and safety protocols.
5. Pursue Additional Certifications, if Necessary
In order to work for commercial airlines, applicants will need to be at least 23 years of age, have a minimum of 1500 logged hours of flight experience, and pass the FAA exams. However, it’s important to note that additional education and experience may be required by individual airlines.
A career in commercial aviation is a career like no other. We hope this short-hand guide to what’s involved in the process serves to excite prospective flight students to take to the skies — and reach for the stars!