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What is an Airline and Commercial Pilot?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”), the U.S. Department of Labor’s principal fact- finding agency for the federal government in the field of labor, economics, and statistics that provides data on employment and wages, Airline and Commercial Pilots fly and navigate airplanes, helicopters, and other aircraft.
Pilots typically do the following:
- Check the overall condition of the aircraft before and after every flight
- Ensure that the aircraft is balanced and below its weight limit
- Verify that the fuel supply is adequate and that weather conditions are acceptable
- Prepare and submit flight plans to air traffic control
- Communicate with air traffic control over the aircraft’s radio system
- Operate and control aircraft along planned routes and during takeoffs and landings
- Monitor engines, fuel consumption, and other aircraft systems during flight
- Respond to changing conditions, such as weather events and emergencies (for example, a mechanical malfunction)
- Navigate the aircraft by using cockpit instruments and visual references
Pilots plan their flights by checking that the aircraft is operable and safe, that the cargo has been loaded correctly, and that weather conditions are acceptable. They file flight plans with air traffic control and may modify the plans in flight because of changing weather conditions or other factors.
Takeoff and landing can be the most demanding parts of a flight. They require close coordination among the pilot; copilot; flight engineer, if present; air traffic controllers; and ground personnel. Once in the air, the captain may have the first officer, if present, fly the aircraft, but the captain remains responsible for the aircraft. After landing, pilots fill out records that document their flight and the status of the aircraft.
Some pilots are also instructors using simulators and dual-controlled aircraft to teach students how to fly.
The following are examples of types of pilots:
Airline pilots work primarily for airlines that transport passengers and cargo on a fixed schedule. The captain or pilot in command, usually the most experienced pilot, supervises all other crew members and has primary responsibility for the flight. The copilot, often called the first officer or second in command, shares flight duties with the captain. Some older planes require a third pilot known as a flight engineer, who monitors instruments and operates controls. Technology has automated many of these tasks, and new aircraft do not require flight engineers.
Commercial pilots are involved in unscheduled flight activities, such as aerial application, charter flights, and aerial tours. Commercial pilots may have additional nonflight duties. Some commercial pilots schedule flights, arrange for maintenance of the aircraft, and load luggage themselves. Pilots who transport company executives, also known as corporate pilots, greet their passengers before embarking on the flight.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Airline and Commercial Pilots,
How much does an Airline and Commercial Pilot get paid?*
According to JobsEQ, a labor market data provider developed by economists and data scientists, Surgical Assistants made an average salary of $102,900 in 2019.
The top 25% of earners made $123,100 and the bottom 25% of commercial pilots earned $63,000 in 2019. Those who started out as entry-level Airline and Commercial Pilots in 2019 made $51,100 on average.
These numbers may vary based on geography and labor market.
|Entry Level||Mean||Bottom 25%||Top 25%|
*Source: JobsEQ®. Wage data are as of 2019 and represent the average for all Covered Employment
Best-paying states for Airline and Commercial Pilots**
According to BLS, the states and districts that pay Pilots the highest median salary are Connecticut ($134,190), Massachusetts ($121,780), New York ($116,530), South Carolina ($116,430) and Georgia ($108,950).
**Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”). Data as of May 2019
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Airline and Commercial Pilot job outlook***
Even though air travel has declined recently due to COVID, the 5-year job outlook for pilots is positive, according to JobsEQ. The demand is projected to grow 3.9% from 2020 to 2025. This is faster than the average for all occupations.
***Source: JobsEQ, Data as of 2020Q1, The shaded areas of the graph represent national recessions.
Airline and Commercial Pilot job skills and knowledge
According to O*NET Resource Center, people in this career often have these skills:
- Operation and Control – Using equipment or systems.
- Operation Monitoring – Watching gauges, dials, or display screens to make sure a machine is working.
- Monitoring – Keeping track of how well people and/or groups are doing in order to make improvements.
- Critical Thinking – Thinking about the pros and cons of different ways to solve a problem.
- Active Listening – Listening to others, not interrupting, and asking good questions.
- Transportation – Knowledge of principles and methods for moving people or goods by air, rail, sea, or road, including the relative costs and benefits.
- Customer and Personal Service – Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
- Geography – Knowledge of principles and methods for describing the features of land, sea, and air masses, including their physical characteristics, locations, interrelationships, and distribution of plant, animal, and human life.
- English Language – Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
- Public Safety and Security – Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
Source: O*NET Resource Center