can become an airline pilot via the civilian route by attending
a local flight school or college/university with a flight
training program, in which you can earn all your pilot
certificates and ratings. If you choose the civilian route
to become an
you in the right direction:
6: How to become an airline pilot: The Civilian
Step 1: Obtain a First Class Medical
Since your career goal is to become a professional pilot,
it is recommended that you apply for a First-Class
Medical before you start flight training to ensure that
you meet the medical standards.
2: Earn the required Pilot Certificates and Rating
To fly as a professional pilot for any job, you must have
the following certificates & ratings:
can earn your pilot certificates and ratings from various
types of flight schools.
The type of flight school you chose will depend on your
aviation career goals and
other factors that meet your individual needs. Steps 2 and
3 can be interchanged or combined.
Step 3: Education - College Degree
Major airlines prefer job applicants to have a four-year
bachelor’s degree. It would be in your best interest
to earn a bachelor's degree, since you will be competing
against other applicants who will have either an Associate's,
Bachelor's, and/or Advanced degrees. You can always
apply for airline jobs without a degree, but your application
may be overlooked or placed at the bottom of the pile. There
major airline pilots without college degrees, but the overall
percentage is low.
students attend a 4-year college or university with a flight
training program Students can earn their commercial pilot
certificate, multi-engine and instrument ratings, and flight
instructor certificate/ratings, and a bachelor's or associate's
degree in the field of aviation/aerospace, or other career
field upon completion of the program’s requirements.
You do not have to major in an aviation/aerospace
program to become a professional airline pilot. There are
thousands of major airline pilots with college degrees in
other career fields such as medicine, law, accounting, engineering,
and more. Actually, it’s a good idea to have an educational
background in another career field, just in case the aviation
industry is in a slow down due to the economy, if you are
grounded due to medical reasons, or other circumstances.
Step 4: Building Flight Time
Building flight time is a challenge for many pilots. The
method in which you build flight time will be different
than your fellow pilots. Many pilot hold several flying
jobs to help them build the flight experiences required
by the airlines and corporations. You should expect to spend
four to six years building the required flight hours and
experience to qualify for a position at a major airline
or large corporation. Most pilots flying for major airlines
have thousands of flight hours. There are various ways to
build flight time. Visit How to
Build Flight Time section to learn about various time
divided the typical flight time building process into
the following phases:
Many pilots earn their flight
instructor certificate and ratings (i.e. CFI, CFII,
and/or MEI) to teach others how to fly, earn money,
and build flight time. Flight instructing is the most
common, easiest, and cheapest method to build flight
time. Flight instructors typically teach at a flight
school for two-three years until they’ve logged
between 750 – 1200 hours of total flight time
(time frame is dependent on the flight school and geographic
location). Flight instructors earn approximately $10
an hour for each ground and flight lesson with a student.
If your students cancel a lesson, you don’t get
paid. Some flight schools pay their instructors a minimum
amount per week or place them on a salary.
Some pilots fly for small cargo and charter companies
that have various multi-engine airplanes in order to
build multi-engine flight time (multi-time). Building
multi-time may be one of your biggest challenges. Once
you find a job flying a multi-engine airplane, it may
take several months to build between 200 – 500
hours of multi-time. After building approximately 1200
– 1500 hours of total flight time, which includes
200 – 500 hours of multi-time, most pilots apply
to the regional airlines to start building Part 121
experience and ultimately multi-engine turbine time
as Pilot-in-Command (Captain).
Many pilots use the regional airlines as a “stepping
stone” to accumulate the necessary flight hours
and experience to apply to the major airlines. Regional
airlines fly short/mid-range routes to small/mid-sized
cities to transport passengers to the major cities for
the major airlines to continue their trip. They operate
various airplanes ranging from turboprop to small jet
airplanes such as the Jetstream 32 and 41, Beech 1900,
Saab 340, ATR, Dash-8, Regional Jet, and others. These
airplanes carry between 19 and 70 passengers. There
are numerous regional airlines throughout the United
States and Canada, visit the Airlines
Address Directory for a list of regional airlines.
Regional airline pilots generally fly as a First Officer
(FO) for one to three years (note: upgrade time varies
for each airline), and then upgrade to Captain according
to seniority. Upgrading to Captain allows you to start
building the important Part 121 turbine, pilot-in-command
(PIC) time. After building approximately 1000 –
1500 hours of PIC time (which takes roughly 1½
– 2 years), most pilots have built the necessary
total flight time and PIC time to meet the major
airlines minimum hiring requirements to be considered
for an interview. Most major airlines look favorably
upon regional airline pilots whose flight experience
consist of flying under FAR Part 121, turbine powered
airplanes, modern equipment and avionics into high traffic
Note: Some students that attend a
flight school that has formed partnerships with various
airlines can bypass Phases 1 and/or 2, and proceed
directly to Phase 3 upon completion of the school’s
flight training program or college graduation. Working
a regional airline directly after graduating from school
or earning all your pilot certificates and ratings
will save you a lot of time (years). Flying for a regional
and upgrading to Captain will help you meet the major
airlines’ minimum hiring requirements.
Step 5: Airline Transport Pilot Certificate (ATP)
Most pilots obtain their Airline
Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate before applying to
the major/national airlines, since it is a requirement.
Regional airlines typically hire pilots without this certificate.
The ATP certificate is considered the "PhD" of
pilot certificates! This certificate allows you to act as
Pilot-in-Command (Captain) of a commercial aircraft weighing
more than 12,500lbs. To obtain your ATP, you'll need to
be 23 years old with a minimum of at least 1,500 total flight
hours including 250 hours as the pilot in command, and other
flight requirements documented in your logbook. To exercise
the privileges of an airline transport pilot certificate,
you must also hold a current First-Class
Regional airlines and large corporations pay for
their pilots to obtain the ATP certificate when they upgrade
6: Start Applying
AvScholars recommend that you start applying to all the
major airlines upon reaching 1,000 hours of total flight
time. Although, you will not meet the major
airlines’ minimum hiring requirements, your application
will be in their database. Having your application in their
databases builds a file with the airlines and allows you
to update your applications anytime. We recommend updating
your application: every 500 hours, when you’ve earned
your ATP, Type Rating, or Flight Engineer Certificate, and/or
when you’ve upgraded to Captain and built some PIC
time. Once you have reached the major airlines’ minimum
hiring requirements, your application will be consider for
review and you may receive a call for an interview.
aviation industry, it’s not a good idea to put “all
your eggs in one basket.” Putting all your hopes into
working for one particular airline can be a big disappointment.
Some pilots never work for their ideal major airline. Always
give yourself more than one opportunity to get hired by
a major airline; you’ll be happy that you did. AvScholars’
recommend applying to all the major airlines.
happens after applying?
After you’ve met the major airlines minimum hiring
requirements and submitted your application, it may take
a few months or years before you are considered a competitive
applicant. There are many pilots that have thousands of
flight hours competing for the same jobs. Each airline has
its own set of rules for considering someone a competitive
applicant. Airlines typically take an average of the applicants’
qualifications in their database, and then consider competitive
applicants as those who meet the average qualifications.
Applicants that meet their competitive qualifications are
then selected for an interview.
the present time, some major airlines are not hiring
due to bankruptcies, furloughs, cutbacks, etc. However,
there are other airlines expanding their company and
hiring pilots. There are still opportunities to get
hired by a major airline.
an internship with an airline will give you a greater
chance of getting an interview and possibly receiving
an offer of employment. Visit our Employment
Opportunities channel to learn more about
internships and cooperative education programs.
Network with other pilots.
Networking and timing is important in the aviation industry,
in which there are no guarantees that you will get hired
by a major airline. You could be the world's most qualified
pilot, but if there are few job openings with thousands
of competitive applicants applying for the same jobs, it
may take a few years before you are offered an interview
by a major airline.
industry, you will hear the following phrase a lot, “It’s
not what you know, but who you know.” As you
build flight time, you should start making contacts with
other pilots who may fly for various airlines, corporations,
and charter companies. Networking with other pilots is very
important. Many pilot have gotten jobs or job leads due
to someone they met, who knew someone that needed a pilot
or who was an employee of a company hiring pilots. Unfortunately,
timing is something we have almost no control over.
by: Sedgwick Hines Copyright 2004-2011 AvScholars Publishing, LLC.
All Rights Reserved.