Getting your commercial pilot’s license, and flying for a major airline, is a tall order. It’s not impossible though. In fact, if you’re willing to work hard, you will all but guarantee yourself a job. Being a commercial pilot requires a good deal of training, diligence, and a lot of time up in the air.
Obviously, you have to love flying, but you also have to be willing to live a traveler’s life. You’ll be away from home much of the time, your starting salary isn’t all that great, and you don’t get a lot of vacation time. Are you ready for the adventure of a lifetime?
Getting Your License
You should already have your private license before you try for your commercial one. But if you’re really just starting out, you can transition from nothing to your private license, then to a commercial one. You must be at least 17 to start the process (for a private license). However, the requirements are a bit more stringent for a commercial pilot. You can gather details online from sites such as the Phoenix East Aviation Flight School.
- Speak, read, and write English
- Be at least 18]
- Pass a practical test
- Have your private pilot’s license
- Log 250 hours of flight time
- Pass the practical test for your commercial certificate
When you obtain your commercial license, it will come with ratings that specify your flight privileges. For example:
To fly under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), you must have an instrument rating. It requires additional training beyond what’s required for your commercial license. Specifically, you’ll be spending a minimum of 50 hours as pilot-in-command cross country. Forty hours will be spent on real or virtual instrument training, and you’ll need at least 15 hours of flight instruction based around instrument flying.
This rating is absolutely required for flying commercial aircraft. All of the planes you’ll fly will likely be complex aircraft, unless you work for a regional airport. Most insurers require that you have at least 10 hours flight time before insuring you, but this pales in comparison to what will be required by larger airlines. Expect flight hours in excess of 1,500 hours.
With this rating, you can take off and land from just about any airport (land-based). It’s a requirement to fly any aircraft you’ll likely encounter at an airline.
Seaplanes are just about the most exciting planes you’ll fly. To fly one, you’ll need a rating that lets you take off and land from the water. You’ll make use of this rating if you fly in the Virgin Islands, in remote locations in Alaska, or if you’re working in any remote location in the world.
Flight Instructor Rating/Certificate
When you’re rated as an instructor, you can teach others how to fly. You can also administer exams, do checkrides, and teach in ground schools.
Paul Guerrier is a trainee commercial pilot. His articles mainly appear on aviation blogs where he enjoys sharing his insights.