HOW TO BECOME AN AIRLINE PILOT: US Career Practices (Steps & Requirements)

how to become an airline pilot
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Table of Contents Hide
  1. How to Become an Airline Pilot
    1. #1. Earn Your Private Pilot Certification
    2. #2. Add the Instrument Rating Qualification 
    3. #3. Earn Your Commercial Pilot’s License
    4. #4. Earn Your Flight Instructor Certificate
    5. #5. Add the Multi-Engine Rating
    6. #6. Gaining Flight Time Experience
    7. What is the Time Needed to Become a Commercial Airline Pilot?
  2. How Much Does it Cost to Become a Pilot?
    1. What It’s Like to Be an Airline Pilot 
    2. What Distinguishes a Commercial Pilot from a Pilot for an Airline?
    3. What Medical Qualifications are Needed to Become an Airline Pilot?
    4. Conditions That Disqualify FAA Qualification
  3. Is a College Education Necessary to Work as an Airline Pilot?
  4. How to Become an Airline Pilot in California
    1. Education & Training
    2. Additional Criteria
    3. Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
    4. Skills and Qualities That Will Help
    5. How to Improve
  5. How to Become an Airline Pilot in the USA.
    1. Airline Pilot Career Paths in California, USA
    2. Aviation Experience
  6. How to Become a Commercial Pilot Without a Degree
    1. #1. Obtain Your Health Certificate. 
    2. #2. Gain More Flight Time. 
    3. #3. Clear the Written Test. 
    4. #4. Continue Your Certification Efforts. 
  7. How Do I Become a Pilot at the Age of 17?
  8. What Can You Do with an Aviation Degree as a Commercial Pilot?
  9. Do pilots Earn a Good Living?
  10. How Long Does Becoming a Pilot Take?
  11. How Can I Learn to Fly Privately?
  12. What Degree Qualifications Do I Need to Become a Licensed Commercial Pilot?
  13. Does Being a Commercial Pilot Require a Degree?
  14. What Age is the Minimum Requirement for a Student Pilot License?
  15. FAQ
  16. How long does it take to become an airline pilot?
  17. How long does it take to become a commercial airline pilot?
  18. Is it hard to become an airline pilot?
  19. Related Articles
  20. References

Becoming a pilot for an airline is one of the most lucrative, thrilling, and extremely rewarding careers. Although it takes several years of commitment and gaining the necessary training and flight experience, there are other requirements you need to meet to become a commercial airline pilot in places like California, USA, even without a degree.

How to Become an Airline Pilot

Here are the processes you need to pass through before you can become a successful airline pilot.

#1. Earn Your Private Pilot Certification

Getting your private pilot’s license is the first step on the road to becoming a licensed pilot professionally. You must pass the FAA written exam before you board the aircraft. To aid in your preparation, you might enroll in a private pilot ground school. For your preparation, the majority of flying schools offer ground school.

Your initial instruction will take place in a single-engine aircraft, with an emphasis on learning the fundamentals. With a qualified teacher by your side, you’ll spend numerous hours both on the ground and in the air learning how to become a pilot.

You must complete at least 40 hours of flying time and pass an FAA examiner exam. It’s crucial to remember that, even though 40 hours is the minimum requirement, most pilots will need to fly more to be prepared for their check-ride.

#2. Add the Instrument Rating Qualification 

You must first become certified as a private pilot before you may become certified for an instrument rating. With this certification, you are able to fly in any weather conditions and according to the Instrument Flight Rules (IFR).

You might choose to enroll in an instrument pilot ground school to prepare for the written element of this rating. Additional to the hours you flew for your private, you’ll need to accrue 40 hours of flight time.

#3. Earn Your Commercial Pilot’s License

With a commercial pilot’s license, you have more expertise and knowledge in handling aircraft and maintaining flight protocols. Additionally, it enables you to start earning money as a pilot. Before you decide to strike out on your own, make sure to carefully review the rules governing the promotion of oneself as a pilot.

#4. Earn Your Flight Instructor Certificate

You are permitted to coach other pilots once you have obtained your CFI (certified flight instructor) certificate. With this certification, you can support yourself financially while accruing the necessary flight hours to become a commercial airline pilot.

You must enroll in a CFI academy where you will study how to instruct other pilots if you want to achieve your CFI.

#5. Add the Multi-Engine Rating

As the name implies, a multi-engine rating is required to fly aircraft with more than one engine. Since all airlines operate multi-engine aircraft, you’ll need this rating in addition to a respectable number of hours.

#6. Gaining Flight Time Experience

You just need to complete 1,500 flight hours to be qualified to apply for your first airline pilot position.

What is the Time Needed to Become a Commercial Airline Pilot?

  • Obtain your private pilot’s license first (PPL). As a result, you are now qualified to operate single-engine aircraft under Visual Flight Rules (VFR), putting you one step closer to becoming a commercial pilot. It takes 3 months.
  • Obtain your instrument rating next (IFR—Instrument Flight Rules). This takes about two months and enables you to use flight instruments to fly in low visibility conditions.
  • The next stage is to start your training as a commercial pilot. Both being an 18-year-old and having a 2nd Class Medical Certificate are requirements.
  • the training necessary to obtain a commercial pilot’s license (CPL). This entails passing your FAA check-ride, passing your FAA written test, and accumulating at least 250 hours of flight time, of which 100 hours must be spent as the Pilot-In-Command (PIC), and 50 hours must be spent flying cross-country. Do you have a commercial pilot’s license? Congrats! It will take roughly 6 weeks for your CSEL (single-engine).
  • You should also obtain your multi-engine rating. You may now pilot multi-engine airplanes thanks to this. It takes an additional six weeks to obtain your CPL with a multi-engine rating. So you went from having no pilot experience to becoming a commercial pilot in a total of 8 months!

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Pilot?

The cost of becoming an airline pilot is high. For your training and certification, you’ll have to fork over a large sum of money, most of which will be incurred while you’re obtaining ratings and waiting to receive your CFI certificate.

According to studies, after a pilot starts working, it may take a while for them to recoup the money they spent on their education, training, and certification. Some pilot schools provide courses that walk you through each stage of the training and certification process.

The cost of these institutions typically ranges from $70,000 to $80,000. The majority of these programs provide you with 250 flight hours toward your desired 1,500 flight hours. You will, however, be able to work as a certified flight instructor by this point. You’ll be able to make money while expanding your hours and earning experience. A direct route to one of our airline partners is provided through the Zero Time to Airline program at Thrust Flight.

By getting started right away and enrolling in full-time training, you’ll quickly earn the necessary ratings and training hours to be airline ready.

What It’s Like to Be an Airline Pilot 

An ordinary day in the life of a regional airline pilot looks somewhat like this:

  • Arrive at flight operations at least one hour before taking off.
  • Begin preflight activities and meet with the flight crew.
  • You check the intended route as well as any backup plans the dispatcher has made during preflight. Review the weather as you go and make any necessary adjustments.
  • Then proceed to the aircraft and look at the log books.
  • While the captain briefs the crew, the first officer will typically preflight the aircraft and enter the route into the flight management computer.
  • The flight plan and everything else in the flight management computer will be reviewed once again by the captain and first officer. Once it is finished and everyone is seated, pushback is requested.
  • Track the weather along the flight path and make any necessary adjustments as needed.
  • Review the approach and route for arrival to get ready. Land the aircraft after reviewing any local regulations (when landing in another nation).
  • If the trip is brief, the crew may get ready for the return flight; if it is longer, they will proceed to their hotel to rest.

What Distinguishes a Commercial Pilot from a Pilot for an Airline?

A pilot must have a commercial certificate to be paid to fly. You need to have completed 250 hours of flight experience in order to get your commercial certificate. A sort of commercial pilot with more stringent standards is an airline pilot.

The majority of pilots earn their commercial certificate rather early in their employment, as you may have noted in the summary above. Also, you can formally be hired to fly an aircraft once you have earned your commercial certificate. You cannot be paid to fly before that.

You can begin looking for a career as a pilot once you have earned your commercial certificate. Unfortunately, most pilots start their careers as flight teachers since, by the time they earn their commercial certificate, they only have a few hundred hours under their belt. Aircraft tours, traffic flying, and occasionally oil pipeline flying are additional frequent occupations for pilots with less experience. You’ll find additional career opportunities as you accrue more hours. Many commercial pilots will spend their entire careers flying commercial aircraft only.

What Medical Qualifications are Needed to Become an Airline Pilot?

You must be sure you are physically capable of handling the responsibility before you take the necessary procedures to become an airline pilot. The list of required medical qualifications is provided below.

FAA Health Ratings

Pilots are granted first-class, second-class, and third-class medical certificates by the Federal Aviation Authority. The highest rank is first-class certification.

First-Class FAA Medical Certificate Requirements
  • Pilots must pass a voice test in which they must be able to hear a typical conversation at a 6-foot distance.
  • Potential pilots must have 20/20 vision or eyesight that has been corrected to 20/20 using contacts or glasses.
  • Medical requirements for cardiovascular and neurological health must be met by pilots.
  • A colorblind person cannot be a pilot.

Conditions That Disqualify FAA Qualification

The FAA has a list of 15 requirements that a medical certificate must not meet. Candidates for pilot certification who have a history of heart attacks, other heart conditions such as a valve replacement, or any history of drug misuse are not eligible. Your prospects of being certified are eliminated if you have more than three DUIs on your driving record.

Is a College Education Necessary to Work as an Airline Pilot?

You don’t need a college degree to work as a pilot for a commercial airline. A college degree may provide you an advantage if work chances do decline because many airlines look favorably upon them. Some frequent degrees attained by pilots are:

  • Airport Administration
  • Aviation Administration
  • Engineering in Aeronautics
  • Aviation Science

A smart suggestion is to join the Air Line Pilots Association International (ALPA) ACE club if you intend to attend college while working for your pilot’s license. By joining, you can begin to expand your network, gain more insight into the field, and make it simpler for yourself to land a solid career once you graduate.

How to Become an Airline Pilot in California

Most airline pilots begin their careers as commercial pilots. You need a high school diploma or its equivalent. The majority of pilots need a bachelor’s degree. All pilots who are paid to fly are issued a commercial pilot’s license by the FAA, or Federal Aviation Administration. Additionally required is the ATP, or certificate for airline transport pilot. Pilot privileges can be improved by receiving instrument ratings, ATPs, and multi-engine ratings. This credential is required for some employers.

Education & Training

Many pilots begin their training with individual instructors or flight schools. A wide range of general aviation services, such as maintenance, aircraft fuelling, flying instruction, and on-demand air transportation, are frequently offered by FBOs, or fixed base operators. Some FBOs see themselves as educational or training institutions. Other flight schools are a part of two- and four-year college and university programs.

Pilots generally accrue thousands of flying hours after obtaining the aforementioned qualification in order to land a job with a big or regional airline.

Additional Criteria

A high school education is not always enough for some employers. For example, flight instructors must receive certain FAA-issued ratings, such as CFI, or Certified Flight Instructor, CFII, or CFI-Instrument certification, MEI, or Multi-Engine Instructor, and maybe more ratings. Agronomic pilots have to be knowledgeable about farming techniques, herbicides, fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides.

Additionally, commercial pilots need to have an instrument rating. For flying in low visibility situations, such as dense cloud cover, this rating is required. An instrument rating is necessary for pilots who transport passengers at night or more than 50 miles from their starting point.

Finally, all pilots must demonstrate that they have recently performed specific maneuvers. Pilots must carry out particular steps and maneuvers a predetermined number of times in a predetermined amount of time. Additionally essential annually are regular medical exams.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

The following ratings and licenses are generally obtained by anyone pursuing a career as a professional pilot:

  • Student Pilot’s License
  •  Pilot’s license, private
  • Instrumentation Rating C
  • License to Fly Commercially
  • Rating for Multi-Engine
  • Certificate for Airline Transport Pilot

Each rating and certificate has to pass a written test as well as a practical flying test or check ride in an appropriate aircraft. After earning their commercial pilot certificate, many pilots go on to get their CFI, or Certified Flight Instructor, ratings. They can get flight time and experience more quickly and for fewer money thanks to this. For the most recent licensing laws, consult FARs.

License for Commercial Pilot in California, USA

To be eligible for a pilot license, applicants must be at least 18 years old and fulfill hour requirements. A logbook is necessary for aspiring pilots to keep thorough records of their flight hours. Their time spent receiving ground training is also recorded, depending on the school. To be eligible to take the practical and FAA knowledge exams, the student’s flight instructor must sign off on this logbook.

Of course, the thorough physical examination, as well as the knowledge and experience criteria for flying, must be met. A written test and a practical flight test are required for commercial licensing. Physical examination results show that the pilot’s vision is correctable to 20/20, and no physical impairments are believed to be present.

Skills and Qualities That Will Help

To be a California, USA airline pilot, you must possess these skills:

Fast Reaction Time: Since warning signs can suddenly surface, pilots, must be able to react to any coming threat swiftly and accurately.

Problem-solving skills: Pilots must be able to recognize difficult circumstances and choose the best course of action. For instance, when the plane experiences turbulence, the weather patterns must be evaluated. They might occasionally get in touch with air traffic control to ask for an altitude or route change.

Communication Skills: Information must be communicated to air traffic control in a clear and concise manner. Following directions requires the ability to listen.

Observational Skills: Pilots continuously monitor gauges, dials, and screens throughout the flight to make sure all systems are operating properly. A crucial part of maintaining situational awareness is keeping an eye out for potential hazards and other aircraft. It’s crucial to have good color vision and the ability to gauge distances between objects.

How to Improve

A seniority system that is outlined in several bargaining contracts determines advancement. After one to five years, flight engineers may become first officers. After 5 to 15 years, first officers may be promoted to captain. Within big businesses, a captain could rise to the position of Chief Pilot or Director of Aviation.

How to Become an Airline Pilot in the USA.

There are a number of certificates and ratings that you will need to become a commercial airline pilot in California, USA. The first thing you will need is a private pilot’s license, which will enable you to fly independently but prevent you from being paid to do so.

#1. Commercial Pilot’s License

The commercial pilot’s certificate is the first thing you will need as a USA airline pilot in order to be paid for your flight services. This certificate can be obtained after completing commercial pilot ground school and flying for at least 250 hours, with time given for certain weather and maneuvers. After you have completed your written ground school test and logged your hours, you will need to pass a check-ride.

This is a lot like the driving test required in order to acquire a driver’s license; in the check-ride, a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) examiner will ask you to plan a flight, question you on aviation subjects, and then accompany you on a flight. Like with a driving test, you will be requested to execute particular maneuvers and your examiner will direct your flight throughout the flight. If all goes well, after the exam you will be given a commercial pilot’s certificate.

#2. Medical Certificate

A current first-or second-class medical certificate is another requirement for becoming a commercial airline pilot in California, USA. You must first demonstrate to an aviation medical examiner that you are in good physical and mental health to be a pilot in order to obtain this. You will be required to pass these exams throughout your career as a commercial airline pilot; captains must pass a physical exam every six months, and other commercial airline pilots must pass an exam every year. If a health issue is discovered, you can lose your employment.

#3. Instrument Rating

Additionally, obtaining an instrument rating is necessary if you want to be an airline pilot in California, the USA in poor visibility (in adverse weather and in clouds). This rating is obtained by passing an instrument rating check-ride, completing a predetermined amount of instrument flight hours, and passing instrument ground school.

#4. The Rate for Multiple Engines

You will also require a multi-engine rating if you desire to be an airline pilot in California, USA. This will enable you to pilot multi-engine aircraft, which is probably what you would do as a pilot for a commercial airline. You must take certain classes and pass a multi-engine check-ride in order to earn this rating.

#5. Certificate for Airline Transport Pilot

Most commercial airline pilots in California, USA, also obtain an airline transport pilot license at some point. You can fly a big commercial aircraft as the pilot in command (captain) with this certificate, which is the highest one available. You must pass a written exam, possess a first-class medical certificate, have completed your high school education, and have completed 1,500 flight hours, including 250 hours as the pilot in command, in order to be eligible for this certificate.

Airline Pilot Career Paths in California, USA

The two main career routes for becoming an airline pilot in California, USA are military or civilian. Each route has benefits and drawbacks of its own:

#1. Civilian

College or flying school are the two alternatives available for the civilian route. While a college education is not a requirement for becoming a pilot, it does demonstrate that you are trainable and capable of succeeding in a demanding course load, both of which are desirable qualities in a commercial airline pilot. Attending a college that offers both a two- or four-year degree and flight instruction toward the numerous flight licenses you will want is one option. By doing this, you’ll graduate with the majority, if not all, of the certifications and ratings you’ll need along with some flying experience.

Training for commercial flights is quite expensive. Before receiving your commercial rating, you must log at least 250 hours of basic flying instruction, which starts at roughly $80 per hour. Additionally, renting airplanes for teaching is very expensive.

#2. Military

Getting your training through the military is an additional option for someone who wants to become a commercial airline pilot in California, USA. After a year of pilot school, you will be required to sign up for a certain number of years in the military (in the Air Force, this is a ten-year commitment). In addition, you’ll need to have completed college coursework, be in good physical condition, and meet additional prerequisites. There is no assurance that you will complete your military flight training on time or that you will be able to fly a particular aircraft. However, you’ll get the best instruction possible in the aircraft that an airline pilot would use.

However, you must be ready for the military lifestyle; it is not something you should get into lightly. You’ll have to obey commands, take chances with your safety, and employ deadly force. The military is probably not the greatest choice for you if you are unprepared for this.

Aviation Experience

Before an airline will recruit you after you are licensed, you will need more experience and flight hours. Your degree of experience is determined by the quantity and complexity of the flying you’ve done (jet or propeller, day or night, local or cross-country, etc.), the number and complexity of the aircraft you’ve flown, and which crew jobs you’ve held. If you decided to join the military, you’ll probably have plenty of flight experience before you leave. A civilian pilot might start out as a flight instructor before moving on to a charter business to earn the experience required to fly for a commercial airline.

How to Become a Commercial Pilot Without a Degree

To become a commercial airline pilot in California, USA you need to get a degree. But if you don’t have any degree, no problem. Below are the necessary steps to take when learning how to become a commercial pilot without having a degree.

#1. Obtain Your Health Certificate. 

A physical examination must be passed in multiple steps. Purchase a student pilot license. You can be approved for a student pilot license once you have acquired your medical certification.

#2. Gain More Flight Time. 

A pilot-in-training must log at least 250 hours of flight time before applying for a license.

#3. Clear the Written Test. 

You must pass both a written exam that covers safety information and a skills test to become a licensed pilot.

#4. Continue Your Certification Efforts. 

Depending on your objectives as a pilot, you might need additional certification to meet the requirements for some positions.

How Do I Become a Pilot at the Age of 17?

No, is the answer. A degree in aviation or attendance at an aviation school are not prerequisites for becoming an airline pilot. In truth, big airlines don’t give a damn about what you studied in college and accept applicants with any and all bachelor’s degrees.

What Can You Do with an Aviation Degree as a Commercial Pilot?

If you could just pass the army examinations, you might be able to become a military pilot. Alternatively, you can work for a smaller airline or in a country where pilots are not required to have degrees. Therefore, if you want to become a professional pilot, consider your personal preferences.

Do pilots Earn a Good Living?

Commercial pilots receive good pay as a result. The Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, states that the median annual wage for commercial pilots in May 2020 was $93,300. Flight engineers, copilots, and pilots in the airline industry make an average of $160,970 a year. Mar 3, 2022

How Long Does Becoming a Pilot Take?

Even if your current goal is just to become a private pilot, the finest preparation comes from completing your schooling. A bachelor’s degree in professional flight should be obtained in 3–4 years, which is the ideal amount of time to become a pilot.

How Can I Learn to Fly Privately?

Finding a flight school, taking an introduction or discovery flight, and then completing the practical flying course with a passing grade is all that is required to get a Private Pilot’s Licence or PPL.

What Degree Qualifications Do I Need to Become a Licensed Commercial Pilot?

More is needed if you wish to become a professional pilot. For a Commercial Pilot’s Licence or CPL, you must finish the entire course. Compared to the PPL, this will require harder and more intensive flying training. Written tests that are considerably longer and more in-depth will come after it.

Does Being a Commercial Pilot Require a Degree?

Technically, the solution is simple. Being a pilot does not require a degree, and many pilots throughout the globe have never ever set foot inside a college or university. The short answer is yes, but the truth is much more nuanced.

What Age is the Minimum Requirement for a Student Pilot License?

Since 16 is the youngest age at which a student can obtain a Student Pilot License, the majority of flight schools actually accept pupils as young as that (SPL).

FAQ

How long does it take to become an airline pilot?

A bachelor’s degree in professional flight should be obtained in 3–4 years, which is the ideal amount of time to become a pilot.

How long does it take to become a commercial airline pilot?

You may now pilot multi-engine airplanes thanks to this. It takes an additional six weeks to obtain your CPL with a multi-engine rating. So you went from having no pilot experience to becoming a commercial pilot in a total of 8 months?

Is it hard to become an airline pilot?

Many pilots begin their training with individual instructors or flight schools. A wide range of general aviation services, such as maintenance, aircraft fuelling, flying instruction, and on-demand air transportation, are frequently offered by FBOs, or fixed base operators. Some FBOs see themselves as educational or training institutions. Other flight schools are part of two- and four-year college and university programs.

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References

  1. https://www.khanacademy.org › travel-and-explore › h...
  2. https://epicflightacademy.com › Epic Buzz
  3. https://www.letu.edu/trending/content/how-long-does-it-take-become-pilot
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