Here are 11 tips on how to become a professional pilot.
- Research and understand the requirements and qualifications needed to become a professional pilot.
- Create a plan to acquire the necessary education and training, such as enrolling in a flight school or obtaining a private pilot license.
- Live and breathe aviation because there is SO much to learn! Listen to podcasts (Aviation News Talk, San Carlos Flight Center, and 21.Five are my top three), watch YouTube channels (Personal Wings, FlightInsight, and Angle of Attack), and read all the free FAA handbooks and advisory circulars that pertain to the career you're seeking.
- Expect to spend roughly $100,000-$150,000 (usually via loans, scholarships, grants or a combination of the above) to finance and cover the costs of flight training and education.
- Seek out internships or shadowing opportunities with airlines or flying organizations to gain experience and make connections in the field.
- Seek and/or receive emotional support and encouragement throughout the process, as becoming a professional pilot can be a demanding and challenging journey. Especially due to the amount of learning involved, the financial commitments, and overcoming any fears of flying/risk.
- Connect with other pilots or aviation professionals who can provide guidance and advice on how to succeed in aviation. Be sure to ask quality questions like, "If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?"
- Network and attend industry events and conferences to expand their professional network and learn about the latest developments in the aviation industry.
- Find job opportunities and apply for positions with airlines, other flying organizations, or begin working as a line crew at a nearby airport.
- Continue to seek and receive encouragement and support even after becoming a professional pilot, as challenges and obstacles will likely appear throughout your career. There are strong up and down drafts in aviation (literally and market-ally). Macro economic forces create a massive impact on pilots so expect things to shift around a few times over a long career.
- Understand the impact being a professional pilot has on your personal life. You're away from home a lot which means partners, kids, pets, and houseplants will all require attention that you're unable to provide. For every hour of flight time, there is about 10 hours* of commuting, training, briefing, pre/post flighting, etc. that requires your attention. Ask professionals what their work-life balance is like and maybe consider postponing any proposals or brood increases so as not to make the same mistakes.
* This is not a scientific number, but expect a lot of time to go into becoming a professional pilot.
Already a Professional Pilot and Not Sure What Type Rating to Get First?
Once you do reach your commercial and ATP ratings, often people look towards earning their first type rating.
A type rating is required by the FAA for aircraft over 12,500 gross pounds or uses a turbojet engine. 14 CFR § 61.31 outlines the law in more detail around type ratings.
We had a follower ask this very question, so Rich filmed a short video outlining some potential options for your professional pilot journey!
Now is an amazing time to become a professional pilot.
Airlines, charter companies, quarter-shares, shipping companies, flight schools... all are desperately seeking new professional pilots to fill and expand their ranks.
Pilots have always been in demand, yet the industry has never seen a hiring craze and retirement boom like this ever before. Airlines, corporations, charter services and flight schools are all scrambling to maintain qualified, professional pilots for their operations.
While the journey to becoming a pilot takes time and money, there are now more resources than ever to help a wide variety of people from diverse backgrounds earn their wings. There are many scholarships, grants, and demographic specific support networks for aspiring pilots, so use them!
If you're interested in learning more about becoming a professional pilot, don't hesitate to reach out with questions on our contact form or comment below!
We hope your journey to earning your wings and earning income from your passion is one that is safe, fun, and wonderful!
CE525s / Commercial Pilot
Tigre's airtime began when his mother achieved her Private Pilot's License eight-months pregnant with him. Since then, he's learned to fly with his father, Rich Pickett, and now works with him as Chief Co-Pilot and Creative Director for Personal Wings.
After working in a variety of other industries, Tigre recently set his sights on becoming a professional pilot and within seven months achieved his first jet type rating in the Citation 525 series aircraft and now flies two Citations under Part 91.
A father, husband, and all around talented man, Tigre is excited to see all of his family achieve their wings!