Q&A Archives




What's New

Our Team

Our Friends

Interviews

Activities

Resources

Ask Experts

Our Mission

 

Other Careers

¨  What is the average salary of airline captain on large jet?
¨  Is a university degree necessary to become a pilot?
¨  What is the cost to become a pilot?
¨  What is a typical work week like for a pilot?
¨  Does a pilot have time for a normal life or does he/she spend most of the time flying?
¨  What are the requirements to become a commercial pilot?
¨  How long is the career of a pilot?
¨  What are the vision requirements for pilots?
¨  I dream about become a pilot someday but don't have the money to learn to fly.
¨  Where is the best place to study to become a flight attendant?
¨  Do you need physics, chemistry and math to be a pilot?
¨  What kind of health tests do commercial pilots undergo?
¨  Do hours flown in an ultralight count towards a career as a pilot?
¨  Is it possible to become a jet pilot at the age of 33?
¨  What is the minimum amount of time to become a commercial pilot?
¨  If I want to raise a family, should I forget about my dream to become a pilot?

Back to Careers Index

Return to Q&A Archives

[Links provided here were valid at the time the question was answered.  If you find a broken link, please Contact Us so we can remove it.]


QUESTION:
What is the average salary of airline captain on large jet?

ANSWER from Roger Herzler on 16 January 2006:
There is no definitive answer to this question based on a lot of criteria: Number of years of experience, where you're flying from and to, the company you're flying for, and other details.  However, according to a search on Salary.com (http://www.salary.com/) I found this information.  It might provide a bit of guidance for you.  They also list other pilot types (small jet, etc.).  While this seems like a reasonable estimate, Imagiverse does not warrant the accuracy of this data:

JOB DESCRIPTION
Captain/Pilot in Command (Large Jet)
Ensures that trip of assigned flight (aircraft larger than 12,500 pounds at takeoff) is conducted in the safest manner possible.  Determines flight routes, speed, and take off and landing times to fulfill scheduling requirements.  Must stay current with federal and local flight regulations.  Possesses current airline transport certificate with necessary type ratings.  Requires a minimum of 5,000 hours of flight experience.

ESTIMATED SALARY
The median expected salary for a typical Captain/Pilot in Command (Large Jet) in San Diego, CA 92101 is $109,075.

Return to list of questions

QUESTION:
Is a university degree necessary to become a pilot?  If so, which field is the best to study?

ANSWER from Imagiverse on 11 February 2006:
A university degree is not required to become a pilot in all cases.  The more education you have, the better it is for you.  It makes you more competitive in the job market.  Some airlines require that their pilots have a military background in aviation.  Other companies do not have that requirement.  Study whatever fields you enjoy the most.  A well rounded education is also a good thing.  Thank you for writing.

Return to list of questions

QUESTION:
What is the cost to become a pilot?

ANSWER from Steve Alessi on 5 April 2006:
To get your commercial license, it would cost about $50,000 in US dollars.  That would allow you to get a job flying charter or flight instructing.  You will still need to build up 2000 hours of flying experience before most airlines will hire you.  At least with a commercial license, you can get paid to build that time instead of paying for it yourself.

Good Luck,
Steve

ANSWER from Bob Raab on 5 April 2006:
You can probably get a private license or a recreational license for $5000.  If you are thinking airline pilot that is very expensive if you pay for lessons and flight time.  Those who don't learn in the military do it in steps.  You get your private, then commercial, then become an instructor and get paid, not much, to teach and thus build your flight time.  When you have built your hours you go to work for a small airline, again not much pay, to continue to build your flight time and gain experience.  Once you have made Captain with the small airline you should have the hours and experience to be a good candidate for the big airlines.  That whole process can take 8-10 years, unless you are really determined and dedicate your life to it.  If you choose the military route, figure a year before you start flight training, 18 months to two years of flight training, and then you have an eight year obligation for fly for the military before you can get out.  My advice would be the military route.  You can't beat the training or the experience.

Return to list of questions

QUESTION:
What is a typical work week like for a pilot?

ANSWER from Steve Alessi on 5 April 2006:
Typically, we arrive at the airport a few hours before our trip departs.  We need this time to perform our flight planning, update our charts and manuals, and to complete our preflight duties with the airplane.  During the trip we usually fly up to 3 legs/day.  That will change depending on how far we fly.  Some days we only fly one leg because the flight is so long.  Normally the flying is limited to 8 hours/day.  To fly an 8 hour day we will usually be on duty up to 14 hours/day.  On duty is the time you show up at the airport to begin the trip until you leave for the hotel at the destination.  So the work day can be quite long.

ANSWER from Bob Raab on 5 April 2006:
First, I must state that I have been out of aviation (retired) for 11 years.  However, some things never change.  For an airline pilot there is no typical week.  Your schedule changes every month and the quality of flying and the number of days off depends on you seniority.

Return to list of questions

QUESTION:
Does a pilot have time for a normal life or does he/she spend most of the time flying?

ANSWER from Steve Alessi on 5 April 2006:
The airline work schedule is different from most other jobs.  Our schedule is based on trips.  Typically, a pilot leaves for 3 to 4 days on his/her trip and then has 3 to 4 days off.  If you calculate the number of days off in a month, you will see that we get a lot of time off (up to half of the month).  But, we are also completely gone for the remaining half of the month.  Seniority has a lot to do with quality of life.  The more senior you are, the better your trip will be.  Some trips start very early while others start later in the day.

ANSWER from Bob Raab on 5 April 2006:
Normal?  Depending on the airline/union contract you are guaranteed 10-12 days off a month.  However, if you are low on the seniority list, that will not include weekends, holidays, or more that three days in a row.  Also much of your flying may be between 10 PM and 8 AM with a 12 hour break followed by another all nighter.

Return to list of questions

QUESTION:
What are the requirements to become a commercial pilot?

ANSWER from Bob Raab on 10 April 2006:
To qualify for a commercial pilot's license you must have 200 hours of flight time and pass a written test and a flight test.

Return to list of questions

QUESTION:
How long is the career of a pilot?

ANSWER from Bob Raab on 5 April 2006:
Airline pilots are required by law to retire at age 60.  There has been talk of increasing that age for years.

ANSWER from Steve Alessi on 5 April 2006:
In the USA a pilot can work until he/she is 60.  In most other countries, the retirement age is 65.  In an effort to standardize to the rest of the world, the USA is in the process of changing the age to 65 as well.

Return to list of questions

QUESTION:
Would laser eye surgery prevent me from becoming a pilot?  What are the vision requirements for pilots?

ANSWER from Bob Raab on 5 April 2006:
The eye requirements have been relaxed even in the military, unless you want to fly jets or choppers.  Those require uncorrected 20-20.  For commercial and multi-engine military you eyes must be correctable to 20-20.  I do not know about laser eye surgery.  I suggest you call the medical office of the FAA for in depth info on that.  The military's view will be different, probably more strict.

ANSWER from Steve Alessi on 1 April 2006:
No, laser eye surgery does not prevent anyone from becoming a pilot.  On the contrary, it eliminates the need for glasses/contacts.  The only problem with laser surgery is that sometimes it can go wrong.  If a pilot has it done and has complications from the surgery, he/she is out of a job.  For that reason, most pilots who are already employed do not get the surgery.

Return to list of questions

QUESTION:
I dream about becoming a pilot someday but don't have the money to learn to fly.  Do you have any advice?

ANSWER from Bob Raab on 10 April 2006:
First I must state that I have been out of aviation for 11 years.  However, some things never change.  For teens, the best place to learn to fly is the local airport.  That is done by trading work, washing airplanes, keeping the parking area clean, cleaning the maintenance area, for flight time.  Apply just as you would for any job, stressing how much you want to learn to fly eventually making it your career.  Since flying is more expensive that it used to be due to fuel costs, it may be difficult to find a flight school that will offer such an arrangement.

I have known many pilots who came from a low income background.  My hand is up.  I worked my way through college making only minimum wage, which at the time was fifty cents an hour.  It's like anything else in life, if you want it bad enough you can achieve it.  The Marine Corps and the Navy have air cadet programs.  Maybe the Air Force also.  You must have completed two years of college to apply.  To get up to date information on those programs go to a military recruitment office for each service.  I am partial to the Marine Corps and Navy.  The flying is much more interesting.  An Air Force pilot never gets to land on an Aircraft Carrier.  If you go to a recruitment office, and you are old enough, do not, I repeat do not, let them talk you into signing up now.  Stress that you are interested only in a flight program after you have the required college.  A military recruiter will give you the highest pressure sales pitch you will ever experience.  Make your mind up before you walk in that you are not joining anything until you have at least two years of college, and that you are definitely not signing anything before that.  I hope that is very clear.

Return to list of questions

QUESTION:
Where is the best place to study to become a flight attendant?

ANSWER from Bob Raab on 11 April 2006:
Don't waste money on "flight attendant" schools. Every airline has it's own training program that you will have to go through no matter how much training you have had elsewhere.

Return to list of questions

QUESTION:
How good do you have to be at physics, chemistry and math to be a pilot?

ANSWER from Steve Alessi on 19 April 2006:
A pilot almost never uses physics or chemistry while flying.  We do use math but only basic math like adding and subtracting.  We also use some basic geometry.  The airlines don't require any special math or science to become a pilot.  The military might require it, however.

Most airlines in the U.S. require a 4-year college degree.  It would be better to pick another field of study that you enjoy and get your degree in that.  Business, Engineering, and Management are examples of the most common degrees that pilots have.  Pilots have to pass a physical every 6 months.  If for some reason we can't, and have to stop flying, having a degree in another field would be very helpful.  The most important thing to remember is to work hard and get good grades in all your classes.

Return to list of questions

QUESTION:
I know commercial pilots have to have a health exam every 6 months but what type of exams are these?  Are vision and psychological tests included?

ANSWER from Steve Alessi on 26 April 2006:
They check for vision, heart (including EKG), hearing, as well as general health issues.  But, vision and heart are the most important things they look for.  Psychological testing is normally done by the airlines when they hire you.

Return to list of questions

QUESTION:
Do hours flown in an ultralight count towards a career as a pilot?

ANSWER from Steve Alessi on 9 May 2006:
Only for an ultralight license.  An ultralight is a different category of aircraft than an airplane.  If you want to become an "airplane" pilot, then the hours and licenses need to be in airplanes.

Return to list of questions

QUESTION:
Is there any possible way of still becoming a jet pilot, my lifetime dream job?  Unfortunately, I am already 33 years old.

ANSWER from Bob Raab on 9 July 2006:
I learned to fly in the U.S. Naval Training Command as a Marine Corps Officer.  I served as a Marine Aviator for 7 years and then flew with United Airlines for 28 years.  Pursuing your private pilot's license is the correct first step.  Unfortunately your age prohibits the military route as an option.

I would suggest that you have sufficient money available to qualify for a private pilot's license without having to take a break in your training.  It is important that once you begin flight training that you fly at least two to three times a week until you qualify.  Flying less frequently lessens the effectivness of what you have already experienced.

Once you get your private license the next step is a commercial license and a flight instructor's rating.  When you become an instructor you can then build your hours while being paid for it.  Along the way you will also want to get an instrument rating and eventually a multi-engine rating.  Once you have accomplished all of that there are many ways to build your flight hours.  Instructing, ferrying aircraft, working for a charter service, and eventually getting a co-pilot's job with a small regional airline.  The pay is not very good nor are the working conditions, but you do fly a lot of hours and gain valuable experience.

When you have enough hours to qualify for an Airline Transport Pilot's (ATP) rating you are then ready to apply to the major airlines.  It can be difficult to get hired.  It depends on the needs of the airlines and the number of qualified applicants.  If you make Captain with a small regional carrier, you are then a good candidate for the majors.  Once you are with an airline they pay for your training.  However, the regional airlines may make you sign a contract to stay with them for a minimum number of years.  They are aware that most pilots want to go with the majors and don't want to put a lot of training money into you just to have you leave.

All of that training may sound like a long road, it is.  But it can be done if you want it enough.  When I was with United, a flight attendant friend decided he wanted to become a pilot.  He followed the plan stated above.  He was 34 when he started, 42 when he got hired by United.  For those eight years he lived flying.  He worked hard and devoted the majority of his spare time to flying.  He is now a 737 Captain with United.

If you just want to fly for the joy of flying and being an airline pilot is not your goal, then just get your private license and instrument rating, go flying and have a great time.  Best of luck to you.

Return to list of questions

QUESTION:
How long (minimum) does it take for a person to train to be a commercial pilot, assuming he/she completes the required flight hours in the minimum amount of time?

ANSWER from Steve Alessi on 11 July 2006:
Taking flying lessons at "full speed" would be about 3-5 lessons per week.  So at that speed, it would take about 1-1/2 to 2 years to complete training and be a commercial pilot.  That would be about 250 hours.  Most airlines will not hire you with 250 hours.  They want to see 1500 hours minimum.  So that could take an additional 2 years.  When you add it up, it should take up to 4 years to get hired by the airlines.  Since most airlines also want you to have a 4 year college degree, this would be an excellent time to work on that as well.  Hope this helps.

Return to list of questions

QUESTION:
I am a female high school student and not very clear about my future professional career.  I have always dreamed of becoming a pilot, however, I fear that you spend your whole life flying and don't have any time for family.  If I want to raise a family, should I forget about my dream to become a pilot?  How would taking time off for maternity leave or to raise children impact my career?  Would I have enough time to spend with my children when they are growing up?  I have also considered studying engineering or economics and I love ballet.  Would it be possible to study these things while pursuing a career in aviation?

ANSWER from Bob Raab on 19 July 2006:
Dear Future Pilot,

Being a family oriented professional pilot is definitely something that you can do.  There are a number of occupations for professional pilots.  One is the military, however, I don’t believe Costa Rica has an Air Force.  Which is probably just as well, since that would be the least family friendly flying job I can think of.

When one says professional pilot, the majority of people think airline pilot, specifically the major airlines.  I spent seven years flying for the military, where I learned to fly, followed by twenty-eight with a major airline.  You could also fly for a charter service, a corporation, or as a flying instructor.  Of the four civilian options I have listed, there may be others I am not aware of, the airlines are the most lucrative while being the most family friendly.

Being a flight instructor is a "day job".  You would probably work five days a week and be home every night.  However, if you are the sole provider for your family, I doubt that you could make an income sufficient to support your family.  As an instructor, unless there is a large number of students, there is a lot of idle time for which you do not get paid.  You receive pay only for the time you fly.

Corporate flying, or business flying, can pay well, but it's harder work than airline flying.  You often have to load baggage, supervise the fueling of the aircraft, and always do your own flight planning.  Depending on the company you worked for, you could be on call 24 hours a day and be away for days at a time.  However, you would be aware of the job requirements before you were hired and could make the decision to take the job or not.

A charter service is like a small, unscheduled airline.  The charter service owns the airplane and clients pay the service to fly them to wherever they want to go.  Charter pilots probably work harder than corporate and for less pay.  Sufficient pay can be a real issue here.

With the airlines, at least in the U.S., maternity leave is your right.  The amount of time you get to spend at home will depend on your seniority.  The more years you work for the airline, the more control you have of your work schedule.  The airline I worked for has many women pilots who also have families.  There are also those who decide to devote that lives to their career and are happy being married but without children, or remaining single.

With a charter service or with a corporation, maternity leave would depend on the employer's policy.  In the U.S., labor laws would require that you receive maternity leave.  The amount of time off to spend with your family would vary widely from company to company.

I encourage you to pursue your dream.  The best career advice I received as a young man was, "think of something you would do for free and then find someone who will pay you to do that."  As you build your flight time you will become aware of the professional opportunities that are available.  While you are working to complete you training, put as much time as possible into researching those opportunities.  Flying has to be one of the more enjoyable professions.  Many times when you are flying at 35,000 feet and you’re looking at a sunset, a mountain range, a coastline, a big city at night, or a string of small towns along a highway stretching into the distance, you will think to yourself, "I can't believe that someone is paying me to do this."

I wish you the very best for your future.
Bob Raab

Return to list of questions

Return to Q&A Archives

 


  Español Français Português
Last Updated:
15 August 2006
 

| Home | Contact Us | Credits | Sitemap |

© 2006 - Imagiverse Educational Consortium