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What Is an Airline Commercial Pilot?

Some trained pilots teach others to fly while waiting for an airline job to open up.
Most commercial airliners are flown by a pilot and copilot.
Pilots of wide-body, long haul commercial jetliners like the Boeing 747 must have considerable flying experience.
Article Details
  • Written By: Helen Krasner
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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An airline commercial pilot is a pilot with professional qualifications who flies for one of the airlines. He or she may fly a variety of aircraft types, from the smaller airplanes used by local and regional airlines to larger jets carrying several hundred passengers for a national carrier. Airline pilots may fly short routes of an hour or two, known as short-haul, or be pilots on long-haul flights that travel halfway around the world.

The training route to become an airline commercial pilot varies slightly depending upon the country in which one lives. Typically, prospective airline pilots first learn to fly small aircraft and obtain a private pilot license before undergoing extensive flight training, written study, and exams in order to obtain a commercial pilot license. The training generally can be done either full-time or part-time. In most countries, students have to pay for the training themselves, although there may be a small number of scholarships or grants available. Flight training can be expensive – a prospective airline commercial pilot may have to save or borrow a great deal of money, perhaps going into debt in order to obtain all of his or her qualifications.

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Additionally, an airline commercial pilot also will need to obtain a medical certificate. Good health is essential for pilots, but generally minor sight defects are no problem if the defect can be corrected with glasses; complaints such as high blood pressure may not be an issue so long as the condition is under control. The future pilot will probably also need to get an instrument rating and multi-engine rating before he or she can be considered for an airline job. Other qualifications may be necessary, depending on the country and airline involved.

A newly qualified pilot may or may not be able to obtain an airline position easily. At times, the airlines recruit newly qualified pilots, while at other times it is almost impossible to break in to the airline world. The hiring process appears to go in cycles, and the new pilot may have to wait a few months or years if he or she has picked a bad time. Many pilots in these situations get an instructor rating and teach others to fly while waiting for that coveted airline job.

Once he or she has an airline post, the airline commercial pilot is in a good position. He or she is likely to be able to work his or her way up from first officer or co-pilot to captain, perhaps within a fairly short amount time. The position is usually secure and reasonably well paid. For many people, the excitement of flying makes the job more like fun than work. Others, however, find that the irregular and unsocial hours are not compatible with family life.

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