|An airliner belonging to Air Jamaica|
Photo by Arpingstone
An airline pilot although it is very difficult to get, a job working with one of the major airlines there are all kinds of regional of low-cost airlines that are always looking for help. The major airlines however offer better pay and benefits, but you have to start somewhere and the fact you were flying shows up at your resume.
Many of the pilots today have learned how to fly while in the military, but now large numbers of new pilots have college degrees and flight training provided by civilian flying schools that are certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, FAA.
Although you only need 200 hours of flight time to get a commercial license most pilots that are flying for the major airlines have about 4,000 hours as pilot in command. Many of the pilots that are now flying for major airlines started their flying career as flight instructors working in the field of general aviation.
General aviation has always been considered by the author as the “goony” side of aviation, as you are more apt to gain a much broader field of experience flying small planes before you graduate to larger ones. The author worked for many years in general aviation flying airplanes or helicopters, and stayed with general aviation throughout his flying career.
In general aviation pilots are highly trained professionals flying airplanes or helicopters carrying out a wide variety of work. Most of the pilots flying passengers or cargo at the airlines started their careers in general aviation. There is enough exciting work to be had just in general aviation to go around. Over 30% of the pilots that are now flying for the airlines started their careers as crop dusters, test pilots or some related fields.
In the smaller planes found in general aviation generally there is a single pilot but in the larger airliners there is a pilot and copilot. The more experienced pilot is the captain of the airliner and has to supervise all the other crew members. Two pilots share their flying and other responsibilities such as talking to air traffic controllers or monitoring the instruments. Sometimes they have to make minor repairs to the aircraft while they are in-flight. Another duty is watching for other aircraft. This is very important because the last thing you want to ruin your is a midair collision.
On many of the larger airliners there is a third member of the flight crew called the flight engineer that assists the pilots with company matters, air traffic control and communications between the cabin and the cockpit. With modern technology and airliner virtually flies itself, and is usually on autopilot from the time it makes its rotation in taking off until it lands.
That doesn't mean however that you can sit back and relax because there are always plenty of other duties that have to be attended to. Most important is if something happens to the autopilot the pilot must be ready to assume control of the airplane. Unlike flying in the past the flight crew now depends on electronic instruments and computers. There is always a human factor that must be taken into consideration whenever the aircraft is on or off the ground.
Earnings for aircraft pilots or flight engineers are widely variable depending on whether they work as airline pilots or general aviation. Their earnings depend on many factors including rank, seniority, and the size and type of aircraft they are flying. In May 2008 the average pay for airline pilots was $111,680 per year. The lowest 10% earned less than $32,000. The highest 10% earned more than $130,000.
Aircraft pilots and flight engineer, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos107.htm