Some jobs are so great that going to work feels like you are soaring; other jobs actually allow you to soar. A career as a pilot holds many possibilities. Besides commercial flying there is also crop dusting, charter planes, aircraft testing and flight instruction. Whatever path you chose to follow on your journey in the sky, getting a license is the first step. Becoming a pilot requires hours of hands-on training and coursework.
You do not need any special licenses or certifications to begin taking flying lessons. Find a flight course through local ads, at your local private airport or on the Internet. Also check out plane enthusiast magazines such as "Plane & Pilot" or "Flight Journal," which usually have ads for flying lessons in the back. You will also need to complete a number of flights with your instructor before taking your first solo flight. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) determines the number of flying hours you must have, depending on your goals.
Obtaining a pilot’s license largely depends on your goals. You can fly a small one-seat prop plane with a student pilot certificate, though it comes with a number of restrictions. You can qualify for this license after a number of flights with an FAA licensed instructor who then signs off on your certificate. From there you can progress to a commercial pilot’s license that requires 250 hours of flight time, a physical exam and a written test. To fly a commercial airliner, pilots must have an airline transport pilot license and a minimum of 1,500 flying hours. There is also a written exam and a hands-on flight exam.
Entering the military is another way to become a certified pilot. Aspiring pilots undergo rigorous training that prepares them for flying both passenger and combat missions. Pilots are used in every branch of the military, not just the Air Force. Age is a consideration if you are thinking of entering the military to earn your wings. If you have no previous military experience then you cannot be older than 28 to enter the Air Force. There are also stringent requirements for vision, height and weight. Applicants must also be physically fit and have a bachelor’s degree – or be no more than a year from graduation.
Finding Work as a Pilot
Many non-military pilots work as flight instructors to increase flight hours and earn money until they achieve the number of hours needed to become a commercial pilot. Flying charter planes and crop dusting are also lucrative routes to building flight time. Commercial airline pilots spend time as flight engineers and first officers before taking the captain's seat. Unfortunately, flying time doesn't guarantee you a job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts only modest growth for pilot careers through 2020.
Adele Burney started her writing career in 2009 when she was a featured writer in "Membership Matters," the magazine for Junior League. She is a finance manager who brings more than 10 years of accounting and finance experience to her online articles. Burney has a degree in organizational communications and a Master of Business Administration from Rollins College.