Defining a commercial pilot salary is a rather complex issue involving many factors which results in a very wide range of dollar values. In this article I will look at fixed wing pilots only as they are the greater majority although it is important to remember that one can attain a commercial pilots license for other craft such as airships or helicopters. I have also chosen figures from the United States so it is important to note that these will vary for other countries.
How Much is a Commercial Pilot Salary?
The National Salary Data in the United States lists a commercial pilot will earn between twenty – six thousand and one hundred and two thousand dollars per year. As you can see there is a vast difference between the minimum and maximum amount, in order to understand this we need to look at the different types of licenses and also the different types of jobs a commercial pilot can obtain.
Different Types of Licenses
- Student License
- Private License
- Commercial License
- Airline Transport License
While I have omitted some categories such as sport and recreational I have focused on these four as this the licenses that will be obtained by somebody looking to pursue a career as an airline pilot.
Student Pilot License
Having a student license allows you to operate the controls of an aircraft while under tuition of a qualified flying instructor and allowing certain solo privileges. It is fairly obvious that at this point you will be spending money on your tuition and it is not possible to earn a pilot salary at this level.
Private Pilot License
The first level you will attempt to achieve with your students license is a private pilot’s license. This will allow you to fly for personal reasons such as for pleasure or perhaps personal business. You can carry passengers with you however you are not allowed to accept payment for these flights. It is possible to split the costs of hiring the aircraft with your passengers but this license will not allow you to earn money as a pilot.
Commercial Pilot License
To earn an income, to be eligible to fly for hire or reward is a privilege given by the commercial pilot license. Once you have this license in your pocket you are able to be employed by an aircraft operator or an airline to engage in commercial activities and be paid for your efforts. As a commercial pilot there are a variety of different jobs you can perform, in fact this license allows you to be trained for any job except one which I will discuss later. Agricultural operations, charter flights involving passengers or cargo, corporate flying and flying instructor positions can be performed by a commercial pilot.
Airline Transport Pilot License
The airline transport pilots license also known as the ATP is required for the one job that a commercial pilot cannot do and that is to be the pilot in command on scheduled airline flights. As can be expected the pilot salary range will be different at this level of flying and can be read about in a previous post airline pilot salary. Generally a commercial pilot salary will be less that an ATP salary.