Top Flying Careers: Background
So you finally earned your private pilot license. Now what? For some pilots, this was the end goal. For within reason, you can now take your Cessna 172 up whenever you’d like.
This article is geared more towards those who are seeking part/full-time employment being in the air. When people think of pilots, they think of the airline dudes and dudettes. What many people seem to miss is the fact that there are other opportunities to be behind the controls of an aircraft and get compensated for it.
Why not go straight for the airlines?
The FAA requires that airline pilots hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate. They must also have a minimum of 1,500 total hours under their belt (there are certain exceptions). This made it significantly harder and exponentially more expensive for pilots to be eligible for the airlines. You may be wondering if there are other options for flying opportunities? Absolutely. Some of these other jobs are what current pilots use to build up their hours to one day make it to the big leagues. Below we will get into some other options that you may consider pursuing. We will not dive to deep into each type of pilot job, but provide a quick broad overview to get the ideas flowing!
Can pilots earn money after getting a PPL?
In order to make income from flying planes, you must first hold a commercial pilot certification. This certification comes with certain requirements, which you may find out more about on www.faa.gov. Likewise, many flying careers/jobs will also require an instrument rating which allows you to operate aircraft in all different types of weather conditions. The big one is the commercial pilot certificate, without it, a pilot cannot fly for money. Other conditions are outlined for specific flying jobs.
Flying Career Ideas for Pilots
Airlines: The airlines are what most pilots strive to get to for their career. With the relatively recent change to the requirements, this has forced pilots to get more training and build more hours via other means. The pay is excellent when you get there though.
Air Freight: Most people think of Fedex and UPS and their massive planes, but what a lot of people do not think of is the smaller air freight companies. These companies may use smaller aircraft that are similar to what you see in general aviation. This is useful if there is specific cargo going to a less populated or more remote area in the world.
Agricultural: Aviation has been transformed to help out in many different industries and agriculture is one of them. Crop-dusters have been used for decades to make the process faster and easier. These pilots fly low and fast and are a fun way to build hours.
Certified Flight Instructors (CFI): This is a popular route for many pilots since it is a way to build consistent hours. Instructors also benefit from constant repetition and staying current with general knowledge. If you love teaching, this is a very fulfilling option.
Charter and Business: There is a huge market for air travel outside of the airlines. Families and businesses are consistently using this option, meaning, flying companies are always looking for more pilots fly them around. This is similar to flying for the airlines, but can also be more time demanding and unpredictable.
Government: There are many governmental agencies that require pilots for there day to day operations. Homeland Security for example recruits helicopter pilots heavily. Government work may be a fulfilling career as well. The Government still offers great retirement plans for federal employees.
Law Enforcement: Everyone has seen COPS. Whenever there is a chase, especially when in major cities, they send in pilots to back up the ground crews. Who knows, you may end up on the next episode. This is more so for helicopter pilots, but there are law enforcement fixed winged pilots as well.
Medical: When time is of the essence, or the location of the patient does not allow easy access for an ambulance, they will send in the medivac to get the patient to the hospital. Like law enforcement pilots, there are fewer opportunities for fixed winged pilots, but there are options out there.
Military: This is a great route if you are trying to see the world and do a different type of flying. One stipulation is that you owe time to the branch of military for receiving your wings. The average cost of producing an Air Force Pilot is over $1,000,000 for example, which requires the pilot to give 10 years of service.
News: News companies are constantly sending out their helicopters to get a better picture of what is happening on the ground.
Despite what the world thinks, airline and fighter pilots are not the only types of pilots flying around in the sky. There are plenty of ways of making a living by flying. If you are pursuing the airlines, the best way to get to the hour requirement is holding a flying job to offset the immense costs it would take to get the minimum hour requirement. Regardless, the take away from this short guide is this: Do something you love and get paid doing it.