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Career profile Commercial Pilot

Also known as Captain, Charter Pilot, Check Airman, Chief Pilot, Commercial Pilot, EMS Helicopter Pilot (Emergency Medical Service Helicopter Pilot), First Officer, Helicopter Pilot, Line Pilot, Pilot

Commercial Pilot

Also known as Captain, Charter Pilot, Check Airman

Interests Profile
  • Realistic
  • Investigative
  • Enterprising
Pay Range
$47,570 - $200,920 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Operation and Control
  • Operations Monitoring
  • Critical Thinking
Knowledge Areas
  • Transportation
  • Customer and Personal Service
  • Geography
Core tasks
  • Use instrumentation to pilot aircraft when visibility is poor.
  • Start engines, operate controls, and pilot airplanes to transport passengers, mail, or freight according to flight plans, regulations, and procedures.
  • Monitor engine operation, fuel consumption, and functioning of aircraft systems during flights.
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What does a Commercial Pilot do?

Commercial Pilots pilot and navigate the flight of fixed-wing aircraft on nonscheduled air carrier routes, or helicopters.

In addition, Commercial Pilots

  • requires Commercial Pilot certificate,
  • includes charter pilots with similar certification, and air ambulance and air tour pilots,
  • excludes regional, national, and international airline pilots.

What kind of tasks does a Commercial Pilot perform regularly?

Commercial Pilots are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Use instrumentation to pilot aircraft when visibility is poor.
  • Start engines, operate controls, and pilot airplanes to transport passengers, mail, or freight according to flight plans, regulations, and procedures.
  • Monitor engine operation, fuel consumption, and functioning of aircraft systems during flights.
  • Check aircraft prior to flights to ensure that the engines, controls, instruments, and other systems are functioning properly.
  • Consider airport altitudes, outside temperatures, plane weights, and wind speeds and directions to calculate the speed needed to become airborne.
  • Contact control towers for takeoff clearances, arrival instructions, and other information, using radio equipment.
  • Obtain and review data such as load weights, fuel supplies, weather conditions, and flight schedules to determine flight plans and identify needed changes.
  • File instrument flight plans with air traffic control so that flights can be coordinated with other air traffic.
  • Check baggage or cargo to ensure that it has been loaded correctly.
  • Order changes in fuel supplies, loads, routes, or schedules to ensure safety of flights.
  • Plan flights according to government and company regulations, using aeronautical charts and navigation instruments.
  • Choose routes, altitudes, and speeds that will provide the fastest, safest, and smoothest flights.
  • Co-pilot aircraft or perform captain's duties, as required.
  • Coordinate flight activities with ground crews and air traffic control, and inform crew members of flight and test procedures.
  • Request changes in altitudes or routes as circumstances dictate.
  • Write specified information in flight records, such as flight times, altitudes flown, and fuel consumption.
  • Supervise other crew members.
  • Fly with other pilots or pilot-license applicants to evaluate their proficiency.

The above responsibilities are specific to Commercial Pilots. More generally, Commercial Pilots are involved in several broader types of activities:

Operating Vehicles, Mechanized Devices, or Equipment
Running, maneuvering, navigating, or driving vehicles or mechanized equipment, such as forklifts, passenger vehicles, aircraft, or watercraft.
Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Materials
Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
Making Decisions and Solving Problems
Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.

What is a Commercial Pilot salary?

The median salary for a Commercial Pilot is $93,300, and the average salary is $110,830. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Commercial Pilot salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Commercial Pilots earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Commercial Pilots earn less than $47,570 per year, 25% earn less than $67,070, 75% earn less than $132,850, and 90% earn less than $200,920.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Commercial Pilots is expected to change by 11.2%, and there should be roughly 4,900 open positions for Commercial Pilots every year.

Median annual salary
$93,300
Typical salary range
$47,570 - $200,920
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)
11.2%

What personality traits are common among Commercial Pilots?

Interests

Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Commercial Pilot are usually higher in their Realistic, Investigative, and Enterprising interests.

Commercial Pilots typically have very strong Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Also, Commercial Pilots typically have moderate Investigative interests. Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Lastly, Commercial Pilots typically have moderate Enterprising interests. Enterprising occupations frequently involve starting up and carrying out projects. These occupations can involve leading people and making many decisions. Sometimes they require risk taking and often deal with business.

Values

People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Commercial Pilot tend to value Support, Independence, and Recognition.

Most importantly, Commercial Pilots very strongly value Support. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees.

Second, Commercial Pilots very strongly value Independence. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions.

Lastly, Commercial Pilots very strongly value Recognition. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Commercial Pilots must consistently demonstrate qualities such as dependability, attention to detail, and cooperation.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Commercial Pilots, ranked by importance:

Dependability
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Cooperation
Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
Self-Control
Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
Stress Tolerance
Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.

What education and training do Commercial Pilots need?

Commercial Pilots often have training in vocational schools, related on-the-job experience, or an associate's degree.

Commercial Pilots usually need one or two years of training involving both on-the-job experience and informal training with experienced workers. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with this occupation.

Educational degrees among Commercial Pilots

  • 0.6% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 4.6% completed high school or secondary school
  • 13.0% completed some college coursework
  • 7.2% earned a Associate's degree
  • 57.2% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 14.6% earned a Master's degree
  • 2.7% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Commercial Pilots

Commercial Pilots may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as transportation, customer and personal service, or geography knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Commercial Pilots might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Transportation
Knowledge of principles and methods for moving people or goods by air, rail, sea, or road, including the relative costs and benefits.
Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Geography
Knowledge of principles and methods for describing the features of land, sea, and air masses, including their physical characteristics, locations, interrelationships, and distribution of plant, animal, and human life.
Public Safety and Security
Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
Computers and Electronics
Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.

Important Abilities needed by Commercial Pilots

Commercial Pilots must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Commercial Pilots need abilities such as problem sensitivity, control precision, and near vision in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Commercial Pilots, ranked by their relative importance.

Problem Sensitivity
The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
Control Precision
The ability to quickly and repeatedly adjust the controls of a machine or a vehicle to exact positions.
Near Vision
The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
Far Vision
The ability to see details at a distance.
Response Orientation
The ability to choose quickly between two or more movements in response to two or more different signals (lights, sounds, pictures). It includes the speed with which the correct response is started with the hand, foot, or other body part.

Critical Skills needed by Commercial Pilots

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Commercial Pilots frequently use skills like operation and control, operations monitoring, and critical thinking to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Commercial Pilots, ranked by their relative importance.

Operation and Control
Controlling operations of equipment or systems.
Operations Monitoring
Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
Monitoring
Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

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