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Aircraft Piloting and Flight Engineering

Earnings Potential

Earnings of aircraft pilots and flight engineers vary greatly depending whether they work as airline or commercial pilots. Earnings of airline pilots are among the highest in the Nation, and depend on factors such as the type, size, and maximum speed of the plane and the number of hours and miles flown. For example, pilots who fly jet aircraft usually earn higher salaries than do pilots who fly turboprops. Airline pilots and flight engineers may earn extra pay for night and international flights. In May 2004, median annual earnings of airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers were $129,250.

Median annual earnings of commercial pilots were $53,870 in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $37,170 and $79,390. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,300, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $110,070.

Facts at a glance

  • Regional and low-fare airlines offer the best opportunities; pilots attempting to get jobs at the major airlines will face strong competition.
  • Pilots usually start with smaller commuter and regional airlines to acquire the experience needed to qualify for higher paying jobs with national or major airlines.
  • Many pilots have learned to fly in the military, but growing numbers have college degrees with flight training from civilian flying schools that are certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
  • Earnings of airline pilots are among the highest in the Nation.

Summary of what this career entails

An airplane pilot is a highly trained professional who flies people and/or goods in airplanes and helicopters for a diverse amount of reasons ranging from vacations to business deals. A flight engineer transports passengers and cargo. 1 out of 5 pilots are commercial pilots that perform tasks such as dusting crops, spreading seed for reforestation, testing aircraft, and flying passengers and cargo to areas that regulation airlines will not go to. They also direct firefighter efforts in case of emergency, track criminals, monitoring traffic and finding and rescuing injured people.

Examples and or details of work

An airplane pilots training is crucial, as the death of Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle shows us. Inexperienced pilots flying planes can lead to danger not only for themselves, but also for his/her fellow passengers and the general public. People who have Lidle’s limited experience at the time of the crash would never be afforded the chance to fly a commercial aircraft. Recent news regarding the piloting profession concerns Airbus and its new creation the A380. The A380, which is scheduled to come out in 2007, is supposed to be the largest passenger jet in the world. As of October 9th, it was said that pilots who fly this jet believe that it is as good as the Airbus hype makes it out to be.

Degrees that lead to this career

Degrees that lead to a career in aircraft piloting and flight engineering include degrees from one of the 600 training schools approved by the FAA.

Specific Career openings in this field

Specific openings in the field include airplane pilot and flight engineer.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition, Aircraft Pilots and Flight Engineers, on the Internet at (visited November 01, 2006).

"Speech of Christian Streiff, ex-CEO of Airbus, October 4th." Blogspot. Aerospace News. November 1 2006. Novemebr 1 2006.