Want to become an Airline Pilot?

It’s often said that being an airline pilot can be one of the best jobs in the world. High salaries, a jet-set lifestyle and a low workload are what the job is notoriously synonymous with. But do these rumours hold truth?

Firstly we’ll look at return on investment. having self funded flight school, what will a pilot get in return. This is a very wide subject because of the variations of flying jobs a pilot can end up in from air taxi, crop dusting and parachute dropping through to taking the right seat of an airliner. For the benefit of this article we’re going to focus on airlines only.

Income
Pilot Career
Typical first jobs would be as a first officer on a short haul or regional aircraft. A starting salary around £25000 would be a good approximation of the low end of the financial scale. This sort of salary we could expect if you were in your 1st year flying something like a Dash 8, ATR or Jetstream. Pilots we know flying these aircraft have a lot of fun, building a lot of hands on experience with many multi sector days.

It’s not uncommon to start life in a low cost, charter or legacy carrier as a first officer on a jet. Usually this would be a short haul jet like the Boeing 737 or Airbus 320 series. Starting salaries would be higher here, usually the £35000 – £50000 mark depending on airline. Bear in mind though, the training route to get here can be very expensive, with some jet type ratings costing up to £30000.

Having discussed the lower end we should touch on the potential. A regional captain of a turbo prop aircraft may earn £50000 – £60000 whereas a long haul captain on a Boeing 747 will earn over £160000 by about year 25 with some legacy carriers.

That touches on the financial gain, which must be carefully weighed up against cost of training and initial investment when you’re considering this career ant looking at Flight Training Organisations. Please bear in mind though, we have only spoken of airline job roles. The airline industry can be very difficult to break into and flying incomes outside of the airlines can be significantly lower.

Lifestyle

Level of globetrotting very much depends on who you work for. Some airlines have 1 or 2 bases with many destinations, so they will have to night-stop their aircraft down route for 3 reasons: 1. Commercially- they want to fly the first aircraft from that destination in the morning, 2. They need to store the aircraft somewhere as all their planes wont fit at the main base, 3. The crew need rest (mainly after a long haul flight).

Other airlines have many bases so don’t need to night stop their aircraft, meaning pilots will get home most nights.

Low Workload

This is a myth! It depends very much on the time of year and the airline.

Pilots tend to be very busy in summer months, as a result, winter can be a bit more relaxed. Typical rosters in a low-cost airline would be 5 on 3 off or similar. Pilots that night stop a lot, or long haul pilots may have more days off but these would tend to be needed, catching up on rest as well as catching up on nights that were spent away from home.

This article was written to dispel some myths and give you an introduction to the airline pilot role. Next week in our becoming an airline pilot series we’ll look at the requirements you need before training, and the beginnings of a look into training itself.

Safe flying!

The Flight Level 500 Team