How to Become a Successful Commercial Pilot

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So you want to be a pilot? That’s great! A career in aviation can be exciting, rewarding, and full of adventure, not to mention financially lucrative. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average yearly salary of commercial pilots was $99,640 in 2021. But becoming a successful commercial pilot is no easy task. It takes years of training and experience to reach the top of the fiel

So, what does it take to be a successful commercial pilot? Here are five key steps that will help you get there:

Get Your Private Pilot’s License

The first step on the path to becoming a commercial pilot is to get your private pilot’s license (PPL). But before you can start flying solo, there are a few things you need to do.

First, you’ll need to complete a certified ground school training program. This will provide you with the basic knowledge you need to navigate and fly a plane. Next, you’ll need to log at least 40 hours of flight time, including at least 20 hours with an instructor. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be ready to take your private pilot’s exam. After successfully completing the exam, you’ll be able to apply for your PPL.

Get Your Instrument Rating

a pilot in training

Once you’ve got your PPL, you’ll need to get an instrument rating if you want to fly commercially. An instrument rating allows you to fly in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), which means flying in clouds or other bad weather conditions.

This will require an additional 10-20 hours of flight time, as well as passing a written exam and an oral exam with an FAA-designated examiner. Once you have your instrument rating, you’ll be able to apply for a commercial pilot license.

Get Your Commercial Pilot’s License

The next step on the path to becoming a commercial pilot is to get your commercial pilot’s license (CPL). To do that, you’ll need to have at least 250 hours of flight time, including 100 hours of cross-country flight time and 50 hours of night flight time. You’ll also need to pass another set of written exams and an oral exam with an FAA-designated examiner.

There are a few key things you can do to help you pass your commercial pilot’s license (CPL) exam.

  • Study hard and know the material inside and out.
  • Get plenty of practice flying.
  • Take as many mock exams as possible to get comfortable with the testing format.

Once you have your CPL, you’ll be able to start working as a commercial pilot.

Get Your Multi-Engine Rating

If you want to fly larger planes, you’ll need to get a multi-engine rating. This rating allows you to fly an aircraft with more than one engine. To achieve this, you’ll need ample commercial multi-engine training. This type of training covers all the essential skills and knowledge that you’ll need to operate a commercial aircraft.

During your training, you’ll learn how to perform takeoffs and landings, navigate through the airspace, and troubleshoot any problems that may arise. You’ll also receive instructions on emergency procedures and how to deal with stressful situations. You’ll also have to log at least 10 hours of flight time in a multi-engine aircraft and pass a written exam and an oral exam with an FAA-designated examiner.

Build Flight Time

Once you’ve got your CPL, the next step is to start building flight time. You’ll need to build up 1,500 hours of flight time before you can apply for an airline transport pilot’s license (ATP). The best way to do this is by working as a flight instructor or taking other flying jobs such as charter flights or aerial surveying.

Charter flights are a great way to build flight time because you can fly a variety of different types of planes and routes. Meanwhile, aerial surveying is another great option because, in this job, you’ll fly low and slow over an area to take photos or gather data. Once you’ve built up the required flight time, you can apply for your ATP and start working as a commercial airline pilot.


These are just a few of the steps that it takes to become a successful commercial pilot. As you can see, it’s not an easy process — you first need to have a PPL, then an instrument rating, a CPL, a multi-engine rating if needed, and build enough flight time so airlines would hire you. It takes years of training and experience to reach the top of the field. But if it’s something that you’re passionate about, then it’s definitely worth pursuing.

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