The 10 Things to Know About Becoming a Commercial Pilot

If you're thinking of being a commercial pilot, it's a fun and rewarding career. Here are 10 things you should know (hint: one of them doesn't involve airplanes)!

With the incredible opportunities awaiting you, it's time to take a closer look at becoming a private pilot.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that over 5000 full-time pilot jobs will be added through 2024, making this a healthy job-growth industry. And this doesn't even include the many contract jobs available. It also doesn't include job opening due to the ongoing need to replace retiring pilots.

Explore this very rewarding career as we look at 10 things you need to know about breaking into this industry.

1. You're Going Back to School

Let's cast the glamor and adventure aside for a moment.

Get geared up to go back to school. If you haven't gotten your license yet, you'll be hitting the books, watching educational videos, taking notes and doing practical application exercises. 

And yes, there will be tests, including but not limited to, FAA Recreational and Private Pilot Exam.

Most of your training will likely happen on the ground, in a classroom setting. What you learn here will allow you to excel once you're in the cockpit.

2. You'll Learn A New Language or Two

Hope you're good with learning new languages. Pilots must be able to communicate effectively with other pilots and ground control. 

There's ZERO room for error. 

The first language you'll learn is "radio talk" like:

  • Wilco = I will comply
  • Roger = I received and understand your last transmission
  • Affirmative = Yes

Radio talk isn't difficult to learn. But learning to use it consistently without slipping into "normal speech" can be a challenge.

Like all languages, it will be accompanied by guidelines for usage like:

  • Listen before you transmit
  • Think out what you're going to say before you begin
  • Be alert regarding potential failed transmission

By learning to effectively use this new language, you can keep yourself and others safe.

Second, you'll learn to read Textual Weather.

An alphanumeric code will inform you about weather conditions in your area. You'll learn to quickly decipher this code.

Two common textual weather coding systems are METAR or PIREP. PIREP is a log of the actual conditions that your aircraft encountered during flight. METAR is a weather report that you'll receive hourly or half-hourly

3. Aerodynamics Will Become More Than An Abstract Concept

If you're not a physicist, chances are that aerodynamics is more of an abstract concept to you. You probably know that certain shapes and angles create "drag" on something like a car. But you may never have had the opportunity to really experience drag in the real world.

You'll develop an intimate knowledge of how aerodynamics works.

You'll make adjustments to "go with the flow" to reduce:

  • Fuel consumption
  • Turbulence
  • Wear and tear

Through this, you'll find the right glide speed to maximize your resources. And this is only the beginning of understanding how your machines work.

4. Get Ready for the Regulations

You'll need to familiarize yourself with hundreds of FAA regulations. 

As with any laws, not knowing isn't an excuse for not doing.Regulations help keep you and others safe in air spaces both domestic and abroad.

Some of these laws can seem confusing or even contradictory. But by working with a great instructor, you'll learn what you need to know to comply.

Regulations are one of those things you'll learn in the classroom before ever entering the plane. As a student, you're held to the same standards as a fully licensed pilot when it comes to following regulations.

5. You'll Eat Sleep and Dream Aerospace Systems

Aerospace systems are a complex network of aerospace sections. Within these systems, you'll apply certain weather minimums at various altitudes. These minimums will change depending on day or night.

As you study, you'll learn these systems by heart. They'll become such a part of you that you'll likely think about them randomly and they may even haunt your dreams.

But ultimately, you'll learn to love them as they'll impact your decisions for the better.

6. Flying Is Nothing Like Driving a Car

You get behind the wheel of a car, turn the ignition, step on the brake, look behind you, put it in reverse and slowly release the brake. 

If you drive an automatic, that's all you really need to know to back a car out. If you're like most people today, you may not even get past changing your oil and repairing a flat when it comes to maintaining your car.

But as a private pilot, you must know your craft on a deep level. You'll know:

  • How a plane works
  • The mechanisms involved in flying
  • What can go wrong
  • How to compensate when things go wrong
  • How to take it apart and put it back together
  • How to repair damage

You'll get hands on with an airplane.

7. There's Power in Numbers

As a private pilot, joining flying clubs can help you save on services and maintenance. These clubs can negotiate lower rates on supplies. They can spread out certain costs among many people to help you save on ownership and operations.

Other flying clubs give you exclusive access to job listings and content to help you get the most out of your license.

8.  Training's Expensive But There Are Ways To Save

Working with a "bad" instructor will make your training take longer and you'll undoubtedly feel frustrated. You may not learn things that you need to know. The whole process will take longer and cost you more.

Find an instructor who has taught many successfully. This individual will have a clear plan and method to teaching.

Fly often. The more frequently you fly, the faster you'll learn. You'll be ready for your exam in no time.

Use a simulator. With a simulator, you can get immediate feedback on your actions versus trying to remember what you did when someone provides delayed feedback.

9. You Have To Be Eligible

Basically, to get a private pilot license, you need to be:

  • 17 or older
  • able to read, speak and understand English fluently
  • Complete Training
  • Pass your exam

To work as a private pilot you may need to meet additional requirements like hours flying, previous employment, etc.

10. There Are Tons of Ways To Use Your Private Pilot License

The most important thing that you need to know about becoming a private pilot is just how many ways that you can be one. Some great opportunities for private pilots include:

  • Becoming a tour guide
  • Working charter flights
  • Mastering your region to build demand for your service
  • Learning acrobatics to be involved in shows
  • Building your own planes ...before flying them of course
  • Restoring classic planes
  • Exploring "uncharted" territories from the sky
  • Transporting the sick
  • Saving lives with search and rescue

Becoming a private pilot is hard work. But it gives you the opportunity to enter many rewarding career paths, make great pay and work for yourself on a contract basis or as a corporate employee.

Sign up for exclusive content and job listings and start getting the most out of your pilot license today.