Factors That Affect Pilot Salary

Perhaps the most important and intriguing question for every young pilot career seeker is: how much money do pilots make? Well, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, pilots, co-pilots and flight engineers are among the best paid professions. Only health care specialists and chief executives exceed the mean annual aircraft pilots and flight engineers income of $138,690. On the other hand, pilot salaries depend much on various factors such as pilot experience, hiring company, type of aircraft and region in which pilot takes his or her duties. When all these things come into account, pilot salary per year can be as low as $20,000 and as high as $300,000 or even more.

Usually pilots get paid hourly. Wages submitted on Glassdoor website by aviation employers vary from $10 to $200 an hour. Companies should always guarantee a minimum amount of flying hours to their employees. This minimum differs from airline to airline and is something in between 50 and 80 hours per month. However, flying an airliner composes just about half or one third of pilot’s total working hours. Much more time is spent performing pilot duties on the ground: simulation-based training, processing all the information about weather and route, creating flight plan, executing pre-flight checks, making records after flight and many other maintenance tasks. That time during positioning, pre-flight preparation, fulfilling post-flight responsibilities along with flight hours is called duty period and pilots normally do not get paid for it.

Commercial vs. airline pilot salaries

As a rule, most pilots start their careers working as commercial pilots and then progress to pilot positions at airlines. Commercial pilots perform unscheduled flight activities and may have additional non flight responsibilities. Top industries they work for include: manufacturing, non-scheduled air transportation, ambulance services, support services. In contrast, airline pilots primarily perform scheduled passengers or cargo air transportation. Commercial pilot salary is around $89,350 yearly (the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Meanwhile, airline pilots, co-pilots and flight engineers incomes reach $161,280 per year (the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Other sources might indicate different numbers, for example, estimated airline pilot wage based on 232 salaries submitted anonymously to Glassdoor by employees is $113,709/yr. Although, there are discrepancies between small, mid-sized or major airlines, it is obvious that airline pilots earn much greater salaries than commercial pilots. Furthermore, airlines assure free housing, meals and more bonuses for pilots who are working away from home.

Pilot salary according to experience

Pilot flying experience and seniority are the most important factors when talking about wages. Pilot in command (captain) is the most experienced cockpit crew member and is primarily responsible for the successful flight. The first officer (co-pilot) who is second in command takes several flight duties from the captain. Some old airplanes require the third pilot (aircraft engineer) to monitor appliances but nowadays this job is almost eliminated by automatic technologies. Pilot career at airlines usually begins by occupying co-pilot or flight engineer position and then after gaining more experience you can expect to become a captain.

Inexperienced pilots who have 1-5 years of practice earn less than their senior colleagues. Most frequently, starting salaries of the entry level pilots do not exceed $50,000 yearly while highly skilled pilots with 5-10 and more years in practice receive higher rates of pay and their medium annual salaries surpass $100,000 limit. Moreover, salary is affected by pilot loyalty to the company. Workers who are dedicated to the same company for longer periods of time generally can expect gradual salary rise.

Other influencing factors

Aircraft type also has an influence on pilot pay. Pilots of larger jets earn more than those who fly the smaller ones. And salaries of non-jet aircraft pilots are lesser than for jet pilots. Before starting a pilot career, you should not forget that separate training is needed for different aircrafts.

Flight length. Long-haul flight pilots earn more than short and medium-haul pilots.

Continental pay differences. Aviation is predicted to have an annual growth rate of over 3% (IATA’s 20-Year Air Passenger Forecast). Yet the biggest advancement is seen in Asia region where you could expect significantly increasing pilot salaries.

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