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Aircraft Pilot Job Duties

by Elvis Michael

Aircraft pilots control and fly aircrafts such as airplanes and helicopters. Although the most recognized type of aircraft pilot generally works in the airline transportation industry, others work in farming to dust crops, help put out forest fires, work in health care to transport patients, and organizations that provide delivery services nationally and internationally. They work in many industries and pilot different aircrafts, but their job duties are similar.

Education and Licensure

The Federal Aviation Administration requires pilots to obtain a license before practicing professionally. It suggests obtaining a medical certificate before starting flight training to ensure you are physically able to do the job. A medical certificate requires pilots to pass a physical test, have no physical ailments and 20/20 correctible vision. Pilots also must obtain at least 250 hours of flight training and experience to qualify for a license. After completing flight training and experience, aspiring pilots must pass a test administered by a testing center authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Preflight

Before a flight, aircraft pilots check all aircraft systems and engines. This includes cargo and passengers, the engine, fuel and hydraulics. They contact air traffic control personnel to find out when and where the aircraft can take off. Once the aircraft is checked and ready to fly, aircraft pilots start the engine then operate the aircraft to approach the appropriate runway and navigate the aircraft for take off.

During a Flight

During a flight, aircraft pilots navigate the aircraft to its destination. They use a variety of manual and automatic controls to operate the aircraft and ensure it arrives safely to its destination. When the aircraft is close to its destination, they contact air traffic control personnel to coordinate the best time to land and where the aircraft should land.

Work Schedule

Aircraft pilots often work irregular hours and travel often. Along with navigating aircrafts, they have other responsibilities, such as reports and other required documentation for the aircrafts they navigate. The Federal Aviation Administration restricts aircraft pilots’ flight times to 75 hours per month to ensure they are not fatigued and risk the safety of passengers or themselves. They work several consecutive days, then have several days off.

Career Outlook

Jobs are expected to increase for commercial pilots, while airline pilots can expect lower than average job growth than all occupations between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As many pilots retire during that timeframe, it will open up new jobs for younger pilots. The Federal Aviation Administration requires pilots to retire when they are 65 years old. In 2012, the BLS estimated an average salary of $128,760 per year for airline pilots. Commercial pilots earned an average salary of $80,140 per year.

About the Author

Elvis Michael has been writing professionally since 2007, contributing technology articles to various online outlets. He is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in information technology at Northeastern University.

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images