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Follow These 12 Steps To Become An Airline Pilot

Thanks to ATP Flight School for making this story possible. Want to be a pilot? Learn how to get started with ATP Flight School here.

There's no "perfect path" to becoming an airline pilot, but here's one great way to make it happen. Thousands of pilots follow these steps, and you can too. Enjoy the journey along the way!

1) Start By Talking To The Pilots You Know

You probably know a pilot or two through friends and family. The best way to get your training started is by talking to them about their experiences and what your goals are. Having someone to mentor you along the way is invaluable.

Swayne Martin

2) Decide What Training Path You Want To Take

There's no "right way" to become a professional pilot. You can train through a local flight school, university program, airline cadet program, or even the military. There are a lot of options out there, so do your research to see what works best for your goals.

If your goal is to become and airline pilot in the next few years, schools like ATP Flight School are one of the fastest ways to become an airline pilot.

3) Make A Financing Plan

It's no secret that flight training is expensive. But it's not impossible to figure out a way to fund it. Loans (private and federal) are available at many flight schools and universities for training. Don't forget to apply for as many scholarships as you can. Research scholarships for your local area, school, or apply through national organizations like Women in Aviation, EAA, AOPA, etc.

Swayne Martin

4) Start Studying Early

Now that you've made your plan, it's time to start studying. Knocking out your basic aviation ground knowledge will make a huge difference in how quickly you progress through training. You can take your FAA Written Exam without any flight time... All you need is an instructor's sign-off!

Struggling with Airspace, Weather, or Charts? So is everyone else! We have training courses to make it easy.


5) Get Your Private Pilot Certificate

It's time to truly become a pilot. At roughly 40 hours of flight time, plus some other requirements, you'll get your first pilot certificate. If you maintain currency and a medical certificate, it's valid for life!

6) Instrument, Commercial, and Multi-Engine Training

After you become a private pilot, you'll continue building experience and skills through flying by looking instruments alone, adding precision with commercial flight maneuvers, and flying multi-engine aircraft. Once you get that commercial pilot certificate you can begin getting paid to fly.

Haley Howard

7) Never Stop Networking

Along the way, don't stop networking. It's often said that getting a job in aviation is about who you know, not what you know. So as you continue training, get to know the instructors, students, and professors at your schools. Take advantage of opportunities to attend career fairs and develop working relationships with people that share your common interests, the people who want to see you succeed.

Swayne Martin

8) Become A Flight Instructor And Build Your Hours

There are a lot of ways to build flight time towards your first airline job, but one of the best is through flight instruction. It's said that you'll learn more in the first 100 hours of flight instruction than you learned throughout all of your training. We couldn't agree more. Get that CFI, CFII, and maybe even an MEI certificate.

It's not easy. But the rewards of teaching someone how to fly, seeing them succeed, and learning a lot about yourself in the process, is invaluable.

9) Become A First Officer For A Regional Airline

Depending on where you trained, you can become a First Officer for a regional airline at 1,500 hours if you're a civilian.

Every regional airline is currently hiring, and pay at many is approaching $60,000 for your first year. There are so many options out there, each with their own pros, cons, different aircraft, and unique bases of operations. So study up on what works best for you and your goals.

10) Upgrade To Captain And Build Time

Once you're a captain, you'll begin building turbine PIC time, an important qualification when you're ready to apply for a major airline.


11) Apply To A Major Airline

After a few years at the regional airline level, you'll build the necessary qualifications to get picked up by a larger airline. The legacy passengers carriers in the USA are Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and United Airlines. But don't forget about other large airlines like Southwest, Alaska Airlines, Frontier, Spirit, FedEx, UPS, etc. There are dozens of good options out there, so don't rule any out!


12) You Made It

After all that work, you finally nailed your dream job. You'll be flying heavy equipment now, possibly all over the world. The pay isn't too bad earners at the largest airlines can make over $300,000 per year.

Thinking about becoming a pilot? Get started with ATP Flight School, and find out how to start your aviation career here.

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