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What does a
Pilot do?

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Other common names for this position: Air Force Pilot, Aircraft Captain, Aircraft Pilot, Airline Captain, Airline Pilot, Airplane Pilot, Charter Pilot, Copilot, Commercial Airline Pilot, Commercial Pilot, First Officer, Helicopter Pilot, Jet Pilot, Pilot in Command, Aviator


Pilots fly fixed-winged aircrafts and helicopters in order to provide transportation to passengers or cargo. They usually work for airlines and transportation companies. Pilots working for a specific airline are called Airline Pilots, while Pilots that fly charters or private aircrafts are called Commercial Pilots. The latter are hired by private individuals or companies to fly their aircrafts.

Pilots usually fly predetermined routes, as well as routes designed by the airline or company they work for. The length of the journey and the type of cargo will vary depending on the company and the customer’s needs. Flying an aircraft requires much skill, practice, and a certain set of qualifications.

Most aircrafts usually require two Pilots at a time during a flight. One of them is the Captain and will be Pilot in command of the aircraft, the other one is called the Copilot or First Officer and their role is to assist the Captain. The Captain is responsible for the safety of the aircraft, its passengers, and the cargo. The Pilots take turns flying the aircraft to avoid fatigue and safety hazards. While one of the Pilots is operating the controls, the other is in constant communication with ground air traffic control, and carries out the necessary paperwork and calculations. Sometimes, depending on the distance of a route or the type of vessel they’re flying, there can be three or more pilots on board to take turns at the controls and carry out other tasks as well. They are usually known as Second Officers or Flight Engineers.

Primary Responsibilities

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Pilots are required to complete.

  • Working as part of a team with crew members:
  • Giving instructions to the crew on board;
  • coordinating take-off and landing procedures with crew members; and
  • informing the crew of any news regarding the aircraft or the flight.
  • Running a check-up of all systems with Flight Engineers prior to flights:
  • Ensuring that all systems are working correctly;
  • checking the logbook;
  • checking passenger and cargo distribution to ensure proper balance of weight;
  • calculating and verifying fuel consumption based on weight of the aircraft and the distance of the flight;
  • reporting any malfunction to Engineers; and
  • checking emergency supplies.
  • Piloting aircrafts:
  • Starting engines and following take-off procedures;
  • using instruments to fly with low visibility;
  • operating controls and flying during turbulence;
  • steering the aircraft on pre-established routes;
  • following flight patterns and routes;
  • calculating fuel consumption based on speed and weight of the aircraft;
  • monitoring engine operation, fuel consumption, and other systems during flight;
  • maneuvering the aircraft into the best altitude and speed; and
  • making in-flight announcements;
  • communicating constantly with air traffic control;
  • preparing for landing following the applicable procedures; and
  • redesigning route and flight pattern when needed.
  • Contacting air control towers:
  • Requesting takeoff and landing clearances and instructions;
  • reporting location and status of the aircraft; and
  • communicating with other vessels to coordinate movements.
  • Responding to and reporting in-flight emergencies:
  • Reporting equipment malfunction;
  • notifying air traffic control of emergencies, problems, hazards (e.g. high-jacking, possible explosive devices, or medical emergencies);
  • following the established procedures during these situations; and
  • calling Mayday three times if it is a life-threatening situation.
  • Keeping the aircraft’s log updated with all eventualities.

Daily Tasks

  • Briefing the crew about flight details.
  • Running a check-up prior to take-off.
  • Reporting any malfunctioning systems.
  • Requesting take-off and landing clearance with air traffic control.
  • Piloting the aircraft.
  • Monitoring all systems.
  • Making in-flight announcements.
  • Filling the log of the aircraft.
  • Staying in constant contact with air traffic control and other aircrafts.
  • Switching duties with the Copilot to avoid exhaustion.

The average Pilot salary in USA is $60,030 per year or $31 per hour. This is around 2.1 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $42,000 while most experienced workers make up to $84,000. These results are based on 380 salaries extracted from job descriptions.

Gross Salary60,029.73 $
Federal Income Tax- 8,226.18 $
Social Security- 3,721.84 $
Medicare- 870.43 $
State Income Tax- 3,049.72 $
Total Tax- 15,868.17 $
Net Pay*44,161.56 $
In New York, USA, if you make 60,029.73 $ a year, you will be taxed 15,868.17 $. That means that your take home pay will be 44,161.56 $ per year, or 3,680.13 $ per month. Your average tax rate is 26.43% and your marginal tax rate is 39.10%.
* Deductions are calculated based on the tables of New York, USA income tax.
Required Skills and Qualifications
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills:
  • Being in constant communication with ground control, crew, and passengers.
  • Good team-working and leadership skills:
  • Being able to work as part of a team with the crew;
  • coordinating and assigning tasks; and
  • working alongside a Copilot.
  • Outstanding stress-management and decision making skills:
  • Assessing and handling emergency situations in a timely manner;
  • making quick and effective decisions; and
  • remaining calm and focused in moments of high stress or pressure.
  • Excellent physical condition and stamina:
  • Being capable of flying an aircraft through long routes and different types of climate and weather conditions;
  • possessing excellent vision and hearing for short and long distances; and
  • not suffering from any cardiac condition.
  • Excellent mathematical and physics skills:
  • Being able to calculate and design flight routes and fuel consumption plans.
  • Good understanding of Mechanical and Flight Engineering:
  • Being capable of running system inspections;
  • being able to fix minor problems when needed; and
  • understanding basic and complex concepts of airplane systems.
  • High levels of self-confidence, commitment, and discipline.

In order to become a Pilot, candidates need to go through a specialized training course. To attend these courses, applicants aiming to work for regional airlines are required to have completed secondary education and be at least 18 years old. However, some major US airlines require aspirants to have a degree or at least two years of college.

Training for this job is long and highly competitive. Most companies have very high standards in their selection process. Besides having completed a training course at a flight or aviation academy, Pilot applicants must get the necessary licenses (e.g. private pilot license, the student pilot license and the Third-Class Medical Certificate, the instrument rating and the Commercial Pilot License) in order to be hired by an airline. All licenses must follow the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations.

Pilots measure their experience in hours of flight (HOF). Most companies and airlines require applicants to have a certain number of HOF in order to be eligible to fly certain types of aircrafts.

Pilots are also required to possess certain physical attributes. During the enrollment process at most aviation academies and schools, there will be a physical examination focusing on vision and cardiac conditions that all applicants must pass in order to receive training.

Job Offers
There are currently available job offers for the Pilot position on . Below is a list of available jobs, based on USA's most populated metropolitan areas.