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Career Profile: Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers

Pilot and navigate the flight of fixed-wing aircraft, usually on scheduled air carrier routes, for the transport of passengers and cargo. Requires Federal Air Transport certificate and rating for specific aircraft type used. Includes regional, national, and international airline pilots and flight instructors of airline pilots.

Salary and Outlook

According to the US Department of Labor, there are 74,700 people employed as airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers in the United States. The median annual salary is $161,000. Entry level employees earn approximately $80,920 per year and senior employees earn approximately $208,000 (or more) per year.

Estimates do not include other potential benefits such as health insurance, overtime pay, or retirement benefits that may be offered by employers.

Job Duties

  • Monitor gauges, warning devices, and control panels to verify aircraft performance and to regulate engine speed.
  • Steer aircraft along planned routes, using autopilot and flight management computers.
  • Check passenger and cargo distributions and fuel amounts to ensure that weight and balance specifications are met.
  • Confer with flight dispatchers and weather forecasters to keep abreast of flight conditions.
  • Order changes in fuel supplies, loads, routes, or schedules to ensure safety of flights.
  • Use instrumentation to guide flights when visibility is poor.
  • Start engines, operate controls, and pilot airplanes to transport passengers, mail, or freight, adhering to flight plans, regulations, and procedures.
  • Work as part of a flight team with other crew members, especially during takeoffs and landings.
  • Respond to and report in-flight emergencies and malfunctions.
  • Inspect aircraft for defects and malfunctions, according to pre-flight checklists.
  • Contact control towers for takeoff clearances, arrival instructions, and other information, using radio equipment.
  • Monitor engine operation, fuel consumption, and functioning of aircraft systems during flights.
  • File instrument flight plans with air traffic control to ensure that flights are coordinated with other air traffic.
  • Perform minor maintenance work, or arrange for major maintenance.
  • Evaluate other pilots or pilot-license applicants for proficiency.
  • Load smaller aircraft, handling passenger luggage and supervising refueling.
  • Test and evaluate the performance of new aircraft.
  • Plan and formulate flight activities and test schedules and prepare flight evaluation reports.
  • Brief crews about flight details, such as destinations, duties, and responsibilities.
  • Choose routes, altitudes, and speeds that will provide the fastest, safest, and smoothest flights.
  • Direct activities of aircraft crews during flights.
  • Record in log books information, such as flight times, distances flown, and fuel consumption.
  • Instruct other pilots and student pilots in aircraft operations and the principles of flight.
  • Make announcements regarding flights, using public address systems.
  • Coordinate flight activities with ground crews and air traffic control and inform crew members of flight and test procedures.
  • Conduct in-flight tests and evaluations at specified altitudes and in all types of weather to determine the receptivity and other characteristics of equipment and systems.

Career List

Job Outlook


Total Current Jobs:
74,700
Annual Openings:
9,600
Increase in Openings by 2030:
14%
Annual Salary Range:
$80,920 - $208,000
Education Requirements:
Bachelor's degree