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What is a Pilot?

Also known as: Aviator, Aircraft Pilot, Commuter Pilot, Airline Transport Pilot, Airline Pilot, Airline Captain

A pilot is someone who is in the aviation industry, and who is able to operate aircraft in order to transport passengers or goods from one location to another. They are employed by commercial airlines, corporations, or governments. In some cases, pilots are self-employed or work for an individual to provide private transport in small aircraft or private jets. Aviation is a diverse career field with many opportunities in both the public and private sectors and even opportunities to work in an educational setting.

A Pilot is a specialized type of Air Crew Officer.

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What does a Pilot do?

Depending on what area of the industry the pilot works in, they may be responsible for transporting civilians, members of the military, private goods, commercial products, or other types of cargo. The type of aircraft used depends on the pilot's specialization. Some pilots fly helicopters while others fly larger commercial aircraft to transport tens or even hundreds of passengers. Other pilots fly cargo planes to move large amounts of mail, automobiles, industrial equipment and other goods from one area to another.

The most well-known pilots are those who work for an airline company, flying passengers who are commuting or vacationing. Their primary responsibility is to operate the aircraft, but their day consists of many hours performing other tasks. Pilots check the weather and confirm flight plans before departing. They also perform pre-flight inspections and check flight logs prior to departure. During the flight, pilots are responsible for the safety of all crew and passengers on board. They may often need to make split-second decisions and are in constant contact with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to keep abreast of changes to the flight plan or safety issues. Commercial cargo pilots work in much the same capacity, with the only major change being that they transport cargo instead of people.

Careers are also available in the military, where pilots transport military personnel, soldiers, equipment, or goods for the government. Military pilots fly jets, bombers, and helicopters in combat, rescue, or reconnaissance missions. Some military officers are employed as test pilots, evaluating new and experimental aircraft prototypes.

In the private sector, pilots typically fly smaller planes like jets or light aircraft. They are employed by businessmen or celebrities and provide on-demand service for all their client's traveling needs. A private aviator may work as an independent contractor and offer service for-hire to many customers, or be employed solely by a corporation or wealthy individual.

Pilots with enough experience in the industry may eventually decide to work for or establish an aviation school. As an instructor in the school, pilots teach prospective aviators the fundamentals of flight. Topics covered in private lessons include safety, aviation history, and flying procedures. They work with students and enable them to obtain their private pilot certificate or instrument rating.

What is the workplace of a Pilot like?

Pilots rarely adhere to the standard 40-hour work week. Due to constant changes in airline itinerary and frequent shifts in schedules from weather and equipment malfunctions, pilots may work late at night, on weekends, and even on holidays. In the case of commercial airline pilots, FAA regulations require an eight-hour break between shifts which may result in overnight stays in distant cities or countries. Most pilots will fly between 75 and 80 hours per month. They are limited to a total of 100 hours per month, or 1000 hours in one year.

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Further Reading

  • Pilot Careers

    There are a variety of aviation pilot jobs, each with its own set of hiring requirements, benefits, and challenges. Benefits and compensation will vary according to the type and size of the company. For any pilot job, there is a considerable amount of training required. Some pilots received their training in the military and others through civilian training. For most of the pilot jobs, you must have at least a commercial pilot certificate, instrument and multi-engine ratings. The hiring requirements will vary for each airline and company.

  • My Travel Routine: Private Jet Pilot Chris Grasso

    We caught up with assistant chief pilot Christopher Grasso from AvantAir, a Florida-based company that supplies fractional private jet ownership (think time shares for airplanes).

  • Practical Use Of The Pilot Personality Profile

    What comprises a typical pilot's personality? What characteristics do they generally share? Industrial psychologist Robert Rose, Ph.D., answers these questions and more as he takes a look at why understanding your personality profile may help your personal and professional relationships work a lot more effectively.

  • Becoming A Pilot

    For many flying is a lifetime adventure. It's a multidimensional activity that you can enjoy on as many levels as suits your fancy from sightseeing to aircraft appreciation to aerobatics to travel to technical flying to history to earning a living and on and on.

  • How Becoming An Airline Pilot Works

    Flying an airplane is fun. Getting paid to do it is even better. For some people, it's the perfect job: an office that travels, a view that's constantly changing and challenges that are exhilarating.

  • How To Become An Airplane Pilot

    I am a licensed private pilot, and I am writing this article as a guide for prospective pilots. I have enjoyed my flying very much, and want to encourage others to embark on the grand adventure of aviation.

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