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How to Become a Jet Pilot

Updated on December 2, 2011

A Response to Three Requests

While this Hub is specifically in response to new Hubber ketan singh tomar request which asked I want to can i apply for this post? i want to know full information for it. please tell me every littlest and highest information,  I will try to broaden my response to answer related requests from two other new Hubbers as well.

Like ketan singh tomar, new Hubber charudatta had a similar request  in which he inquired about the salery of jet piolet.  Both of these requests were from my Hub How to Become a Fighter Pilot.

Finally, new Hubber ryan581 has a request from my How to Become a Commercial Pilot Hub asking how much does fflight school cost?

Frontier Airlines Jet at terminal in Tucson, AZ
Frontier Airlines Jet at terminal in Tucson, AZ | Source

Pilot Compensation

Because I receive numerous similar questions, both in the comments section and as requests, from these two Hubs I will try to answer all three of these requests and hopefully future ones with one Hub.

Flying airplanes, especially fighter jets or large commercial airline jets (which, I assume most of those seeking to become a commercial pilot envision themselves doing) offer relatively good paying jobs along with prestige and glamor so it is easy to see why many young people dream of becoming pilots.

Because of the pay, glamor and prestige associated with these jobs, demand for them is high and this means that potential employers can be very choosy about who they hire which makes competition for these jobs intense.

Normally, when there is a large supply relative to demand the price, in this case pay, will decrease accordingly.  In the past decade or two airline pilots in the United States have had to endure some cuts in salary along with larger cuts in benefits.  

Admittedly, the cuts in pay translated into increased work hours and/or reductions in the rate of contractual pay increases as well as less generous retirement and other benefits rather than reduction in the number of dollars in their paychecks.  Hours increased without a pay increase and/or benefits were reduced rather than current wages being reduced..  

For those who would like more specific information about commercial airline pilot pay in the Unitied States there is an excellent article in the June 16, 2009 Wall Street Journal Online by Scott McCartney entitled Pilot Pay:  Want to Know How Much Your Captain Earns?

In this article McCartney not only quotes some salaries from various U.S. based airlines for both first year new hires (co-pilots) and aircraft captains (the senior pilot in the left seat of the aircraft) but gives a link to a salary survey by an outfit called which lists the major U.S. airlines and their pay scales.

Depending upon the profits of the airline, first year starting wages for 2010 range from $21,600 for U.S. Airways to $51,976 for FedEx. For Captains the highest pay for the most senior captians range range from $133,308 (JetBlue) to $210,825 (FedEx).

For anyone interested in a career as a commercial pilot I would encourage them to do a search using the title of the Wall Street Journal article to find and read the article as well as click on the links in it.

I would also encourage them to either click on the link for or just type that name into the address bar of their browser to check out that site as it contains a wealth of free information as well as offering a premium service at what appears to be a reasonable price.

Fllight Training

As to flight schools, the military provides training for its recruits so the schools and training are part of the package when one enlists.  While many airlines provide their own training, they generally prefer people who already have a commercial pilots certificate or license as well as prior training in aircraft similar to what the airline is flying.  

When looking for the locations, costs and other information about private commercial flight schools I recommend doing a search using Google, Yahoo, Bing or other search engine. In writing this Hub,  I simply typed flight training into my Google search bar and it came back with over five million hits in less than a second.  Using the words flight training india came back with 600,000 hits.  Refining the search further by placing the phrase in quotes “flight training india”  yielded 57,000 hits.  

Obviously, one would have to click on individual links in the results to find the type of schools and costs one is looking for.  Another option is to take a look at the ads that appear on my Hubs and other websites dealing with flying.  I frequently see ads for flight schools when I am updating or reviewing these two Hubs before  responding to comments or to requests such as the ones I am responding to now.

Fighter Pilot Information

For information about specific fighter pilot qualifications, pay and other information (including where to call or write to in order to enlist) the first thing I would do would be to find the correct name of the aviation arm of my nation’s military.

In many cases this organization is called the Air Force so one would simply do a search using the country’s name followed by Air Force.

In other cases a nation may have a single unified defense command of which the air arm is but one part. In any case most, if not all nations have a military organization of some sort and that military usually has a web page.

Many Are Interested But Few are Hired

Wanting a career in a particular field is one thing while actually being qualified is another.  While training is either provided, in the case of the military, or can be obtained from private sources as in the case of commercial aviation, there is still a minimum level of academic skills needed in order to be able to benefit from the specialized pilot training.  

There are also some logical physical requirements such as maximum height and weight requirements for fighter jets which have limited seat space or restrictions on people with certain medical conditions.  After all you don’t want someone with a serious heart condition piloting an airliner carrying 100 passengers or flying a $300 million fighter aircraft.

However, realistically there are very few physical conditions that limit flying.  One only has to look at the late Sir Douglas Robert Steuart Bader a British Royal Air Force pilot who joined the RAF in 1928 and lost both legs in a plane crash in 1931.  
When World War II broke out Bader managed to rejoin the RAF where he was assigned, at his request, to a fighter squadron and became an ace being credited with having shot  down 20 enemy aircraft himself as well as additional shared victories with others.

Not only was he an ace fighter pilot, he was also shot down over Nazi occupied France in 1941. Escaping his plane by parachute, he was quickly captured and managed to survive as a prisoner of war until the war ended.  Following his discharge, he went to work in the oil industry and continued to fly planes until he retired in 1979.  All this by a man who had lost both legs.

With So Many Wanting to Become Pilots, Employers Can Afford to be Very Selective

While, in reality, there are few intellectual, physical or mental limitations to flying an airplane, the huge supply of those wanting to fly relative to the actual demand or need for pilots means that military and civilian aviation employers can afford to be very demanding when it comes to setting their own requirements for pilot applicants.

Given a choice, people will always opt for the best and the flying industry is no exception.

While employers of pilots, both military and civilian, will always come up with myriad safety, financial and other reasons for setting very high standards for the pilots they hire, the real reason for most of these is that they can afford to only hire what they consider the best (and, as one who regularly flies as a passenger on commercial aircraft, I rather like the idea of having the best candidate at the controls when I fly).

However, the fact that there is no world-wide, uniform set of requirements for pilots is an indication that flexibility in hiring requirements exists. Requirements vary from nation to nation and from employer to employer within nations.

Supply and Demand Can Cause Entrance Requirements to Change

In addition to the wide variation in requirements there is also the fact that individual nations and companies vary their standards based on changes in supply and demand. I originally joined the U.S. Air Force ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) as a pilot candidate while in college.

However, I was removed from pilot consideration when it was discovered during a physical exam that the vision in my left eye was slightly less than 20/20 (in fact the vision problem was so minor that I passed all but one of a half a dozen tests with that eye).

Not only could this have been easily corrected with glasses (which I would only need for the one test as my vision was near perfect) but the strict vision requirement that prevented me from entering pilot training only applied to those trying to enter flight training.

Once training was completed one’s vision could deteriorate (as it does with most people as they age) and they could still fly so long as their vision was correctable with glasses to 20/20.

What is more, today the U.S. Air Force will accept applicants with less than 20/20 vision provided their vision is correctable to 20/20 with glasses.

The difference between then and now was that when I was in college the United States still had a draft with mandatory military service for all young men and the Air Force had more than enough people wanting to be pilots. Today, we no longer have a military draft and the Air Force has to compete with airlines for pilots so the rules have been relaxed.

This was similar to the reason for keeping pilots after their vision started to change. Having invested thousands of dollars training these pilots, the Air Force was not about to ground them - it was cheaper to simply issue them glasses.

Wide Variations in Requirements Make It Impossible for Me to Answer Specific Questions

Given this vast array of varying rules and pay scales combined with the fact that there are thousands of different military and civilian entities hiring pilots you can begin to see why I can’t answer specific questions about pay, entrance requirements or where to apply for pilot jobs as it depends upon where one lives in the world and what entity they want to work for as a pilot.

What I can do is offer general information about the profession as well as suggestions for how to compete successfully in the competition to become a pilot.

One of the first requirements that is both needed to get ahead in a very competitive field as well as a characteristic employers of pilots will be looking for is initiative.

This means seeing what you want or, on the job, seeing what needs to be done and doing it. While seeking help and asking questions is good, one also has to take charge and figure many things out for themselves.

Taking Initiative Is Important

Asking questions like how do I go about finding what flight school costs?

Where can I find salary ranges for jet pilots?

How do I go about finding where to learn the requirements of my nation’s air force for fighter pilot applicants?

Where do I look to learn where to join my nation’s air force?

These are all good questions to ask to get pointed in the right direction but imply that, once you know the way, you will do the work of getting the information.

Asking someone to simply tell you everything you need to know in order to get a job as a pilot not only shows a lack of initiative but also implies that you do not want the job bad enough to work for it.

Consider What Sir Douglas Robert Steuart Bader Had to Do

For inspiration, you might want to do a search on Sir Douglas Robert Steuart Bader and read up on his life.  

Following his accident and the loss of his legs, he didn’t simply return to flight duty following his recovery.  Instead, he had to work and prove to his superiors that he was able to fly despite the loss of his legs.  Even though he did this, he was discharged shortly afterward.  

When World War II broke out he again had to fight to get back into the RAF (and was accepted because they desperately needed pilots) only to be let go again when the war ended.  He then proceeded to find a new career where he was able to continue flying.

Flight Training And Being a Pilot are All About Preparing for Situations that You Hope Won’t Happen

Flight training, both civilian and military, will involve hours of classroom and study as well as more hours of practice both in the air and on the ground in flight simulators.

Once you become a pilot you will not just expected but required to keep up to date with current rules and regulations for flying as well as up to date on your equipment and the latest information on potential problems and hazards and how to deal with them.

There will also be more hours in ground simulators practicing how to safely deal with dangerous situations - such as loss of power on take off, losing one or more engines in flight, etc - you more than likely will never encounter these situations.  

However, with your life and the lives of a hundred passengers at risk along with a plane that costs a hundred million dollars or more, you have to be ready to deal with the situation quickly and safely.

As a fighter pilot you could spend your entire career practicing how to deal with emergencies and combat situations that you may never encounter.

However, once you run into an emergency situation in flight or suddenly find yourself face to face with hostile forces you will have no time to figure out what to do - you will either instinctively react and survive or your beneficiaries will soon be receiving a check from your life insurance policy.

In my Hubs on How to Become a Fighter Pilot, How to Become a Commercial Pilot and How to Become a Fighter Pilot With the Air National Guard I have included links along with information intended to help you find the information you need to get into these positions.

It is Now Up To You to Find What You Need in Order to Become a Pilot

In this Hub I have also provided information to help point you in the direction of information that you need. However, I have deliberately not included links to the information in order to give you practice in finding these yourselves.

If you have a burning desire to become a pilot you should immediately invest the time and effort needed to get yourself to the front of the line where you can be among the few selected.

However, if you merely wish to become a pilot and are waiting for someone to open the door for you, I suggest that you begin thinking about another career.


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    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      7 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Pilot - thanks for your comments and advice. It is always a good idea to shop around before making a major purchase. With career and technical schools good job placement assistant is something one should look for in a school before enrolling.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Hi Chuck

      Thanks for the article, I very much enjoy reading your work.

      If I may, I would like to offer some advice that I learn't many years ago. I did not start out flying as my first career in fact I changed to flying at an age that most people told me I was too old. I did however achieve my goal and am now a training Captain on a B767. The one decision I made which undoubtedly allowed me to achieve this was by selecting the best flying school for me. I chose the school that guaranteed me a job at the end of my training, naturally dependant on my being suitable for them.

      Obtaining the first job to get your career started is one of the most difficult achievements for a new pilot and I eliminated this obstacle before starting my training. There are many flying schools who are affiliated with regional airlines or who have their own charter business that can give you your first start.

      Make sure you check out as many flying schools as you can and interview them. Make sure they are a good fit for you, remember you are the customer.

      I hope this may help some of your readers

    • afriqnet profile image

      Joe Njenga 

      8 years ago from Nairobi Kenya

      Jet Pilot? My childhood dream. I ended up being a VET

    • Dr irum profile image

      Dr irum 

      8 years ago

      Its wonderful information ,i love this job but i cant .....

    • mwatkins profile image


      8 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

      you've really outlined this well with tons of great information. I checked into being a pilot once myself and the vision requirement kept me out of it. I also learned that the military is the best way to go for education and training, and that they graduate many hopeful pilots to an empty or over-full market. Your facts are completely accurate and I applaud the extent you went to in giving this kind of information in an easy-to-understand format. Good job!

    • JodiVee profile image


      8 years ago

      "Jet Pilot" -- cool job!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wishing you and your family health and peace for 2011. Happy New Year!

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      8 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      ocbill - FedEx and UPS (and I believe that UPS is listed on the table also and has the second highest pay scale) pay very well from what I have heard. My niece did very well financially while working for one of those companies in a part-time, entry level position while in college.

      I don't know if it is still the case but a few years ago at a Chamber of Commerce function I was speaking with an HR person from UPS and he mentioned that UPS had a very generous college tuition reimbursement program that was available to all employees including part-time employees. So, in addition to joining the military, this is another option for a young person with no skills or education beyond high school to get an income and a basically free college education. (It should be noted that such tuition reimbursement programs offered by employers, generally require an employee to take courses, on their own time and pay for tuition and books with their own money at time of registration. Then, each time they pass a course with a 'C' or better grade they simply present their receipts and grade to their supervisor and get reimbursed for the tuition and, in some cases books as well).

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      8 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      bobmnu - thanks for the comment. I agree that it is not the best of times to look for an airline job in the United States at this time.

      In the Wall Street Journal article I cited the author noted when he gave listed U.S. Airways starting salary as the lowest in the industry for commercial airlines that this was the quoted salary but that that airline had not hired any new pilots in the past couple of years. He also noted that all salaries from lowest to highest varied according to the profitability of the airline. FedEx had the highest salaries in every range from the lowest to the highest and one can see this by clicking on the link in the article that takes them to the table current salary ranges for all major U.S. airlines.

      Also, while I couldn't find the article when writing this Hub, the Wall Street Journal had a long article in the past year or two about how Dubai based Emirates Airlines, which is one of the fastest growing airlines in the world, was attracting a number of U.S. pilots with pay, benefit packages and a work environment (pilots only required to fly planes, generous time off between flights, etc) that was equal to or better than what pilots with U.S. airlines enjoyed in the glory days of airline careers in the 1950s & 1960s.

      Emirates Airlines is still actively recruiting for pilots in the U.S. and around the world. Anyone interested in a glimpse of the requirements needed to apply along with pay and benefit info should do a search for an Aug 9, 2010 WSJ Online article entitled "Some Firms Struggle to Hire Despite High Unemployment" - this article focuses on the difficulty U.S. firms have in finding qualified people for skilled jobs. However, Emirates Airlines is also mentioned in the first paragraph as an employer seeking to hire with booths at job fairs in cities in the U.S. and around the world. About 3/4 of the way down the page and just to the right of the last sidebar in the article is a paragraph about Emirates Airlines and what their basic requirements to be hired and trained are and the basic pay and benefits they are offering.

      However, the real point I was trying to make in this Hub was the fact that to get pilot jobs or any good jobs people may dream of, they have to have the motivation and initiative to go out and find what is needed and then follow-up with the necessary training and contacting of employers. No one can give them an address or phone number that will land them a job in any field and, even if a person is lucky enough to find a a great mentor who is willing to lead them, step-by-step, through the process of getting their dream job, the individuals themselves will have to do the work - just watch any of the Karate Kid movies to see the work the kid has to do to achieve a dream under the tutelage of a great mentor.

      Thanks again for visiting and commenting.

    • ocbill profile image


      8 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

      I never knew the pay scales had that range. For FEDEX I can believe it as that was my goal in my 20s to work on the ground for them

    • bobmnu profile image


      8 years ago from Cumberland

      I have a couple of friends who are Air Line Pilots and they are facing pay cut now with the problems the Airline industry is having. It has even affected their retirement savings and they may have to work longer than planned just to make it in retirement. Now does not seem like a good time to be entering the filed.


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