Student pilot discussing commercial pilot training with their instructor

Costs and Time to Become a Commercial or Airline Pilot

Becoming a commercial or airline pilot is a dream for many people, but it’s important to understand the cost and time required to achieve this goal. In this article, we’ll look at the costs and timeframes for becoming a commercial or airline pilot in the United States.

Cost of Becoming a Pilot

The cost of pilot training varies widely depending on the type of training, location, and the flight school or college you attend. On average, it costs between $80,000 and $150,000 to become a commercial pilot in the United States. This includes the cost of obtaining a private pilot license, commercial pilot license, multi-engine rating, flight instructor certificate, and other flight training expenses.

Flight training is a significant financial investment, and many aspiring pilots rely on loans, scholarships, or financial aid to cover the expenses. According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the average student pilot takes out a $68,000 loan to finance flight training.

It’s important to note that the cost of becoming a pilot doesn’t end with flight training. Pilots must also pay for ongoing training, medical certifications, flight reviews, and other expenses throughout their career.

Time Required to Become a Pilot

The amount of time required to become a commercial or airline pilot depends on several factors, including the type of training and the student’s dedication and progress. On average, it takes between 12 and 18 months to complete a commercial pilot training program.

Private Pilot License: To become a commercial or airline pilot, you must first obtain a private pilot license. This requires a minimum of 40 hours of flight time and can take three to six months on average to complete, depending on the student’s availability.

Commercial Pilot License: After obtaining a private pilot license, students can start commercial pilot training, which takes an additional six to twelve months. This includes obtaining a commercial pilot license, multi-engine rating, and flight instructor certificate.

Experience: After completing the required training, pilots must gain additional experience to become eligible for airline pilot jobs. This includes building flight hours as a flight instructor or working for regional airlines or charter companies. It can take several years for pilots to accumulate the required flight hours to become eligible for airline pilot jobs.

Anecdotes and Real-Life Examples

To gain more insight into the cost and time required to become a commercial or airline pilot, let’s look at some real-life examples.

Natalia, a commercial airline pilot, shared her experience of becoming a pilot in an interview with Forbes. She took out a $100,000 loan to finance her pilot training. Although she was able to find a job at a regional airline after completing her training, she struggled with low pay and long hours. It took her several years to accumulate enough flight hours to move into a higher-paying job at a major airline.

Matt, another commercial airline pilot, shared his experience in an interview with CNBC. He estimated that he spent over $150,000 to become a pilot, including flight training, college, medical certifications, and other expenses. He also mentioned that it took him over five years to accumulate the flight hours required for his current job as a first officer.


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