Is your head in the clouds? If you’ve always wondered how to become a pilot, this guide is for you. Perhaps you’ve thought about this as a hobby, but becoming a commercial pilot is actually a great career choice. In fact, it might help to first understand exactly what defines a commercial pilot. Simply put, a commercial pilot is someone who has been approved by the FAA to charge for pilot services. So, what you might think of as a hobby has the potential to become a career.
What types of commercial pilots are there?
While most people immediately think of commercial airline pilots flying passengers, the most common example of a commercial pilot, there are other possible careers in this field. There are even some that are a bit unusual. For instance, cargo pilots, such as those flying for UPS and FedEx, are also considered commercial pilots.
Other commercial pilot careers include being a corporate pilot, or flying for a charity organization, such as Angel Flight. You can even fly for the government, perhaps for the Forest Service. Certified Flight Instructors (CFIs) are also considered commercial pilots, and with the current pilot shortage, there is a high demand for CFIs. Whether you become a captain for Emirates, a fighter pilot for the U.S. Air Force, or fly a corporate jet in India, the sky truly is the limit. It’s easier than you might think.
So, what are the 7 steps?
Follow these steps on your path to becoming a pilot. If you are starting with no flying experience at all, don’t worry – this is how all pilots begin. We will walk you through the steps you’ll need to follow.
- Research flight schools.
Find the flight training school that best suits your needs and has positive reviews from its graduates. This is a big step, and you want to make a good decision. After you apply and are accepted, there is more to do.
- Get your medical certificate.
All student pilots must pass an FAA third class medical exam with an Aeromedical Examiner (AME). If you plan to become a commercial pilot, you’ll need a class 1 medical certificate.
- Get your FAA Student Pilot certificate.
This makes it official! You’ll apply for this through IACRA, and you will need it to fly with your instructor.
- Begin Ground School classes.
Private pilot ground school provides the practical knowledge you’ll need to know while for flight planning and flying.
- Begin flight lessons.
While in ground school, you’ll begin training in simulators and airplanes alongside a certified flight instructor (CFI). This lets you turn your knowledge into skills as you continue your pilot training.
- Pass the “written.”
The FAA Private Pilot Knowledge Test, known as the “written” to student pilots, assesses your knowledge of aviation in areas such aerodynamics, weather, flight instruments, weather, etc.
- Pass the checkride.
The FAA Private Pilot Practical Exam, also known as the checkride, assesses your flying skills and knowledge of practical applications in the cockpit. Passing this is the final step. Congratulations, you’re a private pilot! This entire process takes approximately 3 months. Now you are ready to become a CPL!
What about international flight students?
No matter where you live, we can train you. Epic has trained thousands of pilots from 80+ countries. There are many options for commercial pilots beyond flying for commercial airlines. Becoming a commercial pilot is a straightforward process. Once you determine your eligibility, you simply follow the training requirements established by the FAA. If you are not from the United States and want to become a commercial pilot in your home country, it is fairly simple to convert your FAA credentials to your country’s Civil Aviation Authority standards.
Although many pilots in the USA begin flight training while still in high school, most wait to learn how to become a pilot after 12th grade. Still, you can begin researching early. The best advice we can give is to find a professional flight school. Check the price, safety record, etc. Study hard, and soon you will climb into the plane and earn your wings! There are thousands of flight schools around the world, from America to India to Zimbabwe. Do your research, follow the steps, and we’ll see you in in the skies!
How long will it take? Not long at all… Read on!
How long does it take to become a Commercial Pilot?
This is one of our most frequently asked questions.
- First, earn your Private Pilot License (PPL). This allows you to fly single-engine aircraft under Visual Flight Rules (VFR), so you are already on your way to becoming a commercial pilot. This takes approximately 3 months.
- Next, earn your Instrument Rating (IFR – Instrument Flight Rules). This allows you to fly in low visibility weather using flight instruments and takes approximately 2 months.
- The next step is to begin your Commercial Pilot training. You must be 18 years old and have a 2nd Class Medical Certificate.
- Complete training to earn your Commercial Pilot License (CPL). This includes taking your written FAA exam, logging at least 250 hours of flight time (including 100 hours as Pilot-In-Command (PIC) and 50 hours cross-country), and passing your FAA checkride. Congratulations, you’re a licensed Commercial Pilot! Your CSEL (single-engine) will take about 6 weeks.
- Additionally, you’ll want to earn your Multi-Engine rating. This allows you to fly multi-engine aircraft. Earning your CPL with multi-engine rating takes approximately another 6 weeks. So, in a total of 8 months, you’ve gone from zero pilot experience to being a Commercial Pilot!
What if I want to go on to become an Airline Pilot?
This is the most common question we are asked!
After earning your CPL, you can build hours toward your Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) by becoming a flight instructor. To become an instructor, you will need to take the CFI course. In the United States, you will need to have logged 1,500 hours before you can be hired by a commercial airline. If becoming a commercial airline pilot is your goal, working as a CFI is a great way to build hours toward that goal. Other countries require fewer logged hours to become an airline pilot. Epic offers complete training from zero experience to ATPL for both U.S. students and international students.
- First, earn your CFI rating. This allows you to teach and build hours. This will take 2 months.
- Next, earn your CFII (Certified Flight Instructor – Instrument) rating. You can do this in 3 weeks.
- Earn your MEI (Multi-Engine Instructor) rating, which takes another 3 weeks.
- Finally, log the hours you need to be hired by an airline. This varies from country to country. Check out the civil aviation authority in your country to find out how many hours you need to log.
You know how long it takes, but how much does it cost?
The training is fast, but can you afford it? The average U.S. student completes all training in approximately one year at a cost of about $85,000 to $100,000. This is if you have no experience at all. Time impacts cost. You will start with your Private Pilot License and go on to complete a CPL. Then, it’s up to you how far you want to go with it.
How can I build time to get hired by the airlines?
Most pilots build hours by becoming a CFI or flying cargo. What a deal! You get paid to fly as you build hours! In the U.S., once you’ve logged 1,500 hours, you can decide if you want to work for a commercial airline flying passengers. In other countries, like Colombia for example, you only need to have logged as few as 250 hours. We encourage you to review hiring requirements.
Why does the total cost to become a pilot vary so much?
The total cost for training varies on many factors. For example, how well students do in their courses, availability of aircraft, weather, and more. On average, most students go from having no experience at all to earning a CPL with instructor ratings in 12 months. The cost also varies depending on a number of factors, mainly how long it takes you. On average, though, the cost is approximately $85,000 to $100,00 for U.S. students. This is a sound investment in your future considering the median pay for an airline pilot exceeded $225,000 in 2022.
What else should you know?
The more you know, the better prepared you are. How do you choose a program? What qualifications do you need to get started? Is flight training difficult? Do you need a college degree to fly for major airlines like Delta and American Airlines? Without good information, it’s hard to know where to begin. We’re happy to share our knowledge with you!
Basically, you need a year to train and about $85,000 to $100,000. These are general estimates that most students have no trouble meeting. After training, glide through the air to an assortment of flying jobs. Here at Epic in sunny Florida, we frequently offer employment to our graduates as flight instructors. They earn a paycheck while logging the 1,500 hours required by the FAA to go on to the airlines.
And, those of you with military flight experience have a head start. If you flew for the Army, Navy, Air Force or other branch, good for you! That free training will come in handy. You can apply that experience to your training and logbook!
Would you rather watch our 7-minute video on becoming a pilot?
Meet Some Epic-Trained Airline Pilots!
Epic-Trained Airline Pilots
Enrique García Bucio
First Officers, Interjet Airlines
Are you ready to turn your dream into a reality and pursue a career as a commercial pilot?
Excited? Eager? You probably have more questions now that you’ve learned how easy it is to become a commercial pilot. Whether you want to fly an Airbus or a Boeing aircraft, we can help make that happen. We would love to answer any questions you have and help you navigate your aviation career path. So, we invite you to contact us and let us know how we can help. We have trained thousands of pilots who now fly for the airlines. Why not you?