‘Flying for a living’ can mean different things to different people, from a commercial airline pilot to high altitude operations and mountain rescue. Whether you’re looking for non-stop adrenaline or the opportunity for world travel, earning a pilot’s license and pursing one of dozens of aviation career paths can be very rewarding.
So you want to be a pilot. You’ve enrolled in flight school and your pilot training is underway. But where do you plan to take your aviation career? The possibilities are endless.
Being a pilot, to many, means flying a commercial airliner. Commercial airline pilots work for large domestic and international carriers like American Airlines, British Airways and Southwest Airlines. Regional airline pilots work for airlines based in a single region like Island Air in Hawaii or Horizon Air in the Pacific Northwest. Some pilots gain experience and flight hours working for smaller regional airlines before working for a large airliner.
A private pilot is a general term that stands in contrast to a commercial pilot flying for a commercial operation. A private pilot may fly only for their own pleasure and travel needs, transporting family and friends to various destinations. A private pilot’s license does not permit the pilot to fly for pay. There are fewer flight hours required for a private pilot’s license than for a commercial pilot’s license.
Corporate pilots, also called business pilots, fly smaller, privately owned planes for individuals and corporations. They transport executives to business meeting and site visits across country. Sometimes the corporation owns these corporate planes and the pilot is an employee of the company. Alternatively, a private jet charter may contract with the company and the pilot may work directly for the charter company.
Law enforcement, rescue and life saving are a unique category of aviation careers where adrenaline and a sense of danger can rule the work day. Typically, these jobs employ helicopter pilots due to their maneuverability.
Search and rescue pilots must complete mountain training and perform at high altitude in mountainous regions and in inclement weather – think hiker lost during their peak attempt and backcountry skier.
Air ambulance pilot is another aviation career where lives are on the line. These pilots transport critical patients and accident victims to emergency rooms much more quickly than traditional ambulances. They also transport emergency medical personnel who tend to the patient while the pilot tends to the aircraft.
There are two classifications of police aviation officers – fixed wing airplane pilots and helicopter pilots. In urban areas, helicopter police assist with traffic control, fugitive pursuits and riot control. These units also provide additional security at major events and assist in the deployment of special units like SWAT and counterterrorism.
On the other end of the spectrum, scenic tour pilots take vacationers on aerial tours of scenic spots. From the Grand Canyon and Hawaiian volcanoes to the Las Vegas strip and Manhattan, scenic tour pilots take their passengers to places that are not easily accessed on foot or by car or that simply offer supreme views from the sky.
Other aviation careers include aerial photography, aerial advertising (banner towing), geological survey, fish and game census, agricultural spraying. In other words, no matter you are looking for, chances are, you can find it in an aviation career.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Justin Plentier writes about aviation trends and careers. His interest in helicopter training was peaked about five years ago during a scenic helicopter tour of Oahu during a family vacation. He spends a few weeks each year touring and reviewing fixed wing and helicopter pilot programs throughout the United States.