Job Description For Pilots (And How To Become One)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 16 March 2023

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Pilots are professionals who fly aircraft and helicopters for defence forces or for commercial airline companies. Commercial pilots not only fly the aircraft, but also ensure the safety and security of passengers and perform activities related to navigation and communication. If you are interested in this job role, you may benefit from understanding what the job entails. In this article, we look at the job description for pilots, the qualifications they require to operate in the field of aviation, their career prospects, salary information and how to become one.

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Job Description For Pilots

A basic job description for pilots is that they are professionals who transport passengers and goods from one destination to another in an aircraft. Defence forces, private airline companies, businesses and rescue services are the primary employers for qualified pilots. Pilots can also work for wealthy individuals who own private jets, air-cargo companies and adventure sports enterprises. They not only fly aircraft, but also perform navigation and monitor vital indicators to ensure the safety of passengers, crew and cargo. Some other duties of pilots include:

  • Filing mandatory paperwork and checking pre-flight documentation like the aircraft logbook, maintenance releases, flight plans, company memos and weather alerts

  • Performing routine inspections of aircraft and avionics equipment before take off, to check for irregularities

  • Communicating with air traffic control operators about flight plans, air traffic guidelines and weather updates

  • Monitoring engine performance, fuel capacity and navigation systems on the aircraft during flights

  • Verifying if the weather is conducive for takeoff and landing

  • Coordinating with airline personnel and communicating with passengers during take-off and landing and when there are changes in the flight plan

Related: How To Write An Aviation Resume (With Template And Example)

Types Of Pilots

You can classify pilots as military pilots and civil aviation pilots. Military pilots fly military aircraft like bombers, helicopters, fighter jets and transport planes. A military pilot goes through many exams, interviews and training modules before they become eligible for going on operations. A civil aviation pilot gets their licence from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The DGCA issues licences for private and commercial airline pilots. Commercial airline pilots can take part in rescue, evacuation and traffic monitoring duties, provided they have the right qualifications. They can also fly cargo aircraft and ambulance flights.

Related: How To Get a Job in the Air Force: A Complete Guide

How To Become A Commercial Airline Pilot?

There is a growing demand for commercial airline pilots in both national and international aviation sectors. Commercial airline companies require the service of qualified pilots for providing safe, reliable and uninterrupted airline services. Follow these steps to become a commercial airline pilot:

1. Gain knowledge about different types of pilot licenses

DGCA and a few authorised private flying institutes issue pilot licences to eligible candidates. Eligibility criteria for licences can include a minimum requirement for age and flying experience. Flying experience correlates the cumulative flight hours you log as a pilot. If you satisfy the eligibility criteria, you can apply for the following licences:

Student Pilot License (SPL)

The Student Pilot License is a prerequisite for pilot training. To get an SPL, the minimum age requirement is 16 years and the minimum educational qualification required is 10th board or Senior Secondary Certification (SSC). Since this is typically the first step in a candidate's aviation career, the DGCA does not stipulate any flying experience as eligibility criteria. After clearing an oral exam and aptitude test, you can apply for an SPL through a flying school recognised by the DGCA.

Private Pilot License (PPL)

If you get a Private Pilot License, you can fly passenger and cargo aircraft, but not as part of a commercial airline service. With a PPL, you are not eligible to monetise your services and generate revenue. The minimum age requirement to get a PPL is 17 years. Any student with a valid SPL and a minimum of 20 solo flight hours in their log can apply for a PPL. The Air Force Central Medical Establishment (AFCME) and the Institution of Aviation Medicine (IAM) conduct the Class Two medical examination for this license.

Commercial Pilot License (CPL)

A Commercial Pilot License is mandatory for flying a commercial aircraft and becoming a professional airline pilot. Pilots with a PPL and at least three years of flying experience can get a commercial pilot licence. Candidates who are above 18 and have more than 250 logged flight hours can also apply for a CPL.

Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL)

If you are interested in flying with a government or a private airline company transporting passengers or cargo, an ATPL licence is mandatory in addition to a CPL. The minimum age requirement for applying for this license is 21 years. ATPL is the highest ranking license for commercial pilots in the country. Clearing the Class One medical exam is a mandatory requirement for earning an ATPL.

2. Complete 10+2 with a focus on science subjects and mathematics

The basic requirement for a commercial airline pilot is a 10+2 board examination certificate with science and mathematics as focus subjects. The DGCA accepts certificates from recognised central and state higher secondary education boards. If you have completed 10+2 with subjects other than science or mathematics, you can enrol in an open school and clear the board exams for these two subjects at the 10+2 level.

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3. Join a flying course

After completing 10+2 with mathematics and science as focus subjects, join a flying course. Before enrolling in a course, ensure that a governing authority like the DGCA accredits and authorises the school. Flying institutes may conduct entrance exams and aptitude tests for admission. After joining a course, you get the opportunity to learn from flight instructors. Classes may cover topics like flight operation, aircraft maintenance, aerodrome operations, precautionary protocols and aircraft traffic control mechanisms. During the course, pilot trainees initially get to fly under the supervision of instructors and start flying solo after gaining some flight experience.

Related: Vocational Training: Definition, Types And Examples

4. Clear the CPL exam

A commercial airline pilot course may last anywhere between 18 and 36 months. After completing the course and clearing a written examination conducted by the DGCA, you can apply for a CPL. The written exam evaluates your knowledge of aspects like navigation, air traffic regulation, aviation meteorology, radio operation, signals, aircraft mechanics and engines.

Related: What Is an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer?(How To Become One)

5. Accumulate the minimum required number of flight hours

The DGCA stipulates that pilots complete a minimum number of flight hours to earn their commercial airline license. It can take a year or two to log the required number of hours for a CPL and an ATPL. While CPL specifies 250 flight hours, ATPL requires 1500 flight hours in an applicant's log.

6. Get a Class One medical certificate

To become a commercial airline pilot, you can obtain a Class One medical certificate. The Air Force Medical Boarding centres conduct examinations to provide this certificate. To register for a medical certificate, you can log on to the DGCA website and visit the allotted test centre on an appointment date of your choice. This is an annual medical test that is mandatory for commercial airline pilots. If a pilot fails to pass this test, the DGCA can cancel their ATPL license.

7. Get the ATPL license

The ATPL license includes multiple permits necessary for a commercial airline pilot to operate. Pilots above 21 years, with a CPL and at least 1500 hours of flying experience can get an ATPL. Within the required 1500 hours, the DGCA specifies 500 hours of flying experience on a multi-crew passenger aeroplane, along with a captain and a flight officer. Once you log a total of 1500 hours, the DGCA unfreezes your ATPL license and you become eligible to work with commercial airline companies as a pilot. They can then start looking at job opportunities in domestic and international airline companies.

Related: How To Become A Pilot In India: A Step-By-Step Guide

Related Careers In Aviation

There are a variety of job opportunities available to qualified commercial pilots. If you are interested in teaching, you can pursue a Certified Flight Instructor certification and join flying schools to teach aspiring candidates. Commercial pilots can work up to the age of 60. If you are interested in becoming a commercial pilot, you may also consider pursuing these related careers:

  • Flight instructor

  • Cargo pilot

  • Aerosports pilots

  • Air ambulance pilot

  • Chartered aircraft pilot

  • Emergency and rescue pilot

Related: 9 Types of Aviation Jobs (With Salaries and Job Duties)

How Much Do Pilots Make?

Pilots require specialised skills and work experience, and hence, have good earning potential. They may also receive additional perks and benefits, and get the opportunity to travel to many interesting destinations. The average base salary of a pilot is ₹17,48,571 per annum.

Related: How Much Do Commercial Pilots Make? (Tips to Maximise Salary)

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are associated with Indeed.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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