The salary of pilots in the United States can vary widely depending on several factors such as their level of experience, the type of aircraft they fly, the airline or employer they work for, and their seniority within the organization. Additionally, pilots can earn additional income through various allowances, bonuses, and benefits.
If you are thinking about chasing an aviation career, we’ve put together some numbers to help you gauge the early potential of pilots in the US. However, it’s important to note that these figures are approximate and can change over time. It’s always recommended to refer to current industry reports, job postings, and professional pilot associations for the most up-to-date information on pilot salaries.
- Commercial Airline Pilots
Airline pilots typically have the highest earning potential. Starting salaries for first officers (co-pilots) at regional airlines can range from $40,000 to $70,000 per year, depending on the size of the airline and the aircraft type. As pilots gain experience and advance to captain positions, their salaries can increase significantly. Captains at major airlines can earn anywhere from $100,000 to over $300,000 per year, depending on the airline and their seniority.
- Corporate Pilots
Pilots employed by corporations or private companies can earn a wide range of salaries based on the size and financial capabilities of the employer. Salaries for corporate pilots can vary from around $50,000 to well over $150,000 per year, depending on factors such as the size of the aircraft, the company’s location, and the pilot’s level of experience.
- Cargo Pilots
Pilots who fly for cargo airlines, such as FedEx or UPS, generally earn salaries that are comparable to or slightly lower than those of commercial airline pilots. Salaries for cargo pilots can range from around $60,000 to over $200,000 per year, depending on the airline, aircraft type, and pilot experience.
- Regional Airline Pilots
Regional airline pilots typically have lower earning potential compared to pilots at major airlines. Starting salaries for first officers at regional airlines can range from around $20,000 to $40,000 per year. As pilots gain experience and move up to captain positions, their salaries increase, but they still tend to be lower than those at major airlines.
Major Factors Affecting Earning Potential of Pilots
- Experience and seniority
Pilot salaries tend to increase with experience and seniority. As pilots gain more flight hours and progress through their careers, they may qualify for higher-paying positions such as captain or instructor roles.
- Type of aircraft and operation
The type of aircraft a pilot flies and the nature of their operation can impact their salary. Pilots flying larger aircraft, such as wide-body jets or cargo planes, may earn higher salaries compared to those flying smaller regional jets or turboprops.
- Airline or employer
Different airlines and employers offer varying salary structures and compensation packages. Major airlines typically offer higher salaries compared to regional or low-cost carriers. Additionally, factors like the airline’s financial health, reputation, and location can influence salary levels.
- Union representation
Pilot unions negotiate collective bargaining agreements with airlines, which can include provisions for salary scales and pay increases. Unionized pilots often have better bargaining power and may secure higher salaries and improved benefits.
- Geographic location
The geographic location of a pilot’s base or employer can affect their salary. Pilots based in metropolitan areas with a higher cost of living, such as New York City or Los Angeles, may receive higher salaries compared to those based in smaller cities or rural areas.
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Now that you have a better understanding of how much pilots can earn in their field and if this information has encouraged you to chase an aviation career, Airlink Flight School can help. We provide FAA Part 141 and Part 61 pilot programs at our school. Get in touch with us today to learn more about these programs!