Commercial pilot

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Seeking a career in aviation? After accumulating 250 hours of flight time you can earn your Commercial Certificate and may be compensated for flying. The training for the Commercial Certificate is based on a stronger understanding of aircraft systems and achieving higher standards of airplane control.

A commercial pilot may be compensated for flying. Training for the certificate focuses on a better understanding of aircraft systems and a higher standard of airmanship. The commercial certificate itself does not allow a pilot to fly in instrument meteorological conditions. For aircraft categories where an instrument rating is available, commercial pilots without an instrument rating are restricted to daytime flight within 50 nautical miles (93 km) when flying for hire.

A commercial airplane pilot must be able to operate a complex airplane, as a specific number of hours of complex (or turbine-powered) aircraft time are among the prerequisites, and at least a portion of the practical examination is performed in a complex aircraft.


Requirements

The requirements are:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Hold a private pilot certificate
  • Be able to read, speak, write, and understand the English language
  • Accumulate and log a specified amount of training and experience; the following are part of the airplane single-engine land class rating requirements:
    • If training under Part 61, at least 250 hours of piloting time including 20 hours of training with an instructor and 10 hours of solo flight, and other requirements including several "cross-country" flights, i.e., more than 50 nautical miles (93 km) from the departure airport (which include Day VFR and Night VFR 100 nmi (190 km) between points, with a time of at least two hours; also one solo cross country of at least 250 nmi (460 km) one way, 300 nmi (560 km) total distance, with landings at three airports) and both solo and instructor-accompanied night flights
    • If training under Part 141, at least 190 hours of training time including 55 hours with an instructor and 10 hours of solo flight, and other requirements including several cross-country, solo, and night flights
  • Pass a 100-question aeronautical knowledge test
  • Pass an oral test and flight test administered by an FAA inspector, FAA-designated examiner, or authorized check instructor

By itself, this certificate does not permit the pilot to set up an operation that carries members of the public for hire; such operations are governed by other regulations. Otherwise, a commercial pilot can be paid for certain types of operation, such as banner towing, agricultural applications, and photography, and can be paid for instructing if the pilot holds a flight instructor certificate. To fly for hire, the pilot must hold a second class medical certificate, which is valid for 12 months.

Often, the commercial certificate reduces the pilot’s insurance premiums, as it is evidence of training to a higher safety standard.