Flying a private jet is an exhilarating and rewarding experience, but in order to do so requires a significant amount of training, certification and experience. From obtaining a private pilot license to building up your flight hours to becoming commercially certified, there’s a lot to learn and accomplish before you can take the controls of a luxurious private jet and soar through the skies with confidence. Of course, those that do stick with it and pursue a career as a private jet pilot are handsomely rewarded with growing salaries, great benefits and one of the most exhilarating careers out there. So, if you’re thinking about becoming a pilot in the private aviation sector, here is a deep dive into how much you’ll make versus how much you’ll spend on training – let’s take a look!
Flying For Private Aviation vs. Commercial Aviation
There are two main sectors that pilots generally fall into, private and commercial. Companies involved in the private aviation industry operate private jets, usually for high-end clientele and business organizations. Commercial companies, on the other hand, refer to regional and major airlines that provide transportation services to the general public. It could also include other commercial pilot jobs, such as mail or cargo delivery, medical transportation, firefighting, patrol duty and a number of others.
Private aviation companies typically fly smaller aircraft, such as business jets, single-engine planes and helicopters, usually operating within the charter business, or working for the aircraft’s owner. As a pilot within the private sector, you’ll have the opportunity to fly to unique and remote locations that commercial airlines may not serve. You also have the chance to build strong relationships with clients, providing a personalized and luxurious service that meets their specific needs. Private aviation pilots are often required to have strong communication and interpersonal skills, as they interact with clients, ground crews, flight staff and mechanics on a regular basis.
Commercial airlines, on the other hand, operate larger airliners, and offer scheduled flights to various destinations around the world. As an airline pilot, you will operate larger and more complex aircraft, such as airliners, and be responsible for the safe and efficient transportation of passengers or freight to major airports around the world. Airline pilots work in a highly structured and regulated environment, adhering to strict operating procedures and safety protocols.
Airline pilots are typically employed by airlines and may have the opportunity to work with a variety of aircraft types, from regional narrow-body planes to wide-body jumbo jets. They are responsible for managing the flight crew, including other pilots, flight attendants, and ground crews. Communication and teamwork skills are crucial for airline pilots, as they work closely with a range of aviation professionals both on the ground and in the air.
As a commercial pilot who doesn’t wish to pursue the airlines, there are a number of alternative flying jobs available. You could man cargo planes, teach others as a flight instructor, work as an agricultural or air ambulance pilot, or fly for the government in specialized aircraft.
What Is A Private Aviation Pilot’s Salary?
The private aviation industry has become an increasingly attractive option for pilots, as the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a surge in demand for private travel. Additionally, the continuing pilot shortage has led to increased competition between companies, resulting in higher salaries and better benefits for pilots. With the potential for higher pay and greater flexibility in terms of aircraft types and routes, a career as a private jet pilot can be an appealing alternative to commercial aviation.
Unlike commercial pilots who are paid according to established bargaining agreements, private pilots are required to negotiate their compensation directly with their employers. This means that private pilot salaries may vary significantly depending on their individual negotiations and contracts. On average, a jet pilot’s salary is over $131,000, according to jobs data. But, since each private aviation company has their own salary standards, this amount varies.
NetJets is one of the world’s largest and oldest private jet fractional ownership companies, founded in 1964. It was the first company to follow a fractional model, allowing customers to purchase a share of an aircraft and access it on a limited-needs basis. They operate a diverse fleet of over 900 aircraft, including light, midsize and large cabin jets, as well as turboprops and helicopters. The company’s fleet provides access to over 5,000 airports worldwide, including more than 400 private jet terminals.
The pay for rookie first officers ranges from $67,000 – $92,000 at Netjets, depending on schedule type. The advantages of working for this private aviation company includes day-one travel benefits, generous time off and flexible route opportunities.
Another charter company, Flexjets offers fractional ownership of private aircraft, as well as on-demand transportation services. Flexjet operates a fleet of over 150 aircraft, including the Bombardier Global Express, Embraer Legacy and Gulfstream G450. The company has a reputation for providing high-end service and amenities, including gourmet dining, luxury ground transportation, and personalized concierge services.
The average first-year Flexjet pilot can expect to make over $103,000 a year, along with a productivity bonus of $5,000 and over $8,000 in per diem pay. Other employee benefits include a six percent retirement plan match, tuition reimbursement and travel rewards points.
Although a Delta partner and newer player in the industry, Wheels Up has gone through some turbulence lately. However, they remain one of the leading private aviation companies offering membership-based programs and on-demand charter services. The company boasts a large fleet of over 300 aircraft, including models like the Beechcraft King Air, Cessna Citation Excel/XLS and Bombardier Challenger 350. The company prides itself on its advanced digital platform that enables members to book and manage their flights and avail of other exclusive benefits.
According to data from Indeed, pilots working for Wheels Up can expect to make approximately $123,000 for a first officer and $181,000 for a captain. The company prides itself on an industry leading base pay, 30-year scalable compensation package and other great benefits like health and wellness plans, zero-cost employee contributions, and equity ownership.
The Cost Of Becoming A Private Jet Pilot
If you’re ready to join the ranks of a private aviation charter, there’s no better time to do so. Salaries are at an all-time high and you get a wide array of unique perks, from better scheduling to generous stock options to unrestrained travel opportunities, that the commercial industry has yet to adopt.
But, first, you’ll need to undergo the proper training. To become a paid private jet pilot, you’ll need to obtain a commercial pilot license (CPL), at the very least. In many cases, you’ll also need special endorsements or ratings, or even a full airline transport pilot (ATP) license. The latter requires over a thousand hours of experience in the air. However, if starting from scratch, you’ll need to start with getting your private pilot license.
1) Private Pilot License (PPL)
Your training journey starts with obtaining a PPL by learning the fundamental principles of flying via a single-engine airplane. This requires attending ground school, passing written exams and completing checkrides. On average, it takes just a few months to complete PPL training and generally costs $12,000 to $18,000. However, this is just the first step, and aspiring pilots must go through more advanced training to earn additional ratings and certifications before applying for working for pay.
2) Instrument Rating
After you become a certified private pilot, you can move on to your instrument rating, which allows pilots to navigate and fly in low-visibility conditions using instruments rather than relying solely on visual references. This rating is crucial for safe flight and is often a requirement for employment with major airlines. On average, the cost ranges from $8,000 to $12,000, including both ground and flight training. You’ll master advanced navigation techniques, understand weather patterns, and learn how to operate an aircraft in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). With this rating, pilots can then progress to more advanced ratings and certifications, such as multi-engine and commercial licenses, which are usually required for employment.
3) Commercial Pilot License (CPL)
A CPL allows pilots to be paid for your flying services. This type of license involves more advanced training, including aerodynamics, commercial flight planning and comprehensive safety procedures, and requires a minimum of 250 hours of flight time. The cost of accumulating these necessary hours can vary widely, depending on factors such as the type of aircraft used and the location of the flight school, but you can expect to pay about $10,000 to $15,000 for this portion, on average.
4) Multi-Engine Rating
As a private jet pilot, you’ll next be required to obtain a multi-engine rating, which allows you to be the pilot in command (PIC) of an aircraft with more than one engine. This can expand the range of aircraft you are qualified to fly, opening up opportunities to operate larger and more sophisticated aircraft. The total for this portion may vary, as it depends on various factors like the type of aircraft used for training and the fees charged by the flight instructor, but you can generally expect to pay about $5,000 to $10,000.
5) Type Rating
A type rating is required by the FAA in order to operate specific types of aircraft. It is mandatory for pilots seeking to be a PIC of any aircraft that exceeds a maximum takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds and all turbojet-powered aircraft. To obtain a type rating, pilots must undergo an approved training program and pass a written exam and checkride. You’ll start by choosing a type of plane that relates to a relevant job opportunity and then undergo type rating training to better prepare for the certification exams.
6) Pilot Endorsements
To operate high-performance or high-altitude aircraft, pilots may need to receive additional specialized endorsements. While you won’t need to undergo specific written or practical examinations as you would in other certification processes, you’ll need to have a certified instructor give you a logbook endorsement after proving you’re proficient in the relevant area.
The first to consider is a high-performance endorsement, which is required for aircraft with engines over 200 horsepower and involves simulator or live flight training to demonstrate proficiency in operating such planes.
Pilots seeking to fly at altitudes exceeding 25,000 feet must obtain a high-altitude endorsement, which includes ground training on high-altitude aerodynamics, hypoxia symptoms and supplemental oxygen use, as well as flight time in a pressurized aircraft or simulator.
Another common endorsement is the complex endorsement, which requires training on operating complex aircraft with adjustable flaps, retractable landing gear and a controllable pitch propeller. Although the FAA does not specify a time requirement for endorsements, you can expect each endorsement to cost between $1,000 and $3,000, depending on experience.
7) Do Private Jet Pilots Need An ATP License?
Private jet pilots need at least a commercial pilot certificate and the type rating for the aircraft they will be flying, but certifications and requirements beyond this can vary among charter jet companies. If you’re aspiring to become a private jet pilot, many companies will require you to have an airline transport pilot (ATP) certificate. This entails accumulating at least 1,500 flight hours after obtaining a commercial certificate.
Obtaining an ATP certification can take several years as it requires building up a significant amount of flying experience. While the cost of training for the certification typically ranges from $5,000 to $8,000, the expense of accumulating enough time in the cockpit to qualify can be tens of thousands of dollars. However, pilots can make the process more manageable by earning money with their CPL and other certifications, ratings, and endorsements while building up flight hours. This could involve flying skydiving planes or cropdusters, instructing students, flying for law enforcement, or other fun jobs that make use of their CPL, multi-engine rating, and CFI certificate.
Get Paid To Fly Private Jets With The Help Of Inflight Pilot Training
As the best pilot training organization in the Twin Cities, we’ll help you advance into a career you’ve always dreamed of. Whether that’s chartering VIPs in high-altitude jets, transporting big-name business executives to their meetings or occupying a host of other roles, from cargo transport to emergency services to aerial surveying and so much more, our instructors can get you there.
With the best training rates in the Twin Cities, as well as scholarship, grant and financial assistance, anyone who wants to learn how to fly can do so – if you’re interested in finding out more about Inflight training programs, contact us today or call (952) 698-3000.