Most people wanting to make a career out of flying start with the same goal in mind – to be a First Officer for a commercial airline. With a projected shortage of 800,000+ pilots over the next 20 years, it is a great time to pursue that career. But that is not the only path open to you.
There are many other industries where a commercial pilot can put their skills to use. Here are ten pilot career alternatives to airlines.
Want to fly around islands and popular attractions? An air tour pilot, taxis tourists around destinations such as these. While it may not seem as glamorous as other areas of the aviation industry, typically you can enjoy a more relaxed environment and make your own uniform (we recommend cargo shorts and flip-flops).
- Cargo Pilot
UPS doesn’t only drive around the brown box trucks you see on the streets. They, among a variety of other companies, take to the skies when freight needs to be transported quickly or over long distances. Most cargo flying is done in the early mornings and late nights, and pilots can fly large and small aircraft depending on the loads.
- Ferry Flying
In this role a pilot’s purpose is to move aircraft from one location to another, usually over long distances. Typically ferrying is used to deliver new aircraft from a manufacturer to the buyer, transfer bases or airports, or move the aircraft to a repair facility. While this is a difficult segment of the industry to break into due to flight hour requirements and a needed proficiency on various aircraft, it can be an exciting experience that takes you to new places.
- Emergency Services Pilot
Patient transportation, emergency evacuations, organ delivery, firefighting – these are just some of the responsibilities tasked with emergency service pilots. This can be a high-stress area to work in as conditions could be dangerous and time constraints are often in place. Yet, pilots working in this field also find it a very rewarding way to put their skills to use.
- Charter Pilot
A charter pilot is still a passenger pilot, but on-demand. Passengers dictate the destination and timing of the flight, essentially renting a private plane for a length of time. One of the biggest differences between this and an airline pilot, in addition to the types of aircraft flown, is that you are not set to one routine route and could be flying anywhere at any time.
- Airshow Stunt Pilot
Spend your life rolling and flipping through the air. Also know as aerial acrobatics, this type of pilot performs for events, competitions, aerial races and some even go on to fly for television/movie needs.
- Corporate Pilot
As a corporate pilot your primary job is to transport executives and/or clients to business visits and meetings. Typically, you will fly smaller, high-end, corporate jets and will be heavily involved in the planning of the trips you fly.
- Test Pilot
There are many safety concerns before an aircraft can be put into mass production or go back into service following an overhaul or implementation of new technology. Test pilots are responsible for flying new planes off the assembly line, testing experimental equipment for the FAA and even giving input on new aircraft designs and standards.
- Space Pilot
While this one may seem like something out of a sci-fi novel, recent aviation and aerospace advances predict a growing need for space-trained pilots in the next several years. With SpaceX’s historical manned launch in June 2020, the first by a private company, commercialized commuter flights into outer space may not be fiction much longer.
- Flight Instructor
Flight instructors are responsible for being an expert in flight and being able to take that knowledge and teach students how to fly. As you gain experience teaching others, you can advance in your own credentials and ratings while getting paid. Pilots with instructor experience are sought after candidates in the aviation job market as well. Sterling offers flight instructor courses and many of our students stay on to teach with us as they prepare for their long-term career goals.