Saturday, 20th April 2019


Airline pilots fly passengers and cargo on short or long-haul distances around the world for leisure, business or commercial purposes. Pilots have an exciting but challenging job, being responsible for the safety and welfare of an aircraft, including its passengers and crew, for the entirety of the flight.

The job of the pilot can be hard-work. They must be comfortable with taking control of an aircraft and be able to take lead in any emergency situations. A commercial plane will usually be operated by two pilots, in order to spread out the responsibility: a captain and a supporting first officer. Long-haul flights can have as many as four pilots operating the plane, so that the pilots can take breaks for sleeping and eating.

There are currently over 10,000 pilots working in the UK for a chartered, schedules or freight airline (

The job of the pilot is not confined to the flight alone. Airline pilots must also plan the flight path beforehand and oversee the necessary checks on the aircraft. Specific tasks are likely to include the following:

  • Checking routes and creating flight plans before boarding
  • Checking and testing the flight equipment and navigation systems
  • Briefing the crew and keeping in contact with them during the flight
  • Communicating with air traffic control during take-off, the majority of the flight and landing
  • Keeping passengers up to date with flight progress and weather conditions
  • Monitoring data and ensuring all information on the route, weather, and passengers is received
  • Ensuring the fuel levels balance safety with economy
  • Supervising the loading and fuelling of the aircraft
  • Reacting quickly and appropriately to weather changes and emergencies
  • Updating the aircraft logbook and writing a report at the end of the flight

Pilots are highly trained before being able to fly a commercial plane. It is a role that requires good concentration and problem-solving. Whilst it can be challenging, it is also quite exciting, with potential for travel across the world and good salaries.

Airline pilots will usually work for a specific airline, be it a passenger airline or for cargo. Trained pilots may also find work opportunities in other areas of aviation, including flight training, flight testing or crop-spraying.

Being a pilot is often perceived as a glamorous career. They get many benefits as well as a substantial salary, including travel around the world. However, they are expected to spend a lot of time away from home and working long hours. Pilots are restricted to 900 flying hours per year, with the workload spread out through the year.

To find out about becoming an RAF Pilot, please click here.