Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers
53-2011.00

Pilot and navigate the flight of fixed-wing aircraft, usually on scheduled air carrier routes, for the transport of passengers and cargo. Requires Federal Air Transport certificate and rating for specific aircraft type used. Includes regional, national, and international airline pilots and flight instructors of airline pilots.

Sample of reported job titles: Airbus Captain, Airline Captain, Airline Pilot, Captain, Check Airman, Co-Pilot, Commercial Airline Pilot, First Officer, Line Pilot, Pilot

Occupation-Specific Information

Tasks

  • Use instrumentation to guide flights when visibility is poor.
  • Start engines, operate controls, and pilot airplanes to transport passengers, mail, or freight, adhering to flight plans, regulations, and procedures.
  • Work as part of a flight team with other crew members, especially during takeoffs and landings.
  • Respond to and report in-flight emergencies and malfunctions.
  • Inspect aircraft for defects and malfunctions, according to pre-flight checklists.
  • Contact control towers for takeoff clearances, arrival instructions, and other information, using radio equipment.
  • Monitor engine operation, fuel consumption, and functioning of aircraft systems during flights.
  • Monitor gauges, warning devices, and control panels to verify aircraft performance and to regulate engine speed.
  • Steer aircraft along planned routes, using autopilot and flight management computers.
  • Check passenger and cargo distributions and fuel amounts to ensure that weight and balance specifications are met.
  • Confer with flight dispatchers and weather forecasters to keep abreast of flight conditions.
  • Order changes in fuel supplies, loads, routes, or schedules to ensure safety of flights.
  • Brief crews about flight details, such as destinations, duties, and responsibilities.
  • Choose routes, altitudes, and speeds that will provide the fastest, safest, and smoothest flights.
  • Direct activities of aircraft crews during flights.
  • Record in log books information, such as flight times, distances flown, and fuel consumption.
  • Instruct other pilots and student pilots in aircraft operations and the principles of flight.
  • Make announcements regarding flights, using public address systems.
  • Coordinate flight activities with ground crews and air traffic control and inform crew members of flight and test procedures.
  • Conduct in-flight tests and evaluations at specified altitudes and in all types of weather to determine the receptivity and other characteristics of equipment and systems.
  • File instrument flight plans with air traffic control to ensure that flights are coordinated with other air traffic.
  • Perform minor maintenance work, or arrange for major maintenance.
  • Evaluate other pilots or pilot-license applicants for proficiency.
  • Load smaller aircraft, handling passenger luggage and supervising refueling.
  • Plan and formulate flight activities and test schedules and prepare flight evaluation reports.
  • Test and evaluate the performance of new aircraft.

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Technology Skills

Hot technology
Hot Technologies are requirements most frequently included across all employer job postings.
In demand
In Demand skills are frequently included in employer job postings for this occupation.

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Occupational Requirements

Work Activities

  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events — Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Materials — Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems — Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
  • Monitoring Processes, Materials, or Surroundings — Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards — Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.
  • Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
  • Operating Vehicles, Mechanized Devices, or Equipment — Running, maneuvering, navigating, or driving vehicles or mechanized equipment, such as forklifts, passenger vehicles, aircraft, or watercraft.
  • Processing Information — Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge — Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
  • Controlling Machines and Processes — Using either control mechanisms or direct physical activity to operate machines or processes (not including computers or vehicles).
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates — Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
  • Analyzing Data or Information — Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
  • Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others — Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.
  • Working with Computers — Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
  • Documenting/Recording Information — Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
  • Estimating the Quantifiable Characteristics of Products, Events, or Information — Estimating sizes, distances, and quantities; or determining time, costs, resources, or materials needed to perform a work activity.
  • Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work — Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
  • Judging the Qualities of Objects, Services, or People — Assessing the value, importance, or quality of things or people.
  • Coaching and Developing Others — Identifying the developmental needs of others and coaching, mentoring, or otherwise helping others to improve their knowledge or skills.
  • Resolving Conflicts and Negotiating with Others — Handling complaints, settling disputes, and resolving grievances and conflicts, or otherwise negotiating with others.
  • Developing and Building Teams — Encouraging and building mutual trust, respect, and cooperation among team members.

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Detailed Work Activities

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Work Context

  • Importance of Being Exact or Accurate — 84% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Spend Time Sitting — 74% responded “Continually or almost continually.”
  • Face-to-Face Discussions — 78% responded “Every day.”
  • Spend Time Using Your Hands to Handle, Control, or Feel Objects, Tools, or Controls — 63% responded “Continually or almost continually.”
  • In an Enclosed Vehicle or Equipment — 74% responded “Every day.”
  • Time Pressure — 72% responded “Every day.”
  • Work With Work Group or Team — 65% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Contact With Others — 75% responded “Constant contact with others.”
  • Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results — 67% responded “Very important results.”
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety — 63% responded “Very high responsibility.”
  • Sounds, Noise Levels Are Distracting or Uncomfortable — 54% responded “Every day.”
  • Consequence of Error — 77% responded “Extremely serious.”
  • Freedom to Make Decisions — 58% responded “A lot of freedom.”
  • Frequency of Decision Making — 65% responded “Every day.”
  • Electronic Mail — 46% responded “Every day.”
  • Level of Competition — 42% responded “Extremely competitive.”
  • Physical Proximity — 83% responded “Moderately close (at arm's length).”
  • Importance of Repeating Same Tasks — 39% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Responsibility for Outcomes and Results — 38% responded “Very high responsibility.”
  • Indoors, Environmentally Controlled — 53% responded “Every day.”
  • Public Speaking — 57% responded “Every day.”
  • Coordinate or Lead Others — 36% responded “Important.”
  • Exposed to High Places — 45% responded “Every day.”
  • Extremely Bright or Inadequate Lighting — 35% responded “Every day.”
  • Structured versus Unstructured Work — 29% responded “A lot of freedom.”
  • Degree of Automation — 67% responded “Highly automated.”
  • Very Hot or Cold Temperatures — 43% responded “Once a month or more but not every week.”
  • Wear Common Protective or Safety Equipment such as Safety Shoes, Glasses, Gloves, Hearing Protection, Hard Hats, or Life Jackets — 54% responded “Every day.”
  • Exposed to Contaminants — 35% responded “Every day.”
  • Exposed to Radiation — 39% responded “Every day.”
  • Frequency of Conflict Situations — 30% responded “Once a year or more but not every month.”
  • Outdoors, Exposed to Weather — 40% responded “Every day.”
  • Telephone — 50% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
  • Pace Determined by Speed of Equipment — 42% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Deal With External Customers — 30% responded “Very important.”
  • Deal With Unpleasant or Angry People — 47% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
  • Spend Time Making Repetitive Motions — 28% responded “More than half the time.”

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Experience Requirements

Job Zone

Title
Job Zone Four: Considerable Preparation Needed
Education
Most of these occupations require a four-year bachelor's degree, but some do not.
Related Experience
A considerable amount of work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is needed for these occupations. For example, an accountant must complete four years of college and work for several years in accounting to be considered qualified.
Job Training
Employees in these occupations usually need several years of work-related experience, on-the-job training, and/or vocational training.
Job Zone Examples
Many of these occupations involve coordinating, supervising, managing, or training others. Examples include real estate brokers, sales managers, database administrators, graphic designers, conservation scientists, art directors, and cost estimators.
SVP Range
2-4 years of preparation (7.0 to < 8.0)

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Training & Credentials

State training
Local training
Certifications
State licenses
Apprenticeships
Have a career path or location in mind? Visit Apprenticeship.gov external site to find apprenticeship opportunities near you.

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Worker Requirements

Skills

  • Operation and Control — Controlling operations of equipment or systems.
  • Operations Monitoring — Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
  • Active Listening — Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Critical Thinking — Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
  • Monitoring — Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
  • Judgment and Decision Making — Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
  • Reading Comprehension — Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
  • Time Management — Managing one's own time and the time of others.
  • Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Complex Problem Solving — Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
  • Coordination — Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
  • Social Perceptiveness — Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
  • Systems Analysis — Determining how a system should work and how changes in conditions, operations, and the environment will affect outcomes.
  • Systems Evaluation — Identifying measures or indicators of system performance and the actions needed to improve or correct performance, relative to the goals of the system.
  • Mathematics — Using mathematics to solve problems.
  • Quality Control Analysis — Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.
  • Troubleshooting — Determining causes of operating errors and deciding what to do about it.
  • Writing — Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
  • Instructing — Teaching others how to do something.
  • Learning Strategies — Selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.

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Knowledge

  • Transportation — Knowledge of principles and methods for moving people or goods by air, rail, sea, or road, including the relative costs and benefits.
  • English Language — Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Geography — Knowledge of principles and methods for describing the features of land, sea, and air masses, including their physical characteristics, locations, interrelationships, and distribution of plant, animal, and human life.
  • Mechanical — Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.
  • Public Safety and Security — Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
  • Mathematics — Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
  • Computers and Electronics — Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
  • Physics — Knowledge and prediction of physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic and sub-atomic structures and processes.
  • Law and Government — Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the democratic political process.
  • Administration and Management — Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
  • Customer and Personal Service — Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.

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Education

How much education does a new hire need to perform a job in this occupation? Respondents said:

  • 61%
     
    responded: Bachelor’s degree required
  • 18%
     
    responded: High school diploma or equivalent requiredmore info
  • 8%
     
    responded: Less than high school diploma required

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Worker Characteristics

Abilities

  • Response Orientation — The ability to choose quickly between two or more movements in response to two or more different signals (lights, sounds, pictures). It includes the speed with which the correct response is started with the hand, foot, or other body part.
  • Problem Sensitivity — The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
  • Control Precision — The ability to quickly and repeatedly adjust the controls of a machine or a vehicle to exact positions.
  • Far Vision — The ability to see details at a distance.
  • Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
  • Reaction Time — The ability to quickly respond (with the hand, finger, or foot) to a signal (sound, light, picture) when it appears.
  • Deductive Reasoning — The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
  • Depth Perception — The ability to judge which of several objects is closer or farther away from you, or to judge the distance between you and an object.
  • Perceptual Speed — The ability to quickly and accurately compare similarities and differences among sets of letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns. The things to be compared may be presented at the same time or one after the other. This ability also includes comparing a presented object with a remembered object.
  • Rate Control — The ability to time your movements or the movement of a piece of equipment in anticipation of changes in the speed and/or direction of a moving object or scene.
  • Arm-Hand Steadiness — The ability to keep your hand and arm steady while moving your arm or while holding your arm and hand in one position.
  • Flexibility of Closure — The ability to identify or detect a known pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in other distracting material.
  • Inductive Reasoning — The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
  • Information Ordering — The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
  • Multilimb Coordination — The ability to coordinate two or more limbs (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while sitting, standing, or lying down. It does not involve performing the activities while the whole body is in motion.
  • Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Oral Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Selective Attention — The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
  • Spatial Orientation — The ability to know your location in relation to the environment or to know where other objects are in relation to you.
  • Time Sharing — The ability to shift back and forth between two or more activities or sources of information (such as speech, sounds, touch, or other sources).
  • Written Comprehension — The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
  • Peripheral Vision — The ability to see objects or movement of objects to one's side when the eyes are looking ahead.
  • Hearing Sensitivity — The ability to detect or tell the differences between sounds that vary in pitch and loudness.
  • Speech Clarity — The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
  • Speech Recognition — The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
  • Glare Sensitivity — The ability to see objects in the presence of a glare or bright lighting.
  • Visual Color Discrimination — The ability to match or detect differences between colors, including shades of color and brightness.
  • Manual Dexterity — The ability to quickly move your hand, your hand together with your arm, or your two hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble objects.
  • Night Vision — The ability to see under low-light conditions.
  • Speed of Closure — The ability to quickly make sense of, combine, and organize information into meaningful patterns.
  • Visualization — The ability to imagine how something will look after it is moved around or when its parts are moved or rearranged.
  • Auditory Attention — The ability to focus on a single source of sound in the presence of other distracting sounds.
  • Number Facility — The ability to add, subtract, multiply, or divide quickly and correctly.
  • Finger Dexterity — The ability to make precisely coordinated movements of the fingers of one or both hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble very small objects.
  • Mathematical Reasoning — The ability to choose the right mathematical methods or formulas to solve a problem.
  • Memorization — The ability to remember information such as words, numbers, pictures, and procedures.
  • Written Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
  • Category Flexibility — The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.
  • Fluency of Ideas — The ability to come up with a number of ideas about a topic (the number of ideas is important, not their quality, correctness, or creativity).

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Interests

Interest code: RCI
Want to discover your interests? Take the O*NET Interest Profiler at My Next Move.
  • Realistic — Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.
  • Conventional — Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.
  • Investigative — Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

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Work Values

  • Independence — Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.
  • Support — Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees. Corresponding needs are Company Policies, Supervision: Human Relations and Supervision: Technical.
  • Working Conditions — Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions. Corresponding needs are Activity, Compensation, Independence, Security, Variety and Working Conditions.

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Work Styles

  • Attention to Detail — Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
  • Dependability — Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
  • Self-Control — Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
  • Cooperation — Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
  • Stress Tolerance — Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
  • Integrity — Job requires being honest and ethical.
  • Adaptability/Flexibility — Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
  • Analytical Thinking — Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
  • Leadership — Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.
  • Initiative — Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
  • Persistence — Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
  • Social Orientation — Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job.
  • Achievement/Effort — Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
  • Concern for Others — Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.

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Workforce Characteristics

Wages & Employment Trends

Median wages (2021)
$202,180 annual
State wages
Local wages
Employment (2021)
87,600 employees
Projected growth (2021-2031)
Average (4% to 7%)
Projected job openings (2021-2031)
11,800
State trends
Top industries (2021)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021 wage data external site and 2021-2031 employment projections external site. “Projected growth” represents the estimated change in total employment over the projections period (2021-2031). “Projected job openings” represent openings due to growth and replacement.

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Job Openings on the Web

State job openings
Local job openings

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More Information

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Sources of Additional Information

Disclaimer: Sources are listed to provide additional information on related jobs, specialties, and/or industries. Links to non-DOL Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.

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