Becoming a commercial test pilot

Hey mentors, I was just wondering if you guys could give me some insight on commercial aircraft test pilots. I haven’t seen that topic brought up on this forum at all but it crossed my mind today. What does it take to go that route and what kinda pay can one expect doing that sort of flying?

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Being a test pilot is a highly specialized position and there aren’t many of them. I am really not familiar with the pay or how one would even go about entering that field.



I actually looked into that years ago. As Chris said it’s a very specialized position and the vast majority of test pilots are former military. There’s actually “Test Pilot School” you can attend but it’s very expensive difficult to get into. Add to that the manufactures want someone with experience and that again means the military. Not saying you can’t but definitely not easy. Also almost impossible to get life insurance if you have a family.


Thanks guys. Was just curious about it, I mean someone’s gotta test our metal. Kudos to those that do.

One of my professors did it for NASA and Boeing in the 80s. He said back then you had to have an engineering background to start, then build a solid flight resume, then as Adam said pay the ridiculous price for test pilot school, then suffer through worrying about not having insurance available until you wise up and go back to airlines. Things have probably changed since back then but I had asked him the same question a few months back and that was the reply I got.

Thanks Kamrin, that sounds like a stressful ordeal. I think I’ll just focus on making it through the career pilot program at ATP for the time being lol

I actual work in the building right next to the Air Force Test Pilot School (TPS) at Edwards AFB, California. I’m not a test pilot but correct that the school is very difficult to get into. They want engineers or some technical education with a masters degree, you have to be a military instructor, at least for the pilots, and have very good records and recommendations from commanders. It normally takes about 8-10 years in the military to become eligible.

I believe there is a civilian test pilot school nearby in Mojave, California, but I’ve not looked into it and don’t have a lot of details other than it is a lot of former military test pilots that run it as I understand.

On a side note, I get to see different military aircraft flying almost everyday including the F-22 and F-35. We also have Boeing and other commercial test aircraft come by from time to time. The middle of the desert is a great place to test. I hear sonic booms almost everyday. I won’t miss living in the desert, but I will miss all the cool stuff here.


I work out here at Edwards too, what a small world! Watching you guys take off and perform your maneuvers never gets old, and yes you weren’t kidding about those sonic booms. When I first got here back in Jan, the first one I heard and felt scared the heck outta me lol. I pass by the test pilot school here on base often and just got curious about civilian aircraft testing. Makes sense that military pilots also do the civilian aircraft testing. I see first hand what you guys do in these machines, much less ones that don’t require defensive maneuvers or supersonic cruise. Thanks for taking the time to respond Colonel Hollman, much appreciated. Pull some g’s for me out here sir! I’ll be up there soon :wink: