Real pilot pay?

Hey Everyone,

I read a few posts here and other posts from different sites, and I have been seeing many different things relating to pilot pay. It seems that the high pay they say pilots get is usually once they hit the 10yr mark. Does it really take 10 years before you make 150k+?


That’s really hard to answer as there are many variables and everyone’s path is different. What’s pretty set is the first few years.

You need to get trained and build your time. If you train at an accelerated program like ATPs that means 7mos for training and another 1.5yrs to build your time. After that you’re at a Regional. Now all the Regionals are offering all kinds of signing bonuses which will offset the cost of your training but salary wise you’ll be in the low 40s. If things are going as they have you’ll upgrade in 2yrs which will get you up to $80k. So at this point you’re 4.5-5yrs in. Now some pilots (particularly those with degrees, references and good fortune) will get hired by a Major before they even upgrade to Capt at a Regional. If that’s the case you could be looking at $150k by the 2nd year at a Major so only 6yrs. ATP also has some direct paths to the LCCs (Spirit and Frontier) which will get you to that number even faster.

Those are really best case scenarios and it could of course take longer. Much longer. There are pilots who never get the call to a Major and never see those numbers. There are also pilots making $500k a year. Just like every other industry there can and is a huge range.

Bottomline is becoming a pilot just for the money is often not a good idea. If you love flying and travel it is.



Hey Adam,

Thanks so much for the reply. You definitely cleared up some things for me. I love flying but with the cost of training and living I was worried if I would be paying all of that back forever with the low wages I was seeing.


As Adam explains, it really depends on a lot of different factors. Check out this website posted below. It details the current pay rates at dozens of airlines broken up by years of service, aircraft and position.


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