How much does a pilot earn? UK salary explained | The Sun

FOR many aspiring pilots having an office in the clouds and being able to travel the world are just some of the perks of the job.

But how do you become a pilot and how much do they earn in the UK? Here's everything you need to know.

How much do pilots earn in the UK?

A pilot’s salary varies depending on experience, the hours flown and the airline responsible for their employment.

According to Prospects, starting salaries for newly qualified second and first officers, working for a smaller operation may be around £24,000.

However, if employed at a larger company, starting salaries can increase to £28,000.

Once a pilot has built up the necessary experience, salaries as a second officer tend to peak at around £58,000.

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Meanwhile, first officer salaries can reach £75,000.

A senior first officer role can come with a starting salary of up to £85,000 and the starting salary for a captain with a medium-sized airline can range from £54,000 to £75,000.

Pilots employed by major operators can take home £97,000 to more than £140,000.

What is the average salary of a commercial pilot?

Although it depends on factors such as experience, airline, job role and others, on an average the salary of a commercial pilot in UK is around £41,642 per year.

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There are two types of commercial pilot licences, a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) and an Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL).

The CPL licence is the next step after Private Pilot Licence and allows the licence holder to fly a small aircraft with a passenger capacity of up to 9 people for commercial purposes.

How do I become a pilot?

There are a number of ways aspiring pilots can enter this role.

If you are aged 18 or over, you could apply to university to study a degree in air transport or aviation.

You will usually need to hold two or three A levels or the equivalent.

The degree will include commercial pilot training with an approved flight training organisation and lead to a ‘frozen’ Air Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL).

When you’ve completed at least 1,500 flying hours, you can apply for an 'unfrozen' or full Air Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) and qualify as an airline captain. 

This can take three to five years after you receive your full ATPL.

When entering the aviation industry you will also be required to hold a minimum of a Class 2 medical certificate before starting a course.

You'll then need to apply for the higher level Class 1 medical certificate during your course to get your Commercial Pilot Licence – however, this can be applied for prior to starting.

A trainee pilot can also choose to take an alternative course, known as a modular course.

This method takes longer to complete but will allow the trainee to complete the course in segments, whilst working alongside to help pay for course fees.

Another route some may be able to take is via direct application.

Those with flying experience in the armed forces can apply directly to the Civil Aviation Authority's Military Accreditation Scheme to become a commercial pilot.

Other routes include applying to join a pilot training programme with a passenger airline or training with a private flying school.

In September 2023, it was revealed that British Airways is picking up the £100,000 cost of becoming a pilot for 60 applicants a year – making a cockpit career a dream for all.



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The wannabe 60 selected pilots will start training next year and be flying with BA by the end of 2025.

Sean Doyle, BA’s Chief Executive, said: “The Speedbird Pilot Academy will make the ambition of becoming a British Airways pilot a reality for people who’d previously written the option off because of the cost barrier.”

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