Many people are misinformed about what a commercial pilot is. They assume that if someone is a commercial pilot, they are an airline pilot. While it's true that an airline pilot is, indeed, a type of commercial pilot, the opposite is not always true: A commercial pilot is not necessarily an airline pilot.

Commercial pilots can be cargo pilots, tour pilots, or backcountry pilots. They can be flight instructors, ferry pilots or glider tow pilots. A commercial pilot is simply one who is allowed by the FAA to charge money for services. To fly a regularly scheduled passenger service, or to fly for an airline, you'll also need to gain the additional requirements for those specific jobs. For instance, an airline pilot needs to have a commercial pilot certificate along with an Airline Transport Certificate (ATP) and must work for a regularly scheduled air carrier or some certificated operator to charge money.

If you're interested in becoming a commercial pilot, don't be intimidated by thoughts of airline pilot training. Commercial pilot training is not usually done in a jet, although it can be. In fact, many people complete the commercial pilot certificate in the same aircraft that they completed their private pilot certificate in — a small four-seater aircraft.

Know the Eligibility Requirements

Commercial pilot applicants must be at least 18 years old, be able to read, speak, write, and understand English, and hold at least a private pilot certificate. The most common reason people can't begin their commercial training is that of lack of experience. A pilot needs at least 250 hours to earn a commercial pilot license.

Commercial Pilot License