How much do pilots make? The realities of pilot salaries

Silhouette of pilot walking away from private jet in hangar

If you’re considering becoming a pilot, one of the most important things you’ll want to find out is how much you can expect to earn. Pilot salaries vary depending on several factors, including the type of pilot you are, your experience level, and the industry you work in.  

Let’s take a closer look at the average salaries for different types of pilots.

How much do pilots make on average?

The median annual wage for commercial pilots and flight engineers in the United States ranges from $202,180 to $211,790, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The typical base salary for airline pilots in the United Kingdom is approximately £90,000, whereas in Europe, the average salary for commercial pilots is around €125,000. However, regional airline pilots typically earn less than this. According to Glassdoor, the average base salary for a regional airline pilot is around $106,000 per year.  

In terms of the pay differences between first officers and captains, captains generally earn more due to their higher level of responsibility and experience. According to data from, the average salary for a first officer is around $151,000 per year, while the average salary for a captain is around $158,000 per year

How much do pilots earn at various airlines?

Some airlines may offer higher salaries to attract more experienced or qualified pilots, while others may operate different pay scales based on seniority or type of aircraft flown. 

According to Glassdoor, the average base salary for a commercial airline pilot at Delta Air Lines is around $157,000 per year. The average base salary for a pilot at easyJet is around $75,000 per year. At American Airlines, a pilot’s average base annual salary is around $151,794

These are just a few examples, and salaries can vary widely based on individual factors such as experience, tenure and the type of aircraft flown. 

For military pilots 

Military pilots, particularly those in the Air Force and Navy, can earn a considerable salary while also receiving various other benefits such as housing allowances and healthcare. The exact salary for military pilots varies depending on their rank and years of service.  

As for officers, their basic pay is typically higher. A newly commissioned officer’s basic pay starts at an estimated annual salary of $43,600. A more experienced officer with an O-4 pay grade and over 10 years of service can expect to receive an estimated annual salary of $99,000. 

fighter pilot in a cockpit looking up in the sky
zieusin / Shutterstock 

For airline transport pilots 

Airline transport pilots (ATPs) have the highest achievement of pilot certification in the aviation industry, and they often work for commercial airlines, or on cargo planes and other aircraft. ATPs are typically required to have at least 1,500 hours of flight experience and an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate. 

For helicopter pilots 

Helicopter pilots typically earn slightly less than their fixed-wing counterparts. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for helicopter pilots is $77,200. Specifically, the lowest 10 percent of earners received a salary below $39,430, while the top 10 percent earned above $147,240. 

For flight instructors 

Flight instructors play a crucial role in providing guidance and instruction to individuals who wish to learn how to pilot an aircraft. According to, the median annual wage for flight instructors is $111,922. The income for individuals in this field varies greatly, with the lowest 10 percent of earners receiving less than $102,893 and the top 10 percent earning more than $126,003. 

Salary of private jet pilots 

The salary of private jet pilots varies depending on several factors such as experience, employer, and type of aircraft flown. According to Payscale, the average salary of a private jet pilot in the United States is around $104,975 per year. However, this can vary widely, from $61,000 to over $190,000 per year. 

Private jet pilots are typically required to have at least a commercial pilot’s license with instrument and multi-engine ratings, along with several thousand hours of flight experience. Some employers may also require a type rating for the specific type of aircraft flown. 

Private jet pilots might work for private individuals, corporations, or charter companies, and their job duties can include flying the aircraft, maintaining it and ensuring the safety of passengers and crew. 

As mentioned earlier, the salary of a private jet pilot can vary based on the size and type of aircraft flown. For example, flying a small business jet may bring in a lower salary compared to flying a large, long-range luxury jet. 

Private jet pilots can also receive additional benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans and travel perks.  

white plane model next to the coins all placed on a table
Nicole Lienemann / Shutterstock 
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