As I dig deeper into my interest in achieving a commercial pilot license, I have started to re-research what low hour pilot jobs there are for newly minted commercial aviators. There are some typical jobs that most pilots default to when they earn their commercial wings. The main one that typically comes to mind is that of being a flight instructor. However, I think there are a ton of entry level pilot jobs that the beginning pilot can start to build time at as they work towards their ultimate dream whether that be a Boeing 747, Gulfstream, etc…
Here’s a list of a few starter jobs to get you going…
1. Certified Flight Instructor
Perhaps the most obvious next step to building up your flight time while getting paid for it would be to teach others what you just learned. This can be achieved by becoming a certified flight instructor. I think it is fair to say that a large portion of commercially rated pilots go this route to build their time. It seems to be one of the easier roads and all the while it is helping you become more proficient as a pilot.
Flight instructor jobs can be found in most states so the opportunities aren’t super difficult to get your hands on, from what I’m told.
2. Ferry Pilot
Being a ferry pilot is also a good way to build those hours, not to mention get experience in a whole range of aircraft. Typically ferry pilots will fly aircraft from previous owners or manufacturers to their new owner’s location if they live far enough away. In other cases, ferry pilots act as the pilot in charge of repositioning aircraft from place to place when either it is being used in an airshow, event, or for promotional reasons.
This is one of those jobs that being able to be a people person and build your network of people can help a ton.
3. Jump Pilots
I have a few friends that have another form of hobbying that involves the beautiful sky. For them it means jumping out of an airplane. These are what we obviously call skydivers and in order for them to be jumping out of airplanes on the weekend, they need a pilot to get them up there in the first place. That’s where you can come in. You can likely find a skydiving schools offering low hour pilot jobs and you will find yourself in all likelihood flying a Cessna 182 Skylane or a Cessna 208 Caravan. Either options aren’t terrible aircraft to be flying during the week.
4. Small Time Corporate Pilot
Not all corporate flying can be treated equal, because not all corporations and businesses are the same size. I know plenty of people that have networked their ways into being the go to pilot for smaller businesses barons, bonanzas, Mooney’s or Cirrus. It may be no jet, but then again you aren’t jet qualified yet… duh.
5. Aerial Survey Pilot
To be quite honest I’m not 100% sure on what an Aerial Survey pilot does every day, but I do know it has to deal with surveying the ground and also could entail GPS testing etc… This is typically done in a single-engine aircraft and you can find these jobs for relatively low time entrance.
6. Aerial Tour Pilot
If you live near a tourist area you will likely have some luck in finding a aerial tour operator that gives flights to tourists looking to gain a new perspective during their travels. These types of positions vary but you can typically find some for relatively low time. Think the Grand Canyon region especially.
7. Banner Towing Pilot
It’s 2016 folks, but when an Ohio State football game is in-town on weekends here in Columbus I see that banner towing is still alive and well as a form of old school advertising. With that being said, you can typically find your way into flying low and slow with a banner behind your tail for cheap pay but some painful but slow-flight-experienced flight hours.
8. Cargo Pilot
If you’re willing to get a bit creative you can find places like Great Lakes Airlines, and other places located in Alaska that offer low hour pilot jobs if you’re able to come in with a multi-engine rating under your belt. Alaska seems to be a good place to look for cargo jobs as well, but be ready to enter a whole other world of aviation when you move out to the the bush.
As you can see there are definitely more than a few options for the low hour commercial pilots. I think as with any career path, the trick is to be able to come out of your shell and stop being afraid to meet and network with others. You would be surprised what low hour pilot jobs can come to light when you start growing the base of aviation relationships right now.
Best of luck!