For most people, the job they associate most with the aviation industry is that of a pilot. What many people may not know is that there are many types of pilot jobs besides those of flying as captains for commercial airlines. There is a wide range of aircraft that require many kinds of flight crew. In addition, the aircraft may be used for a variety of purposes and that affects the nature of the job. For example, while some aircraft may have a pilot, copilot or first officer, and a flight engineer or second officer, other aircraft may only need a pilot and first officer, or even just a pilot. An airplane, also known as a fixed wing aircraft, may have one or more engines.
If it has more than one engine, then the pilot must be type rated to fly multi-engine aircraft. If the airplane is a jet, then the pilot must be type rated to fly jets. The same requirements hold for copilots and flight engineers if they are expected to take over the controls for any reason. Because it can take years to advance to the pilot’s position, many trained pilots take a junior position as a flight engineer or copilot. After they’ve logged a sufficient number of hours in that position, an airline may promote them to a more senior position if they deem the person qualified. However, there are no guarantees and though someone is technically qualified to fly as the pilot, they may never advance to that position. And because it can take so long to become a pilot, many first officers prefer to remain the copilot so they can retain their seniority in that position with the accompanying choice of scheduled flights and vacation days. This means that some copilots actually have more flying hours logged than the pilot!
Besides working for commercial airlines, pilots may elect to work for other companies such as corporate pilots flying business executives around the country, or agricultural pilots who may spray insecticide on crops. A majority of pilots often work as flight instructors for a while because it’s a job that pays them while they log additional hours with the hope of eventually getting a pilot job at a commercial airlines. Charter flight companies often hire low-time commercial pilots to provide sightseeing trips for customers or other types of unscheduled flights from one place to another on demand. Charter companies often have work available for pilots when commercial airlines do not. This is especially true of oil, gas, or other mining companies that need pilots to ferry workers and equipment in and out of rural locations. One good bet is to contact companies working on the gas pipeline from Alaska through Canada to the Lower 48.
Another type of pilot is one who operates a rotary aircraft, otherwise known as a helicopter. Helicopter pilots are in demand by tour companies, corporations, and mining companies. Helicopters are often used to sling loads of supplies or equipment from one place to another when aircraft are not practical to use. The job of a helicopter pilot slinging loads can be very dangerous, especially in high-wind conditions or in mountainous country. As with fixed-wing pilots, helicopter pilots go through special training and must be licensed to fly. Commercial licenses for any kind of pilot are required when working for profit or transporting paying customers.
One of the most dangerous jobs in the world is that of a test pilot. Test pilots are a necessary part of the process to determine if an aircraft is safe to fly. Aircraft manufacturers and designers hire test pilots for the final phases of aircraft development. Test pilots may also be hired by some aircraft repair facilities to ensure that the plane has been fixed satisfactorily, though the test flying is often done by a licensed pilot in-house who doubles as a mechanic or works in another position.