Air freight or cargo pilots fly aircraft loaded with any number and variety of items, depending on the nature of the company’s business. This includes shipments of packages, mail, food, machinery, and anything else that needs to be air freighted from one location to another. All of the major carriers including FedEx, UPS, and the US Postal Service contract airlines, or have their own aircraft fleet, to make pickups and deliveries of cargo and freight. Some of the flights may be only regional while others may be international.
The work schedule of most cargo pilots includes working late nights and early mornings, which can be especially difficult for those pilots who have families. Loading an aircraft properly must be done correctly to ensure the safety of the aircraft, crew, and those on the ground. Depending on the company’s size, a cargo pilot may have to help load the aircraft as well as supervise other loaders.
Most cargo or air freight companies require that a job applicant have a four-year college degree in addition to the necessary pilot ratings, licenses, and certifications.
Flight instruction at an FAA or Transport Canada-certified flight school is required in order to earn a commercial pilot’s license. Additional certifications and ratings may be necessary, depending on the aircraft that the pilot will be flying. Cargo planes run the gamut from small twin-engine aircraft to large jets.
The majority of cargo or air freight pilots fly when air traffic is lighter and access to busy airports is a little easier. This means late night and early morning shifts. Some flight routes are fairly short and do not require overnight stops at the destination. Other flight routes may involve one or more overnight stops to complete the route.
Salary and Benefits
Benefits usually include paid vacation, dental and life insurance, sick leave, retirement plan, free or reduced airfare for employees and immediate family members.