Charter Pilot Vs. Airline Pilot

Charter pilots and airline pilots are the both the captains of their ships, as they transport passengers around the world. While airline pilots fly the ticket-buying public, charter pilots fly based on requests of specific groups of clients.

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Comparing Charter Pilots to Airline Pilots

Airline pilots, as you may have already guessed, work for airline companies. These are the pilots that fly individuals on most of the common airplane trips taken. Charter pilots work for groups of people and fly based on their specific needs, such as a last-minute business deal being done across the country or a sports team headed to their next game. Other similarities and differences are discussed below.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Charter Pilot High School Diploma; 2,500 hours flying experience $93,360 (2018)** 4% (for all airline and commercial pilots)
Airline Pilot High School Diploma; Completion of flight school program; on-the-job training $111,930 (2017)* 4% (for all airline and commercial pilots)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

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Responsibilities of Charter Pilots vs. Airline Pilots

Charter and airline pilots share many similar responsibilities. Both ensure that the airplane is safe for travel, fuel and weight are at the correct levels, and that the takeoff, flight, and landing are all smooth and efficient. The primary difference is who they work for and the clientele they serve. Charter pilots work for a specific company or a jet provider that contracts flights, where they travel based on the needs of clients. Airline pilots work for an airline company, following set schedules as they transport the public around the world.

Charter Pilot

Charter pilots fly aircraft that is either owned by an individual, a business, or a jet provider that contracts flights out. These pilots may fly daily for various travel purposes, from transporting high-level business executives to an important meeting, to taking a wealthy family on vacation. These pilots must be knowledgeable in filing flight plans and making alterations when demanding clients alter their schedules. They must also be comfortable with working unusual hours and being away from home for long periods of time. All required licenses and certification must be obtained, as well as 2,500 hours of piloting experience.

Job responsibilities of a charter pilot include:

  • Ensure aircraft safety by checking the work of the maintenance crew
  • Make flight plans that consider speed and safety
  • Stay in communication with control towers and report any emergencies
  • Check weight distribution and fuel levels before takeoff

Airline Pilot

Airline pilots fly passengers and luggage around the world based on schedules determined by the airline industry. The pilot is ultimately in charge of the flight, including the staff, the passengers, and the overall safety and efficiency of the travel experience. This means making decisions based on weather changes, emergency situations, fuel levels, and the condition of the aircraft. The pilot must stay in communication with the co-pilot, flight crew, and air traffic control, particularly during takeoffs and landings, as these can be the most challenging times during a flight.

Job responsibilities of an airline pilot include:

  • Properly prepare flight records
  • Stay informed on aircraft technology and cockpit instruments
  • Communicate flight plans and unfolding issues with air traffic control
  • Oversee the engines and other systems during flights

Related Careers

There are other options available for those interested in becoming a pilot. If you'd prefer to work from the ground, you may want to learn more about working for the military as a drone pilot. Becoming a helicopter pilot may be intriguing for those interested in flying a different kind of aircraft.

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