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JOBS: SHOP TALK: HotJobs: Aircraft pilot

Atlanta is home base for Delta Air Lines Inc. and is served by nearly every other major airline. So, the prospect of piloting a jet out of Hartsfield International Airport, the world's busiest airport, is a good one. Civilian pilots held about 110,000 jobs nationwide in 1996. Pilot hiring has reached record numbers during the past four years with about 15,000 hired this year nationwide due to the strong economy and a large number of older pilots retiring. The airline industry has been through some turbulence in the past with downsizings, layoffs and union disagreements. Employment is often cyclical. The trend toward larger jets will increase pilot productivity.

Pilots usually start with small commuter and regional airlines to get experience to qualify for higher-paying jobs with national airlines. Most have traditionally learned to fly in the military. Pilots cannot fly more than 100 hours a month or more than 1,000 hours a year. Most fly an average of 75 hours a month and work an additional 75 hours doing nonflying duties. Half of all pilots work more than 40 hours a week. To fly, you must have a commercial pilot's license. To qualify, you have to be at least 18 years old and have 250 hours of flight time. You also have to pass strict physical exams and have 20/20 vision with or without glasses, good hearing and no physical handicaps that could impair performance. Some small airlines may hire high school graduates, but most airlines require at least two years of college.

Earnings of airline pilots are among the highest in the nation. In 1996, starting salary ranged from about $15,000 at the smaller turboprop airlines to $26,900 at major carriers, according to the Future Aviation Professionals of America. Average earnings for pilots with six years experience ranged from $28,100 at the turboprop airlines to nearly $76,800 at the largest carriers. Some senior captains on the largest aircraft earned as much as $200,000 a year.

Source: "Planning for Tomorrow: Industry and Occupational Outlook, " Georgia Department of Labor; "Georgia Wage Survey," Georgia Department of Labor; and "America's Fastest Growing Jobs," by J. Michael Farr.



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