Airline Pilot Career Academy

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Flex Air Career Pilot Academy

Our Flex Air Career Pilot Academy will help you launch your aviation career with a combination of academic instruction, simulator lessons, and aircraft training. Our program delivers every certification and rating you’ll need to get hired as a professional pilot.

The academy also teaches you more than just the skills you need to safely and confidently pilot an aircraft. You’ll receive training on how to network in the industry and build a top-notch resume that will get you noticed.

Become A Pilot

What Does It Take to Become an Airline Pilot?

Pilot Training: The path from student pilot to become a commercial pilot

Beginning on the journey to become an airline pilot begins with a solid foundation as a student pilot. Initially, students must earn their Private Pilot License (PPL), which opens the door to more advanced certifications. Following this, a pilot must obtain a Single Engine Commercial Pilot License (CPL), allowing them to be paid for their flying. The pinnacle of a pilot's certifications is the Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate. This a prerequisite to command large commercial aircraft.  Accumulating flight time is crucial, as federal aviation regulations require specific hours for each license and certificate. 

Step by Step: Pilot Certificates, Pilot Licenses & Ratings Required to Become a Commercial Airline Pilot

  • STEP 1 (Min. 2 months):

    Private Pilot Certificate - PPL

    The first step is to earn your private pilot certificate, commonly  called a private pilot license (PPL). A PPL allows you to act as the pilot in command of an aircraft and to fly solo recreationally under VFR (Visual Flight Rules). It is a prerequisite to all other flight training. 

  • STEP 2 (Min. 2 months):

    Instrument Rating - IFR

    The next step is to earn an instrument rating that allows you to fly under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) and in all kinds of weather.

  • STEP 3  (Min. 2 Months):

    Commercial Pilot Certificate: Single Engine Land - SEL

    With Flex Air, we’ll help you meet specific experience requirements to earn a Commercial Pilot certificate. This allows you to fly and get paid legally.

  • STEP 4 (Min. 3 Weeks):

    Commercial Pilot: Multi-Engine Land - MEL

    Adding a Multi-Engine rating to your Commercial Pilot certificate allows you to fly large passenger airlines.

  • Step 5  (Min. 3 Weeks):

    Certified Flight Instructor - CFI I

    Start earning a living by becoming a Certified Flight Instructor. This step helps you obtain a Flight Instructor certificate and the flight experience required by airlines.

  • Step 6 (Min. 1 Week):

    Certified Flight Instructor With Instrument - CFI II

    This certification helps you gain the quality and relevant flight experience necessary to meet the Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate requirements. This certificate meets the hiring needs of most regional airline pilot jobs.

  • Step 7 (Min. 16 months) :

    Airline Transport Pilot Certificate - ATP

    An airline transport pilot certificate (ATP) is the highest level of aircraft pilot certification. ATPs are qualified to command large commercial aircraft, acting as the Pilot in Command on scheduled airline flights.

    To earn an Air Transport Pilot (ATP) you need to have 1,500 hours of flight time. After completing the above steps you’ll have 200-300 hours.

    We give hiring preference to our students, and we'd love to hire you to work at Flex Air as a CFI to build your hours.

Flex Air is Your Airline Pilot Career Guide

An airline pilot career is both challenging and rewarding, offering the opportunity to travel the world and assume responsibility for the safety and comfort of passengers. Flex Air won't just help you get your training as quickly and cost effectively as possible...

  • Flex Air will help you launch your career as an airline pilot.
  • Flex Air will match you up with your first job after graduation.
  • Flex Air gives hiring preference to our own students as CFIs.
  • We’ll support you as a Flex Air alumni by providing job search and counseling services throughout your career.
Certificated Flight Instructor Academy

The fastest way to become an airline pilot

Have you already completed one or more ratings at another school? Has your training stalled out after months of delays and waiting lists? Transfer to Flex Air and finish in our accelerated program, where our career placement rate is 100% and our training outcomes are 340% better than the average flight school. The fastest way to become an airline pilot is as a Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI). We hold quarterly CFI Academy courses that will teach you everything you need to become a flight instructor. But more importantly, we'll teach you how to stand out and get hired at the best flight schools, where you'll build 1,000 or more flight hours in just a year.

Airline pilots make high salaries but flight training is a big investment…

For a huge career payoff! Pilot salaries are higher than ever before in the history of aviation and will keep rising for decades. Over the course of a typical career, an airline pilot might earn as much as $7 million.

To get there, make sure your Student FINANCING application is as strong as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Become a Pilot: Questions about becoming an airline and commercial pilot

To become an airline pilot, you need to undergo pilot training at a flight school like Flex Air and obtain a commercial pilot certificate, gain flight hours, and meet specific requirements set by the airline where you want to work.

The requirements to become an airline pilot include obtaining a commercial pilot certificate, completing flight training, accumulating 1500 flight hours, passing medical examinations, and meeting age and education criteria.

You can start a pilot career by enrolling in a flight school, completing the necessary training, obtaining pilot certificates such as private pilot certificate, and then working towards becoming a commercial airline pilot.

The average salary for airline pilots in the United States, according to the most recent Occupational Outlook Handbook from May 2022, is as follows:

  • The average annual salary for commercial pilots is $103,910.
  • The median annual wage for airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers is $211,790.

The salary of airline pilots vary based on factors such as experience, type of airline, and position within the company. For a much more detailed look at pilot earnings see our Airline Pilot Salary guide.

An airline transport pilot (ATP) certificate is crucial for pilots aspiring to fly for airlines. This certificate demonstrates that a pilot has met the highest level of certification, allowing them to serve as the captain or first officer on commercial flights.

A commercial pilot can fly for compensation or hire, while an airline pilot specifically works for an airline operating commercial flights with larger aircraft.

  • Commercial Pilot: A commercial pilot license (CPL) allows an individual to be compensated for flying. This certification enables pilots to perform a variety of operations such as cargo flights, aerial surveying, flight instruction, and agricultural spraying, among others. However, a CPL does not automatically qualify a pilot to fly for airlines, which typically require the more advanced Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certification.

  • Airline Pilot: An airline pilot typically holds an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) license, which is the highest level of pilot certification. ATPs are authorized to act as Pilot in Command on scheduled air carriers' flights, meaning large, passenger-carrying airlines. This certification requires more extensive flight experience and training, focusing on the operation of large aircraft under stringent regulations typical of major airlines.

Airline pilots have promising career prospects, especially with the current pilot shortage in the industry. With the right qualifications and experience, aspiring pilots can secure positions with major airlines and advance to become captains.

The pilot shortage in the aviation industry has led to increased demand for qualified pilots, offering opportunities for aspiring pilots to secure jobs as airline pilots. Airlines are implementing initiatives to attract and retain pilots to address the shortage and ensure safe and efficient flight operations.

Military pilots transitioning to commercial aviation can leverage their experience to meet FAA requirements, with pathways varying depending on whether they are rotary-wing (helicopter) or fixed-wing pilots. All candidates must obtain an FAA Medical Certificate and verify military flight experience. Military pilots need to pass the FAA's knowledge and practical tests, but may qualify for exemptions based on military tests and experience, including a reduction in total flight hours for the Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate.

Rotary-wing pilots, while possessing valuable flight experience, face additional steps to transition to fixed-wing commercial aviation. Flex Air offers a Rotor Transition Program specifically for military and civilian helicopter pilots.

Flex Air students now fly major airlines, see what they are saying about us…


Ryan has worked as a safety advocate, pilot recruiter, captain, line check airman, and even an Assistant Chief Pilot for National Air Cargo recently. He now flies the 757/767 for United as a First Officer.

Ready to start your aviation career?

We know all the researching can be daunting, and for many people choosing to follow your dreams is a decision riddled with anxiety of the unknown. We’re here to help lay the path.