Aeroplane Pilot Kaiwhakahaere Waka Rererangi

Aeroplane pilots fly planes that transport people and goods, or spread fertiliser or bait.

Aeroplane pilots may do some or all of the following:

  • prepare or check flight plans
  • do pre-flight checks of weather forecasts and the plane's load, fuel and equipment
  • calculate the amount of fuel needed for flights
  • programme flight management systems
  • liaise with air traffic control
  • navigate and fly the plane to its destination
  • write flight reports and keep a flight log
  • greet passengers and assist them if necessary.

Agricultural pilots may also:

  • consult with customers about chemicals and fertiliser 
  • calculate the amount and cost of chemicals or fertiliser
  • apply chemicals or fertiliser to farm land and keep records.

 To become an aircraft captain of a plane that needs a co-pilot, you must also have an Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL).

Physical Requirements

Aeroplane pilots need to have:

  • good hearing and eyesight (with or without corrective lenses)
  • good reflexes and co-ordination
  • a good level of fitness and health, as they must pass a medical exam every year.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for aeroplane pilots includes:

  • aviation industry work
  • aircraft engineer work
  • loader/driver work
  • work with navigational and radio equipment
  • customer service.

Personal Qualities

Aeroplane pilots need to be:

  • responsible
  • good at planning, thinking logically and following procedures
  • excellent at working under pressure
  • able to make quick, sound decisions
  • good leaders
  • skilled communicators
  • able to relate to people from a range of cultures and backgrounds
  • resilient
  • good at record-keeping.

Skills

Aeroplane pilots need to have:

  • excellent flying skills
  • knowledge of flight theory and flight planning
  • skill in interpreting flight plans, weather information and navigation data
  • knowledge of aircraft systems
  • understanding of aviation laws
  • knowledge of safety rules and emergency procedures.

Agricultural pilots also need to have:

  • knowledge of different types of farming, and the chemicals and fertilisers farmers use
  • an understanding of Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations, and the Resource Management Act
  • knowledge of air and water quality plans (to avoid pollution) and industry codes of practice.

Conditions

Aeroplane pilots:

  • work irregular hours. Some pilots do shift work, and agricultural pilots may do seasonal work
  • work in airports and aeroplane cockpits
  • work in conditions that may be noisy, and can be uncomfortable in bad weather
  • travel within New Zealand or internationally.

Aeroplane Pilots can earn around $50K-$150K per year.

Pay for aeroplane pilots varies depending on experience, qualifications, location and what type of plane they fly.

New pilots' work may be irregular and part time. They may need to rely on a supplementary job to make a living, until they have enough flying experience to apply for work at an airline.

Charter or agricultural pilots and flying instructors

Charter pilots, agricultural pilots and flying instructors often work part time. They usually earn $25 to $80 an hour.

Airline pilots

  • Pilots who fly turboprop (propeller) planes on domestic routes earn between $50,000 and $150,000 a year.
  • Pilots who fly jet planes on domestic or international routes earn between $80,000 and $190,000 or more.
  • International jet pilot captains can earn up to $300,000.

Military pilots 

Pilots working for the Royal NZ Air Force are bonded (expected to stay in the job) for 10 years.

  • Recruits start on $40,000 a year.
  • Qualified military pilots earn between $58,000 and $140,000.

Sources: careers.govt.nz research, 2020; and Defence Careers, 2020.

Newly qualified aeroplane pilots often complete further training to work as flying instructors. This means they can build up enough flying hours to apply for work at an airline.

Aeroplane pilots can specialise in a number of roles, including:

Agricultural Pilot
Agricultural pilots fly aircraft to apply chemicals or fertiliser to farmland. They may fly fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters.
Charter Pilot
Charter pilots fly tourist or air ambulance services, or provide services such as aerial photography or land surveying.

Years Of Training

2-3 years of training required.

Commercial aeroplane pilots

To become a commercial aeroplane pilot you need a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL). To get this you need to:

  • hold a Private Pilot Licence (PPL)
  • complete at least 200 hours of flying 
  • pass a Class 1 medical exam, written exams, an English language test, and a flying test
  • satisfy the Civil Aviation Authority's fit and proper person requirements – for example, by showing you don’t have serious convictions.

The CPL enables you to fly small planes such as those used for scenic and charter flights.

You can gain your CPL as part of completing either of the following qualifications:

  • New Zealand Diploma in Aviation – Aeroplane and Helicopter (Level 6) with strands in airline preparation and flight instruction.
  • Massey University's Bachelor of Aviation.

You need to pass the ADAPT pre-pilot screening test and attend a selection interview to enter these courses.

Flying instructors

In addition to a CPL, flight instructors need a Flight Instructor Rating (C Category).

Airline pilots

In addition to a CPL, airline pilots on turboprop (propellor) planes and jet aircraft need:

  • a Multi-engine Instrument Rating (which allows you to fly in cloud)
  • at least 500 hours of flying time (though the number of hours required can change from year to year).

Military pilots

To become a military pilot, you need to join the Royal NZ Air Force and complete their training. 

Aeroplane Pilot

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