You’ve got your Private and Instrument ratings and wonder what’s next. You’ve taken your family and friends for rides, maybe even rented and flew somewhere neat like Niagara Falls. Still flying is not cheap. So you wonder if you can make money flying to help support your new passion. Yes you can and if you want to get paid to fly, you must acquire a Commercial Pilot Certificate.
The Commercial rating is called a glorified Private rating. Simply said, you have to fly more precisely and demonstrate your skills in a more complex aircraft. Part of the training and check ride has to be accomplished in an aircraft with a retractable landing gear.
The rating is not hard to get and only 20 hours of training is needed which is less than that required for each the Private and Instrument ratings. But there is minimum total flight time you will need prior to taking the flight test. FAR 61.129 lists the Aeronautical Experience necessary, and as a sampling of what is among the numbers, you must have a total of 250 hours of flight time of which 100 hours must be pilot-in-command (PIC). That PIC time must include 50 hours of cross-country flight (trips more than 50 miles each way with no stops in between take-off and landing). There are three long cross-countries that you fly (one at least 300 miles long), two during the day, the other at night. You also need 10 hours of training in a complex airplane.
Just as in the Private and Instrument ratings, there is a written knowledge test that you need to take, and achieve a minimum grade of 70% correct to pass.
And if you want to work and get paid, you’ll need a 2nd class medical certificate which is slightly more involved than the 3rd class you now possess. But not difficult if you are moderately healthy.
After you get this rating, what can do with it to make money? Well you can:
- Carry passengers for local scenic flights within 25 statue miles of your airport.
- Do ferry flights (picking up another airplane at another airport and fly it back).
- Crop Dusting (now known by the classier term Aerial Application).
- Banner Towing (yep, what you see in the sky at Beach Haven every summer).
- Aerial Photography
- Fire fighting
You CAN NOT fly someone in your airplane to another airport to drop them off and get paid for it. If you do that, you have now become an Air Charter operation and that is a whole different FAR section (Part 135 for Air Charter and Part 121 for Air Carriers) with very different and much stricter requirements for both aircraft and crew.
But by getting a Commercial certificate, you can get your foot in the door and make money while doing something you love…… flying. You’ll also challenge yourself by getting a new rating and becoming a better and more precise pilot.