Airplane Pilots

Airplane Pilots

The military operates one of the largest fleets of specialized airplanes in the world. Supersonic fighters and bombers fly combat missions. Large transports carry troops and equipment. Intelligence gathering airplanes take photographs from high altitudes. Military airplane pilots fly the thousands of jet and propeller airplanes operated by the services.

Job Details:

What They Do:

Airplane pilots in the military perform some or all of the following duties:
  • Contact air traffic controllers to obtain take-off and landing instructions
  • Monitor gauges and dials located on cockpit control panels
  • Develop flight plans showing air routes and schedules
  • Check weather reports to learn about flying conditions
  • Fly airplanes by controlling engines, rudders, elevators, and other controls
  • Perform combat maneuvers, take photographs, transport equipment, and patrol areas to carry out flight missions

Work Environment:

Airplane pilots may be stationed at airbases or aboard aircraft carriers anywhere in the world. They fly in all types of weather conditions. Military pilots take off and land on airport runways and aircraft carrier landing decks.

Training Provided:

Pilot training is a 2-year program covering 1 year each in initial and advanced training. Initial training includes time spent in flight simulators, classroom training, officer training, and basic flight training. This is among the most challenging training given by the services; not everyone who attempts this training can meet the strict requirements for completion. Advanced training begins when pilots successfully complete initial training and are awarded their "wings". Advanced training consists of instruction in flying a particular type of aircraft. Course content typically includes:
  • Aircraft aerodynamics
  • Jet and propeller engine operation
  • Operation of aircraft navigation systems
  • Foul weather flying
  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations

Civilian Counterparts:

Civilian airplane pilots who work for passenger airlines and air cargo businesses are called commercial pilots. Other civilian pilots work as flight instructors at local airports, as crop dusters, or as pilots transporting business executives in company planes. Many commercial pilots began their career in the military.


The services have about 16,000 airplane pilots. Each year, they need new pilots due to changes in personnel and the demands of the field. After initial and advanced training, most pilots are assigned to flying squadrons to fly the types of aircraft for which they were trained. In time, pilots train for different aircraft and missions.