L3Harris Flight Academy

How to become a commercial pilot in the USA

Getting your commercial pilot license and becoming a pilot with L3Harris Flight Academy is an investment in your future. If you want to study in the U.S.A. and want to know how to become a pilot in Florida, we have the facilities and training expertise at our central Florida Flight Academy to prepare our cadets for an exciting and rewarding career as a commercial airline pilot.

Three ways to become a pilot with L3Harris

Accelerated Airline Pilot Track (AAPT)
  • The fastest route to a pilot career - qualify in 12 months
  • Qualify to act as a First Officer with one of the airlines we work with
  • You could borrow up to 100% of the cost of airline pilot training

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International Program (PPP)
  • Our program for international students
  • Full-time course
  • Designed for those who aim to work for an airline
  • Qualify in as little as 15 months

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Private Pilot License
  • Earn your Private Pilot Certificate
  • Fly as a hobby or the starting point to a career in the skies

Full course details


Our USA Flight Academy has strong relationships with airlines across the country:

Air Wisconsin Logo      Commutair Logo      Empire Logo   

Endeavor Air Logo      Envoy Logo      Go Jet Logo   

PSA Logo      Republic Logo      Silver Logo   

Skywest Logo      spirit-logo (1)      global-x-logo

How to get your commercial pilot license in the USA at a glance:

How do you become an airline pilot? You need to undergo commercial airline pilot training and exhibit the necessary skills to succeed. At a glance, let’s look at they key steps to becoming a commercial pilot:

  • You will need a Commercial Pilot License and 1,500 flying hours to earn your Airline Transport Pilot Certificate and become an airline pilot
  • It takes an average of 10-22.5 months to complete your flight school training - depending on the program you choose - before going on to obtain your 1,500 flying hours
  • What does it take to become a commercial pilot? You will undertake FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) approved pilot training courses, and programs Nationally Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
  • Our Accelerated Airline Pilot Track (AAPT) can be the most direct route to becoming a pilot. The Flight Instructor Certificate with Instrument Rating (CFI-I) means on graduation you will be guaranteed an interview to become a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) with L3Harris in Sanford
  • Alongside the qualifications and requirements to be an airline pilot, you will need passion, self-discipline, technical aptitude, problem-solving skills, teamwork, spatial awareness, and the ability to make decisions under pressure to become a successful pilot

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1: Research pilot schools and commercial airline pilot training programs

What does it take to become a commercial pilot and how can you begin your career as soon as possible? One of the first steps to becoming a commercial pilot is to research commercial airline pilot training programs and flight schools.

As part of a world-leading, global aviation business, our cadets have access to the latest training technologies and systems to aid them during their commercial airline pilot training.

Our Florida Flight School is well equipped with over 100 aircraft and five Flight Training Devices, but aside from our facilities, we have a reputation in the industry for having friendly, approachable staff who provide outstanding training on how to become a pilot in the US.

If you want to learn more about how to become a pilot in Florida, we hold and attend regular events across the country where you can  meet the team and get a feel for life at L3Harris Flight Academy.

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2: Check if you have the common skills and meet the entry requirements to be an airline pilot

To start your journey to become a pilot in the USA, prospective cadets need to meet entry criteria relating to age, medical and selection. Please visit each of our pilot training programs and courses for full entry criteria.

To apply for a commercial airline pilot training program, you will need to meet the following requirements:

  • At least 17 years old in order to receive your Private Pilot Certificate
  • Proficient in reading, writing, speaking, and understanding English
  • A high school graduate or GED completer
  • Able to obtain an FAA medical certificate

A further step to becoming a commercial pilot is to meet all the necessary requirements. To apply for a role as a commercial airline pilot, you will need:

  • Degree - Varies by airline but a degree is not always a requirement. Degrees can however develop core pilot skills
  • Certification - Commercial Pilot License certificate with multi-engine rating and Instrument Rating
  • Experience - 1,500 flight hours
  • Medical - First-Class FAA Medical Certificate
  • Age - 21 years old
  • Tests & Exams - ATP CTP, Knowledge Test & Practical Exam

Qualifications needed


3: Earn your Private Pilot Certificate

One of the first steps in earning a commercial pilot license is to achieve your Private Pilot Certificate. You will study for your Private Pilot Certificate at ground school within the Academic Building of our Florida Flight Academy as well as learning to fly a single-engine airplane.

During your Private Pilot License training, you will learn basic flight methods, aircraft maneuvers, navigation, flight planning, and emergency training.

Once this phase is completed you will receive your Private Pilot License (PPL) and legally be able to fly a single-engine aircraft for non-commercial purposes. Learn more about how to become a private pilot in the U.S.

Private Pilot License


4: Earn an Instrument Rating Certificate

Achieving your Instrument Rating extends the privileges of your PPL and allows you to fly according to Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). Obtaining your IR will build your confidence in flying under different conditions as you will learn to reference instruments in the flight deck and navigate via electronic signals, a core part of any pilot course in the USA.


5: Earn a Commercial Pilot Single-Engine Certificate

This module will provide you with commercial pilot privileges in single-engine aircraft. Ground school will include pre-flight preparation and procedures and your flight training will cover FAA regulations such as: radio communications, air traffic control, and commercial operations. All of this is knowledge you need before you become a commercial pilot.

6: Earn a Commercial Multi-Engine Add-on Rating 

To fly for the airlines, you will need this certificate. This add-on is offered FREE to all AAPT graduates who go on to CFI employment with L3Harris.

7. Obtain your Certified Flight Instructor Certificate

How many flight hours to become a commercial pilot? Pilots must have a minimum of 1500 hours of flight time before they can apply to become pilots for passenger airlines in the United States.

For this reason, we include the Certified Flight Instructor Certificate in our Accelerated Airline Pilot Track and offer all our graduates an interview to become a Flight Instructor. Teaching others is a great way to embed your own learning as well as build up valuable flight hours to help you on your way to becoming a commercial pilot.

Programs and courses


8. Gain flight experience and earn an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Certificate

Once you have successfully obtained your Certified Flight Instructor Certificate, you can build up the required 1500 flight hours to obtain your Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, so that you can work and fly as a commercial airline pilot.

An Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate is the highest licensing the FAA issues and is typically the final milestone before beginning your career as an airline pilot.

With an ATP certificate, you unlock your potential to go on to fly for regional and major airlines as a First Officer and Captain. Find out more about the different career options you have once you’ve completed your commercial airline pilot training.

To obtain your Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, you will need to complete an ATP CTP program which includes 30 hours of ground school learning and 10 hours of SIM training in Fixed Training Devices (FTD) and Full Flight Simulators (FFS).

After you have successfully completed the program, you’re eligible to complete your ATP Knowledge Test.



9. Become a commercial airline pilot!

Congratulations! Upon successful completion of your Airline Transport Pilot certificate, you are eligible to fly for an airline as a commercial airline pilot!

By obtaining the relevant qualifications outlined above, you will qualify for most regional and international commercial pilot positions.

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I wanted to make flying the career for me, which led me to make this 10,000-mile journey halfway across the world to pursue the Professional Pilot Program at L3Harris Flight Academy.

Academy Testimonial Sharonjeet Dhillon Sharonjeet Dhillon L3Harris graduate
See all our pilot success stories

How much does it cost to become a commercial pilot in the USA?

When deciding to become a commercial airline pilot, one of the most frequently asked questions is ‘how much does it cost to become a pilot?’. And it’s no surprise as to why. Your pilot license cost is a significant investment and financial commitment.

The exact cost to become a pilot will differ depending on the route you take and the organization you opt for.

Our pilot training program costs:

If you’re concerned about the cost to become a commercial pilot, you’ll be pleased to know that there is plenty of support available, including:

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What pilot jobs are available when I graduate?

Most applicants who wish to become a pilot in the USA aspire to fly for a commercial airline. Our commercial airline pilot training programs and courses are all designed to prepare you for a role as a First Officer on a passenger aircraft. 

So, how do you become an airline pilot? It is important to note the FAA states that all graduate pilots must build at least 1,500 flying hours before applying to work for an airline.

At L3Harris Flight Academy, we help you achieve your ultimate career goal by offering all our graduates an interview to become a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) – one of the best ways of building flight hours.

We also invite representatives from airlines to visit the campus and interview our cadets and Flight Instructors, providing valuable opportunities to secure your future pilot career.

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Commercial Airline Pilot Training FAQs

What are the different pilot license types?

Deciding what type of pilot you want to be will help you get on track to obtain the right certification for your future career. There are four main types of pilot licenses:

  1. Student Pilot Certificate - You need a Student Pilot Certificate to fly alone in any aircraft which is essential to begin your training as a pilot.
  2. Private Pilot License - A Private Pilot License will teach you the basic flight maneuvers enabling you to fly a small aircraft for non-commercial purposes. This certification is suitable for cadets looking to become a private pilot.
  3. Commercial Pilot License - A CPL provides you with advanced knowledge and skills of flying including pre-flight prep, procedures, FAA regulations, aircraft control, performance and multi-engine operations. This certification is suitable for cadets looking to become a commercial pilot as it does not enable you to fly for an airline.
  4. Airline Transport Pilot License - a ATP License is the highest level of pilot certificate and is required if you want to become a pilot for an airline in the US. This certification is suitable for cadets looking to become an airline pilot.

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How long do our flight training programs take?

How long it takes to become a commercial pilot is dependent on the pilot training program you choose to complete.

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How much can I expect to earn as a pilot?

As a commercial airline pilot, you can expect to receive a salary above the average. However, your actual salary will differ depending on whether you fly for a major or regional airline.

Newly qualified pilots typically start out at a regional airline. Regional airline pilots are typically paid less than those at major airlines.

How much a pilot earns in the USA

What characteristics do I need to become a pilot?

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Ability to work well in a team
  • Demonstrate leadership skills
  • Excellent spatial awareness and coordination skills
  • Ability to remain calm under pressure (emotional stability)
  • Self-confidence
  • Desire to learn
  • Decisiveness & quick-thinking skills

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Do I need to have perfect vision to become a commercial airline pilot?

No, you do not need to have perfect vision to become an airline pilot. As long as your vision is not impaired with 20/20 glasses or contact lenses and successfully obtains an FAA-approved first-class medical certificate, you are eligible to fly as a commercial airline pilot.

You can be colorblind and still become a pilot depending on the severity and what colors you can and cannot recognize. Your color vision will be assessed as part of your first-class medical exam which will determine whether you have the requirements to operate a commercial aircraft.

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Do I need a degree to become a commercial pilot?

What do you need to become a commercial pilot? You do not need a degree to become a commercial airline pilot. 

Whilst it is not compulsory to have a university degree before training to become a pilot it could open up more opportunities to work in the aviation industry.

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What would my day look like as a pilot?

As a commercial airline pilot working from a regional or major airline you can expect to work weekdays, evenings, weekends, and holidays. Commercial pilots are responsible for navigating and flying passengers and cargo planes from A to B safely and efficiently.

You will be responsible for:

  • Performing pre-and-post-flight aircraft inspections
  • Planning and selecting safe flight routes with First Officers
  • Identifying and problem-solving risks that may occur
  • Keeping accurate records for compliance reasons
  • Communicating with air traffic control regarding the flight plan, air traffic, weather and other external factors which may impact the flight
  • Monitoring aircraft engines, fuel levels, and aircraft systems
  • Flying the aircraft using visual flight rules and instruments

Why train to be a pilot

How to apply to flight school?

Once you are ready to apply you can submit the full application form online. 

Once through selection, it will be time to move into your accommodation and begin your course or program. Our Student Services Team can assist with orientation, housing, transportation, and student affairs. We also coordinate extra-curricular activities to help you and your fellow student cadets have fun and get to know one another.

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