Airline Pilot/Flight Engineer  What They Do

Just the Facts


Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers Career Video



Pilots and navigates the flight of fixed-wing, multi-engine aircraft, usually on scheduled air carrier routes, for the transport of passengers and cargo. Requires Federal Air Transport certificate and rating for specific aircraft type used.

This career is part of the Transportation, Distribution and Logistics cluster Transportation Operations pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Works as part of a flight team with other crew members, especially during takeoffs and landings.
  • Uses instrumentation to guide flights when visibility is poor.
  • Starts engines, operates controls, and pilots airplanes to transport passengers, mail, or freight, adhering to flight plans, regulations, and procedures.
  • Contacts control towers for takeoff clearances, arrival instructions, and other information, using radio equipment.
  • Monitors gauges, warning devices, and control panels to verify aircraft performance and to regulate engine speed.
  • Responds to and reports in-flight emergencies and malfunctions.
  • Steers aircraft along planned routes, using autopilot and flight management computers.
  • Checks passenger and cargo distributions and fuel amounts to ensure that weight and balance specifications are met.
  • Monitors engine operation, fuel consumption, and functioning of aircraft systems during flights.
  • Inspects aircraft for defects and malfunctions, according to pre-flight checklists.

Insider Info

Dig into the details and check out what people in this job have to say about their work.



Related Careers


Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 10 lbs., sometimes up to 20 lbs. You might do a lot of walking or standing, or you might sit but use your arms and legs to control machines, equipment or tools.
  • Work in this occupation involves use of protective items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat, or personal flotation devices
  • Exposure to pollutants, gases, dust, fumes, odors, poor ventilation, etc.
  • Requires getting into awkward positions
  • Lighting is either extremely bright or inadequate
  • Conditions are very hot (above 90 F) or very cold (under 32 F)
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Exposed to conditions such as high voltage electricity, combustibles, explosives, and chemicals more than once a month
  • Exposed to hazardous equipment such as saws, machinery, or vehicular traffic more than once a month
  • Exposed to hazardous situations involving possible injury such as cuts, bites, stings, and minor burns more than once a month
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Sound and noise levels are loud and distracting
  • Work in this occupation requires being outside most of the time
  • Exposed to radiation more than once a month
  • Work in this occupation involves making repetitive motions more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves sitting more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves use of special protective items such as a breathing apparatus, safety harness, full protection suit, or radiation protection
  • Work at heights above 8 feet more than once a month on structures such as ladders, poles, scaffolding, and catwalks

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Picking out a particular sound in the presence of other sounds
  • Identifying color and seeing differences in color, including shades and brightness
  • Judging how far away an object is, or which of several objects is closer or farther away
  • Seeing clearly at a distance
  • Seeing objects clearly in glaring conditions or bright lighting
  • Detecting sounds and hearing the differences between sounds of different pitch and loudness
  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Seeing clearly in low light conditions
  • Seeing objects or movement to one's side when looking forward
  • Being able to tell the direction from which a sound is coming
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person

Work Hours and Travel

  • Irregular hours
  • Overnight travel
  • Weekend work

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Airline Captain --
  • Airline Pilot --
  • Airline Pilot (Captain) --
  • Airline Transport Pilot --
  • Captain --
  • Check Airman --
  • Co-Pilot --
  • Commuter Pilot --
  • First Officer --
  • Pilot -- Commands ships to steer them into and out of harbors, estuaries, straits, and sounds, and on rivers, lakes, and bays.