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10 Answers

Is The Price Right?

Asked by: 3178 views Commercial Pilot

I am 19 years old and a low time commercial pilot with 270TT. I am in college and am trying to build flight time and obtain other ratings. I tow banners on weekends and holiday's and make $10 an hour. In a days work I usually fly for 8 hours even. I have heard other companies pay $20+ an hour, such as (Paramount). I would be happy with $15. Is it worth it to keep flying for $10 an hour? I am starting to see the risk factor come into play.

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10 Answers

  1. John D. Collins on Jul 20, 2011



    What you are willing to charge for your pilot services is a personal decision.  At this point in your carreer, you are interested in building time. So it is likely you are using the employment primarily for that purpose.  The commercial towing operator is using you as well.  Ask the other tow pilots what they charge and if it is higher than what you are paid, you will be in a good position to get more.  If you want to charge $15 or $20 per hour for your services, just tell the operator of your requirement.  However, be prepared to hear the operator saying they no longer needing your services. 


    With respect to the risk and getting paid more for it, that is not an uncommon bargaining point, but in your case if you risk getting injured or killed, will $5 more per hour make a difference?

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  2. James MacGregor CFI on Jul 20, 2011

    Are you only worth 10 bucks a hour? Seems like a no brainer to me, take the better paying jobs. The problem with our industry is most of the pilots are cheap hoars…

    If I were you I probably would have volunteered towing gliders or something before I took 10, on principle alone, but that ship sailed

    First thing you should do is get the other job so you can talk to your existing boss from a position of power. Inform him that you have been offered a job making whatever an hour, it will be his choice if he wants to belly up or loose you.

    Guessing anyone who would pay a CPL holder with probably 50k in training 10 a hour is probably a scumb bag anyways, how are your “employers” planes maintained BTW???

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  3. Earl Kessler on Jul 20, 2011

    I remember running across a guy who was flying a second in command for a national freight hauler who operates very used twin engine pipers.  He was building time to qualify to fly for the airlines and was working long hours and paying for the privilege to build time.  You need to examine if this type of flight time aids your resume.  If so, continue.  If not, it is much easier to find employment when you already have a job.  Always look for the opportunity to advance your career.  This might include getting your CFI, taking or teaching classes, volunteer around a repair facility and anything else to immerse yourself in aviation.

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  4. George Coffman on Jul 20, 2011

    @James.  I am flying PA-25’s (Piper Pawnees) they are good planes to tow banners with, plenty of power and room, no complaints, yet.  My boss maintains them himself, and only gets the 100hour inspections/annuals elsewhere.  He is not doing anything illegal as he is a certified a&p mechanic.  I am thankfull to be flying Pawnees instead of those underpowered cubs that other companies are using.  I recently applied to another company to be a jump pilot for skydivers, so hopefully i’ll get that and I can compare. 🙂

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  5. James MacGregor CFI on Jul 20, 2011

    Dropping meat bombs isn’t going to pay very well and you probably won’t put on as many hours as with banners

    Have you called up Van Wagner? They are the big dog in the banner industry, the other area I would look into is pipeline work (you tt might be a little low for that, also will probably need your IFR for that). I think VW has some stupid mandatory training thing, still I recall them being a good company, I’d check them out if I were you.

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  6. Tommy D Eldridge on Jul 21, 2011

    Well you can either tow banners for $10 hour or pay $125 +/- hour to build time……..Keep your eyes out for a better position but be careful not to take your eyes off the long term goal. 

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  7. James MacGregor CFI on Jul 22, 2011

    @Tom. ……really. So take crap pay or pay out yourself to fly lol

    Towing gliders: Free plus if you want to get your glider license they usually will work a deal with you

    Dropping divers: low pay, look hard enough and you can find a place that will also provide you with free acomidations

    Banner towing: lowest I heard until this topic was just shy of $20hr plus free acomidations.

    Pipeline: 20-30k a year, pilot housing a little more rare but possible

    Fish spotting: similar to pipeline

    The list goes on and on. Remember you have EARNED your commercial pilots license. The only plane I pay to operate since I got mine is my Stinson and that’s only when I fly with my girlfriend.

    To be frank 10 bucks a hour is downright offensive, find a better paying job and be careful with this cheap skate boss of yours. Don’t be surprised if he is also cutting major corners with maintenance, especially since he has no one looking over his shoulder.

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  8. George Coffman on Jul 22, 2011

    @James.  I completel agree with you.  $10 is not enough for what I am doing, and thats not even with any acomidations.  Not to mention that I have to commute 40mins to that airport when i have to fly.  What he is paying barely allows me to fill my gas tank!  I’m going to have a chat, and see whats the deal.  And I wouldnt be suprised either with the “maintenance” that he does on the aircrafts.

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  9. Tommy D Eldridge on Jul 22, 2011

    Well James I guess everyone needs to move to your town cause around here there are pilots standing in line for a job. If you will read my statement a little more carefully you will see I said keep your eyes out for a better position. Get too greedy and you will like John Collins said in the first post “be prepared to hear the operator saying they no longer needing your services”. NO JAMES I do not think he needs to work for crap but it’s better to get paid $10 an hour to fly (And build time as George said he is trying to do) than to have to pay out of pocket. Every pilot or should I say every person, pilot or not should always be moving their career forward. 

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  10. James MacGregor CFI on Jul 23, 2011

    My town? I have lived in a few countries and numerous states for work. If you are entertaining the idea of becoming a commerical pilot you must realize you need to be able to move around. Some guys like seeing new places so for them this is a a perk of the job.

    If your current city doesn’t have a good job you need to go seek jobs, be active in finding a good job. It’s just like flying you need to be proactive.
    I also advised the OP to keep his current jub until he lands a proper paying job.

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