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Airline pilots and London tube drivers fit into the same salary bracket, reports recruiter PrivateFly

David Woods , 28 May 2012

Airplane taking off in good weather

The most common salary band for pilots is £40,000 to £70,000, the same as a London tube driver.

According to PrivateFly.com's survey of 360 pilots in the UK, almost half of pilots earn under £70,000, with one in five earning £40,000 or less. Transport for London reports a tube driver's average annual salary is £46,000.

Pilots from all aviation sectors, including airlines, the military, helicopters and private aviation took part in the global survey by the private jet hire booking network.

The survey also revealed differences in pay between aviation sectors, with airline pilots faring best overall. Helicopter pilots were the lowest earners, with a third earning £40,000 a year or less. Most pilots across all sectors have seen no increase in their earnings over the last twelve months, with 55% earning the same and 15% seeing a decrease.

When asked about their motivations for becoming a pilot, fewer than one in ten (8%) said they were attracted by the profession's pay and benefits. This was slightly higher for airline pilots at 15%. By contrast over two thirds said they entered the cockpit because of a passion for flying, held since childhood.

Employee benefits varied significantly according to the sector in which the pilots work. The majority of military pilots (83%) and over half of airline pilots receive an employee pension plan - but only a quarter of private jet pilots enjoy this benefit. Less than a quarter (22%) of airline pilots can benefit from a company share scheme and 33% a bonus, while helicopter pilots are the biggest recipients of private medical cover (74%). A significant 38% of private jet pilots said they receive no benefits at all.

Those flying for airlines appear to fare less well when it comes to job satisfaction. Over a quarter described their flying as 'generally the same day to day' or "'repetitive and dull'. They were also the least likely to describe their jobs as 'very stimulating and varied' whereas over half of private jet pilots or military pilots experienced much higher levels of job satisfaction.

Adam Twidell, CEO of PrivateFly.com and previously a military and private jet pilot, said: "Many may be surprised at the level of most pilots' earnings, given their levels of responsibility and training - it is a role with much heroic symbolism and perceived glamour. But it is clearly not a profession that people enter for the money. Most pilots have a passion for flying that surpasses their drive for personal wealth, although of course everyone wants to be remunerated fairly.

"It was certainly interesting to see the significant differences in financial rewards for pilots in different sectors. If the aviation industry grows as expected over the next ten to fifteen years, there will be a widely-predicted shortage of pilots, across the board. Pilot training is becoming more expensive and the pipeline of pilots from global military forces is reducing. Some sectors, including corporate aviation, may struggle to attract enough pilots from a dwindling pool".

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