Chief Pilot Salary

Chief Pilot Salary – How Much Can You Make?

There are several companies who provide pilot salaries in the US and they normally publish the results annually. The chief pilot salary is usually tucked into the data but we wanted a quick down and dirty answer to the question, “What is the typical chief pilot salary?” And the answer is…… It depends.

We recently sent out a salary survey to the chief pilots on our list to find out and this is what we learned.

Some of the determining factors were:

Part 91 Chief Pilot Salary vs Part 135 Chief Pilot Salary

The first question we asked was, “Are you a Chief Pilot for a Part 91 flight department or Part 135 on demand operator?”

66% of you work for a Part 91 corporate flight department and 34% work for a Part 135 operator. Those flying Part 135 also fly under 91 rules when the owner is on-board but that doesn’t really influence the results.

In the past, Part 91 flight departments paid higher salaries than their Part 135 cousins. Over the years however, charter operators have had to become more competitive and the gap between the two has narrowed. Many of the larger Part 135 operators are paying salaries in-line with corporate flight departments.

Size Matters When It Comes to a Chief Pilot Salary

Next we looked at the size and type of the fleet. Here’s the results.

The majority, 60% of you, manage between 1 and 5 aircraft.

26% manage from 6 to 12 aircraft.

6% manage 13-20 aircraft.

And finally, 8% of you manage more than 20 aircraft.

It is my opinion, having managed flight departments with more than 13 airplanes that you need additional personnel to effectively manage an employee group that large. An Assistant CP or Executive Assistant are a must and, again my opinion, your pay should reflect the level of responsibility that goes with that size of fleet.

chief pilot salary should reflect the level of responsibility
Over half of the respondents manage a fleet of 1-5 aircraft while 8% manage over 20.

“What type aircraft do you operate?”

The answer to this question was overwhelmingly multi-engine jets, with 92% of you falling into this category. About 2% of you operate everything from single and multi-engine pistons, multi-engine turboprops and multi-engine jet. If you are a Part 135 operator and are in this 2%, you win big on certificate complexity. (Congratulations! lol) Your training program has just about every element possible and your ops specs will also be fairly complex. I think if you are doing that level of complexity it is worth a bump in chief pilot salary.

“In Which Time Zone is Your Main Office Located?”

Time zones broke out like this:

Hawaii – 2%

Alaska – No responses

Pacific – 15%

Mountain – 9%

Central – 37%

Eastern = Also 37%

While salaries tend to be higher on the East and West coast the cost of living is also much higher in those areas.

“What is your annual chief pilot salary range without bonuses?”

So as the title states these are base salaries and do not include any performance or year end bonuses. Here’s how you responded.

  1. $65.000 – 80,000 – 4%
  2. $81,000 – 95,000 – 2%
  3. $96,000 – 110,000 – 4%
  4. $111,000 – 125,000 – 19%
  5. $126,000 – 140,000 – 6%
  6. $141,000 – 155,000 – 21%
  7. $156,000 – 170.000 – 4%
  8. $171,000 – 185,000 – 5%
  9. $186,000 – 201,000 – 13%
  10. More than $201,000 – 22%

Click here to see what says about chief pilot salary with a jet fleet.

The question about a chief pilot salary that we should have asked but didn’t.

One question we should have asked but didn’t was “How long have you been in the position?” Most likely, the longer you have been there, the more experienced you have become and the better paid you are.

The last question that we asked may be the most telling if you are trying to decide whether or not to take a Chief Pilot position.

“In your opinion are you compensated fairly for the amount of work you do?”

56% were NOT SATISFIED with the level of compensation they receive while 44% of you believe that you are being fairly compensated. The take away here is you get what you negotiate. Don’t accept the job if the offer is not right. So what can be done to get a chief pilot salary where it needs to be?

  • Educate your superiors about the value you bring and the responsibility you shoulder. (but do it respectfully)
  • Shoot for constant improvement in your performance and the performance of the pilot group.
  • Negotiating is an important skill. Read a book. Take a class. Learn to do it well.
  • Don’t give in to low ball offers because you need a job or want to build time.

What other ideas do you have to improve chief pilot salaries going forward? Love to hear your comments!

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