A commercial pilot's license allows you to get paid to fly. The path to obtaining one includes studying, testing and flight experience. Commercial licenses can be for single-engine or multi-engine airplanes, helicopters or airships. Once you have a private pilot's license you can begin to obtain the experience and knowledge necessary to obtain a commercial license.
The guidelines that cover the requirements for a commercial license are Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) Part 61, paragraphs 121 through 123. The FARs give a broad outline of the requirements. A local flight training school can give you the details necessary to complete the requirements.
The FARs require a course of study that covers a broad range of aeronautical knowledge in addition to specific information on the type of aircraft. Time spent on ground study must be recorded and logged for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). After completing ground school, you will be required to pass a written exam.
The minimum flying experience for a commercial pilot's license is 250 hours. This includes pilot-in-command time, cross-country flying, night flight, instrument flying and solo flight. A portion of the flight time must be in aircraft for which the license is desired, such as multi-engine time for a multi-engine license. A portion of the flight time also must be in aircraft with retractable landing gear and flaps.
The last step before receiving a commercial pilot's license is the flight test or check ride. On the check ride you must demonstrate correct procedures, flying skills and emergency procedures. A check ride is an in-depth review of your flying skills and knowledge. When you pass the check ride you will be awarded a license to fly for pay.
To fly as a commercial pilot, you will be required to maintain a second-class medical certificate. This certificate requires a flight physical every 12 months.
A commercial pilot's license is not enough to fly for a major airline. The airlines require an Air Transport Pilot (ATP) rating. The ATP requires 1,500 hours of flight time and additional study, testing and check rides.
A commercial pilot's license does not automatically include an instrument rating. This rating is required to fly in weather in which a pilot must rely on instruments. The rating requires additional studying, testing and a check ride.