If you’re thinking about working towards your commercial pilot license, you’re probably wondering what are the privileges and limitations of a commercial pilot, as well as what jobs you can get.

Well, there’s no doubt that a commercial pilot license opens up more doors than a private pilot license, but let’s look at the specifics.

Commercial Pilot Privileges

1. You can carry persons or property for compensation or hire

This the main reason any pilot spends the time, money, and effort to get their CPL. You can now be financially compensated for flying whether that be carrying people or property.

2. You can be financially compensated for dry lease flights

A dry lease flight is when you are the pilot but the aircraft is supplied by someone else. In such a scenario, you can be paid for taking on a piloting role.

3. You can fly private carriage flights

Private carriage consists of carriage for hire that does not involve holding out and is limited to one or several selected customers generally on a long-term basis. Additionally, a large number of contracts must be avoided, as this implies common carriage.

4. Part 119 Exceptions Operations

FAR 119 lists several exceptions in which a Part 121 or Part 135 certificate is not required.

Refer to the following section below for more information: What Jobs Can You Get With a Commercial Pilot License?

5. All PPL privileges

With a CPL, you can of course exercise all the privileges that a private pilot license holder has.

Commercial Pilot Limitations

1. Instrument Rating Related Limitations

If you have a commercial pilot license but not an instrument rating then you are not able to carry passengers for hire at night, or for more than 50 nautical miles from your departure point.

2. Part 121 Certificate Operations

You cannot engage in Part 121 operations, which are those that fall under those offered by a scheduled air carrier.

3. Part 135 Certificate Operations

You cannot engage in Part 135 operations, which involve commercial, non-scheduled aircraft operations. These include commuter and on-demand operations like private air charter and air taxi flights.

4. Common Carriage & Holding Out

Holding out is advertising your services as a commercial pilot. A scenario as simple as offering your friend a flight (for compensation) from point A to point B is not allowed, as you will be acting as a common carrier.

Other scenarios include offering your services to the public through advertising, agencies, and reputation.

For common carriage, either an air carrier certificate or a commercial operating certificate is required.

Jobs Can You Get With a Commercial Pilot License

There are plenty of job opportunities for commercial pilots out there.

FAR 119.1(e) clearly states that as a commercial pilot you can perform any of the following for compensation without an operating certificate.

  • Flight Instruction

Flight instruction is the most common job for newly acquired commercial pilot license holders.

The role pays more than it used to, you get to keep your skills sharp, and it’s a great way to accumulate the hours and experience necessary for other pilot roles, or as you work towards an ATPL.

  • Nonstop Commercial Air Tours

Taking on a commercial air tour pilot role can be a rewarding experience, especially as your passengers will almost always be smiling from takeoff to landing. Tour flying is often a more seasonal role.

  • Ferry or Training Flights

A ferry pilot delivers aircraft on behalf of owners or operators. It’s possible to get such a role with a low number of flight hours, but it can depend on the type of operation.

  • Aerial Work

Aerial work encompasses a wide range of roles including:

  • Crop dusting, seeding, spraying, bird chasing
  • Banner towing
  • Aerial photography or survey
  • Fire fighting
  • Repair work
  • Power line or pipeline patrol

In our opinion, if you want to log as many flight hours as possible in as little time as possible, try and find a banner towing role. It will by no means be exciting, as you will spend many hours day-in-day-out flying low and slow over the same routes but is a very efficient way to quickly log flight hours.

Pipeline control can be another more exciting option to consider.

Other roles include:

  • Sightseeing flights conducted in hot air balloons
  • Nonstop flights within a 25-mile radius of airport takeoff for conducting intentional parachute operations
  • Helicopter flights conducted within a 25 statute mile radius of the airport of takeoff (subject to certain limitations)
  • Emergency mail service

Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.

Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.

Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.