Average Commercial Pilot Salary in South Africa (2024)

The average Commercial Pilot Salary in South Africa is R56,350 per month. An entry-level Commercial Pilot earns a salary range of R32,250, a Mid-career level earns about R58,250, and a senior/experienced level earns R77,450 per month.

Average Commercial Pilot Salary in South Africa

Job Title Approximate Monthly Salary (ZAR)
Entry-Level Commercial Pilot 32,250
Mid-Career Commercial Pilot 58,250
Experienced Commercial Pilot 77,450

Types of Commercial Pilots and Their Functions in South Africa

In South Africa, the aviation industry plays a crucial role in connecting the vast and diverse landscapes of the country. Commercial pilots, essential contributors to this sector, can be categorized into various types based on their specific functions. Here’s an overview of the different types of commercial pilots in South Africa and their respective roles:

1. Airline Transport Pilot (ATP)

An ATP is the highest level of commercial pilot certification. These pilots are qualified to operate large commercial aircraft for scheduled airlines. They bear the responsibility of ensuring the safety of passengers and cargo during flights.

2. Commercial Pilot License (CPL) Holders

CPL holders are authorized to receive compensation for their flying services. They can work for various aviation sectors, including charter companies, cargo carriers, or private enterprises.

3. Flight Instructor

Flight instructors play a crucial role in training aspiring pilots. They provide both ground and flight instruction to student pilots, ensuring they acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to become licensed pilots.

4. Charter Pilots

Charter pilots operate aircraft for on-demand flights, catering to specific client needs. This can include business executives, tourists, or individuals requiring specialized transportation.

5. Cargo Pilots

Cargo pilots are responsible for transporting goods and freight. They work for cargo airlines or companies involved in air freight operations.

6. Bush Pilots

In South Africa’s diverse geography, bush pilots play a vital role in accessing remote and challenging airstrips, often serving the needs of wildlife conservation, mining, or remote communities.

7. Agricultural Pilots (Aerial Applicators)

These pilots are involved in agricultural activities, such as crop dusting or seeding. They help enhance crop yields and control pests.

The types of commercial pilots in South Africa vary based on their roles and responsibilities. Whether transporting passengers, and cargo or providing specialized services, these professionals contribute significantly to the efficiency and connectivity of the nation’s aviation network. Each category demands specific skills, training, and certifications to ensure the safe and effective operation of aircraft in diverse and dynamic environments.

Factors Affecting Commercial Pilot Salaries in South Africa

A commercial pilot’s salary in South Africa can be influenced by various factors. Here are some key factors that can affect a commercial pilot’s earnings in the country:

1. Experience

Experience is one of the most significant factors impacting a pilot’s salary. Generally, as a pilot gains more flying hours and experience, their earning potential increases. Airlines and employers often offer higher salaries to more experienced pilots, especially those with a significant number of flight hours.

2. Type of Aircraft

The type of aircraft a pilot operates can also affect their salary. Flying larger or more complex aircraft often comes with higher pay. For example, captains of wide-body jetliners typically earn more than those flying smaller regional aircraft.

3. Airline or Employer

Different airlines and employers may offer different compensation packages. Established and larger airlines may offer more competitive salaries and benefits than smaller regional carriers or charter companies.

4. Location

The geographic location where a pilot is based or operates can have an impact on their salary. For instance, pilots based in major cities or international hubs may receive higher salaries due to the cost of living in those areas.

5. Union Agreements

Pilot unions or associations negotiate pay scales and benefits for their members. The terms of these agreements can significantly influence a pilot’s salary and benefits. Unionized pilots often have more predictable and standardized compensation packages.

6. Additional Ratings and Certifications

Pilots with additional qualifications, such as instructor ratings, type ratings for specific aircraft, or specialized certifications, may command higher salaries. These additional credentials can make a pilot more valuable to employers.

7. Seniority

In many airline organizations, pilot seniority plays a crucial role in determining pay and career advancement. Pilots with more seniority within an airline typically have access to better schedules, routes, and compensation.

8. Economic Conditions

The overall economic conditions in South Africa can impact the aviation industry and pilot salaries. Economic downturns or airline financial challenges can lead to salary freezes or reductions.

9. Market Demand

The demand for commercial pilots can fluctuate over time. A strong demand for pilots may lead to higher salaries as airlines compete for qualified talent, while a surplus of pilots can lead to more competitive salary offers.

10. Specialized Skills

Pilots with specialized skills or training, such as experience in specific weather conditions, long-haul international flights, or advanced avionics, may receive higher compensation due to their expertise.

How to Become a Commercial Pilot in South Africa

Becoming a commercial pilot in South Africa involves several steps and requirements. Here’s an overview of the process:

1. Educational Requirements

Minimum education: You’ll need a high school diploma or its equivalent (matric certificate in South Africa).

2. Meet Basic Eligibility Requirements

– Age: You must be at least 17 years old to start pilot training.
– Medical Certificate: Obtain a Class 1 medical certificate from a designated aviation medical examiner (AME). You must meet specific medical standards set by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in South Africa.

3. Choose a Flight School

Research flight schools in South Africa and select one that is reputable and accredited by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

4. Private Pilot License (PPL)

– Start your pilot training by enrolling in a Private Pilot License (PPL) program.

– You’ll need a minimum of 40 flight hours, which includes a minimum of 20 hours of flight training and 20 hours of solo flight time.

– Pass a PPL theory exam.

– Pass a PPL flight test with a designated flight examiner.

5. Hour Building

After obtaining your PPL, you’ll typically need to build flight hours (often referred to as “hour building”) to meet the requirements for further advanced pilot licenses.

6. Instrument Rating (IR)

– Pursue an Instrument Rating (IR), which allows you to fly in adverse weather conditions.
– Complete additional flight training and pass the IR theory exam and flight test.

7. Commercial Pilot License (CPL)

– Once you’ve accumulated the required flight hours and met the IR requirements, you can enrol in a CPL program.
– You’ll need a minimum of 200 total flight hours, including specific requirements for cross-country and instrument flight time.
– Pass the CPL theory exams and flight test.

8. Multi-Engine Rating (ME)

– If you plan to fly multi-engine aircraft, you may need to obtain a Multi-Engine Rating (ME) by completing additional training and passing the relevant exams and flight test.

9. Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL)

– To become a Captain for a commercial airline, you’ll need an Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL).
– ATPL requirements include a minimum total flight hour requirement (usually 1,500 hours or more in South Africa), meeting specific cross-country and instrument flight hour requirements, and passing the ATPL theory exams and flight test.

10. Gain Experience

– After obtaining your ATPL, you’ll typically work as a First Officer (Co-Pilot) for a regional airline, charter company, or other aviation organizations to gain experience.

11. Apply for Airline Jobs

– Apply for positions with commercial airlines or other aviation employers, depending on your career goals and interests.

12. Continuous Training and Certification

– Pilots must undergo recurrent training and pass regular medical examinations to maintain their licenses and certifications throughout their careers.



The average Commercial Pilot Salary in South Africa is R56,350 per month. Becoming a commercial pilot in South Africa involves a structured progression from obtaining a Private Pilot License (PPL) through to an Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL). It requires meeting age, educational, and medical requirements, as well as rigorous flight training, theory exams, and flight tests.

Aspiring pilots must accrue a substantial number of flight hours and ratings, including an Instrument Rating (IR) and potentially a Multi-Engine Rating (ME). The process culminates in gaining experience and applying for positions with airlines or aviation employers. Continuous training and adherence to aviation regulations are essential for maintaining a successful career as a commercial pilot.