The transport sector in every country brings in tons of money. From the road to rail, air, and sea.
Transportation of people, goods, and services is a vital part of any economy, irrespective of its size and strength.
No matter what happens, people and goods will always need to move or be moved from one place to another.
Of all the transport sectors in South Africa, the sector which brings in the most money is the aviation sector. This can be seen in the fact that its fares are the most expensive and its workers are the highest-paid.
When we think of aviation, that is air travel, what comes first to mind is pilots. Really, no one is to blame. At a certain point in the lives of children, they want to be pilots. I also wanted to be a pilot at some point in my life, then an aeronautical engineer. There’s something liberating, perhaps, also sexy about being in the air.
The aviation sector also harbours engineers, flight planners, air hostesses and hosts, firemen, security personnel amongst many others.
In this article, I’ll be discussing the pilots’ salary scale in South Africa. You’ll be learning who earns what, at what level, and also what to do if you’d like to join the league of fliers (I mean pilots).
Who are Pilots?
We know who pilots are, right? Pilots are people who fly planes. The planes could be private or commercial or even military.
One way pilots can be classified is based on the platform they operate; pilots for civilian air travel and those for military travel. Of course, their training is not exactly the same.
There are various flight schools for civilian pilots in South Africa, but if you want to fly a military aeroplane or helicopter, you’d have to attend the South Africa Defense Academy. Now the NDA is a different ball game entirely, so we’ll leave that for another day.
How Pilots are Paid in South Africa
There are majorly two kinds of pilots in South Africa, as regards civilian aviation. They can be divided based on the kind of aircraft they fly and also based on their experience level. Aircraft and the pilots can be classified based on the kind of wings the craft they fly carries. There’s the rotary wings aircraft and the fixed wings aircraft. The rotary wings are the helicopters while the fixed wings are aeroplanes. Helicopter pilots earn more than aeroplane pilots.
Pilots Salary Structure in South Africa
Commercial Pilot License (CPL)
These are entry-level pilots. They lack ratings and therefore, lots of airlines do not employ them. Usually, the airline has to spend some money on their training to get them type ratings. Salary is about R$ 7,400 to R$ 22,200.
First Officers and Senior First Officers
They are the pilots with type ratings. Salary range is from R$ 11,100 to R$ 37,000.
Captains earn somewhere between R$ 18,500 and R$ 111,000.
This salary structure is what is usually obtainable in South African airlines. Foreign companies such as Bristow, or even Shell, pay better than South Africa airlines or South Africa companies. Expatriate pilots also earn better than South Africa pilots.
Factors Affecting Pilots Salary Scale in South Africa
There are a few factors that influence how much a pilot earns in South Africa. Just like any other job, these factors determine whether a pilot earns more or less.
- Flight hours
- Type ratings and certifications
- Job description
Now that you’ve seen what a pilot earns and the factors that determine the pay, I’d like to show you how to become a pilot in South Africa.
How to Become a Pilot in South Africa
Pilots earn a lot of money even at entry-level. This is one of the reasons many people try as hard as they can to be pilots.
Here’s a caveat though, being a pilot is a very expensive endeavour. One could spend up to 7 million ZAR just to acquire certification to fly private planes. More money will even be needed to get a certification to fly a commercial plane.
The first step is to apply to many of the numerous aviation schools in the country. There are over 30 of them scattered across the country. Usually, you’ll have to buy a form or register online after getting some kind of scratch card.
You’ll be required to write an exam; if you pass, you’d be given admission. Applicants who offered science subjects while in secondary school are more preferred. You must also have clocked, at least, 16 years of age to attend certain flight schools. Some schools would even insist that the student must be up to 18 years of age before admission.
Some of the flight schools in South Africa are not approved by the federal government, therefore those schools should be avoided. You’d have to do your due diligence to find one which is federal government approved. The body responsible for this approval is the Federal Aviation Association (FAA).
Aviation school will take somewhat about 4 years to finish. And one would be taught both theoretical and practical courses. Of course, with both practical and theoretical examinations.
The most popular flight school in South Africa is the South Africa College of Aviation Authority. It is owned and partly funded by the federal government. Therefore, it is cheaper than others.
Courses to Study to Become a Pilot in South Africa (Certifications)
You need to be in top medical condition to be qualified to fly commercial planes. There are also many other certifications one would need to become a commercial pilot in South Africa. These many certifications involve a lot of flight hours and are, therefore, very expensive.
Here are some of the certifications you’ll need.
Certified Flight Instructor
This certifies the holder as having the ability and skill to teach others how to fly. This is also one way to be certain pilots get enough flight hours to enable them to get a job for a commercial airline. However, it is not really a requirement for pilots. It just helps to have a better chance of employment as more flight hours are accumulated.
This certificate shows that the holder can fly an aeroplane based solely on the instruments on board. This is a very important skill to have especially in crisis situations of bad weather conditions.
Private Pilot Certificate
This certificate shows that the holder can fly a private aeroplane. The minimum age requirement for this certificate is 17 years.
Commercial Pilot Certificate
This certifies that the holder can fly a commercial aeroplane. One must be at least 23 years of age before getting this certificate.
There are many other certifications that you can get to improve your earning as a pilot. However, the ones stated above should be enough to get you started as a pilot in South Africa.
Most airlines in South Africa do not like to employ people with only a pilot diploma. They usually prefer to employ those who have a BSc in science or engineering-related courses.
Becoming a pilot is worth every bit of your time because it is an endeavour with a huge return on investment.