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What Technology Do You Need to Know to Become a Commercial Pilot?

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It’s your dream to become a commercial pilot. You’ve wanted to be one for quite some time, and are finally ready to start out on that journey.

Getting a license is hard work, with a huge list of requirements having to be met before you can finally get that piece of paper. The world of flying is changing all the time, and new technology is complicating the process every day. However, if that’s your goal, then you need to become familiar with all of it.

We’re here to cut through the jargon for you. That way, you can make some headway towards your goal, and ultimately understand how to get a pilot’s license.

Are you interested in learning more about how to become a commercial pilot in today’s market? Then you need this article, where we’re going to cover every basic skill that you need.


It’s true: you don’t need a college degree to become a pilot! While some airlines prefer college-educated pilots, it’s by no means a must-have.

If you’ve not begun to train as a private pilot, then start today! Commercial pilots need to be fully trained as private pilots and have at least 1500 flying hours logged.

However, you can apply for a license once you have 250 hours logged. You should fly in as many different conditions as possible, and at night, as well as in daylight.


Just as on the ground, you probably won’t get out a compass and maps in your day-to-day life, nor will pilots. Instead, the most common tool used by pilots is one you’re already familiar with from your smartphone: GPS.

Many pilots actually use an iPad in the cockpit. However, does that mean they’re using the exact same software as you? No, they’re not. Instead, their software, as with all others mentioned here, has to meet a certain standard, called DO 178, which ensures that the software is fit for purpose.

Modern navigation for pilots looks very different than finding your nearest convenience store. Pilots must use the info served up by the iPad to judge fuel burn, detect obstacles, and more. You must become a truly expert user of the GPS software.

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You might think that the average flight involves little work on the part of the pilots. You couldn’t be more wrong. The autopilot cannot fly a plane by itself.

Instead, pilots must be able to program the autopilot to do exactly what is required of it. You will have to be able to program different kinds of climbs and descents, depending on the current conditions and traffic. As such, the pilot is still the key cog in the machine.

You might have also heard that most landings are automatic, but that’s incorrect. In reality, fewer than one percent of landings are autolands. As for take-offs, zero percent of these are done by the autopilot.


Staying in touch with the ground is of massive importance for commercial pilots. If you’re not able to communicate, you’re not able to land, and if you’re not able to land, well, you can work out the rest.

As such, commercial pilots must make use of Radio Frequency (RF) communications equipment on an everyday basis. The plane will likely have two radios, COM 1 and COM 2, each with an active and standby frequency. For times when GPS fails, you can also use the navigation radios, NAV 1 and NAV 2, to tune to radio beacons.

These radios will be tuned to VHF, specifically 118-137 MHz.

RF technology isn’t just used for communications, however. It also has a huge role to play in collision avoidance technology, alerting other pilots when you are near, and vice-versa.


The most important weather technology for commercial pilots’ use is datalink weather. This ingenious system keeps pilots up to date with the latest weather conditions, as soon as they occur. It also gives pilots information on temporary flight restrictions, in other words, temporary no-fly zones.

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The system runs on SiriusXM and ADS-B receivers, and is updated constantly. What this means is that pilots now know every little detail about their destination’s weather. The modern commercial pilot must know how every bit of these conditions will affect their flight plan, and be able to edit it accordingly.

Technology may be able to help us out a lot, but you’ll still need to know exactly what to do in any condition.


To become a commercial pilot, you will need to pass the FAA Practical Test. To do this, you must provide your own aircraft, and a stack of different information, including:

  • The aircraft’s registration certificate and airworthiness certificate.
  • Weight and balance data for the aircraft.
  • FCC radio station certificate.
  • A completed FAA Form 8710-1.
  • A satisfactory grade on an AC Form 8080-2.
  • Your logbook.

The test consists of a huge number of different standards, to ensure that you are completely trained and ready to become a commercial pilot.

You will have to make use of data provided by every single system on the aircraft. Being up to date with the technology is a crucial part of the examination, but knowing how to interpret the data is far more important. If you can interpret weather data and navigation data, and use communication equipment effectively, you’ll do fine.


Commercial pilot requirements are stringent for a reason: not everyone has the capacity to become a commercial pilot. But if you’re still reading this, and understand what we’ve said, there’s a very good chance that you do.

The most important bit of information that we can give you is to use the technology effectively, rather than let it use you. As the pilot of a plane, everything that the plane does, on autopilot or otherwise, has to be authorized by you. Use the technology available to make you a better pilot, rather than thinking of it as a crutch.

You’ve chosen an exciting time to become a pilot. Now go out there, and fly the friendly skies!

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