What does an Aviator do?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
A private jet being flown by an aviator.
A private jet being flown by an aviator.

An aviator is someone who flies planes, either professionally or recreationally. The term “aviator” is not as commonly used today, with aviators usually being referred to as “pilots.” Whether one calls someone who flies planes an aviator or a pilot, a professional career in this field can be quite diverse, with a number of career opportunities open to people who hold certifications which allow them to fly aircraft.

The pilots of long haul, wide-body commercial jetliners like the Boeing 747 must make decisions that will guarantee the safety of their passengers.
The pilots of long haul, wide-body commercial jetliners like the Boeing 747 must make decisions that will guarantee the safety of their passengers.

Recreationally, an aviator works primarily with small planes. He or she must have a basic recreational pilot's license, and may obtain additional licenses such as an instrument rating or multiengine license for more flexibility. Pilots who plan to fly professionally need additional licensure which allows them to carry paying passengers and freight.

Commercial aviators can work on commercial aircraft which carry passengers and freight, charter airlines which offer service on private jets, and on medical evacuation and transport services which utilize aircraft. An aviator can also be retained by a private company to pilot the company plane, remaining on call to be available when air transport of staff, company guests, or materials is required. Professional aviators may also work as instructors, training new pilots and providing additional training for certified pilots who want to expand or refresh their skills.

Commercial aircraft are usually flown by two pilots and, on older models, a flight engineer.
Commercial aircraft are usually flown by two pilots and, on older models, a flight engineer.

The military also has need for aviators. In a nation with an air force, an aviator can fly planes for the air force and test planes which the air force is considering adopting. Aviators are also employed by most navies and armies, as these branches of the armed forces usually have need for pilots and aircraft on occasion. After training as a pilot for the military and working for a set number of years, aviators who are not interested in military careers can usually readily find employment in the civilian world, as pilots with military aviation experience are highly valued.

Many aviators who live in rural areas fly crop dusters.
Many aviators who live in rural areas fly crop dusters.

Companies which manufacture aircraft and develop new aircraft also have use for aviators. Test pilots, as they are known, fly new and experimental aircraft to test them out and provide feedback to the designers. These aviators usually have engineering experience in addition to a high level of skill as pilots, so that they can contribute to the process of designing and refining a plane to make sure that it is safe and that it does what it is supposed to do.

People interested in aviation careers can pursue a number of training options, including flight school, private pilot lessons, or training through the military.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

chrysalis

Another common use of the word, aviator, refers to a style of sunglasses originally created for pilots. Aviator sunglasses have become a classic style for men since the late 1930s when they were first created. They're now simply called 'aviators'. They are worn by men of every age, from teens to octogenarians.

I think it was Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer in the film, Top Gun, who resurrected the style and inspired a whole new generation of aviator sunglasses fans.

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    • A private jet being flown by an aviator.
      A private jet being flown by an aviator.
    • The pilots of long haul, wide-body commercial jetliners like the Boeing 747 must make decisions that will guarantee the safety of their passengers.
      The pilots of long haul, wide-body commercial jetliners like the Boeing 747 must make decisions that will guarantee the safety of their passengers.
    • Commercial aircraft are usually flown by two pilots and, on older models, a flight engineer.
      Commercial aircraft are usually flown by two pilots and, on older models, a flight engineer.
    • Many aviators who live in rural areas fly crop dusters.
      Many aviators who live in rural areas fly crop dusters.
    • Fighter pilots are trained to fly combat aircraft like the F-22 Raptor into air to air engagements and on bombing runs.
      Fighter pilots are trained to fly combat aircraft like the F-22 Raptor into air to air engagements and on bombing runs.
    • Airship pilots fly today's non-rigid dirigibles over sporting events and public gatherings.
      Airship pilots fly today's non-rigid dirigibles over sporting events and public gatherings.