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Being a pilot is one of the most exciting things a person can do in the world. But there are so many different types, so how many pilots are there?
It is estimated that there are between 1.5 and 2.3 million pilots in the world. In the USA, there are 734,911 pilots including civilians and military. Of those: 160,860 are private pilots; 103,879 are commercial pilots; 43,300 are military pilots (19,100 Air Force); and 58,541 are female pilots.
There are all sorts of pilots out there, not only in the USA but across the world. There are commercial pilots, military pilots, private pilots, and more. With how exciting being a pilot is and how many different avenues there are to become one, you might be surprised at how many pilots there really are out there. In this article, you’ll learn everything you want to know about how many pilots there are, both in total and broken down group by group.
Here at SkyTough, we pride ourselves on providing only the best content to our readers. To do so, we thoroughly research every topic that we write about and only put out the most accurate information we can find. For a topic like this, we rely on airline statistics, information from government agencies (such as the Federal Aviation Administration), public military information, and more. This way, you get the most accurate idea possible of how many pilots there are.
How Many Pilots Are There?
That’s a bit of a broad question if you really think about it, and one that is not so straightforward to answer. When people wonder about how many pilots there are, it really depends heavily on what type of pilots they’re curious about. After all, fewer people probably want to truly know how many pilots there are in the world rather than, say, how many commercial pilots there are in the United States.
But in this article, we’ve set out to make sure we answer the question for everyone. So no matter what you’re wondering, we’ve got you covered. Whether you’re wondering how many commercial pilots there are, or the number of military pilots, how many private pilots there are, the total number of pilots in the USA, or if you really want to know how many pilots there are in the world in total, you’ll find the answer here.
So without further ado, let’s get into the good stuff. Here are how many pilots there are, broken down group and group.
How Many Commercial Pilots Are There?
Becoming a commercial pilot is one of the most prestigious careers that a person can pursue. Not only is it a well respected job that can be difficult to land, but it’s also one with a great salary and a whole slew of additional benefits. So it’s no surprise that there are a high number of commercial pilots out there.
When you hear the term commercial pilot, however, you might just be thinking of the pilots that fly you to your destination for the major airlines. And while that’s certainly true and those are, in fact, commercial pilots, the total number of commercial pilots also includes cargo pilots. So the pilots that fly big cargo planes for companies like FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc., those are all commercial pilots too!
According to the FAA survey from 2020, there are 103,879 commercial pilots in the United States. This number is up slightly from 2019, where there were just 100,863. Over the last decade, the number of commercial pilots has decreased, as there were 120,865 commercial pilots back in 2011. Of the current 103,879 commercial pilots, just 7,724 are women.
To get a better idea of where all of these commercial pilots are working, let’s take a look at a quick breakdown of some of the major airlines in the country, including both passenger and cargo jet commercial pilots:
*most estimates provided by Statista.com
As you can see if you were to add all of these numbers up, these airlines don’t account for all of the 103,879 commercial pilots in the country. But these are some of the major ones, with the majority of them being from the big four airlines — American, Delta, United, and Southwest. This should go to show you that there are plenty of airlines and opportunities out there for becoming a pilot. So if you’re interested, go for it!
How Many Private Pilots Are There In The USA?
You might think that commercial pilots make up the biggest portion of the total number of pilots that there are in the country. But actually, that’s not true, and it’s really not even close. The biggest percentage of pilots in the US (other than student pilots), are those with a private pilot’s license.
According to the same FAA Civil Airmen survey, there are currently 160,860 private pilots in the United States. That’s about 60% more than the number of commercial pilots that you just read about above. This could be for many reasons, but the biggest is undoubtedly the fact that it’s just much easier to become a private pilot than it is to become a commercial pilot. In fact, earning your private pilot license is a prerequisite for becoming a commercial pilot to begin with.
So it’s worth noting that this number from the FAA survey may include the 103,879 commercial pilots from above, since they all also have a private pilot’s license. The notes on the survey do not make this clear. But based on the way the table is presented, I’m going to assume that this number of private pilots does not include the commercial pilots from above, and there are 160,860 private pilots that do not have a commercial license.
How Many Female Pilots Are There In The USA?
It may come as no surprise to you that the vast majority of the pilots in this country are, in fact, male. While the number of female pilots has certainly increased significantly in the past few decades, including even the last ten years, it is still a heavily male dominated field. So that then begs the question, how many pilots in the United States are female?
In total, according to the FAA survey, there are 58,541 female pilots in the country. Of those, there are just 7,724 commercial pilots and 11,316 private pilots. Based on the numbers from above for these two categories, that means that 7.4% of commercial pilots and 7.0% of private pilots are female. That just goes to show how male-dominated this industry truly is currently!
That said, a decade ago in 2011, there were just 41,316 female pilots in the United States. That means that we’ve seen an increase of about 41.6% in the number of female pilots in the country over the last ten years. Hopefully, that trend will continue and more and more females will be interested in becoming pilots and will be able to enjoy the amazing career that being a pilot really is!
How Many Pilots Are In The Air Force?
If you took a look at the FAA survey mentioned above, keep in mind that those numbers only deal with civilians. That means that military pilots, including the Air Force, are not included in those numbers. And while the Air Force certainly has the most pilots of any of the branches of the military, it’s not the only branch that has pilots.
Here’s a quick comparison of the number of pilots that the different branches of the military have:
If you want to join the military and become a pilot, it makes sense that you would enlist in the Air Force, since the main focus of the Air Force is air superiority. According to the Air Force Times, the Air Force currently has 19,100 of the total 43,300 military pilots. While that might sound like a significant number of military pilots, the government wants the Air Force to have 21,000 pilots among its ranks. So currently, there is a shortage of roughly 1,900 pilots.
There is a military pilot shortage across the board, not just in the Air Force. So if you’re interested in becoming a military pilot, now’s a great time to start!
How Many Pilots Are There In The USA In Total?
While we’ve talked a bit about some of the specific kinds of pilots in the country, let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture. The total number of pilots in the USA includes far more than commercial airline pilots, private pilots, and military pilots. There are also student pilots, transport pilots, recreational pilots, and more.
To get the full picture of how many pilots there are, we need to combine the number of civilian pilots from the FAA survey with the number of military pilots from above. According to the FAA, there are 691,691 pilots in the country. And as you saw above, there are 43,300 pilots in the military. So in total, there are 734,991 pilots in the USA.
This is how the total number of pilots in the country is broken down:
How Many Pilots Are There In The World?
Finding the total number of pilots in the world would be something that’s nearly impossible to do. Different countries have different reporting procedures, some countries don’t make information so easily accessible like the FAA survey, and military pilots across the world are typically held a bit closer to the chest.
But according to Statista, it is estimated that there are around 333,000 pilots in the airline industry. With that number in mind, we can compare it to the number of pilots in the United States and then extrapolate to get an idea of how many pilots there may be in the world. The final number will almost certainly be higher than the number of pilots in the world, since it’s likely that the US has a much larger proportion of pilots than many other countries.
With 333,000 commercial airline pilots in the world, that is 3.2 times the number of airline pilots in the US. So if we take that 3.2x modifier and apply it to the total number of pilots in the United States, we come up with 2.35 million pilots in the world including every type of pilot in every country. But again, this is likely much higher than the actual number of pilots. Based on my own knowledge of the industry, I would estimate that there are around 1.5 - 1.8 million pilots total in the world.