Side Hustles for Pilots

Many pilots take on side hustles to make extra cash! There are heaps of options and some are easier to get into than you might realise. So let’s take a look at side hustles for pilots, what they may pay and how to get started!

In the ever-evolving world of aviation, many pilots are soaring beyond their primary profession, exploring lucrative side hustles to diversify their income streams. While mastering the skies remains their core passion, pilots possess a unique skill set that positions them favorably for ventures like drone piloting, flight instructing, aerial photography, and even capitalizing on the digital landscape with website monetization.

Not only do these additional pursuits offer financial benefits, but they also provide opportunities for personal growth, networking, and exploring varied facets of the aviation and digital domains. With a plethora of options at their fingertips, it’s never been easier for pilots to harness their expertise and turn it into rewarding side endeavors.

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Do many pilots have side hustles?

Sitting on long-range flights, waiting for poor weather conditions to improve, or Air Traffic Control delays, can be excruciatingly boring. Believe it or not, pilots can have a lot of free time on their hands. When not in critical phases of flight, there isn’t much to do en route. You could look out the window playing eye-spy with the flight crew, but only for so long; after that… you just watch the estimated arrival time slowly decrease.

Due to the high “downtime” and the average half a month a pilot works, it’s not uncommon to have a side hustle outside of flying. Many pilots have side hustles, and it is not uncommon to venture off the aviation industry when developing your secondary occupations.

Are Pilots allowed to have side hustles?

Before you start a side hustle, ensure your employer is aware. While most employers employ staff to develop themselves professionally, some might find that a certain side hustle is a conflict of interest or is against contract obligations. It’s also important to note that working on your secondary income should come secondary. Flying is your primary job.

Stay proficient at your craft and study regularly to keep sharp. A responsible pilot manages a cockpit well by “ working ahead of the airplane” and limiting a high workload. If having a side hustle is too much, you might need to re-assess, to ensure you are sharp, alert and focussed when showing up on the job as a pilot.

What are the best side hustles for pilots?

1)    Flight Instructors

Airmen can give back to the community by undergoing simple additional training to become an aviation instructor The industry is in high demand for pilot training, and many students want to complete it quickly. An airline pilot willing to give his or her on off days can go a long way in clearing the pilot shortage. Picking up a flight or two at the local airport can pay around $20.00 – 40.00 USD per hour and prepare future aviators for the exciting workforce they will soon enter.

flight instructor, pilots in cockpit
Many pilots get a side gig as a flight instructor. It can pay quite well and hours are flexible.

2)    Blog Contributor / Public Speaker

Pilots can sit around airport hangars talking for hours about stories and situations they’ve been in over the years. These “hanger talks” usually end late into the night once a significant other calls, threatening divorce if you don’t return home promptly. People want to hear our stories; more importantly, the aviation community finds educational value in telling them. Sharing knowledge can pay a little extra cash if you’re comfortable writing or participating in public speaking seminaries.  

The FAA holds seminars nationwide in the United States as part of the WINGS – Pilot Proficiency Program. Pilots can earn flight and education credits towards training by attending these educational seminaries and courses. Contributing to a blog can pay up to $200.00 USD per 500-word post.  

3)    Aircraft Sales / Brokerage

Aviation professionals such as pilots understand aircraft on a technical level that most people don’t. With that being said, more often than not, selling aircraft to new aviators might be up your alley if you can stomach the sales industry. An aircraft is the best form of transportation, and general aviation sales and corporate aviation is growing at an astonishing rate. Brokering an aircraft to someone new to aviation pays a nice commission if you have good technical knowledge and sales skills. Check out my team at Air Market Group for aircraft sales and acquisitions.

light aircraft, steps to aircraft
Brokering an aircraft to someone new to aviation pays a nice commission if you have good technical knowledge and sales skills.

4)    Vlogging

Returning to the extraordinary travel and life pilots live, it doesn’t hurt to record it. Many pilots like to share their days flying and the challenges they overcome to complete each flight on social media platforms. Whether a pilot works through a maintenance problem or flies around unsafe weather, vlogging your day can inspire students and future aviators to pursue aviation as a full-time career.

If you can handle the tedious hours of editing according to Create and Go, it pays well to build a strong network and following to record your days flying, as social media services will pay you to create content. Companies like YouTube can pay Vloggers up to USD$1,000 monthly for producing content.

5)    Real Estate

Outside of flying, investing in real estate is a very flexible option. While managing your schedule and making a pilot salary, buying a piece of property and renting it out can be an excellent secondary source of passive income. With many airlines rewriting compensation contracts, pilots are making more money than in the past, making it a very well-paid profession. Understand that just because you are a pilot does mean you need to limit yourself to aviation. Expanding your education into real estate might pay large sums if done correctly.

6)    Drone Piloting

In 2016, the FAA passed legislation allowing for the commercial use of drones. Section 6. 14 CFR Part 107, sUAS Operations are commercial drone use rules and regulations. Some typical applications of drone technology include aerial photography, real estate showings, and construction mapping.

For an already certified FAA Private Pilot, all one must do to operate drones is take a free online course offered by the FAA. After completing the course and a short online examination, pilots will receive an FAA part 107 drone operating certificate, allowing them to fly drones for hire commercially. Becoming a drone operator is an excellent side hustle for pilots looking forward to the future of aviation and pays anywhere between $10.00 – 30.00 USD per hour, depending on experience.

drone piloting, drone at sunset
For an already certified FAA Private Pilot, all one must do to operate drones is take a free online course offered by the FAA. There are many varied roles you could take on as a drone pilot, from surveying to photography and surveillance.

7)    Aerial Photography / Surveying

A small aircraft can provide a considerable advantage by getting a “bird’s eye” view of infrastructure. In the oil capital of the United States,  Midland, Texas, American Patrols provides aerial pipeline and surveying to prevent the next major oil leak from happening. This job includes long days of low-level flying inspecting pipes to ensure infrastructure is secure and operational. This vital inspection pays anywhere from $25.00-50.00 USD per hour if you put in long work days.

For more information on how much aerial photographers can make, check out Drone Blog.

You could also consider air to air photography where you’re taking pictures of other aircraft while in flight. You can read more about air to air photography in our article.

aerial photography, island
Pilots can get paid really well for their pics if they get good aerial shots!

8) Online business

Ever thought about starting your own business? It’s not as hard as you might think if you consider making money online with websites. Starting your own website, or even buying a website to renovate and flip can be a very lucrative side hustle and can provide semi-passive income if you learn a little bit about affiliate marketing and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).

You can take a look at our review of the eBusiness Institute where we look closely at their online courses that teach students how to make income from starting websites of their own, or by buying and flipping websites.

Other ways people can make extra money online are by doing online surveys, selling your own stuff online, you can sell online courses, start a YouTube channel, become a Virtual Assistant, do some online tutoring or create and sell stock photos.

man on computer, online business
Blogging, vlogging, online business and website flipping.. it’s not as hard as you might think!

9) Freelance writing

Pilots possess a unique perspective, skill set, and collection of experiences that can make them standout contributors in the freelance writing domain. Venturing into freelance writing can serve as a rewarding side hustle for pilots. By merging their aviation expertise with refined writing skills and strategic networking, they can chart a successful path in the freelance writing world.

Options can include writing about flight training, aviation history, aircraft reviews, or even travel experiences from a pilot’s perspective, for a blog, for a magazine, online articles, an e-book or as guest posts.

10) Aircraft Maintenance

If you wish to be the complete package, you can become an Aviation Maintenance Professional (AMP). The commitment to becoming an aircraft mechanic requires trade school and at least a minimum of 24 months of education.

This investment will pay well as general aviation AMPs can make up to $60.00 USD per hour or even more, depending on experience and credentials. Independent mechanics work on their schedule and have a high-paying secondary source of income as they build a decent client base.

aircraft maintenance, man with light aircraft
If you’ve got the right skills and experience, aircraft maintenance can be a very lucrative side gig!

11) Scenic flights

Pilots can capitalize on their unique skills and passion for flying by offering scenic flights as a side hustle. This involves taking passengers on short, local flights to provide them with bird’s-eye views of landmarks, landscapes, and natural beauty of a region.

Marketing can be done locally or through online platforms targeting tourists and adventure seekers. Rates vary based on location, aircraft type, and duration, but scenic flights typically range from $100 to $500 per flight, depending on these factors.

scenic flight
Scenic flights, like flight instructing, can be an awesome side hustle, can pay well, depending on where you’re working, and has flexible hours too!

12) Emergency Services

Pilots with specialized skills can find side hustle opportunities working with emergency services, providing crucial air support during emergencies. This role often involves medical evacuations, search and rescue operations, or even firefighting support. To pursue this avenue, pilots typically need advanced certifications, specialized training, and sometimes experience in challenging flying conditions.

Working with emergency services demands quick responsiveness and can sometimes involve flying in adverse conditions. The compensation for such roles varies, but given the specialized nature of the job, pilots can expect to earn between USD$30 to $100 per hour, or even more, depending on the region, specific task, and the level of expertise required. Note that these figures can change based on the locality, the funding of the emergency service, and the pilot’s experience.

fire fighting plane, fire bombers
Pilots can expect to earn between USD$30 to $100 per hour, or even more as an emergency services pilot, depending on your skills, experience and the location.


There are many professional pilots that take on side hustles, in addition to their full time job, to make extra money. Some of these are more lucrative than others, and some take a lot more time than others, but there is definitely no shortage of options out there.

Do you have any other side hustle ideas or business ideas to make extra money as a pilot? Let us know in the comments and we might be able to add them to our list here!

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