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Southwest Pilot Requirements: Your Complete Guide

southwest pilot requirements

As a professional pilot with years of experience flying for commercial airlines, including Southwest, I've gained firsthand knowledge of what it takes to become part of a prestigious airline's cockpit crew. In this guide, I'll walk you through the essential requirements and steps to become a pilot for Southwest Airlines, one of the most popular carriers in the United States.

Educational Background

Minimum Education: To begin your career as a Southwest pilot, you must have a high school diploma or GED. However, a Bachelor's degree is highly recommended and often preferred during selection.

Flight Experience

Total Flight Hours: Southwest requires a minimum of 1,000 or 1,500 hours of total flight experience. This varies depending on your background, such as whether you have military experience or have attended a recognized flight school.

Type of Experience: The hours must include time flying as the pilot in command under certain conditions and in specific aircraft types. Multi-engine experience is also crucial.


FAA Certificates: You must hold a valid Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) First Class Medical Certificate and an unrestricted FAA Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate.

Specific Skills and Ratings

Instrument Rating: This is essential as it demonstrates your ability to fly an aircraft in low visibility conditions using just the instruments.

Multi-Engine Rating: Since all commercial flights involve multi-engine aircraft, this rating is indispensable.

Physical and Health Requirements

Medical Fitness: Pilots must pass a rigorous medical examination that proves they are in excellent health, free from any conditions that could impair their ability to fly.

Personal and Interpersonal Skills

Communication Skills: As a pilot, you must communicate effectively with your crew, air traffic control, and, in some cases, passengers.

Decision-Making Skills: Pilots must make quick and informed decisions that could affect the safety of hundreds of people.

Additional Considerations

Background Checks: Southwest conducts thorough background checks, including checks on your financial history and any criminal records.

Continuous Training: Southwest pilots undergo constant training and re-certification to ensure they remain at the forefront of aviation safety and technology.

Application Process

  1. Online Application: Start by submitting an application using the Southwest Careers portal.

  2. Interview: If your application is successful, the next step is an interview, which may include simulator tests and psychometric assessments.

  3. Training Program: Once hired, you will enter Southwest's training program, which is rigorous but designed to make you the best pilot you can be.

So, What are Southwest Pilot Requirements?

Embarking on a career as a Southwest pilot is a challenging yet rewarding path. It requires dedication, a solid educational foundation, extensive training, and a clear medical history. The rewards, however, including being part of a respected airline, navigating the skies, and ensuring passenger safety, are incomparable. If you're passionate about flying and meet the qualifications, a fulfilling career as a Southwest pilot could be your next big adventure.

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