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Home > Becoming a Pilot > Should I be a cargo or passenger pilot?
Should I be a cargo or passenger pilot?
Pilot Career - Becoming a Pilot
Sunday, 16 December 2007 19:17

Hi Captain Lim,

I would like to seek your advice regarding the issue stated in the subject heading.

I've been accepted by Singapore Airlines as a cadet pilot. They have offered me a choice between SIA cargo and SIA's main passenger fleet.

I have the following queries:

1. How do the roles and responsibilities differ between a cargo pilot and a passenger pilot?

2. How does the training differ? Do they fly different aircraft? Is it possible to move between fleets in the future?

3. How do the pay packages differ?

4. I have heard that cargo pilots are based overseas. Is this true?

5. The question of prestige - some people have told me that it is more "prestigious" to become a passenger pilot. Is this the general sentiment across the industry and what are your opinion on this?

6. Do cargo pilots clock more flying hours, thus reaching the rank of a captain earlier than passenger pilots? Or vice-versa?

7. Are there any other information resources about cargo pilots that you can direct me to?

Thank you very much for your time. I appreciate your help and hope to hear from you soon.

Best regards,


Hi Howie,

If you were given a choice, go for the main SIA passenger fleet.
1. The crew in the passenger fleet obviously have higher responsibilities as they are in close contact with their customers all the time.  They have to ensure that the passengers are comfortable, endure their complaints, take them to their destination on time and encounter a whole lot of issues whereas cargoes do not mind if the flight goes through turbulence or if the departures were delayed. 

2. There is no difference as far as flying the aircraft is concerned, although in some airlines, cargo planes are older.  SIA currently uses the Boeing 747-400's, which are similar to the passenger fleet. There is no problem moving from one fleet to the other in the future but the company policy may dictate otherwise.
3. In the past, pilots in SIA fly a mixed fleet, meaning one day, they may fly passengers, the next day they may carry Formula One cars as cargoes. From what I have gathered, in order to save cost, the company is splitting the fleet so that cargo pilots are paid less than those in passengers fleet.
4. I do not have any idea about the posting of cargo pilots overseas but the possibilities are there.
5. Yes, most pilots prefer to be associated with the passenger fleet if given the choice.
6. I am not sure if cargo pilots clock hours faster than the others. The limitations on flying hours are the same on both types of flying.
7. Googles Search would be able to help you more than I can at the moment.


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