Delta has about 800 aircraft for their current operations; how many pilots does the company have? What is a typical or average number of airline pilots employed per aircraft in the fleet?

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    $\begingroup$ The carrier I worked for had a little over 5 crews (10 pilots) per airplane. We didn't do ops requiring more than 2 pilots though, so it may not be applicable to a carrier like delta. $\endgroup$
    – casey
    Jul 11, 2015 at 13:12
  • $\begingroup$ It might be good to be a little more specific about the type of airline (for example, major U.S. airlines like Delta,) since the answers will probably vary depending on the type of operations a given type of airline typically performs. Otherwise, though, I do think this is a reasonable question and I'm voting against closure. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Jul 11, 2015 at 23:07
  • $\begingroup$ You can't really answer this question without knowing the type of network schedule: long haul schedules require different numbers of crewsets than short haul, and there is again an added complexity based on the sector lengths too. $\endgroup$
    – Pete855217
    Feb 17, 2018 at 4:58

1 Answer 1


A Google search shows United Airlines has 709 aircraft and 12505 pilots for a ratio of 17.6 : 1.

If an aircraft was operated 100% of the time, a month's activity (720 hrs) would need 7 pilots pulling 100 hr/month duties, so it's an interesting related question why they need twice this amount. Perhaps there's significant variation in the hours worked by pilots - not all want to work 100 hrs/month, or can be efficiently scheduled to do so because of their home locations etc.

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    $\begingroup$ I question that number, as it seems pretty high. But included in that number could be management pilots, check airmen, sim instructors. And also, every airline has slightly different work rules for various ways they can build schedules and trips, which effects the number of pilots needed. $\endgroup$
    – slookabill
    Jul 11, 2015 at 16:54
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    $\begingroup$ Doesn't it take two pilots to crew an aircraft? $\endgroup$ Jul 11, 2015 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ If the airplane operates 12 hours per day, it's doing pretty well. Long-haul jets might exceed that number for a while, but then they're down for maintenance checks & such. Depending on the length of the flight, somewhere between 2 and 4 pilots are required. Domestic is always 2. That 100 hours/month is the (old) regulatory maximum, but with 1000/year you couldn't average over about 83, and few pilots actually get close to that. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Jul 11, 2015 at 19:11
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    $\begingroup$ DOH! Two pilots per flight and now you have a need for 14 pilots per aircraft under 100% usage. But as you say, it's a lot less than that, but so are the available pilot hours, and the numbers make sense now. $\endgroup$
    – Padraig H
    Jul 11, 2015 at 19:19
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    $\begingroup$ Lines of flying generally have to average out to a monthly line value specified by the CBA. e.g. at carrier X, lines may average 80 hours and can not be built over 95 hours. For every 90 hour line there was a 70 hour line. Also factor vacations, recurrent training, etc and the numbers make sense. $\endgroup$
    – casey
    Jul 12, 2015 at 13:45

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