Will you get access to any Pilot Abilities during the campaign? Some of those can make you more durable too.
Yes. There's some constraints because the campaign runner doesn't want us to quickly spend points to skip to the highest pilots. So for whatever ship we start flying, we start at cheapest pilot then each mission we can spend points to bump up to next pilot. That way we can slowly work up to anyone. Also per mission we can pick which pilot card we use, of those we've unlocked. So we don't always have to use our current highest pilot (like if the ability was less useful).