Having read a fair amount of the positive reactions expressed on social media to ITV’s easyJet: Inside the Cockpit and a fair amount of people expressing their interest in becoming pilots, I’ve come up with my next blog post. Below are a few things an aspiring aviator should consider when deciding how to go about training to become an airline pilot. These are based on the knowledge I have gained so far over the last two years as a newbie to the aviation world. Please be aware airline pilot is not the only form of a professional pilot career available to you, other options include search & rescue, instructing, bush flying, business jets, the list goes on. Additionally, all the information below is based on my own personal views & experiences and not those of any Flight Training Organisation and airline.
1. Is it the career for me, how can I be sure?
The answer to this one is you can never be 100% sure! This not only applies to becoming a pilot, but to life in general. I started flying in May 2015 in response to a suggestion made by my father. Whilst I enjoyed my first few lessons, I wasn’t entirely sure it was exactly what I wanted to do. What I did know is I wanted a career in aviation and was exploring the possibility of becoming an air traffic controller, as well as a pilot. However, the moment I made up my mind was after my first solo, which was in a PA28 out of Blackbushe Airport. The level of happiness I felt after this accomplishment compared to nothing I had felt before. It was quite simply the happiest moment of my life! Hence, my recommendation would be the classic advice of “you don’t know until you try”, so why not give it a go if you haven’t already? Pop to your nearest aerodrome and see if you can book a trial flight.
2. What previous experience is required?
Surprisingly, for integrated training (more on that later), none is required. However, I think, considering the cost of the course, it’s worth having a go beforehand as at least you know, during the initial months of your training studying for your theoretical knowledge exams, you can be reassured by the fact you are capable of flying a plane. I have heard of the rare circumstance where a cadet pilot achieves respectable marks in the theoretical knowledge exams but struggles with the flying. Bearing in mind the financial commitment, it’s best to be safe than sorry!
3. What qualifications do you need prior to commencing flight training?
As a rule of thumb (pilots like that term), airlines and flight schools (or Flight Training Organisations) tend to ask for the following as a minimum requirement:
5 GCSEs grade C or above, generally this needs to include Maths, English and Physics
AND : 2 A levels at Grace C or above (or equivalent qualification)
OR : Degree at 2:2 or above
Additional requirements tend to include fluent English, to be over the age of 17.5 and have the required level of health to obtain a Class 1 Medical Certificate. If your first language isn’t English, you will be required to obtain a certain level of language proficiency. To obtain the requirements for a specific scheme or course you will have to look at each one individually, as they may vary.
4. What are the options?
There is a whole range of options out there for any aspiring pilot to chose from. Initially it can be overwhelming and you can feel a bit lost, especially if you have no previous exposure to the aviation industry or haven’t grown up around pilots. Writing from the prospective of a UK applicant, there are several options available.
There are two main routes: modular or integrated:
- Modular training works out a lot cheaper and can be done at your own pace. It is growing increasingly popular, especially as more modular providers are forming links with airlines. Modular training breaks down into some key phases: groundschool for 14 theoretical knowledge exams, Private Pilot Licence, hour building and Commercial Pilot Licence / Instrument Rating. Modular training can be done with several Flight Training Organisations (FTO) and it is worth considering completing your Commercial Pilot Licence / Instrument Rating with an integrated FTO provider, as this will open up links with airlines regarding employment prospects.
- Integrated training is more expensive and is completed on-site at a FTO. Three of the well known UK FTOs are Oxford Aviation Academy, L3 Training Academy and FTE Jerez. As you may be aware, I went to FTE Jerez and although in Spain, the qualifications are all regulated through the UK CAA. Integrated training is on a full time basis and broken down into phases. The order in which the various elements of becoming an airline pilot are carried out varies from FTO to FTO.
However, not everyone wants to become airline pilots and there are many other job opportunities out there. It’s not uncommon for aspiring pilots to apply to the military first, as this not only offers the prospects of many once-in-a-life-time opportunities and it is fully funded, which is rare to come by these days! It also leaves the door open for the airline route later on, should you wish to do so. It should be noted integrated training is designed for the purpose to produce airline pilots, so if this is not what you would like to do, save yourself some money and go modular! Other career options as a pilot include business jets, bush flying, surveillance, search & rescue, cargo / postal services and instructing. Many of these are much more suited to someone who likes to do a lot of hands on flying rather than procedural operations.
5. Modular or Integrated?
Now this is the big question! With so many options available to you it is hard to know what to go for and it’s easy to be hesitant especially because of the financial commitment of either route. There are pros and cons to both routes, therefore fundamentally you’ve got to decide which is best for you, which one you feel happiest doing. Here is a quick list of the positives and negatives for each:
- FTOs have strong, well-established relationships with airlines.
- You benefit from being fully immersed in an aviation environment 24/7.
- The studying takes a lot less time than the modular route so you’re career will take off quicker 😉
- You will be training at a purpose built facility with experienced groundschool and flight instructors on site ready to answer any questions or help you with anything you are struggling with.
- Your training has consistency as it’s carried out by only one FTO.
- It costs a lot more than modular.
- You can mange the training at your own pace.
- You can fit it in around a job, thanks to the part-time aspect.
- More airlines are recruiting modular students, notably BA Cityflyer.
- With the right choice of FTO, the standard of training can be equal to integrated. As previously mentioned, some integrated FTOs offer CPL/IR courses for modular students, opening up doors to employment with an airline.
- Some airlines don’t accept modular intake.
- Fitting it around a job can result in inconsistency and gaps between parts of your training.
- Being left to get on with it yourself can prove challenging, as it can be hard to motivate yourself to work when you’re at home, compared to being in a training environment where there are fewer distractions.
To find out more, here’s a good article on the Pilot Career News website: https://www.pilotcareernews.com/pilot-training-integrated-vs-modular/ I highly recommend having a browse on this website as there is a lot of useful information on there.
Hope you’ve found this informative so far. For part 2, please click here.