HOW TO BECOME A PILOT
Everything you need to know
Although the European Standard does not dictate any specific need for admission, each ATO (Approved Training Organisation) can establish a desirable minimum that guarantees the optimal use of the training and maximises the chances of success in your studies.
While you should know that, at the time you get your pilot’s license, you must to:
During the course, you will study such interesting competitions that as Mathematics, Physics or Computer Science. You can also train in areas such as Meteorology, Navigation or Radionavigation; and you will learn all about Motors, Flight Planning or Aircraft Structure.
Of all this, and much more, you can inform yourself reading our post about Airline Pilot Programme ATPL course and our post about how to pass the ATPL exams.
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To become a commercial pilot, the minimum age to begin your studies is 16; however, to take the exam, you must be 18 years old.
Although we recommend an integrated program, the steps to become a commercial airplane pilot, corresponding to the different modular courses, are as follows.
The training always starts with the Private Pilot License (PPL-A). This course is composed of a theoretical part of 9 subjects, all of them related to aviation; plus a minimum of 45 hours of flying.
At the end of the course, you will obtain your Private Pilot License, which allows you to fly single-engine aeroplanes, always without remuneration, that is to say, for private or recreational use.
Once the PPL course has been completed, and the corresponding licence obtained, you can start the ATPL theory course. This phase of the process to become an airplane pilot, can be done in person at the school or online; but always after having obtained the PPL license.
The ATPL theory course is composed of 14 subjects, many of them already treated in the PPL course, although this time much more extended. The duration of this stage is 770 hours; being 90% through the Bristol GS platform, and the remaining 10% in attendance, with 77 hours of revision of the subjects and support classes.
While you study the Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) theory course, you can take flight hours to gain the necessary experience to continue with the training (Time Building).
Once you have passed the final ATPL exams and completed the 70h (PIC – Pilot in Command) of experience flight, you can continue with the Multi-Engine Aircraft Rating (ME).
The course to obtain this rating is composed of two parts: a theoretical and a practical one. In the theoretical part (7h), which consists of a single subject, the operation and systems of multi-engine aircraft are explained. And, in the practical flying part (6h), you will apply the theory learned, mainly the different system’s failures.
Then, by following the steps to become a commercial airplane pilot, you can complete the Instrument Rating (IR) course. This course will allow you to pilot the aircraft with only the reference of the flight instruments, that is, without external visibility, without external references or between clouds.
Like the previous phase, the IR rating also consists of a theoretical part and a practical part. On the one hand, the theory (12h) deals with the procedures for this type of flight and with the Jeppesen navigation charts with G1000. On the other hand, during the practical part, which consists of 55 hours of flying (40h in simulator and 15h in MEP flight), you will learn how to pilot the plane with instruments.
The penultimate step to becoming an airplane pilot is the Commercial Pilot Course (CPL-A). This phase consists of 15 hours flying in an advanced aircraft: 10 hours in a single-engine plane (SEP) and 5 hours in a multi-engine plane (MEP).
To obtain the CPL license, you must be 18 years old at the time of the exam; this is the only requirement, as we mentioned before.
Finally, and once the Commercial Pilot Course (CPL) is completed, you can obtain a so-called Frozen ATPL, which includes the Commercial Pilot License (CPL), the Instrument Flight (IR) and Multi-Engine (ME) ratings, and the theoretical ATPL certificate.
In this last stage, you must accumulate the remaining flight hours up to 1500 hours, to finish your training to become a commercial airplane pilot and start working for an airline.
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The flying hour requirements to become a commercial pilot fluctuate depending on different factors, as any other work access requirements. Among the most prominent is the current pilot market which varies depending on social-economic factors, the country of origin of the airline, internal policies of each company, etc.
We must also bear in mind the rank in which the vacancy is to be filled, and that the minimum number of flying hours required are not the same for inexperienced Copilots, experienced Copilots and Captains.
To follow, we’ve provided a guide so you can get a good idea of the amount of flying hours needed to work for an airline depending on the position you wish to apply for.
Once you’ve obtained the licence and ‘unfreeze’ ATPL, you can apply for a copilot position with an airline. The requirements are the following:
To apply for a position of inexperienced Copilot you will need not only your license and valid medical certificate, but also possess a great personal and professional background. Your academic information, progression as a pilot, and acquired aptitudes during your career to date will be taken into account.
Additionally, in order to ensure you have the knowledge of the type of aircraft you will fly, one of the most common requests of an airline are the APS MCC course (Airline Pilot Standard Multi Crew Cooperation) and JOC course (Jet Orientation Course).
The flying hours for an inexperienced Copilot are not so important as the airline will provide training which will cover the minimum amount of hours needed for the position.
If you already have a considerable amount of experience copiloting a multi-crew aircraft the requirements are different.
The necessary amount of flying hours are around 1200 to 1500 in the aircraft type. As mentioned above, this number will vary depending on the market, country, or the company.
They will also ask for a Type Rating for the corresponding aircraft, the medical certificate in force, curriculum vitae and various other documents relating to your professional trajectory.
However, we are talking about the number of flight hours required to work as a copilot if you take up the post externally. If you are promoted, the number may be reduced.
As you will imagine, the requirements for the position of Captain are much stricter, as you are not only assuming the tremendous responsibility of piloting a passenger aircraft but also the highest rank in responsibility and authority during flight.
Apart from the 1500 hours acquired during the ATPL training, in order to apply for the position of Captain you need between 3000 and 4000 flying hours in multi-crew operations aircraft and of a certain tonnage. In addition, you will have to complete and pass a Command Promotion Course at the airline itself.
Demonstrable recent flying experience is required, at least in the last 3-6 months. However, this requirement can change depending on market circumstances (Covid for example).
Other documentation you’ll need to provide could be:
Let’s be clear. Being a commercial aviation pilot supposes a great financial commitment, besides that it requires a total responsibility and dedication since it is a very competitive and demanding sector.
Depending on the training route you decide to follow, the amount could be increased. The ratings could increase this amount depending you decide to obtain a posteriori.
The most important thing is that you value very well what each flight school offers you; don’t let yourself be carried away by the prices. Find out carefully what is included in them: flight hours, teaching hours, ratings, fleet, teaching materials, simulators, and so on.
However, you should appreciate that we are talking about one of the professions with the highest social recognition, the most exceptional economic projection and one of the best prospects in the short and medium term.
In One Air Aviation, we offer you prices that are adjusted to the quality of training you will receive, always with the most advanced technology, the newest aircraft and teaching techniques still at the forefront of the sector.
Do you dream of becoming a pilot?
Currently, in our country, no public organisation offers scholarships for the training of commercial pilots or any other aeronautical position. However, the Spanish Union of Air Line Pilots (SEPLA) has begun to request instances so that, in the future, there may be some government assistance for studies in the sector.
It is not easy to calculate precisely how much a pilot earns, as the factors that influence the total amount are numerous. The salary that an airline pilot earns will be conditioned by variables such as:
Based on the determining factors mentioned above, we can estimate that copilots have an average base salary of around 35,000 euros per year. In comparison, pilots earn a base salary of between 65,000 and 110,000 euros per year.
Of course, these figures are merely indicative. You already know that the profession of aeroplane pilot is one of the most demanded nowadays and, although it has conditions, being an airplane pilot is very well paid.
Many people are not aware of what a commercial pilot can be, because a commercial pilot is not necessarily an airline pilot. Commercial pilots can be tourist pilots, government pilots or field pilots. They can be glider tow pilots, ferry pilots or flight instructors. A commercial pilot is merely the one to whom EASA allows him to charge money for his services.
According to Boeing’s official data, in the next 20 years, more than 600,000 new commercial pilots will be needed to cover the demand generated by the growth of the sector, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. You are at the perfect time to begin your training.
Remember to keep your mind open and take every opportunity, especially at the beginning. Yes, it’s sure you’ve always dreamed of flying wide-body aircraft for Emirates or Lufthansa; but, if you are excited about traveling, be flexible with your options and consider to accept any challenge, there are opportunities all over the world.
One could think of the difficulty of reconciling work and personal life; but then, why are there more female flight attendants than male flight attendants?
To respond to this, in addition to taking into account economic and cultural factors, we must think that, at its origins, aviation was only military, an area reserved for men. When the figure of the civilian pilot arose, many soldiers migrated to commercial flights which caused a stagnation in the hiring of new pilots and, those who already exercised, were all men.
Currently, in Spain almost 5% of the pilots are women; This figure is expected to increase steadily in the coming years, with the expected growth throughout the aviation sector. Don’t miss our post about female pilots in which we provide a lot of references for future generations of pilots.
In this sense, both airlines and different organisations and associations work to improve the presence of women in aviation with projects such as ‘Aviadoras‘, led by Mar Alguacil, a woman pilot with more than 30 years of experience and a reference for many women for their work to make visible the role of pilot women in aviation.
Surely you already know what you have to study to be a pilot and you have said, I want to be an airline pilot!
Well, in addition to the positive aspects that are implicit in the pilot career such as a high salary, social recognition, the opportunity to know the world or interaction with people of all cultures; if you do it with us, we can give you additional values such as: