Home > Science & Law > Becoming a Pilot

Becoming a Pilot

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 3 Nov 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Career Pilot Airline Aviation Fly Flying

Becoming a pilot is a thing of children's dreams, and this desire is often carried into adulthood. Although there is always the option of training and obtaining a Private Pilot's Licence (PPL) for civilians, the cost of buying or hiring a plane once you've qualified, fuel fees, maintenance, hangarage costs, and landing fees all add up to a veritable sum.

A career as a pilot is an option that will allow you to experience your passion on a daily basis, with the added bonus of earning a more than reasonable salary from doing what you love. Here we look at the different employment routes available, as well as the skills needed to enter a career where competition for a job can be high.

Making the Decision

The decision to make a change of career to become a pilot is a massive consideration and should not be taken lightly. This is because the training schedule is extremely involved and dedication is key.

If you wish to become an airline pilot, you'll probably also need to have obtained your CPL (Commercial Pilot Licence), something that will take dedication, time and quite a considerable investment of money – anywhere between £35,000-£50,000. It used to be that airline companies would fully sponsor a pilot's training, but this is no longer the case. There are some sponsorships programmes available to cover the cost of qualifying for a CPL, but these may be slightly biased towards younger candidates.

The Age Factor

Age is also an important issue if you're considering a career change. Aviation companies are keen to recruit pilots who have the potential to gain as much experience and flying hours as possible. Fitness, co-ordination and general health tests are all part of the screening process. You should bear in mind that if you were attempting to enter a training school to become an airline pilot, you would have to undergo a special pre-entry test by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) known as a Class 1 medical test.

If you think you will meet the physical requirements of flying, it might also be worth taking an aptitude test to see whether you have the necessary Personal Skills, such as the ability to work under pressure and to multi-task. Although aptitude tests are also taken before commencement of training, taking one beforehand may save time and money if you find later on that you're not suited to a career in flying.

You will also need to have gained some GCSE or A-Level qualifications. Although the entry standard varies between pilot schools, in most cases a bare minimum of five good A-C GCSEs including maths, English and science will be needed, in addition to two A-Levels or equivalent. There is a definite preference for Maths and physics qualifications for pilots, and any subsequent degrees in the fields of physics, maths, other sciences or aeronautical engineering will be looked upon favourably.

How to Start Training

Trying to gain a place in a pilot training scheme is extremely competitive. Having evidence of a passion for aviation, such as membership of a local Air Training Corps (ATC) or a PPL, will be extremely valuable. If you also have proof that you are disciplined, logical, fit and a good team player, you will also be considered as a potential candidate. Schemes such as the Duke of Edinburgh's Award are often a good indicator of this.

Frozen Airline Transport Pilot's Licence

Assuming that you have met all the criteria and have managed to land a place at a pilot school, you will then have to start your first officer training. If starting from 'scratch' with little or no former flying experience, you'll start training towards your Frozen Airline Transport Pilot's Licence (FATPL). The first stage involves racking up 750 hours of study and instruction and 150 hours of flying in a light piston (propeller) aircraft. The study topics included in this first stage includes aviation law, navigation and meteorology.

It usually takes just over a year to complete the first stage of training, which leads to gaining a CPL and Instrument Rating (IR). You will then need to undertake additional training, which deals with commercial aircraft and team working, resulting in a Multi-Crew Operation Certificate. Once this has been obtained, the usual route is to secure a job with an airline that will then pay for the final stage of training, known as Type-Rating training. The remaining training towards a full ATPL will then include flying around 50 flights as a first officer with a training captain, as well as building up 1,500 hours of flying experience while flying with a line pilot.

Employment Routes

There are a variety of employment routes for airline pilots. If you already have a PPL, you could 'promote' yourself to entry level by acquiring sufficient flying hours and gaining a qualification as an assistant flying instructor. This will allow you to build your experience to a level where you can directly apply to an airline for the necessary training programme.

The second option is to apply via the route described above, by applying to a CAA registered airline training school, or applying directly to an airline that partakes in a sponsorship scheme. Alternatively, another option is to join the armed forces. The RAF seems an obvious choice but there are also opportunities to train as a pilot in the Army's Air Corps and the Navy's Fleet Air Arm.

Whichever route you choose to take, the likelihood is that it will be hard work, and you'll have to be extremely committed and passionate about your work. A career change to becoming a pilot is no simple undertaking, especially later on in life when you may have other financial or familial responsibilities to consider.

A Military Career

For more information on a Career In The Military, read our article on this site.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Can - Your Question:
Hi, I’m 16 years old currently undertaking 3 a levels - maths economics and business. Although I do not study physics, is there a chance I still may be accepted into any pilot training courses?

Our Response:
Some airlines and commercial training schemes may require physics but most will accept maths and two other subjects. Please ask your school's career adviser for confirmation.
ACareerChange - 6-Nov-17 @ 10:15 AM
Hi, I’m 16 years old currently undertaking 3 a levels - maths economics and business. Although I do not study physics, is there a chance I still may be accepted into any pilot training courses?
Can - 3-Nov-17 @ 4:25 PM
Hi, I'm sixteen years old and currently doing a level 3 BTEC applied science extended diploma an was wondering if it's still possible to become a pilot if you do BTEC.
Jashain - 30-Oct-17 @ 9:04 PM
Hi, I'm 27 and I have worked as a carpenter since I was 18, I have the nesseccary GCSE qualifications but I've never took A levels, does this mean I will not be able to progress in this career? Thanks
Uk - 18-Sep-17 @ 4:29 PM
Ginger_Ninja01 - Your Question:
Hi, I'm 16 years old and I'm currently doing A-Level Maths, Physics and Geography and I've also got all of my GCSE's. I have completed my Duke of Edinburgh (bronze) and my National Citizen Service.In two years, when I've finished 6th form, I will be going on to college and to study an aviation couse called 'Aviation Operations and Cabin Crew'. I was wondering if this college couse would benefit me at all as it is to do with Aviation. Also, could you give me any advice if it's necessary as it would really help me a lot! Thank you. ??

Our Response:
You could apply directly for professional pilot course if you have good a levels. Here is the Civil Aviation Authority's information
ACareerChange - 18-Sep-17 @ 1:39 PM
Hi, I'm 16 years old and I'm currently doing A-Level Maths, Physics and Geography and I've also got all of my GCSE's. I have completed my Duke of Edinburgh (bronze) and my National Citizen Service. In two years, when I've finished 6th form, I will be going on to college and to study an aviation couse called 'Aviation Operations and Cabin Crew'. I was wondering if this college couse would benefit me at all as it is to do with Aviation. Also, could you give me any advice if it's necessary as it would really help me a lot! Thank you. ??
Ginger_Ninja01 - 15-Sep-17 @ 11:53 PM
Hello I was wondering if I was to become a pilot from no flight experience but had a maths and physics A level and a Class 1 medical don't a 0 - ATPL course would I be able to become a pilot?
Lewis - 23-Jan-17 @ 11:51 AM
I was wondering if I can still become a pilot if like I don't go to A levels studying a subject like maths and physics but if for example I go to a maritime school and I start working on a boat and once I gain enough money can I enroll into a flight school after that!
B_rosette - 27-Aug-16 @ 9:49 PM
I am in my late thirties .Is this too late to train? I wish a career change and I am completely prepared to work extremely hard and do whatever it takes .I have a good science based degree Advice would be greatly appreciated, Thanks ,Carol
Carol - 10-Aug-16 @ 4:34 PM
Iam doing mathematics, ict and georgraphy at A level and i do them great
Tarzan - 1-Jun-16 @ 4:33 PM
RYE - Your Question:
Hi I m 13 years and I want to be a pilot and I want to plane some things before I get in older grades what should I do

Our Response:
You will need f five good A-C GCSEs including maths, English and science and two A-Levels or more. There is a definite preference for Maths and physics qualifications for pilots, and any subsequent degrees in the fields of physics, maths, other sciences or aeronautical engineering will be looked upon favourably.
ACareerChange - 13-May-16 @ 11:26 AM
Hi i m 13 years and i want to be a pilot and i want to plane some things before i get in older grades what should i do
RYE - 12-May-16 @ 10:28 AM
Hi, I'm 16 years old and am soon going to be sitting my GCSE exams. I hope to get good grades so then I can go into further education into the pilot scheme route. But I am not exactly sure if I should go to college or sixth form because I'm more of a coursework person ratherthan exams. I would like to go to college and do a level 3 BTEC in electrical engineering Extended Diploma. After these 2 years I would like to do an apprenticeship with Virgin Atlantic and hopefully get offered a job. However, I have just been thinking what the options would be if I took the Sixth Form route.
Suraj - 21-Apr-16 @ 1:23 PM
I m 16 years old & I m doing grade 9 this year at Merlewood Secondary . I want to be a pilot & i m interested about it
pastermzimba - 12-Apr-16 @ 7:26 PM
gary - Your Question:
I am a 16 year old boy My dream is to become a pilot so I would like to know which subject to choose in order to be a qualified pilot. I will be choosing subjects next year

Our Response:
Check with various airlines but as the article states: " ...the entry standard varies between pilot schools, in most cases a bare minimum of five good A-C GCSEs including maths, English and science will be needed, in addition to two A-Levels or equivalent. There is a definite preference for Maths and physics qualifications for pilots, and any subsequent degrees in the fields of physics, maths, other sciences or aeronautical engineering will be looked upon favourably."
ACareerChange - 6-Apr-16 @ 12:49 PM
I am a 16 year old boy My dream is to become a pilot so I would like to know which subject to choose in order to be a qualified pilot. I will be choosing subjects next year
gary - 4-Apr-16 @ 10:05 AM
I'm a 16 year old girl in the UK and I want to know if I can become a female pilot and do training at my age?
Justice - 27-Feb-16 @ 3:17 PM
Iam 16 years old doing grade nine desiring to become an airline pilot.and i love studing the atlas and other books that talks about becoming the pilot
Williams - 23-Feb-16 @ 6:28 PM
I'm in grade 10 which step must i take if i want to become airline pilot am 16 years old...
Dave - 30-Jan-16 @ 5:00 PM
I'm a 16 year old girl and I really want to become a pilot and I want to study in a European country like England. I'm currently going to start grade 11 so I would like to know if I can get help to get to England and be in a University and become a Pilot?thank you
leesar - 8-Jan-16 @ 10:38 PM
Lux- Your Question:
I'm 15 years next year I must go to high school or college I want to become a pilot airline what must I do who can help call me

Our Response:
We cannot reply to individuals by phone or email sorry. We hope our article is helpful, please feel free to post a specific question here if it's not answered in the article.
ACareerChange - 24-Nov-15 @ 11:31 AM
I'm 15 years next year i must go to high school or college i want to become a pilot airline what must i do who can help call me +27612434303
Lux - 23-Nov-15 @ 8:07 AM
hi i am 11years old.i want to be a pilot.
s.d mayadunne - 1-Nov-15 @ 11:50 AM
Hello i want to become a pilot i wish all my thoughts can become true.
Antonius - 12-Oct-15 @ 1:05 PM
Hi...i 'm 13 years old boy and want to become a pilot...I practice in Extreme Landing(game). I dream becoming pilot. It's my wish for future...
Arpan - 24-Sep-15 @ 6:54 PM
Hi am Themba M,being a pilot it my dream.i am about to select the subject that i'll do next year in grade 10?
L.J.B - 22-Sep-15 @ 11:05 PM
I am a 13th year old girl who is very passionate about becoming a pilot one day . I currently live in Gauteng ( Pretoria ) and was wondering to which school should I go for training for PPl . Kind Regards Ketso Mathe
Dee-Kay - 30-Jun-15 @ 10:18 PM
@YINX. You could try the Civil Aviation Authority website - this is the relevant page
ACareerChange - 10-Nov-14 @ 2:43 PM
I'm going crazy Just looking at what it takes to be a pilot does anyone know how much time it will take to gain a CPL and is a Ppl necessary because it takes lots of money!
YINX - 9-Nov-14 @ 2:15 AM
hi,im a 17 year old student andi have always dreamed of becoming a professional pilot. At this moment I am in college (HSEB) I am physics student but i have no idea . I don't have a clue.So dose anyone know where to start please .If anyone help that would be great Thanks . +9779811071822
kala - 21-Feb-14 @ 5:40 AM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Ellie
    Re: How to Become an Air Hostess
    My name is Ellie Queen and my dream is so become a qualified air hostess and a job that is exciting and I’m so looking forward to…
    15 November 2017
  • Deb
    Re: Becoming a Teacher or Teaching Assistant
    I have a nursing degree and obtained a 2:1. I'd like to know if I can use this to get into teaching.
    15 November 2017
  • Chocki
    Re: Returning to University
    I am 41 years old and have worked within administrative roles with the civil service. The highest qualification I have is an HND. I am…
    11 November 2017
  • ACareerChange
    Re: How to Become an Air Hostess
    Maame - Your Question:Hi my name is Hannah am 20 years of age and I just completing secondary high school and my dream is to…
    6 November 2017
  • ACareerChange
    Re: Becoming a Pilot
    Can - Your Question:Hi, I’m 16 years old currently undertaking 3 a levels - maths economics and business. Although I do not study physics, is…
    6 November 2017
  • Maame
    Re: How to Become an Air Hostess
    Hi my name is Hannah am 20 years of age and I just completing secondary high school and my dream is to become an air hostess…
    5 November 2017
  • Can
    Re: Becoming a Pilot
    Hi, I’m 16 years old currently undertaking 3 a levels - maths economics and business. Although I do not study physics, is there a chance I still…
    3 November 2017
  • Kettle
    Re: Changing Career to Become a Social Worker
    I'm 58 retired from Police as community support worker job . Have always wanted to be a social worker.
    1 November 2017
  • Jashain
    Re: Becoming a Pilot
    Hi, I'm sixteen years old and currently doing a level 3 BTEC applied science extended diploma an was wondering if it's still possible to become a…
    30 October 2017
  • ACareerChange
    Re: Becoming a Social Worker
    Tiffany ridley - Your Question:Hi im currently a mobile hairdresser age 28 have been hairdressing for nearly 15 years, ive also been a…
    30 October 2017
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the ACareerChange website. Please read our Disclaimer.