Go Commercial students
Whether you go the integrated or modular route, the workload is intense. It can take up to 5,000 flying hours to work your way up to become an airline captain, depending on the airline. And it all starts years before when you consider which path you will take to start the process.
The two main routes are integrated and modular training and there are pros and cons for each, depending on your circumstances. Neither route is cheap and you will have to invest a lot of time and effort alongside the financial expense. Most of the leading training organisations advise you to do a lot of research before you commit to either route or choose your school, which is good advice.
The first thing you should do though is to get an EASA Class 1 medical. The requirements are far more stringent than the old Class 2 medical for a Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL) but, without it, you are going nowhere. If you cannot pass the Class 1 medical, sadly you must forget about a commercial flying career−and it’s better to find this out sooner rather than later!
Although you can start training straight from school, and without any academic qualifications, airlines will look favourably on candidates with GCSES and A-levels. A grounding in maths and physics will also help you understand some of the knowledge you will need to acquire and demonstrate in the rigorous written exams. The fastest way to an Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) is to go the integrated route, and the minimum age at which you can be issued with a full ATPL is currently 21. The integrated course is full-time and intensive and this path usually appeals to entrants with little or no previous flying experience. However, it is also the more expensive way, although some courses have links with banks that can provide finance for students to help them get through the course.
The Approved Training Organisations (ATOS) that offer integrated courses−and many now offer both integrated and modular training−usually have close links to airlines, so you could find yourself flying as a first officer for an airline within one or two years of starting the course. There are no guarantees, beware, and while some training organisations may be able to place their students with a partner airline, expect to be sending off your CV many times over. The good news is, however−see ‘The Experts Say’ p.66−that there is a shortage of commercial pilots at the moment, so prospects are good!
If you already have a PPL, and perhaps have added on various ratings−even a CB-IR−AND you want to spread both the training and the cost over a longer period, then the modular route will allow you to do this. Training can be tackled in smaller-sized pieces and completed part-time, while continuing with the day job. Even though this makes the costs more manageable, it is still advisable to pay as you go, rather than to pay large amounts of money up front−just to be on the safe side.
The ATPL exam syllabus consists of fourteen subjects, including Human performance, Meteorology, Operational Procedures, and Principles of Flight. There is a minimum pass mark and exams can be taken at a number of centres around the country. All ATPL training in the UK is carried out in English, including exams.
For both integrated and modular, training starts with a PPL, then moves on to a CPL (Commercial Pilot’s Licence), which can usually be completed in four to six weeks, depending on weather and experience. Five hours and the skills test must be flown in a ‘complex’ aircraft i.e. with a retractable undercarriage and variable-pitch propeller. In addition, before you can start working commercially, you will need a Multi-engine rating and an Instrument Rating. You will then be reaching the ‘frozen’ ATPL stage, after which you will build up your flying hours as a working pilot to the 1,500 minimum for the full licence.
Before applying for a job, pilots must complete MCC (Multi Crew Cooperation) and JOC (Jet Orientation) courses. Some airlines may also require a type rating on a particular aircraft but most will provide this as part of the in-house training.
It’s not for the faint-hearted, but if your dream is to ‘go commercial’, then go for it−and good luck!
One pilot who realised her dream, Marianne Roelofs