Go Com­mer­cial stu­dents

Pilot - - CONTENTS -

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

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