Our annual review of the airline pilot job market and flight training opportunities, plus advice on how to become a professional pilot
It would seem there has never been a better time to consider a career as a commercial pilot! Feedback we have received from airline training organisations (ATOS), together with studies across the globe, and reports from manufacturers Boeing and Airbus suggest the demand for airline pilots, and other commercial flying roles, is high and going to increase, particularly in areas such as Asia-pacific. While some of this demand will obviously be filled by local nationals, it will create opportunities for commercials pilots everywhere.
So is this the time you should put your plan into action and pursue that commercial career?
Well, it’s still a huge decision in terms of time, money and effort. So, while the likelihood of you gaining that first right-hand seat job has increased, you still need to consider all the variables before you take the plunge. Your individual circumstances may well dictate whether you decide on the integrated or modular route but, either way, the first thing you should do is get an EASA Class 1 medical. If you cannot meet the stringent requirements for that, then your commercial career will be over before it has begun−but, crucially, before you have laid out any serious money.
If you have little or no flying experience, and want to get to the FATPL (frozen Airline Transport Pilot Licence) stage fast, then you may go for the integrated route. This is a fulltime, immersive and intensive course and therefore the most expensive. However, many ATOS have links to airlines and can help facilitate that all important first job. If you don’t want to take on such high levels of debt and are prepared to stretch your training over a longer period, then you may decide on the modular route.
Although the modular route offers flexibility, allowing you to study and train part-time, perhaps while continuing to work to raise the money for the modular elements, it will be just as hard work and you will need to learn to juggle work commitments with studying, and time off to train and complete parts of the course. While the integrated route may be faster, there are rumours that some airlines give weight to the life and work experience probably already gained by those following the modular route. Whichever route you choose, you should always thoroughly research the training organisations and pay as you go along, if possible; don’t pay out a lot of money up front.
The ATPL training syllabus includes fourteen exam subjects, including Principles of Flight, Operational Procedures, Human performance, Meteorology and Navigation. These multi-choice exams have a minimum pass mark and may be taken at a number of locations around the country. All training in the UK is carried out in English.
If you don’t already have a PPL, this will be the first part of your training. Then comes the Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL), which usually takes between four and six weeks−depending on weather and experience. At least five hours−plus the skills test−must be flown in a ‘complex’ aircraft, i.e. one with a retractable undercarriage and variable-pitch propeller. After that, and before you can be considered for commercial jobs, you will need to get a Multi-engine rating (ME) and an Instrument rating (IR).
At this point, you will have gained your FATPL and be able to start building the 1,500 hours required for the full licence. However, in order to apply for jobs, you will first need to complete the MCC (Multi Crew Cooperation) course and the Jet Orientation (JOC) course. And there is a new enhanced version of the MCC, called the APS MCC, standing for Enhanced MCC Training to Airline Pilot Standards. This is not specifically mandated but it is possible that airlines will look more favourably on students who have achieved it (see page 73).
Deciding to train to become an airline pilot is a life-changing move and the start of a long road to becoming a captain; you will need around 5,000 hours. However, if that is your dream, then go for it!
ABOVE: your first paid airline job will be flying in the right-hand seat as a first offcer