How to become a pilot?

FUNDING

This can be the most difficult challenge for some students. There are many ways to fund training: bank education loans, parents’ mortgage, state sponsored programs, cadetship and more. The first thing to do is to speak to family and your bank to see eligibility for funding. Some countries like Sweden, for example, have programs that assist students in funding - something to look into if you are eligible. 

Visit flight schools you plan to train in and ask your funding questions directly to the school. They may or may not have a bank or organisation that provides such services. If funding cannot be attained, the modular route (pay as you go) is always an option. Depending on how much you can personally afford to work and fly the process can be as quick or as long as required. 

MEDICAL

There are two types of medical: Class 1 and Class 2. For pilots wishing to operate for recreational purposes and have no intention of flying commercially, a Class 2 is all that’s required. A Class 2 is valid for five years. 

For those pilots who wish to fly commercially, a Class 1 is mandatory. It will need to be renewed every 12 months and is a more thorough medical than the Class 2.

INTEGRATED TRAINING

You’ll need to obtain a Class 1 medical to proceed with integrated training. Course formats can vary slightly from school to school. 

In general you will begin with a small amount of flight training up to solo standard, when you will begin the 14 ATPL theoretical course and exams. Throughout this process you will study for AIR LAW, OPS, METEOROLOGY, GENERAL NAVIGATION, RADIO NAVIGATION, VFR COMMUNICATIONS, IFR COMMUNICATIONS, AIRCRAFT GENERAL KNOWLEDGE, INSTRUMENTATION, HUMAN PERFORMANCE, MASS AND BALANCE, FLIGHT PLANNING, PERFORMANCE and PRINCIPLES OF FLIGHT. During this time you will also complete 70 hours of solo flying and commence the CPL and SE ME IR training. 

Following completion, you will be ready to sit the Skill Test. On passing the Skill Test, the MCC course teaches how to operate effectively and efficiently as a crew member. 

Some schools also include a Jet Orientation or Airline Preparation Course with additional training to prepare you for your first job interview and type rating.

Who is this suitable for:
+ All-inclusive, no additional experience building required
+ Fastest way to achieve First Officer Competence
+ Preferred by many airlines
+ Larger classes and professional student campuses
+ Flight schools usually affiliated with airlines
- Requires up-front financing at start of each semester
- Intensive program, not much time for other activities

MODULAR TRAINING

For students who choose not to train via the integrated route, modular is an option. Modular students are able to stop and start different periods of training as their funding and life allows. A lot of modular students maintain a full time job whilst training. Some finish their entire training over an 18-month period, but most complete training in an average of 24 months. 

Spreading the cost is the most common reason to carry out modular training. Some students choose to do training in a number of different countries to suit their budgetary requirements. As a modular student, research never stops. Talking to fellow students and reading articles is the best way to navigate the journey to your first airline job.

Who is this suitable for:
+ Can be divided into modules and financed as you go
+ More flight schools to choose from
+ Easier to adapt to a lifestyle with family or part-time work
- Usually takes longer compared to an integrated program
- Large variations in quality of training
- Harder competition for jobs

PPL (Private Pilot Licence)

The PPL is the beginning of modular training and it can take from three to 12 months  to complete, possibly more. The duration depends on the funding available, weather, your availability and other factors. The course is intense but fun; learning all the required syllabus plus the theory can be a challenge, but is achievable. 

The minimum required flight time is 45 hours, of which 10 must be solo (five of these solo hours must be cross country navigation flights, with one 150 nautical mile flight with two full stops at aerodromes, different than the departure aerodrome). 

You will also need to complete the PPL theory test, which consists of nine subjects: air law, meteorology, navigation, principles of flight, human performance, communications, operational procedures, aircraft general knowledge and flight performance and planning. 
Most importantly you will need a medical. There are two classes of medical (as described here). For PPL flying, Class 2 is sufficient. However if you plan on furthering your training to commercial, it is advisable to seek a Class 1. A Class 1  medical needs to be renewed annually but covers Class 2 privileges for 5 years. 

It is better to attain a Class 1 medical prior to beginning the PPL because if you have any underlying medical issues that may prevent you from gaining a commercial licence, it’s better to know before you begin. 

Finally you will sit a flight test involving all core competencies. The training can be done in 45 hours but on average students complete it in around 50 to 60 hours, depending on the frequency of training. In conjunction with this flight training ground classes will be required.

HOUR BUILDING

After the PPL you will need to complete 100 solo flying hours as pilot in command. The 100 hours must include 20 hours of cross-country navigation, of which one flight must be 300 nautical miles with 2 full stops at aerodromes other than that of departure.

ATPL THEORY (Airline Transport Pilot License)

The ATPL theory consists of 14 subjects: AIR LAW, OPS, METEOROLOGY, GENERAL NAVIGATION, RADIO NAVIGATION, VFR COMMUNICATIONS, IFR COMMUNICATIONS, AIRCRAFT GENERAL KNOWLEDGE, INSTRUMENTATION, HUMAN PERFORMANCE, MASS AND BALANCE, FLIGHT PLANNING, PERFORMANCE and PRINCIPLES OF FLIGHT.

These can be carried out in schools with full time classes or by distance learning at home. Once you start taking exams, you will have 18 months to complete them with a maximum of six exam sittings (up to four per subject). Careful planning and not wasting sittings is advisable.

CPL (Commercial Pilot Licence)

The CPL is similar to PPL, but shorter. It must be completed in a complex aircraft (retractable landing gear and variable pitch propeller). The course consists of 25 hours flight training, ground classes and is completed with a flight test. A class 1 medical, ATPL THEORY and 100 hours of solo flying (including the qualifying 300nm flight) will be required prior to beginning this course. 

MEIR (Multi Engine Instrument Rating)

The Multi Engine Instrument Rating will give you the skills required to operate safely in instrument meteorological conditions. Training consists of about 30 hours in an FNTP2 simulator and 15 hours in an aircraft followed by the flight test. There is also a ground course in conjunction with the training. 

MCC (Multi Crew Coordination)

Finally the MCC and JOC course gives you the skills required to operate in a multi crew environment. It is the last stage to prepare you for work in airlines and is conducted in a certified Simulator in conjunction with ground school. The JOC is not mandatory, but looks good to airlines on your CV! 

FI (Flight Instructor)

Becoming a flight instructor is a great way to build hours and enhance the skills you have acquired - teaching students to operate safely from zero experience is also rewarding. The course requires 30 hours flight training and up to 150 hours of theory. Some schools offer these programs on a contract basis where you will be trained by the school and contracted to instruct on completion for a period of time. In some cases the course is self-funded. 

ASSESSMENT & APPLICATIONS

Assessments are a very important part of pilot training. As you identify the ideal flight school for you, or a cadetship you wish to apply for, you may need to consider studying or seeking the advice of an expert in assessments. Those who finish their MCC have to prepare for Airline Assessments, which is essentially an interview to see if you are suitable for the role. These Airline Assessments are based on more factors than just flying abilities, such as personality, acumen or temperament. 

Applications for cadetships, flight schools or airline jobs are also vitally important and often overlooked by students. Having your application, CV and cover letter properly formatted and focussed on a specific opportunity could be the difference in getting your dream job or not.

TRAINING MATERIALS

Required materials depends on what flight school you select. You could be required to use books, ebooks and log books. You will be required by most to have a pilot’s uniform in order to represent yourself as a professional future pilot. It's a cost that you should inquire about before you choose your flight school. Ask if training materials and uniforms are included, or if there is anything else you will need to be begin training.