Become a pilot in 11 steps
A lot of people just dream about it. But only a few people pursue the dream and are allowed to live it. If you don't just want to dream of it, but see pilot as your profession, this guide will take you to the airline cockpit. I'll explain in 11 steps how you can become a pilot without flying experience.
1. Make an experience flight and get to know the pilot job.
In many professions you can do an internship or a trial working day to take a closer look at the profession.
Unfortunately, this does not exist for the pilot profession. You only really know what the job really looks like and what you have to expect.
So you first have to become a pilot and then find out whether you really want to do the job.
Of course you should inform yourself in detail about the profession. But there is another way to get close to working in the cockpit.
For example, you could book an experience flight with a flight school.
An experienced flight instructor will then fly with you. You will see how the flight preparations work and how the radio communication works.
He or she will then take over the take-off and landing. But in the air you can take over the steering.
You will also get to know the tasks and procedures in the cockpit.
Even if this is a flight in a small aircraft, you will also find many parts of this work in airline operations.
Usually this will cost you between 100€ and 250€. But it will be a good experience and bring you much closer to the job.
Maybe you already have very concrete ideas about the pilot job and you want to become a pilot.
Nevertheless, I would like to recommend something else to you in the next step.
2. Think about a second career
An apprenticeship or studies are not prerequisites for becoming an airline pilot. Nevertheless, you should think about it.
And there are two reasons for this.
Build a second foothold.
As a pilot, your whole career depends on your health.
To be allowed to work as a pilot you need a so-called medical certificate.
If this certificate is no longer issued or withdrawn by your flight physician, your pilot career is over.
Then it is good to have a second foothold.
A study or apprenticeship will help you get a job as a pilot
Some large airlines (especially in America) like to see candidates with a university degree.
This shows the airlines that you have discipline and can master the challenges of academic studies.
Smaller regional airlines usually place less value on studying.
In Europe, there is usually no airline interested in what additional qualifications you have.
But sometimes an apprenticeship or a degree will help you anyway. Some pilots want to work in the office of their company as well as in the cockpit. Then additional qualifications are very helpful.
In addition, only very few pilots find a job directly after their training. Many pilots don't find an airline to hire until several months or years later.
So if you can't find a job with any airline, you'll have better chances on the job market.
I know pilots who worked in the supermarket for 450 € a month because they had no other training or studies.
Therefore you should definitely think about your additional qualifications.
These considerations can also have a significant influence on your way into the cockpit.
3. Think your way through how to become a pilot
While in many professions there is often only one way, this is different for pilots. There are many ways open to you.
You can complete your training directly at a flying school, at a university with a flying school, with an airline or in the military.
Ultimately, you will always be trained at a flying school. But the ways and the flight schools are still very different.
Before we go into the individual possibilities, we have to go into some decisive differences.
Not every option will take you straight to the airline cockpit.
This is due, for example, to the license offered to you by the individual flight schools.
What license do you need to be a pilot?
As a pilot, you need a valid pilot's license.
However, there is not only one pilot license, but there are several different licenses. And not every flying school offers you training for every license.
As an airline pilot you need the highest of all licenses - the Airline Transport Pilot License (abbreviation ATPL).
However, there is no training worldwide that can train you up to the Airline Pilot License. You will find out later here why this is the case.
Therefore you acquire the Airline Pilot License in several steps.
As a rule, you first make a private pilot license (PPL). Then you make a commercial pilot license (CPL). In addition, you will gradually acquire further necessary authorizations in further training courses. Thus you extend your license more and more.
At the end you can buy an Airline Pilot License (ATPL).
How the training for a license proceeds depends on your flight school.
Part-time or full-time flight training?
The national aviation authorities pretend how a pilot training has to proceed. Often, however, there are several routes.
The biggest difference is whether you do the training part-time or full-time.
Some flight schools will offer you both. Other flight schools, on the other hand, can only offer you part-time or full-time training. If you want to do your training part-time, you could also work part-time to finance the training.
So think about whether you want to do your training full-time or part-time. Accordingly, you can choose between the different flight schools.
Pilot will be at the university
In some countries (for example in the USA, Australia and partly in Europe) there are universities and technical schools that offer you a pilot's license. So you are a student and you also get your pilot's license.
Some of them even have their own airplanes and are directly connected to an airfield. While others cooperate with local flight schools.
If you do your pilot training at a university, you will then have a university degree and a pilot license.
The degree gives you an advantage for your professional career compared to airline training.
Become a direct pilot with an airline pilot
Some airlines train their pilots themselves.
These training programs are called Ab-Initio or Cadet programs. Here you apply without a pilot's license or previous experience. However, the airlines themselves determine the admission criteria.
You then go through the selection process and only suitable candidates are selected.
If you get one of the coveted seats, the airline trains you at its own flight school. If it does not have its own flying school, it cooperates with a renowned flying school.
In any case, you cannot choose the flight school here.
In addition, the training courses are always full-time. This means you don't have time to study or work on the side. But the advantage is that you sit directly in the airline cockpit afterwards.
The airlines want to train you for their aircraft as soon as possible. You even undertake to fly with this airline afterwards.
This commitment is similar to the military. You have to think very carefully whether you want to make the commitment or not.
Become a military pilot
Especially since it is not easy to be trained as a pilot in the military.
Before you can apply as a pilot, you must have achieved a certain rank. Only then can you apply and take the entrance test.
Depending on your country, you may have to commit yourself to military service for a few years so that they can really train you. So you have to think about that very carefully.
If you don't want to make this commitment and all other options, the only option left is to start pilot training directly at a flight school.
4. Select a suitable flying school
There are flight schools in every country. In some countries, however, there is a better infrastructure than in other countries.
The USA has a very good infrastructure and the world's largest aviation industry. This means that the USA is the country with the highest number of pilots trained in the world.
But no matter which flight school you go to, everyone wants to train you. Because pilot training is expensive and they have to advertise an expensive product.
So you are a customer and an expensive training has to be sold to you as good as it can be.
So it is not surprising that flight schools advertise to offer the best training, the highest rate of passed exams, the best contacts to airlines and therefore great job prospects.
But you have to get your own picture. After all, you invest a lot of time and money in your training.
Therefore, it is important that you make the right choice of flying school. So take your time and check exactly which flying school is the right one for you.
Only when you have made your choice of flying school would I think about financing the training.
5. Check your finances before you become a pilot
Because pilot training is so expensive, you should take a close look at the financing.
Many prospective pilots do not have rich parents who can pay for the training. That's why many of them get into debt and take out a loan from the bank.
However, taking out a loan for training involves some major risks.
There are many prospective pilots who have taken out a loan and have not found a job after their training. They could not pay back the high interest and installments for the loan. So they had to file for private bankruptcy.
In addition, not every bank is familiar with financing pilot training. The bank should therefore be familiar with the financing of pilot training.
So that you don't get into these difficulties, think about your way to a pilot's license. It is possible that the financing will influence your way to the license. Ask yourself which way is the right one for you.
6. Make a medical - your medical license as a pilot
In addition to the above considerations, you can only influence your health to a limited extent. Of course you can eat a healthy diet and keep fit. But we have no influence on many illnesses.
But as a pilot your health is of central importance.
Every pilot needs a medical certificate. This is called a medical certificate.
There are several classes. The medical classes differed in the requirements and how long it is valid. However, as an airline pilot you absolutely need Medical Class 1. This corresponds to the highest requirements in aviation medicine.
This now sounds worse than it is. You don't have to be a competitive athlete to qualify for Medical Class 1.
For the examinations you have to see a medical examiner. He will examine you according to the legal requirements. When all examinations have been completed, he will issue you with a Medical.
Once you have cleared this hurdle, you can either apply for pilot training or register directly with a flight school.
7. Pass entrance tests for the flight school
Some flight schools require you to pass an entrance test before your training.
On the one hand, the flight schools ensure that you are really able to complete the training successfully. On the other hand, it is also good for you to know that you have the basic skills to become a pilot. After all, you invest a lot of time and money in your training.
Once you have passed the tests, the training begins.
8. Your pilot training begins with flight training
Every flight training always consists of theory and practice.
With some training courses, you first go through the complete theory before continuing with the practical flight training. At another flying school you will first go through a part of the theory and start flying at the same time.
Both are possible. But how the training is structured in detail ultimately depends on your flying school.
So you're taking theory class. You learn a lot about aerodynamics, aviation law, navigation, meteorology, communication and much more.
The theory is necessary to understand what happens during a flight. As you will notice later, a lot happens in flight at the same time. Sometimes situations are also time-critical. Then you have to be able to fall back on your theoretical knowledge.
That's why your knowledge is also tested.
After every theoretical phase you have to pass the written tests. You will be tested individually in each subject and must pass each one.
The Flight Training - Learn how to fly a plane practically.
After so much theory, practical flight training is finally on the agenda.
Flight training is not divided into several subjects, but into several training phases.
At the beginning of your training, the first phase focuses on take-off and landing. In a further phase it will be about navigation. You will be trained step by step as a pilot.
At the end of each practical phase there will be another test. This test is called Check-Flight. You have to prove your learned flying skills. A flight instructor sits next to you and evaluates your performance. You can imagine a check flight like a driving test.
Once you have mastered all the practical and theoretical exams, your license will be issued by the aviation authority. You are already a pilot, no matter what license you have purchased so far.
But you want to become an airline pilot and as I explained at the beginning, there is no training directly for an airline pilot license.
That's why you go through many more training courses in a row.
One flight training is not enough - How you can change from a private pilot to an airline pilot.
For each license (PPL, CPL or ATPL) you go through a theory and a practice phase again and again. In addition, you must always pass the theoretical and practical exams.
Also for the airline pilot license you have to pass the theoretical and practical training. But with this license, you can only take the theoretical exam for the time being.
So that you can also take the practical exam, you have to collect many flying lessons. Only when you have collected 1,500 flying hours as a pilot can you take the practical exam.
So how do you collect the flying lessons?
9. You have to collect flying lessons
Collecting flying hours can be a big challenge. Because every flying hour also costs money. If you have to pay for every flying hour yourself, collecting flying hours can cost you a fortune.
That's why many prospective pilots not only obtain a commercial license, but also the right to become a flight instructor.
This has several decisive advantages. On the one hand you collect many flying hours quite fast and on the other hand you earn money with it and do not have to pay the flying hours.
You can find more possibilities how to collect hours in this article.
The hurdle of 1,500 flying hours is very big, so it is difficult to become an airline pilot.
In North America and in some other countries of the world you need the Airline Pilot License (ATPL) to apply to an airline.
But this does not apply to all countries. In some countries, a commercial pilot license with corresponding additional authorizations is sufficient. Then you can become an airline pilot with considerably less flying hours.
In Europe and Asia, for example, a commercial pilot license with additional authorizations is often sufficient. Then you can already apply to the big airlines with about 250 flying hours.
10. Apply to an airline as a pilot
There are always times when no or hardly any pilots are sought or hired worldwide. So check the platforms of the airlines again and again to see whether pilots are being sought by an airline.
Then you should apply as soon as possible. While you can still apply today, it may be too late tomorrow. You can then no longer submit your application and have to wait for the next call.
Send your application - You have to pay attention to this.
Before you apply to an airline, you should check the requirements for the application very carefully. If you don't meet all the criteria in a job description, you usually don't need to apply.
The airlines receive so many applications that they can afford to sort out candidates who do not meet all the criteria.
However, if you meet all the criteria, compile all the documents and apply.
The airline will then invite you to the dreaded pilot tests.
Pilot tests and interviews passed
The pilot tests are often feared, as many do not know exactly what to expect.
Be sure to prepare for the tests.
You will find that many airlines use the same tests.
The tests are designed to test your performance. If you are well prepared and relaxed, you will be more likely to get your best performance.
That's why test preparation is about working out test solutions for yourself.
You are more relaxed and therefore more efficient.
At the end of a selection process there is still the interview.
You often have a conversation with a pilot of the airline. But there may also be psychologists or other management representatives.
Throughout the selection process, care is taken to ensure that you fit in with the corporate culture.
There are many pilots, but only a few can be hired. That's why pilots are hired who best fit the company.
The airlines don't write you on which characteristics they would like to see you. So it is hard to prepare for this.
But if you can convince everyone of yourself, you will get an employment contract and work as an airline pilot.
But your training is still not finished.
11. Your airline trains you as an airline pilot
First of all, you made it and got one of the coveted jobs at an airline. From now on your pilot life really starts.
You now have a license and an employment contract. Normally, however, there is still no authorization for the special aircraft you are supposed to fly now.
If you get a driver's license for the car, you can drive any car afterwards. Unfortunately, this does not apply to flying.
Even with an Airline Pilot License (ATPL) you are not allowed to fly all airplanes.
You must first be trained on a special aircraft.
Passenger planes are so complex that you always need special training. This special training is the type rating.
Type Rating - You will be trained as a pilot for a passenger aircraft.
During your training you have flown rather small airplanes. Most of the time you will probably be flying single engine planes.
Flying a passenger plane with hundreds of people on board is something different.
The airplane has considerably more and more complex systems than your training airplanes.
Because the airplanes are so complex and different, you have to make a type rating for each airplane.
What exactly is this type rating?
It is a very intensive training for this one aircraft and takes about three months.
The whole training will be done in a simulator. There you will find a complete cockpit of the aircraft. All systems work the same way as in the real aircraft.
During this time you get to know all systems and learn how to deal with errors and system failures.
For example, you will learn how to work through the failure of an engine. What you have to do if the landing gear does not extend, and much more.
At the end of the training there will be another check flight.
Once you have completed the type rating, the type rating will be entered in your license. Only when your type rating has been entered in your license are you entitled to actually fly the aircraft.
Your next flights will therefore take place in a real aircraft with passengers.
However, there is still one last training step missing - line training.
Line Training - Pilot training in line operation
The Line Training should make you fit for everyday flight operations. You are top trained and have a pilot license with all rights and a type rating for your aircraft.
It is possible that you have never worked in a flight operation before.
In flight operations, you are suddenly faced with completely new tasks and challenges.
On the one hand, you are just getting to know your aircraft. On the other hand, you will get to know the airline's work processes.
That's why an experienced captain who is also a flight instructor will always sit next to you during this phase.
Only after completing this phase will you become a full member of the cockpit crew.
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