Find out how to start working as a Pilot!
Being a pilot is more than a vocation, it is the passion to fulfill a dream, flying at the controls of a commercial aircraft is a dream job. A career with a long trajectory where you can achieve goals by fulfilling different stages in your professional training, where you will have to make a large number of decisions.
In the coming years, the commercial aviation industry is expected to face a significant shortage of commercial pilots due to the increase in global flying. Organizations such as IATA estimate that the number of passengers could double in the next 20 years, reaching 7.8 billion worldwide. For this reason, one of the industry’s leading manufacturers, the American company Boeing, estimates in its forecast study that airlines will need some 600,000 new pilots by around 2038.
But where do I start? how to become an airline pilot? what to study to become an airline pilot?
Let’s talk about what it takes to become a pilot.
Before you can start your career as a pilot you must know main requirements and certain skills necessary to be able to exercise this profession being a great professional from the first moment, knowing its stages, how to achieve the proposed goals and the cost of your training.
As we know there are many types of commercial pilots, and whatever type of pilot you become, you have and must fulfill the following initial requirements, where we want to help guide you in this initial process by identifying the steps you must take to fulfill them.
It is very common that you ask us what to study to become a pilot, if there is any previous course or which is the branch of high school you should choose (we recommend the scientific or technological one since it will be directed to the subjects of later training as a pilot).
At present, the Agency does not require specific qualifications or previous training, but it does require that training centers can guarantee, by means of previous level tests, basic knowledge in some of the most important basic subjects: physics (involved in Principles of Flight or Meteorology), mathematics (Navigation or Loading and Centering) and English (essential).
It is important that you are comfortable with English and that you are fluent both orally and in writing, to help you in understanding the subjects and in communications.
Although there are different types of licenses to practice as an aircraft pilot, the requirements and recommendations to become an airline pilot in Spain are as follows:
During your training in the different subjects you will study interesting subjects such as mathematics, physics, meteorology, navigation, flight planning, aerodynamics and performance, among others.
The main objective is to meet the necessary requirements according to the regulations to obtain the Airline Transport Pilot License, ATPL. This is the highest level license that will authorize you to fly commercial airplanes for passenger or cargo transport.
This ATPL License can be obtained by different ways:
Regardless of the path chosen in one way or another, all of them go through different certifications or modular courses detailed below to become a commercial pilot:
The modular pathway training always starts with the Private Pilot course (PPL-A). This course is composed of a theoretical part of 9 subjects, all of them referred to aviation; in addition to 45 hours of practical flight, as a minimum.
At the end of the course you obtain the PPL(A) license, which allows you to fly single-engine airplanes, always without remuneration, i.e. for private or recreational use
Once the PPL course has been completed and the corresponding license has been obtained, the theoretical Airline Transport Pilot course can begin. This phase of the process to become an airline pilot can be done in person at the school or online, but always after obtaining the PPL license.
The ATPL theoretical course is composed of 14 subjects, expanding the knowledge acquired during the PPL.
While studying the Airline Transport Pilot (ATPL) course, you can perform flight hours to acquire the necessary experience to continue with the training, what we know as the Time Building phase, in order to accumulate flight experience.
Once a certain amount of experience has been acquired, as part of the program, the Night Flying course is carried out, which consists of a theoretical and practical phase.
In the theoretical phase, the main differences between day and night flying will be understood, such as optical illusions, eye fatigue, or different visual references.
In the practical night flight phase, with a duration of 5 hours, maneuvers will be performed to reinforce the particularities previously learned in the theoretical course.
Once you have passed the theoretical part of the ATPL and reached 70 hours of flight time as PIC, you will be able to continue with the multi-engine aircraft (ME) rating.
The course to obtain this rating consists of two parts: one theoretical and one practical. In the theoretical part, the operation and systems of multi-engine aircraft are explained. And, in the practical part of the flight, what was learned during the theory is applied, mainly the different system failures and behavior of a twin-engine aircraft.
This will be followed by the instrument rating (IR). This course will allow you to fly the aircraft only with the reference of the flight instruments, i.e. without external visibility in IMC conditions, without external references or between clouds.
The IR rating also consists of a theoretical and a practical part. On the one hand, during the theoretical part, the different procedures of this type of flight are studied, and on the other hand, during the practical part, the acquired knowledge will be applied by learning to fly an aircraft under IFR flight rules.
The penultimate step to become an airline pilot is the Commercial Pilot Course (CPL-A). This phase consists of 15 hours of flight time in advanced aircraft: 10 hours in single-engine aircraft (SEP) and 5 hours in multi-engine aircraft (MEP).
Finally, and once the Commercial Pilot Course (CPL) is finished, you get what is known as Frozen ATPL, which is formed by the Commercial Pilot License (CPL), the Instrument Rating (IR) and Multi-Engine Rating (ME), and the ATPL theoretical certificate.
Once a pilot has obtained a Frozen ATPL license, the minimum requirements for a commercial pilot position may vary from airline to airline.
For this reason, pilots sometimes have to continue their training by opting for a self-sponsored specific type rating in order to be able to work for a specific airline, investing in this program to be able to continue their professional development.
Subsequently, you will have to accumulate the remaining flight hours up to the 1500 hours required by the regulation, in order to finish your training and be able to have the complete ATPL, thus being able to become a Pilot in Command of a commercial airplane as an Airline Transport Pilot.
How much does it cost to become a commercial airline pilot?
At this point we have the obligation to be transparent, the career to become a commercial aviation pilot involves a great financial commitment on the part of the interested party, demanding a total commitment and responsible dedication, since we are talking about a highly competitive and demanding sector.
Depending on the route chosen to reach the proposed goal of being able to fly a commercial aircraft for a particular airline, the final price may vary depending on each choice. In addition, the final cost will most likely be increased by the need to obtain a specific type of rating in order to be able to apply for a job vacancy.
It is here at this point where it is very important to make a deep market analysis of the different schools, valuing very well and carefully what each of them offers you, we ask you not to be guided only by prices. Gather as much information as possible, talk to students who are studying at that time, instructors and / or any reference in terms of flight hours, teaching hours, total fleet, own maintenance, availability to fly and different bases, simulators and other important aspects that can help you for this detailed analysis that you must perform.
Despite this great financial effort, bear in mind that we are talking about a profession with great economic projection, and with a great medium and long term labor future.
As for the approximate price to obtain your ATPL-Frozen License, it will depend on the option chosen and the path to follow.
The average price of the Commercial Airline Pilot Course, either Modular Program or Integrated Program, is around 70.000€, depending on the school chosen to study it with its different variants and alternatives.
The longest long cycle with the university degree has a higher cost and can exceed 120,000 euros.
As for obtaining an A320 or B737 type rating, the most demanded ones are currently around 18,000€.
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