What is necessary to study to become an airplane pilot? Career and courses


Often, those who discover their pilot vocation have many doubts about what is necessary to study to become a pilot; weather there is a university career as an airplane pilot; or how the airplane pilot courses are.

At present, no specific prior skills are required to begin pilot training. Only, enough knowledge on mathematics and physics so as to easily understand all the subjects to be studied, is highly recommended. For this reason and given that an access test must be taken if you go for an authorized centre training, in case you are in high school it is advisable to choose the science branch as it gives enough level in both subjects to begin pilot instruction smoothly.

Likewise, English is essential to pursue this profession. Therefore, a good basis, which you can improve throughout your training, is advised.

Thus, to become an aviation pilot you can opt for the university degree or for the various courses with which you may get the different licenses.

University degree

Commercial Aviation and Air Operations Pilot

The correct name for this career in Commercial Aviation and Air Operations Pilot is University Degree in Commercial Aviation and Air Operations Pilot. With a four years duration, the syllabus is distributed in ECTS credits by subject type up to a total of 240, at the rate of 60 credits per year. During this time, in addition to theoretical training with core subjects, compulsory and elective, among which mathematics, physics and aeronautical knowledge (radio navigation, principles of flight, meteorology, general knowledge of the aircraft, etc.) will be studied, practical training, both in real flights and in simulator, will be carried out to finish with an end-of-degree project, as in any other university degree. The pilot license obtained at the end is that of Airline Transport Pilot or ATPL.

This option, being somewhat longer, is a good alternative for those students who, in addition to dreaming of flying, are fond of business or teaching as it offers additional professional opportunities that go from teaching in the specific field of pilots training, to aircraft maintenance technicians training or, even, access to the public administration (controllers, airport manager, etc.), up to management in Air Operations departments of airlines and aviation companies without having to take an Air Operations course, since these subjects are dealt with in the third and fourth year.

What is necessary to study to become an airplane pilot? Career and courses 1

Aviation courses

Aviation courses are offered at training centers approved by the State Aviation Safety Agency, which are called ATO (Approved Training Organization). In these centers, you will find various options to access different private or commercial pilot licenses.

ATPL License

The Air Transport Pilot Pilot License (ATPL) is the title that, together with the correspondent ratings, enables to handle passengers or cargo aircrafts.

This certificate can be obtained through different ways:

  • Integrated ATPL programme – lasting approximately two years, can be started without previous aeronautical knowledge and includes both theoretical training and flight practice hours necessary to complete the programme and obtain the Airline Transport Pilot license.
  • Modular programme – it is developed in stages, following different modules of minor to greater complexity until getting to the ATPL FROZEN course. This system provides great flexibility as modules can be adapted to the student’s availability, always in the established order, while offering different training options: face-to-face, blended or telematic. In the practical phase approximately 200 flight hours are performed.
    Once the program is completed, you will be in possession of the Commercial Pilot License (CPL) and ATPL Frozen with which you can act as a commander in single pilot air operations or as a co-pilot in multi crew aircrafts. In order to “unfreeze” the ATPL, EASA requires a total of 1500 flight hours to be completed under certain criteria and, thus, be able to act as a commander in multi crew aircrafts.
  • University DegreeCommercial Aviation and Air Operations Pilot Degree – In Spain there are two public universities that have this degree: the University of Salamanca and the Rovira I Virgil University of Tarragona.
What is necessary to study to become an airplane pilot? Career and courses 2

CPL License

The Commercial Pilot License (CPL) – enables paid work as: pilot-in-command or co-pilot of aircrafts engaged in operations other than commercial air transport; pilot-in-command in commercial air transport in single-pilot aircrafts (subject to specific restrictions in accordance with the regulations) and also as co-pilot in commercial air transport, subject to the restrictions established in the current regulations. This is the penultimate step before getting the ATPL license as this license gives you what is known as ATPL FROZEN, which is composed of the Commercial Pilot License (CPL), instrument flight ratings (IR) and multi-engine (ME) and theoretical ATPL certificate.

PPL License

The Private Pilot License (PPL) allows you to act as Pilot-in-Command (PIC) in unpaid operations. It is the gateway to other qualifications such as the VFR-N (Visual Night Flight), Instrument Flight (IFR), or Flight Instructor (FI), and the starting point to continue to the CPL or ATPL license and, thus, become a professional airline pilot. The PPL is often pursued by aviation enthusiasts who want to fly recreationally or by those who plan to eventually transition into a professional pilot career.

Course of Aeronautical English

Feeling comfortable with the English language is essential to work as an aviation pilot. Although it is not necessary to be bilingual, a good basis is required because all communications as well as all manuals are in this language. In addition, in order to be able to act as a pilot, a language proficiency examination with a minimum level of 4 out of 6 is required. For this purpose, training centres usually offer aeronautical English courses with which to improve our level while advancing in our training and be able to easily face the exam.

Night Flight Course

El objetivo del Curso de Vuelo Visual Nocturno Avión NVFR es obtener la Habilitación de vuelo Visual Nocturno VFR-N [reconocida por EASA I European Aviation Safety Agency], requerida para operar de manera segura por la noche pudiendo llegar a un aeropuerto de destino después del ocaso.

Curso de Vuelo Nocturno

The objective of the NVFR Visual Night Flight Course is to obtain the VFR-N Visual Night Flight Qualification [recognised by EASA I European Aviation Safety Agency] required to operate at night in a safe way and get to destination airports after sunset. This is an optional qualification for Private Pilot License (PPL) or CPL(A) commercial pilot license holders but is mandatory for those who wish to access an Instrument Rating (IR) or Multi-Motor (ME) course. The approximate duration of this course is 2 weeks, combined theoretical and practical instruction.

These are the main ways to become a professional pilot. If you still have doubts, do not hesitate to contact us! We will be happy to help you!

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