A Guide to Becoming a Commercial Airline Pilot
This is an informational page and is, as far as possible, unbiased. To find out about our courses, or to book your place on a course, please go to the Book a Course page.
Take a trial flight. If you have never had the privilege of flying in a light aircraft this is a must, although you are of course planning to fly much larger aircraft! Your training will be conducted in a light aircraft, and the trial flight is the motivation needed to press the button and start on the wonderful path to becoming an airline pilot.
Next, do your research. If you know someone in the industry try to speak to them about how they trained and the day to day reality of their job. Learn about the day to day aspects of being a pilot – it is surprising the number of students that don’t know this. If, like most people, you don’t have access to a pilot, then go online and read through training blogs and other available resources. The UK CAA website is also a wealth of information.
Maths and physics – make an honest appraisal of your knowledge in these subjects. If you are lacking in knowledge, brush up on your skills before you start your training, otherwise you will find you start training on the back foot.
Obtain a Class 1 medical. To work as an airline pilot you must have a current Class One medical – you can find more information about medicals below.
Decide on the route you wish to take – there are 3 main routes, all containing different options within each route. These training routes are explained in more detail below.
Pilot Training Route 1: Modular
Modular pilot training is exactly as it sounds: you break the training into modules.
This can allow you to work whilst training, thus reducing the financial burden. There are however, time constraints that must be adhered to.
A typical modular training route might look something like below:
- Complete your ground school plus 9 exams, then your flight training, plus radio licence and a flight test for issue of a Private Pilot’s Licence.
- Build your hours. This can be done in the UK, although some people decide to go overseas and complete a night rating (allowing you to fly at night).
- Complete your ATPL Theory course and 13 exams (previously 14 ICOM & VCOM now combined).
- Complete a Commercial Pilot’s Licence course and flight test.
- Complete a Multi-Engine Rating (allowing you to fly a twin-engine aircraft).
- Complete your Instrument Rating (allowing you to fly and safely navigate in low visibility, cloud etc on the aircraft’s navigational instruments).
- Complete a mandatory Multi Crew Cooperation course and optional Jet Orientation course.
This a simplified explanation of what is a complex set of decisions, but our team of pilots and ex pilots will be happy to talk you through your options and answer any questions you have.
Pilot Training Route 2: Integrated
Integrated is a course where, as the name implies, all of your training (Ground & Flight) is integrated into one course and done through one training organisation.
These courses normally start with a selection process to check you have what it takes to successfully complete the pilot training and go on to reach command level within an airline. This is followed, if you are successful, by ground school, which lasts approximately 6 months.
Once this part of your pilot training is complete, you will then move on to basic and advanced flight training as well as building the pre-requisite number of hours. Once the flight training is completed, you will attend a Multi Crew Cooperation course, sometimes combined with a Jet Orientation course.
This will provide you with your CPL/ME/IR licence, which is the minimum required to apply to an airline.
Pilot Training Route 3: Multi Pilot Licence
Multi Pilot Licence (MPL) is a much newer integrated route that must be directly linked to an airline and a specific aircraft type.
The training is done in a different way, with the majority completed in a simulator of the aircraft type to be flown and a minority carried out in light aircraft.
At the end of your training, you do not have the same licence as someone on the previously explained route, and you are also not able to easily move from one airline to another.