Becoming an airline pilot

The question I get asked more often than any other is how to become a pilot. Here’s my guide on what you need to do…

Is being pilot right for me?

You need to be honest with yourself. Is a career as a pilot honestly right for you? Yes, there are some awesome aspects to the job but there are also some real downsides. Are you medically fit enough to do it? What are the costs? Are you happy to be away from family when you’d love to be at home? This video from BALPA highlights some really important points, even if it’s a bit dry!  Give it a watch then continue reading…


In order to fly a commercial aircraft, you will need a Commercial Pilots Licence – CPL. For bigger aircraft, you’ll need an Air Transport Pilots Licence – ATPL. But what’s the best way to get these?

There’s a whole bunch of Flight Schools out there who will put you through a syllabus to get you to the licence you want. You’ll need to decide whether you want to do an integrated course or a modular course.

Integrated vs Modular

What’s the difference? An integrated course takes you ‘from zero to hero’ in one hit – normally around 18 months. This is obviously pretty intensive and gets the training done in minimal time. But at a cost.

Modular courses are those done in chunks. This allows you to save up money before starting the next module. These courses tend to take longer to complete but often work out cheaper.

Which is best though? In order to find out, I spoke to Ben Whitworth at AirlinePrep Ltd

“Reality is, these days – there is little advantage in a basic integrated option,” Ben said. “Airlines tend to prefer that route if they’ve Pre-tagged or mentoured you such as on the generation easyJet programmes.”

He continued, “white tails are often in the same position as modular – and it’s much more important to ensure you pass all your ground exams first time with first time IR/CPL passes”

Mo money, mo problems

This brings us into finance. Seemingly THE biggest barrier to a career as a pilot. Sadly, there’s no easy fix. As airlines are becoming more cost focussed, funding for training has become less. However, don’t let this put you off at the start.

The cost of training varies massively from school to school. Do your research and shop around.

“There’s a common and generally accepted rule that it costs £100,000 to become a pilot,” Ben stated. “The truth is that it only costs that amount of money if you choose the integrated route through one of the three major European flight training schools.”

So how can you get it done for less?

There are modular courses available for half that headline cost. The benefit being that you can work a job in between modules to fund the next stage. This has its benefits.

“Airlines now accept that modular students tend to have more employment and life experience,” Ben advised. “This equips them with the important non-technical skills which they require from their pilots.”

Want to know more?

I’ll be writing more on this in the next few weeks. To make sure you don’t miss out, sign up for my updates. In the meantime, tap here to read Ben’s in depth article on this topic.

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