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How to become an airline pilot

Step 1 - Can you pass a Class 1 medical? If you can't, then you can't be a commercial pilot. The initial medical needs to be completed by a CAA approved centre. They are pricy, around £600 for the initial check. Enquiries can be made here.

Step 2 - Do you actually like flying? Have you tried it? Our advice is to go to your local flying club and pay for a trial lesson. This will give you a better idea of whether flying is for you! If you are unsure whether or not you want to be a commercial pilot, then there are plenty of good sites out there which explain the lifestyle and work load involved.

Step 3 – Can you secure funding? Now you have the requisite medical approval and know you want to be a commercial pilot, the next hurdle is to secure funding. It is expensive gaining an ATPL, with costs between £65,000 and £120,000 depending on which route you follow. See our funding guide for more details.

Step 4 – Can you pass the requisite pre-selection tests to secure a place at flying school? Getting a place at a flying training organisation requires you to pass basic aptitude tests and interviews. There are various training courses you can attend and apps you can buy to prepare you for these assessment days. The schools don't want to waste time trying to train you if you don't have the required skills and ability. A little bit of study and preparation will make these assessment days so much easier. UKFlying can advise on what courses / apps to buy depending on which training provider you are interested in.


The fun bit, the flying!


This is what you require:

-Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL): 45hr course plus 9 exams. You will require a Radio Telephony (RT) theory and practical test. Usually completed with the PPL and allows you to use aircraft radios. You will also need a Class 2 or 1 medical.


-Hours build: You will need 150hrs to start the Commercial Pilots Licence (CPL) course. 70hrs PIC (captain) for the Multi-Engine Piston (MEP) course. You will need to fly a 300nm navigation route and you will require a night rating, which is 5hrs long.

-To complete a theory course and pass the 14 ATPL theory exams.

-3 qualifications; Commercial Pilots Licence (CPL), Multi-Engine Piston rating (MEP) and a Multi-Engine Instrument Rating (MEIR). These are flying courses with a mixture of flying and simulator training.

-The final qualification is the Multi-Crew Co-operation Course (MCC). This is a classroom and simulator based course, covering crew co-operation and how a 2 pilot crew operate in a big aircraft.

Having completed all of the above items, you will have a frozen Airline Transport Pilots Licence (fATPL / CPL ME-IR). This is what is required to get a job flying with an airline with passengers or cargo on board. ​

By this point you have spent a lot of money and need a job to start paying it off. I would recommend you contact a company that will be able to prepare you for an interview and  sim assessment, in addition to perfecting your CV. In our view and experience, this is money well spent. Especially if it gets you that all important first Type Rating (airline job). Flight Deck Wingman is a great company for helping aspiring pilots with these items and their personal service really helps you prepare for interviews and get job offers.

Having explained what you need to become a Commercial Pilot, we will now take you through the two main options of how to attain it:

The Integrated Course: This is a full-time course taking you from zero hours to obtaining your fATPL and being ready for employment. Some airlines prefer this method as you have had all of training from the same provider, but it can be costly.

The Modular Course: This route breaks the requirements down into individual courses, as detailed above. You can choose who provides each course and when you want to do it. This might give you the flexibility to fit in other work whilst training, which can help pay for your licence. You can also choose the cheapest or best provider for each stage. There is a lot of choice and a big difference between providers for each element of the course for you to consider. Choosing a reputable provider for the CPL MEP MEIR module will best prepare you for employment.  

Choosing between the Modular and Integrated route is a big decision. UKFlying provides you with our views and advice on each route, sets out the facts clearly, and most importantly, the costs! Get in touch and we can give you advice based on your individual circumstances.

There is also a lesser known third option; the Multi-Pilots Licence (MPL). This is a different type of course to the Integrated or Modular Course as it is linked to an airline and is a lot more simulator based with very little flying. The majority of the simulator training will be conducted in the airline type that you will eventually go on to fly (like a Boeing 737 or Airbus 320). This is also an expensive route and it does limit what work you can undertake on completion of the course. At the end of the course you will only be qualified to be a co-pilot (First Officer) on an airliner, which is fine as long as that is your only aim. Not many providers offer this course and it is an expensive option and with the current aviation climate, we wouldn't recommend it.

Ok, that’s the process and training options. Click on the tabs below for more information about the various training routes.

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