How to become an Airline Pilot

How to become an Airline Pilot

First off – are you eligible?

Don’t waste time chasing your Pilot shadow if you can’t hit these marks. The following are necessities when looking to get into the airlines, so if you can’t qualify, no dice unfortunately.

You’ll need to:

  • Have a high standard of English language skills: you can complete an English language assessment (ICAO level 5) if it’s not your native language, or provide documentation proving you’ve graduated from an English speaking educational institution
  • Pass a Class 1 Aviation Medial: a lot of people pass this, but if you can’t, unfortunately you cannot be a Commercial Pilot.
  • Be a grown up: by that, we mean be 18 years of age.
  • Have adequate funds to actually finance your flying
  • Pass an Aviation Security Clearance Check

Secondly – You’ll need to pick a Flying School.

There are a several things to consider when choosing a flying school. You’re going to be spending a lot of time there and with your Instructors, so make sure it’s the right one.

  • Do they offer the course you want? All airlines require Pilots to have a Commercial Pilots Licence (CPL), and often a Multi Engine Command Instrument Rating (MECIR)
  • What are the aircraft like? Do you really want to be flying 30+ year old aircraft, even if they are “traditional”?
  • Do you get on with the Instructors and staff? If you don’t feel comfortable, this isn’t a good sign. The team should be approachable and friendly; your training should be fun too!
  • What are they charging? The most expensive isn’t always best, and there’s no reason you should pay more for the same qualification if the facilities, aircraft and staff can’t justify the cost.

Submit your application to your chosen Flying School.

Once you’ve made your decision, you’ll need to submit the relevant application forms and make a few payments. Once all aspects are submitted, you’re good to start your training.

These normally consist of:

  • Enrolment Form
  • Terms & Conditions
  • Course payment
  • Ancillary payments (memberships, medicals, uniforms, etc)

Start Flight Training – Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL)

Well this is where things get exciting; you actually start the practical element of your training! There is a substantial amount of theory involved as well though. The first Licence on your journey to achieve is your Recreational Pilot Licence, where you’ll learn how to fly an aircraft: effects of control, straight and level, climbing and descending and steep turns are only a handful of lessons you will undertake. Once you’ve built up the competencies to pass your theory exams and flight test (minimum 25 hours flight time) you’ll be able to:

  • Carry 1 passenger;
  • Fly using visual flight rules (VFR) only; and
  • Fly within 25 nautical miles of your departure airport

Continue Flight Training – Private Pilot Licence (PPL)

Now you’ve got your Recreational Pilot Licence and you actually know how to fly, here you will learn how to navigate from A to B to C. Navigational flights are the norm during your Private Pilot Licence (PPL) flight training, so this is why it’s important to get on with your Instructor – it’s not fun sitting in the cockpit with someone you don’t like for 3+ hours! More theory exams and a flight test await you once your competencies have built up (minimum 40 hours flight time, including RPL). You can then:

  • Carry as many passengers as you like (in an aircraft you’re endorsed to Pilot of course)
  • Conduct navigational flight training
  • Fly anywhere within Australia
  • Be eligible to convert your Licence abroad (in another ICAO listed country – there is 191 member countries)

As a side note, we highly recommend get your RPL instead of skipping ahead to PPL. This way, you can start building your pilot in command (PIC) hours up earlier than your comrades, as you’re eligible to solo hire aircraft!

Continue Flight Training – Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL)

The Commercial aspect of your training now comes into effect. Previously during your PPL training, you would have had an extensive period of time to plan and detail your navigational flights. That’s not the case during CPL training though – you will learn to cope with pressure after being put under commercial pressure to plan flight paths and execute them safely and to a tight schedule.

After acquiring a minimum of 150 hours of flight training, and passing a further set of flight tests and theory exams, you will awarded with your Commercial Pilot Licence and be eligible to undertake paid work as a Pilot under VFR.

Continue Flight Training – Multi Engine Command Instrument Rating (MECIR)

It’s likely that you have completed your initial training in a single engine aircraft, generally to minimise cost, as twin-engine aircraft are less cost effective to operate. However, airlines operate multi-engine aircraft (such Boeings and Airbus’) and a multi-engine endorsement and experience is required to be eligible for fly these type of aircraft. In addition, many Charter companies will offer services using multi engine aircraft, so when looking for work to build your command hours prior to applying to an airline, a multi-engine endorsement is highly regarded and will make you more employable in other areas of Pilot work.

Whilst completing your multi-engine endorsement, you should also complete a Command Instrument Rating. During this training you will learn to use aircraft instruments to fly and navigate under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), using the same techniques that airline pilots would.

Theory Training – Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL)

The final step in the flight training process, an Airline Transport Pilot Licence authorises Pilots to conduct commercial operations and be the PIC or Co-Pilot in any commercial operation.

The theory syllabus for ATPL includes air law, human factors, meteorology, navigation, flight planning, performance and aircraft loading, aerodynamics, aircraft systems and instrument rating theory. All 7-subject exams must be completed within two years. You must have the following flight experience before you can obtain an ATPL:

  • 1500 hours flight time total (max 100 hours in a simulator)
  • 500 hours as PICUS (pilot in command under supervision)
  • 200 hours cross-country
  • 100 hours cross country flight time as PIC or PICUS
  • 100 hours flight time at night other than dual
  • 75 hours instrument time
  • 45 hours instrument flight time

Paying for all of these hours yourself is too expensive, so your goal is to get a job and build up this experience.

Lastly, Apply to the Airlines

You’ve finally got all the qualifications you need and that are required to apply to an airline.

Each airline is different though and they all have different selection criteria, however if you follow the aforementioned steps you will be in good standing and have given yourself the best chance to be accepted.

If you plan on applying for an international airline, these qualifications are recognised by other International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) states, meaning you can transfer your Licences and endorsements to other ICAO countries with relative ease. Now it’s all up to you – best of luck!

And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed. 98 and ¾ percent guaranteed! (Dr Seuss)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *