A Guide to Becoming a Commercial Pilot in the UK and Europe: 9 essential steps to prepare for your journey.

A Guide to Becoming a Commercial Pilot in the UK and Europe: 9 essential steps to prepare for your journey.

If you’ve always dreamed of a career in aviation and are ready to take the leap, it’s essential to have a well-structured plan. This blog provides a step-by-step guide to help you prepare before embarking on your journey to become a commercial pilot.

Step 1: Research and Set Realistic Expectations 

While a career as a commercial pilot can be glamorous and financially rewarding, it’s crucial to understand the realities of the job. Long and unsocial hours, shift work, and time away from home are common aspects of the profession. Conduct thorough research, seek advice from industry professionals, and avoid relying solely on flight school marketing. It’s crucial to gain a clear understanding of the lifestyle and commitments associated with being a pilot, as well as to understand the intense training involved with it.

Step 2: Experience a Trial Lesson Before committing to pilot training

It’s recommended to have first-hand experience flying a light aircraft. Taking a trial lesson allows you to control the plane and gain a sense of what your training will entail. This experience will help determine your passion for aviation and strengthen your commitment to pursuing a career as a pilot.

Step 3: Assess Your Aptitude and Personal Qualities 

Becoming a commercial pilot requires more than just the ability to fly an aircraft. Airlines today look for candidates with specific competencies and attributes that go beyond piloting skills. Assess your innate aptitude for the task, which cannot be improved with training, as well as your current competencies, which can be developed through training. Seek impartial advice from reputable organisations such as Wings Alliance to evaluate your potential for success and identify areas for improvement.

Step 4: Obtain a Medical Certificate 

To begin your pilot training, you must possess a Class 2 medical certificate. However, to become a commercial pilot, you will need to pass the more rigorous Class 1 standard. It is advisable to undergo a Class 1 medical assessment before investing time and money in training. This assessment, conducted by an Aeromedical Examiner (AME), evaluates your physical fitness, vision, medical history, and other factors. It ensures that you meet the medical requirements for a commercial pilot career.

Step 5: Decide on Your Licence 

To pursue a career as a commercial air transport pilot, you will need a Commercial Pilot’s Licence (CPL) with an instrument rating (IR). You must also complete the theory exams for the Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence (ATPL) and a Multi-Crew Cooperation course. Consider whether to obtain an EASA licence (if eligible) or a UK licence, depending on your residency and work rights. Research the licensing authorities and their requirements to make an informed decision.

Step 6: Choose Your Training Route 

There are two main training routes: integrated and modular. Integrated training involves full-time training with one organisation, typically lasting 18 months to 2 years. It offers an immersive experience but limits flexibility and control over the pace of training. Modular training, on the other hand, provides more flexibility, allowing you to train full-time, part-time, or mix both. You have greater control over the training process and can adjust the pace according to market conditions and personal circumstances. Consider factors such as cost, flexibility, self-directed learning, and personal preferences to choose the most suitable training route.

Step 7: Secure Financing for Training 

Flight training can be a significant financial investment, ranging from €/£50,000 to 120,000+. Plan your finances in advance and explore funding options such as scholarships. It’s essential to budget for the cost of training and anticipates unexpected expenses to avoid financial constraints during your pilot training. Read here Wings Alliance’s guide on how to raise the finances: WA-Raising-the-finance-AW.pdf (wingsalliance.eu)

Step 8: Research Aviation Training Organisations 

Numerous Aviation Training Organisations (ATOs) offer pilot training courses. Be cautious of organisations that make unrealistic promises and underdeliver. Seek advice from experienced pilots who have gone through training, and gather multiple perspectives. Online forums, social media groups, and reputable aviation communities can provide valuable insights to help you make an informed choice. One piece of advice that we can give to you, is to never pay the full cost of your training course upfront, and if the flight school requires upfront payment, ask them why.

Step 9: Progression in Your Commercial Pilot Career 

Once you have completed your theory exams and flight training, you can apply for your first commercial pilot job as a First Officer (FO). As you gain experience and seniority, you can progress to become a Senior First Officer and ultimately a Captain. The timeline for career progression can vary, typically taking 4 to 20 years to become a Captain, depending on the operation type and individual competence. Some pilots may pursue part-time or full-time management roles, become trainers, or explore opportunities with different airlines.

Becoming a commercial pilot requires dedication, commitment, and a comprehensive plan. By conducting thorough research, obtaining the necessary qualifications and licenses, and choosing the right training route, you can embark on a rewarding career in aviation. Remember, the journey may be challenging, but with passion and determination, the end result will make it all worthwhile.