Integrated vs. Modular and your employability
The past 100 years of aviation has seen an almost incomprehensible rate of progression and change but the blueprint for the training infrastructure we have today dates back to its infant years and has hardly changed since.
In the beginning the responsibility for flight training fell solely to the Airforce and the pioneering aircraft manufacturers own test pilots. The ‘Golden Age of Aviation’ – between the great wars – saw the growth of flying clubs and the first issues of Civilian ‘A’ licences. The instructors at those clubs were virtually all military pilots created during the First world war. Famous Aviatrix Amy Johnson gained her licence in this way, enrolling at London Aeroplane club to allow her to fly, initially as a hobby, whilst she worked as a secretary to a solicitor. Not just an inspiring pioneer in the aviation industry but also of the ‘self improver’ route that we now know of today as the ‘Modular’ route.
This age was the time that commercial aviation had its first boom too, with Imperial Airways, Deutsche Lufthansa and Air France all forming in the 20’s and 30’s, but their fleets were almost exclusively piloted by the abundance of well-trained military personnel that were available.
After the second world war there was a lull in commercial air travel but by the late 1950’s it started to pick up again and fast. It quickly became apparent that there would be a shortage of ex-military pilots available to crew the British civil operations. State owned, BOAC (formally Imperial Airways) and British European Airways (BEA) along with the ministry for aviation proposed a plan to create a flying school based on the RAF’s aircrew officer training college, Cranwell. In 1960 the plan was approved and the site chosen was Hamble, just south of Southampton airport. The course was an ‘ab-initio’ course open to school leavers with 5 GCSE’s and 2 A levels and would last 18 months beginning to end. The die was cast for the integrated model. Very soon pressures on Hamble and the growing demand, from BEA (who would sponsor 1500 cadets between 1967-72) meant that similar courses were set up in Oxford and Perth.
As you’ll come to see, by 1960 the three routes to the commercial flight deck were established and with them their stigma’s
For the sake of this comparison we will ignore the military route to the flight deck and compare the integrated and modular options.
First, some misnomers
Integrated courses are often referred to as ‘ab initio’ courses, which translates to ‘from the beginning’, however we are going to consider embarking on both routes ‘from the beginning’ so this isn’t a point of difference. Just in the same way that the phrase “don’t you need a PPL already to start a modular course” is inaccurate, as embarking on a PPL is essentially embarking on the first ‘module’ of a modular commercial pilot course. Which conveniently leads us to the last common misconception.
“You have to do an integrated course to get a frozen ATPL” – Negative. A ‘frozen ATPL’ is a pseudonym for a Commercial Pilot’s Licence (CPL) with a Multi Engine Instrument Rating (MEIR) and Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence (ATPL) theory exam passes – it is not an actual licence type. Both routes get you exactly the same licence: a CPL/MEIR with ATPL theory, but the journey there can be significantly different. Let’s analyse them.
Always full-time courses that are typically advertised to last 18-20 months. Usually the theory training is classroom/lecture based and will take around 6 months. It is often not integrated with the flying, rather students do blocks of theory and flying training.
The training is delivered under the approval of a single organisation, but elements may be contracted out to third party training organisations.
Integrated courses consist of around 150 flying hours – 70 of which will be PIC (pilot in command) – and 40 Synthetic Flight Training Device (SFTD) hours, plus 15-40 hours in an SFTD during the MCC phase.
Training may be all at one base but quite often, the initial flight training is done in a low-cost, good weather environment – which means that a lot of integrated courses utilize 2-3 locations around the globe.
Advantages of integrated courses:
- a ‘campus’ environment;
- all the training is delivered by one organisation;
- the training record is complete;
- the schools delivering them are generally larger and therefore well known to and accepted by employers; and
- there will usually be many students training together so mutual support from peers is a feature.
Disadvantages of integrated courses:
- integrated courses usually include fewer flight hours;
- integrated courses are usually considerably more expensive;
- the service in a big school can be quite impersonal;
- you will have to live at the school location(s);
- good weather is an advantage initially, however, some locations (e.g. Arizona) fail to expose you to European style weather, terrain or density of airspace restrictions;
- you will have to study full-time for 18 months+; and
- integrated schools can rarely accommodate partners or dependents.
Marketing claims made by schools pushing integrated courses include:
“The courses are faster than modular training”.
FALSE. A full-time modular course is likely to take the same time and may even be completed more quickly, as the student may learn in their own style.
“The quality of training with integrated schools is better”.
FALSE. There are good and bad in both parts of the training industry.
This was once referred to as the self-improver route as it was a way for people who had some general aviation experience to start progressing towards a commercial licence. We understand that you are most likely reading this as someone who has little or no experience so will outlay the description with that in mind. However, if you do have some experience and are wondering what credit it gives you/how much of your training is already done this should help answer some of your questions.
The components (or modules) of a Modular route to a CPL/MEIR with ATPL theory are;
- An ICAO PPL (A PPL issued by any state other than Liechtenstein and the Cook Islands);
- 14 ATPL exams;
- Hour building;
- A Multi-Engine Piston (MEP) class rating;
- A MEIR;
- A CPL course and test; and
- An MCC – for more information about this course and the options available to you, have a look at this article.
Compared to Integrated, modular courses are defined by a few key differences;
Flexibility – you can choose between training providers and the rate at which you progress, part-time or full-time training; almost everything is customisable to fit your needs and preferences.
Hours – Modular courses have more hours in them – the minimum being, 200 total and 100 pilot-in-command (PIC)
Cost – Typical costs for a complete modular course, starting with no flying expereince, are between £50K-£65K.
Structure – The structure of an integrated course is quite prescribed, whereas within a modular course there is room to mix the order of some elements of the training up. Rather than explain the nuances in detail here, now, we’ll post a separate blog about the fine details of structuring a modular course.
Modular based training has the advantages of:
- full-or part-time (at least until the last few months);
- a variety of locations;
- spread over a timescale to suit your needs;
- it is possible to continue working (and living at home) for much of the training, which can greatly affect the affordability;
Generally, being much better value than integrated courses;
You are able to learn at the pace and in the style which suits you, rather than having to conform to the standardised delivery of a school; and
It is more likely to be ‘family friendly’.
Disadvantages of the Modular route:
- incomplete or diverse training records;
- ‘patchwork’ training; i.e. mixing lots of different suppliers with little or no coordination between them;
These potential disadvantages which can be mitigated against or avoided entirely with careful planning and the assistance of a training advisor.
So, how does your choice between the two effect your employability?
This brings us along to the last and most common misconception.
“Training with an integrated school increases your chances of employment”.
This may have been true a decade ago but is no longer the case. Other than those with their own training programmes such as KLM and Lufthansa, all the major European airlines who accept flight school graduates accept modular trained applicants now. For a few reasons:
- There simply aren’t enough qualified pilots coming from a single route;
- A recognition of the levels of non-technical competencies that modular students can bring;
- The introduction of the APS MCC which bridges the gap between single pilot CPL flying and airline pilot operations.
The evidence for this shift can be seen in the recent reversal on the policies of British flagship carrier, BA – who, as we saw, introduced the integrated route when they were BOAC and BEA – and of easyJet. These two airlines have, for a long time, been quite prescriptive about where they recruit newly qualified pilots from and chose exclusively from integrated schools. But in the last few years have opened their doors to modular pilots to apply. Other airlines, such as Flybe and Jet2 have publicly stated that they particularly like modular students as they’ve invariably evidenced great motivation and a high level of non-technical core competencies through the experiences they’ve gained outside of academia and flight training. All other airlines in EASA will accept newly qualified pilots from both routes and place no preferential treatment on either during screening and assessment.
What is important however, is to have a credible training record. As stated earlier, one of the advantages of the integrated route is that you will complete your training with a single training record that vouches for your performance across all your training and thus the airlines have some evidence of your knowledge, skills and attitudes. Good CPL MEIR providers will provide an equivalent report that generally satisfies the needs of the airlines but doesn’t provide them with as comprehensive report as it represents only a window of your total training. This is one of the ways we, here at Wings Alliance, are making the modular route even more viable; by tying all of your training under one umbrella organization and providing a single record that encompasses all the stages of your flight training and is written in the language of the airlines, competencies.