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Career Advice

How to become a pilot

To be clear from the off, we’re not talking about piloting an F-16 or steering the International Space station. At the how to become a pilotsametime, we’re thinking a little bigger than a 1 seated Cessna 172. We are, after all, trying to get you employed.

Piloting commercial aircraft today is a different job entirely to piloting planes forty years ago, but many of the core skills are still there. With the improvement in technology, pilots are expected to be a blend of engineers, technicians, IT consultants and, folks that can steer almost 400,000kg of metal at about 500mph 32,000 feet in the air. Sound easy? Good.


Before I get into the actual qualifications, most people will probably wondering where they’ll be applying to in the first place. There are also a few different types of courses, so you’ll want the one that provides the greatest opportunity to gain employment from it afterwards. The Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) can be earned from a few courses around the UK. Flying Time and CAE/Oxford’s course are two of the more popular ones. There are also Cadet Training Courses offered by some of the UK’s airlines, like British Airways and EasyJet who have a strong record of employment after graduation. The courses consist of intensive theory based exams, as well as long hours of practical flight experience. The grades are normally in the region of 5 GCSE’s and 2 A-Levels. British Airways ask for three as well as an Honours degree.


A lot of the experience you’ll need before becoming a taxi man/woman of the sky won’t involve stepping near a plane. Piloting necessitates a strong understanding of maths and physics, and any experience you can provide of working with them will help. Having worked with technical information in the past, specifically relating to computer equipment or engineering software will help. Finally, experience in smaller class of planes – any of those you can pay for an hour’s training – would obviously be a good selling point. The more hours, the better.

Type of person

Imagine this. You’re on a flight from London Heathrow to Orlando Florida. A thousand miles of ocean lie before and ahead of you. The plane you’re in suddenly hits an air pocket and drops 200 feet. Do you: A) Scream hysterically and mentally offer up pleas to every deity you can think of; B) Curse, think of all the things that could be wrong with the plane and sweat profusely; or, C) Continue sipping your tea, noting where you hit the turbulence.

If you answered C, then you’re probably lying. If not though, you hold one of the most important attributes that pilots need. The ability to think quickly and respond appropriately in difficult situations could mean the difference between a smooth flight, and a plane with potentially thousands of pounds damage. At its most, it can be the difference between life and the deaths of several hundred people.

That should be a sobering thought, as it is a job with enormous responsibilities. Pilots are expected to have strong leadership skills to match their duties of requirement. This includes giving clear directions and information to the flight crew, reassuring passengers, handling a vehicle worth between £74.8m and £245m, and ensuring passengers actually enjoy their flight.

On top of all this, excellent spatial awareness (it won’t be like reversing your Clio out of the driveway), physical fitness, self confidence and commitment are fairly high in the list of needs. If you happen to speak a second (or even third) language, then your number of job prospects will increase dramatically.

How to become a pilot

If you’re confused about where to start, your priority should be finding a course that you can get on and establishing a source of funding. Flight courses are expensive and it will likely be a while before you’re in full time work again. Don’t drive yourself into debt, but don’t give up on the idea either. Start saving or consider beginning with Modular training courses. From there; happy sailing. Enjoy learning to speak in that eerily similar voice most pilots seem to have, and if in a few years from now you’re piloting a 747 because of this article, don’t be afraid to contact us and offer us a free flight.

Written by Ethan Loughrey

Looking for a job, but not too sure what career path to follow? Check out TheEmployable “How to Become” career directory



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