Wednesday, 14 May 2008

"How can I become a pilot?" - my answer to this frequent question

I've lost count of the number of times we've been asked this question, and I know it's something a lot of people are at least curious to know the answer to, so I thought I might try to answer it here. Obviously I'm not a pilot myself, but I've learned a fair amount about it all along the way, so here goes... Please correct me if you disagree!

Truthfully, there are many different ways you can go about it, and I'll start off by suggesting you take a look at If you haven't come across it before, it's a forum for professional pilots (mostly British ones) and it has a great section devoted to training. There, you will find the endless debate about which type of training is best - integrated (where you do the whole load of training in one go, full time, at one school) or modular (where you do bits in different places, at your own pace, often part-time).

The hard truth about both options is that they're going to cost you a HELL of a lot of money. By a lot, I mean over £50,000 in many cases. My husband was lucky enough to get a sponsorship when he trained, but that was some time ago, and unfortunately post 9/11 these options have all but dried up. There are some cadet schemes where you're likely (but not guaranteed) to be offered a job with a particular airline after you finish your training, but you usually have to foot the bill for your training yourself, and are bonded to the airline once you start work. Here are some useful links:

Cabair Airline Sponsorship Schemes:
EasyJet pilot sponsorship:
Oxford Aviation Training (UK):

Amazingly, my husband knows pilots who started their professional training without ever having a flying lesson. I think that's the wrong way around! Have at least a few lessons to see whether you like it first, at least.. Bear in mind that the image of the glamorous lifestyle is just that - an image. It's not reality, and if you don't like flying, you aren't going to like this job! You'll be tired a lot of the time, on long-haul routes you'll often feel more like an operator than an aviator, and you'll be away from home an awful lot, unless you work for Ryanair or Easyjet.

It's also a very tough time for the industry at the moment. Fuel prices are hitting hard, and cut backs are already being made. A lot of airlines aren't recruiting at the moment.

I'm not trying to put you off; it's just really important to take your blinkers off before you launch yourself into pilot training .It's extremely hard, and no mistake, and not to be entered into lightly, but only after serious thought! (And yes, the echo of the wedding service is intended - as a pilot you'll be wedded to your airline, and trust me, they nag more than wives!!)

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