Commercial pilots work for airlines or helicopter firms. In addition to jobs carrying scheduled and charter airline passengers, pilots may work for freight operators, fly business aircraft, become a flight instructor, pilot planes serving many functions in remote areas or even tow sky banners!
An aspiring pilot needs to be enthusiastic about flying but also calm and level-headed with good co-ordination, excellent communication skills, excellent health and a stong academic record. Both a medical test and aptitude testing are important requirements for pilot employment. Look at the Flying Links page for more information on these points.
Traditionally, pilot training was sponsored by the airlines, leading to employment after graduation from a Flight Training School. But airlines have made big changes to the way they train pilots in recent times and very little airline sponsorship available means that many pilots have to find their own funding for flight training.
The following funding options for commercial pilot training are possible:
- Limited airline sponsorship
- Scholarship and grants from some aviation organisations
- Study on an aviation related degree course which includes (self-funded) flight training
Flight Training schools generally offer either the ‘integrated’ route to obtaining a ‘frozen’ Airline Pilots’ Licence (ATPL) – where cadets start their training from scratch and complete the full training in a specified period of time within the same school – or the ‘modular’ route, which is more flexible, as the different training modules can be done in different schools over a longer period of time.
Whichever route you choose, as mentioned above, you must obtain a CAA Class 1 Medical certificate to be able to fly passengers in addition to your ATPL. It is advisable to obtain this before even starting training to ensure you meet the medical criteria.
Commercial Pilot training is expensive, so you should do lots of research into the various options available before committing to any course and seek advice from an impartial source such as the Royal Aeronautical Society or the Honourable Company of Air Pilots (formally GAPAN). Look at the Flying Links page to begin your search
Finally, don’t forget there is also the option to train as a military pilot, flying for the RAF, Royal Navy (Fleet Air Arm) or Army Air Corps. Find out more in this section.