How to Become a Pilot

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Airline pilots work for a particular airline and fly passengers and cargo on the airline’s route structure. Shorthaul flights usually mean flights within UK or Europe and the pilots and their aircraft normally return home to UK at the end of each day. On long-haul flights e.g. to the USA or the Far East, the pilots and cabin crew members stay overnight to rest before flying either home or further down the route. They may be away from home for a week or so. On some very long flights, a second crew of two pilots may be carried as a relief crew during the cruise at altitude. While the hours of duty of airline pilots are closely regulated, in general these pilots work unsocial hours, including at weekends and on Public Holidays. Those who do not fly for an airline can make their careers in flying instructing, air taxi work, business aviation, aerial photography, test flying and even display flying. In general, airline pilots get paid the best.

To understand more about the role of the Airline Pilot, look at the Flying Links page – follow the links to the Airline webpages, the magazine webpages and the links to aviation organisations such as The Honourable Company of Air Pilots (including the publication So You Want to Be a Pilot?) and join the Aviation Skills Partnership Network to become part of the network discussions and access the latest aviation information

In large airlines, the pilots rostered to operate a particular flight may not have met before. Hence, the emphasis is on a common high standard of flying and training, standardisation of operating procedures, and the need for the highest level of team work, both in the cockpit and with the cabin crew. This high operating standard is maintained by regular training and testing of emergency and other procedures in flight simulators. The aircraft captain is a very experienced pilot and has overall responsibility for the safety of the aircraft, crew and passengers. The captain and co-pilot usually fly alternate legs of a flight. Before take off, they need to prepare carefully for the flight. This includes:

  • Reporting for duty up to two hours before the intended flight and meeting the other flight crew members.

  • Studying weather forecasts for take-off, travel en-route, destination and alternative diversion aerodromes

  • Noting any changes in route and aerodrome facilities and ATC and company requirements

  • Deciding on the amount of fuel required for the flight

  • Reviewing the planned route and checking the serviceability, loading and refueling of the aircraft

  • Ensuring that the weight of the aircraft for take-off, climb, cruise, descent and landing complies with aviation legislative requirements and company operating procedures

  • The Captain signing the aircraft Technical Log as being satisfied that the aircraft is serviceable for the proposed flight

  • Carrying out a series of pre-flight checks on the aircraft, including its navigation and operating systems

  • Discussing the proposed conduct of the flight with the co-pilot and the Chief of the Cabin Crew

  • Obtaining a start-up time, push-back and taxi clearance from Air Traffic Control (ATC).

 

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The most demanding phases of a flight are the take-off and landing. To ensure safe distance from other aircraft in the congested airspace near aerodromes, the take-off, the initial climb-out and the approach for landing all have to be flown precisely in accordance with ATC instructions. Throughout the flight, pilots are in regular contact with Air Traffic Control, airline operations and can listen to other aircraft. Pilots also make in-flight announcements to give information to passengers. At the end of each flight the Captain has to complete the Technical Log and has a legal requirement to record any technical problems.

Training Routes

 

Integrated Route: A full time, ‘Zero to ATPL’, residential course at an approved Flight Training Organisation (FTO). The integrated course usually takes about 14-18 months to complete, with pilots usually staring with zero flying hours and graduating with a ‘frozen’ ATPL, at which point they can apply to work for an airline. The integrated course has the benefit of ensuring that the cadet pilot experiences continuity throughout their training and some FTO’s do provide support with initial employment; however, this route is generally the most expensive at £100,000+.

Modular Route: This training route breaks down the syllabus into individual components, PPL, Night Rating, ATPL ground school exams, CPL/IR & MCC. This gives the student increased flexibility as they can choose when and where they study each component and allows those who are unable to commit financially to a full-time course work and train at the same time. Whilst the training can take longer to complete, it is usually cheaper with costs generally between £30,000 – £50,000.

Multi-Crew Pilots Licence (MPL): The Multi-Crew Pilot Licence incorporates airline specific Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) from an early stage and requires an airline to mentor pre-selected cadets through a bespoke course and into type, base and line training on a specific aircraft. The training is competency-based and replaces the traditional syllabus. Training takes about 14-18 months full time and whilst the costs are similar to integrated training, it has the benefit of leading directly to a job with the airline that has mentored the cadet. United

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