This page, gives advice and tips on how to become a Pilot, showing both tips for pilot school selection and below that first-hand stories of the journey from flight school selection, training to flying for an airline.
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Tips for Flight School Selection
See below a list of points you should consider when selecting a flight school (a list of flight schools in all Asia Pacific can be found by clicking here):
- Decide on your pilot goals - what are your long-term aspirations in aviation. Do you want to become a pilot in your free time (Private Pilot License)? Do you want to fly in General Aviation (Commercial Pilot License)? Do you want to become an airline pilot (Airline program)? If you want to become an airline pilot which airlines are hiring? What aircraft are the airlines receiving over the next few years? Which flight schools do the airlines usually hire from? These are critical questions you should list and get answers to when asking yourself "how will I become a Pilot".
- Determine how much you can afford to spend - different schools have different costs (due to location, number of students, aircraft type and a number of other factors), find out the reasons as to what drives the cost difference. Do programs have financial assistance/loan programs? Might a part time program work for you?
- How much free time do you have - different schools have different training schedules with some offering flexibility while others want the cadets to train full time and on campus (note that delaying flight training usually increases your training cost).
- What equipment does the flight school use - this is important from a training but even more importantly from a safety aspect. Take into consideration as well the equipment preference of airlines which will want new pilots to have trained on certain equipment. Find out what the difference is between training aircraft (both from a training and cost perspective). Aircraft age does not always relate to safety, this is dependent on the aicraft maintenance - ask the flight school in detail about their aircraft maintenance department? Safety features of the aircraft?
- Visit your shortlist of flight schools - speak to the instructors and management teams to learn about the training, safety policies, history and graduates of the flight school. To find all the options available to you visit this page by clicking here.
First-hand stories of the journey from Pilots
Aviationfly.com will update this regularly to add more journeys, experiences and tips. Would you like to share your story? Send us an email and we will post your advice on here. You will be providing Advice and Tips on how to become a Pilot to the youth and next generation of Pilots.
December, 2017 – Aviationfly.com interviewed Pilot Dominique (Instagram - @domcotdotcom) flying the B777 with a leading Middle East Airline
How it all started
Dominique did her first flight at the age of 16 and instantly knew that she wanted to pursue a career in Aviation. In order to afford her first flight lesson’s Dominique worked in an Abattoir in a country town which paid for her flying lessons all the way to her first solo. There was only one flying school in that small town back then so Flight School selection was easy. After getting her Private Pilots License, she enrolled in a University course in Melbourne and completed her Bachelor of Aviation Technology.
Upon graduation, Dominique had obtained her Commercial Pilots Licence and frozen ATPL, as well as her Bachelor. She, then, went on to work in the industry flying single engine piston aircraft, twin engine piston aircraft, turbo props and eventually on to her first jet on the Airbus A320. Since then she has upgraded to long haul operations on the Boeing B777 with a leading Middle East Airline.
Dominque says she has definitely taken a long road to the airlines but she has had such a great time and gained so much experience flying into paddocks, mine sites, islands, bushland and aboriginal communities that she wouldn’t change a thing.
Over her 15 years of flying, she has seen this industry change so much and there are so many different options for new pilots now.
From Dominique directly:
“Pilot school selection is very personal as it not only depends on your budget but you also want to be flying with a company you trust, with a high level of professionalism that will look good on your resume and make you employable to other companies when you graduate. This was one of the reasons I chose to do the Bachelor of Aviation. I knew the flying school they used was Oxford Aviation Academy (then GFS) and that they had a close affiliation with Qantas. They also were contracted to train their cadets, so we ended up with very similar training.
If I was looking for a fast way to get into airlines now, I would strongly recommend applying for a Cadetship. There are so many around now, especially in Australia. It means you don’t have to pay all the initial training costs upfront which can take a huge financial burden off your shoulders. Otherwise going to a small flying school and just getting hours in your logbook is another great way to start. I’d like to note that when you have made the decision to take on this exciting new step in your career, to make sure you have the time to do it all together, rather than broken up. This way you consolidate your training instead of forgetting things and you will spend less time revisiting previous lesson’s, which in turn saves you money.
To the pilots who have started training and like me look up at those big wide body jets wondering 'how will I ever be experienced enough to fly one of those?’ Never give up on your dream. It isn’t money or being the smartest person in your class that matters. It’s the pilot’s who are determined and not afraid of failing, that find their success. Even if it means being denied a job over and over again, or living in an isolated town for months, just to get hours in your logbook. Each pilot’s journey will differ to their colleague but as they always say the journey is just as important as the destination. Don’t forget to revel in each milestone along the way. It could be your first solo, passing a flight planning exam or gaining your CPL. Each achievement I know has taken a great amount of study and sacrifice.
My training was completed to a very high standard with a great flying school but after graduating it didn’t matter where I did my training, just that I had my licences. I ended up flying skydivers out of a paddock in a Cessna 182 in country Victoria, Australia. I would get enough money during my day to basically cover food and fuel to get there. But it was my first job and I couldn’t believe that someone was paying me to fly an aircraft that I had previously been paying hundreds of dollars an hour to hire out. One day I was flying the aircraft out of maintenance. I was chasing daylight and avoiding some widespread storms that were covering most of the state, when suddenly my engine stopped. I was only at 4500’ and tried desperately to restart the engine. With luck on my side, and using the skill set they had taught me at flying school, I managed to glide the Cessna 182 into a paddock, stopping safely on some clear land. At the time I only had just over 200 hours in my logbook.
It is rare to experience an engine failure in your career, however, this was just one of many stories that I experienced flying in the outback and in the remote far North of Australia. As I mentioned earlier, Aviation is a dynamic industry. Everyone takes different paths in their careers. In other parts of the world they don’t have the same kind of flying we have in Australia, South Africa, South America and Canada. A lot of students go straight onto Boeing B737’s and Airbus A320’s as their first jobs. That may be desirable to some and others may like the idea of these old aircraft that don’t have autopilot’s or weather radars. The aircraft that you fly single pilot on a dark and stormy night into a poorly lit strip, to pick up passengers that are escaping a community where someone has escaped jail with a machete.
It’s nice to sit up at 38,000 feet now behind the yoke of a B777 and see that all my hard work has paid off. I wouldn’t have believed you if you had told me I would make it here, back when I was 23. I’m now flying one of the most reliable machines with the largest and most powerful commercial jet engines in the world. The GE engines with it's 115,000 pounds of thrust is simply incredible. I now work in a professional environment with a high standard of safety and efficiency. But I will never forget what I did to get here and I will always share my stories to help and encourage anyone with the same dream.”
July, 2017 - Aviationfly.com interviewed a First Officer now flying with one of the largest airlines in the Philippines:
“What is the difference between a dream, a passion, and an ambition?” For many, these are one and the same or so I thought. This was a question that was asked in my interview to become an airline pilot. Thinking back, this question had a more profound impact as I reflect back on my decision on why I became an airline pilot.
It all started with a dream. Everyone who are pilots now have probably wanted to become pilots since they were in their teenage years or even younger. It all just depends on the path to getting to that milestone. For me, I didn’t take the traditional route to become an aviator. Having already established a career in the business and consulting industry, at 30 years of age, I would say I was a late bloomer in the aviation industry. But after heavy reflection I decided to take that leap of faith and pursue “the dream.”
All aviators start somewhere and ask themselves how to become a Pilot. Traditionally, most airlines in my country obtained their pool of pilots from the Air Force as they have significant and considerable amount of experience. Others graduate with degrees related to aviation and then pursue ab-initio programs for their basic flying requirements to attain their Private Pilot’s License (PPL) and eventually their Commercial Pilot’s License (CPL). However, you do not need to have a concentrated course related to aviation. For my case, I graduated with a degree in Finance. As long as you have a college degree, that is the basic minimum requirement to pursue your Private Pilot License, Commercial Pilot License, Instrument Rating and Type rating to become a commercial airline first officer in my home country.
Flight School selection
The next step in my journey of how to become a Pilot started by researching on what institutions/flying schools/pilot school would help me to accomplish my goals. There are a few factors that come into play when selecting a flying school. One of those major factors was location. This is important as this affects flying experience, culture, and most importantly, weather for the friendly skies. The location of the school that I chose was ideal as it had all the amenities and requirements I needed within the training facility: dormitories for students to live year-round, canteen within the facility, classroom space for ground training, and even an exercise room to keep in shape. There was also a shuttle service that would take you directly to the airport hangar where the student pilots would undergo their flying training. The hangar was conveniently located just less than 10 minutes away from the main facility.
Another major factor to consider is the equipment and quality of training that the school offers (safety should always be at the top of your mind, so ask the school for their incident history, age of the aircraft, audits, engine maintenance and other safety features). The school offered a program that I thought would aid in my goal to one day become an airline pilot. The program offered an ab-initio curriculum which allowed a pilot trainee with 0 hours of experience to a commercial Instrument rated pilot with at least 200 hours of air time experience with a single engine Cessna 172S (what I researched was the safest training aircraft to use). Additionally the school also offered a type-rating curriculum to be rated as a First Officer for the Airbus A320, hence reducing the burden for the airline to further train you, this increases the chances of a quick employment. The costs for the training are high but there are a few options that cadet pilots can avail such as a financing program partnered with a local bank. The quality of the instructors also plays a key role into pilot training as they help set the tone of what kind of pilot you want to be in the future. Support system roles are also important when undergoing the student pilot journey. These roles include liaison officers that aid in the application of licenses, exams, and documents needed for the country’s respective aviation authority.
My recommendation to future aviators: research and visit the school that you want to pursue your pilot career. This will help in your decision process as you are able to interact with fellow cadets who attend the school and inquire personally their experiences and life as a student pilot.
My journey of how to become a pilot next stage was pilot training which I completed in 1 year and 3 months. It wasn’t a breeze but in my opinion a sacrifice well worth it. Now I fly as a First Officer for one of the major airlines in the Philippines. It was a mix of hard work and luck as the industry is booming and in need of future aviators. The sacrifices are mainly personal which include quality time away from family and friends. This was when I understood what the difference is between a passion and an ambition. My passion was flying the skies but my ambition was to be a pilot in the airlines. Pursuing this endeavor has many rewarding returns. You couldn’t ask for a better view for your office! If you are asking yourself the question on how to become a Pilot you have already made the first right step by reading my story.
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