How to become an airline pilot

How do I become a commercial pilot? That simple question has many different answers. There’s no ‘normal’ route to a commercial pilot job, there are many different training routes, financing options and career paths. In this post, we’ll provide a simple overview which will get you off on the right foot.

Entry requirements for our programs vary according to training location and local regulatory requirements however generally you should meet the following minimum entry criteria:

  • Aged over 18 years old to commence training
  • Completed Secondary School education achieving national qualifications in English Language, Mathematics and Science subjects
  • Proficient in the English language
  • Capable of holding a Class 1 Pilot Medical Certificate
  • Successfully complete and pass the assessment process for your preferred training program

Medical Exam

Prior to enrolling on the Academy of Aeronautics commercial pilot training program, you must possess a valid Class 1 Medical Certificate. All pilots are required to have this certificate throughout their entire flying careers. Further information on this can be obtained from your local aviation authority but a typical medical examination would include:

  • Review of your medical history
  • Hearing and vision tests
  • Lung function and heart tests
  • Blood and urine analysis
  • General physical examination

Whilst a medical certificate is not required to attend our assessments, we recommend that you thoroughly check that you meet the qualifying criteria for a pilot medical certificate before embarking on the application and selection process for a program.

Types of Licenses

In Canada, there are 4 types of Pilot’s Licenses that you can hold (one of them is actually a permit and not a license):

RPP Recreational Pilot Permit
Fly with your friends and family for fun and transportation. Valid in Canada Only.

PPL Private Pilot’s License
Fly with your friends and family for fun and transportation. Valid all over the world.

CPL Commercial Pilot’s License
Fly for a charter or airline companies. Valid all over the world and includes the ‘Big’ Jets (but not as Captain).

ATPL Airline Transport Pilot’s License
Fly for airline companies. Valid all over the world and includes the ‘Big’ Jets (even as Captain).

Your very first Pilot’s License has to be either a Recreational Pilot Permit or a Private Pilot’s License. The latter can be upgraded (with experience and additional training) to a Commercial Pilot’s License and then (with more experience and even more training) to an Airline Transport Pilot’s License.

If you follow a standard integrated or modular course, you will end up with a frozen ATPL. The ‘frozen’ part refers to the fact that you’ve passed the theory part of the Airline Transport Pilot Licence; to ‘unfreeze’ it you’ll need to have a total of 1,500 hours flying-time logged. Then, only then, will you be ready to become a commercial airline pilot.

Choosing a Flight School

For many prospective flight students, choosing school to attend is a challenge. There are a variety of flight training schools available to get the aeronautical training you need to become an airline pilot.

Fast-track flight programs like the Academy of Aeronautics are often the quickest and least expensive route to becoming a commercial pilot. Fast-track programs are flight programs that allow students with zero flight hours to gain the necessary experience to become a commercial pilot in a very short amount of time. These programs typically involve an intense daily training regimen and provide the opportunity to gain aeronautical ratings quickly and safely. Fast-track programs can sometimes be completed in one year, depending on your previous experience, ability to learn and the program you choose, but it can take some time beyond the program to build enough hours and experience to become a competitive candidate for an airline job.

There are many other factors involved with choosing a flight school. These include cost, aircraft types, instructor availability, location, living conditions, student success rates and graduate job placement. Above all, the flight school you choose should be one you feel comfortable with. You’ll be spending a lot of time around the airport, aircraft and with your flight instructors, so it’s important that the flight school you choose is an enjoyable place.

Building Hours and Experience: Advanced Training Options

Obtaining pilot licenses is rarely enough for a person to be hired as a commercial pilot. Most commercial pilot jobs, including airline and corporate pilot jobs, require a minimum number of hours just to apply. It’s not uncommon for a person to earn a commercial pilot certificate and still not have enough qualifications to apply for an airline job.

Most pilots who want to become an airline pilot, must obtain many more flight hours than they received during training. For this reason, many new commercial pilots will also obtain a CFI certificate and work as an instructor for a couple of years to gain experience before they’re eligible for employment at an airline, charter or corporate company. The Academy of Aeronautics hires students upon graduation for this reason. Becoming a flight instructor is the most common way to earn money and build flight hours toward a professional pilot career.

Once enough hours are obtained, a pilot can apply for a job at a regional airline, where they’ll continue to build flight hours and experience in larger jet aircraft. After a few years at a regional airline, pilots will usually qualify for a first officer position at a major airline.
Should you have comments or questions regarding the process of becoming an airline pilot, feel free to send us an email or call us.

Reference links: