How to become a pilot
Being an airline pilot is probably one of the best jobs in the world. Responsible for commanding commercial flights, taking passengers to long or short-haul destinations, and an office above the clouds worldwide.
If your passion is flying, an excellent option for your professional career is to be an airplane pilot. To do this, you must be very consistent and prepared so that you can fly some of the most modern aircraft in the world. If you manage to do it, you will have a job to be paid to travel and do what you like the most. It is a decision worth making.
Requirements to be an airplane pilot
At the European level, there are no specific rules to train you as an aviation pilot. However, it is important to have the physical and mental maturity to demonstrate the skills and knowledge acquired during preparation.
Each training organization (DTO or ATO) approved to train pilots can establish some particular requirements; the most general are:
- You must be of legal age at the time of certification as a pilot.
- It would help if you accredited a C2 or Advanced level of the English language by the University of Cambridge.
- Possess a current class 1 medical certificate.
While it is true that flying an airplane is a great responsibility, if you want to become a pilot, you can achieve it since the requirements are achievable as long as you commit to your preparation and professional development.
We recommend that you access this document to find out what European regulations say about obtaining and requirements for obtaining the different types of licenses.
Types of licenses
To fly, even after having been trained through the courses, you must have a license that accredits you to handle certain aircraft types, according to the purpose of their flight. These are:
Light Aviation Pilot License (LAPL Airplane)
The powers of the holder of a LAPL are to act without remuneration as a pilot in command in non-commercial operations in the corresponding aircraft category.
Applicants for the LAPL must have met the requirements for the corresponding aircraft category and, when applicable, for the class or type of aircraft used in the skill test.
Applicants for a LAPL (A) must have completed at least 30 hours of flight instruction on airplanes or TMGs, including at least:
(1) 15 hours of dual flight instruction in the class in which the skill test will be conducted;
(2) 6 hours of supervised solo flight, including at least 3 hours of cross-country solo flight time of cross-country solo flight with at least one cross-country flight of at least 150 km (80 NM), during which one landing with a complete stop at an airport different from the departure one made.
During the preparation, you will learn about the different aircraft, their operation, meteorology, aeronautical legislation, etc.
Private Pilot License (PPL)
The powers of the holders of a PPL (A) consist of acting without remuneration as the main pilot or co-pilot of airplanes or TMGs that carry out non-commercial operations and exercising all the powers of the holders of a LAPL.
Notwithstanding the preceding paragraph, the holder of a PPL (A) with instructor or examiner powers may receive remuneration for:
(1) the provision of flight instruction for the LAPL (A) or PPL (A);
(2) conducting skill tests and proficiency checks for these licenses;
(3) training, tests, and verifications for the ratings or certificates attached to this license.
Applicants for a PPL (A) must have completed at least 45 hours of flight instruction on airplanes or TMGs, 5 of which may have been completed in an FSTD, including at least:
(1) 25 hours of dual flight instruction; and
(2) 10 hours of supervised solo flight, including at least 5 hours of solo cross-country flying with at least one cross-country flight of at least 270 km (150 NM), during which landings with full stops in 2 different airports from the departure aerodrome carried out.
This course can be done continuously or in modules. With this license, you will be able to fly all types of non-commercial aircraft with a single-engine and be a co-pilot in commercial air transport.
Commercial Aircraft Pilot License (CPL)
The attributions of the holder of a CPL are, within the corresponding aircraft category, the following:
(1) exercise all the powers of the holder of a LAPL and a PPL;
(2) act as the pilot or co-pilot of any aircraft that performs operations other than commercial air transport;
3) act as pilot-in-command in the commercial air transport of any single-pilot aircraft subject to the restrictions specified in FCL.060 and this Subpart; (see regulations)
(4) act as co-pilot in commercial air transport subject to the restrictions specified in FCL.060.
Before exercising the attributions of a CPL (A), the holder of an MPL (Multi Pilot) must pass the entire theoretical phase and have acquired a flight experience of at least:
(a) 70 flight hours:
(1) as a pilot in command; or
(2) comprised at least 10 hours as pilot-in-command and additional flight time under supervision (PICUS).
Of these 70 hours, 20 will be VFR cross-country flight time as pilot-in-command or cross-country flight time for cross-country flight consisting of at least 10 hours as control pilot and 10 hours as control pilot. It will include a VFR cross-country flight of at least 540 km (300 NM) in the course of which the full stop landings on two full-stop landings at two different airports;
According to your particular interest in aviation, you can choose one of the licenses above and pursue a career if that is what you want.
What is studied?
To be an airplane pilot, it is necessary that you know and studies a set of theoretical and practical contents, mainly related to the operation and operation of the aircraft.
Most schools start with single-engine airplanes and principles related to flight, such as take-off, landing, and flying the plane.
Later you should know more in-depth about the handling, navigation, and communication instruments that airplanes have. Once you have mastered this information, you should train yourself to respond to emergencies, both in flight and inside the plane.
In aviation schools and the university context, you must study subjects related to physics and mathematics since they are directly linked to the function of the airplane.
Steps to become an airline pilot (ATPL)
If you are wondering how to be a pilot of airline transport? Here is the answer, but we insist that you look at the regulations and the different modular courses offered by training organizations. The minimum age to undertake studies is 16 years old, although to be certified, you must have reached the age of majority.
Prerequisites. Applicants for an ATPL (A) must hold:
1) an MPL (Multipilot License); or
2) a CPL (A) and a multi-engine IR (instrument flight rating) for airplanes. In this case, the applicant must also have received instruction in MCC (Multi Crew Cooperation Course).
Experience. Applicants for an ATPL (A) must have completed a minimum of 1,500 flight hours in airplanes, including at least
(1) 500 hours in multi-pilot operations in airplanes;
(2) i) 500 hours as pilot-in-command under supervision; or
ii) 250 hours as pilot-in-command, or
iii) 250 hours, including at least 70 hours as pilot-in-command and the remainder as pilot-in-command under supervision;
3) 200 hours of a cross-country flight, of which at least 100 hours will be as pilot-in-command or as pilot-in-command under supervision;
(4) 75 hours of instrument flight, of which no more than 30 hours maybe
instrument ground time; and
(5) 100 hours of night flight as lead or co-pilot.
Of the 1,500 flight hours, up to 100 flight hours may have been performed
in an FFS and FNPT (simulators). Of these 100 hours, one can complete only a maximum of 25 hours in an FNPT.
Of course, you have to complete the theoretical course of Airline Transport Pilot; you can meet this requirement in person or virtually. This course consists of 14 subjects, some seen in the previous one, but now they are more extensive and detailed. It has an estimated duration of 770 hours.
At this point, you have the Frozen ATPL, which includes the commercial pilot license, instrumental qualification, multi-engine, and academic certificate. Now you must accumulate 1500 flight hours to fly a commercial plane finally.
How much does it cost to be a pilot?
Becoming an airplane pilot can be quite expensive, especially if you become a professional pilot. You should know that aviation has cycles in which the job offer is scarce, like the one we are experiencing during this pandemic or the last economic crisis.
That is why we recommend that you combine your pilot studies with a university degree, such as a Bachelor’s Degree in Commercial Aviation Pilot and Air Operations. With this, you will first of all be able to have a plan B if you do not immediately get a job to be able to carry out another professional activity, and on the other hand, add a plus to your resume.
However, rule number 1: before taking the step, assess all the possibilities and do not resort to a single source. A good informant is an important investment. We leave you a link so that you know the opinions of some pilots telling their experiences.
Light aircraft pilot
Because it is a short course and requires a few flight hours for its approval and obtaining the license. It is the main option for flight enthusiasts, either as the beginning of a professional career or for its enjoyment as an entertainment activity. This course can cost around 5,000 euros.
The private pilot training courses have theoretical instruction and statutory flight hours to qualify for the private airplane pilot license. On average, these courses have a cost of 7,000 euros, considering that prices may vary according to the institution and the duration of the course.
You should know that to be a commercial pilot, and you have two modalities. The first is through an Airline Commercial Pilot Course for which you will have to pay approximately 70,000 euros, and this cost may vary depending on the chosen school.
On the other hand, you have the university or long-cycle modality. You must invest an average of 180,000 euros in obtaining a more specialized and complete preparation and have a university rank.
How much can a pilot earn?
When you decide to study to train as a pilot, it is clear that this response is to a personal desire or your vocation to fly airplanes, but due to the sacrifices implicit in it. The most appropriate thing about the economic and academic effort you must make is that the remuneration is commensurate with responsibility.
In Spain, the salary of a commercial pilot is around 3,500 gross euros, depending on the professional category, Commander or Co-pilot, and administrative seniority. It also depends on the contracting airline.
When you have the training and a license as a commercial pilot, you have many job opportunities; you guarantee multiple employment options. Among them are:
- Airline pilot
- Private pilot
- Cargo plane pilot (a safe value, you always have to move cargo, and they are the only companies that have been able to keep up with the current crisis)
- Aerial Work Pilot (another safe value, pilots are always needed for aerial work)
- Military pilot (Another vocational option. Advantages: the training is carried out through the General Air Academy, and it is free. Disadvantage if you are thinking of going to civil aviation later. You have to stay a minimum of years.
- Test pilot
- Flight instructor
As you can see, there is a whole range of opportunities. Although you must make a strong investment in your training, this translates into job opportunities with excellent benefits.
Aircraft pilot courses
Now that you are aware of the training you must obtain, you will be interested to know that Spain has multiple schools and academies dedicated to pilot training, at different levels and by international regulations; some of these institutions are:
- FALLS OFF
- European Flyers
In each of these institutions, you will find courses for various areas of aviation, from drone pilot to commercial aircraft pilot, some even with a university degree. Start the journey to fulfill your dream of being a pilot today.
Here are our top 10 reasons becoming a commercial pilot is a rewarding career:
- Who doesn’t like to travel?
Traveling is one of the greatest advantages of this career. Being an airline pilot means you have opportunities to travel, and you get paid to do it!
With all the different routes, each workday means taking off in one country and landing in another, potentially in a country you haven’t yet explored.
Depending on your schedule, you can spend a night or more in new places, allowing you to explore cities and experience different cultures.
2. You can’t beat the view.
Not many people in the world can say they have an office in the clouds. Most pilots say it’s a sight they never tire of, from thunderstorms in distant clouds to endless blue skies.
3. Travel discounts for family and friends
Being an airline pilot, you likely have access to discounted (and sometimes free) airline tickets for family and friends, which means great deals for a great vacation. Some airlines may ask your friends and family to take care of the charges or taxes, but this is likely the only thing your loved ones will have to pay; in some cases, they can even travel business or first class!
Besides the plane ticket, different hotels offer discounted prices too!
4. Professional approach
If you are looking for a job with greater job satisfaction, you have found it. Commanding a plane full of passengers and getting them from point A to B is as satisfying as it sounds. One of the main benefits of being a pilot is looking forward to a rewarding career. From taking your first solo flight, completing your first landing, flying to a new destination to new challenges, every day is a new day as a pilot.
5. Work stays at work
Nobody likes to take their work home with them, and aside from studying for annual tests, pilots leave their jobs on the plane. There is nothing to take home once you finish your day and close the cabin door.
6. Flexible work
Flexible working has always been a great advantage of being a pilot. It is not your typical 9-5 job, Monday through Friday.
7. Challenge yourself
Being a pilot means constantly learning. With so many flights leaving airports every day, no two flights are the same, even when you’re a pilot. Each day can bring a new challenge, which keeps things exciting and encourages you to become a better driver.
8. Meet new people
As a pilot, you will always have the opportunity to meet new people. From your flight crew to the passengers, to the residents of the cities you visit; You will meet people and cultures that you would not have had the opportunity to meet otherwise.
9. Salary and health benefits
Aviation is a rewarding career that offers opportunities for personal and professional growth. Pilots earn competitive salaries with opportunities to advance their careers in the cockpit or extend their careers in aviation management.
10. Do what you love
The most important thing about becoming a pilot is that it allows you to do what you love. And as the saying goes: “If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.”
How to be an airplane pilot?
To work professionally as an airplane pilot, you must obtain a Commercial Pilot License. And to obtain this License, you must train at a school authorized by the AESA (State Agency for Aviation Safety), the highest authority in the field of aviation in the Spanish state.
These schools are called Approved Training Organizations, more commonly known as ATO. In them, you train for the profession, the protocols, you do the required flight hours, and, above all, you prepare for the 14 AESA exams, which will entitle you to the Commercial Pilot License. With this License, you will be able to work as a pilot almost anywhere in the world.
In Spain, there are many ATMs. It is important to investigate which one will provide you with the best training and, above all, the one that best suits your profile.
Is there a minimum age to be an airplane pilot?
The truth is that there is no minimum age as such to begin pilot training. It will depend on the academic requirements of each ATO. In CESDA, for example, being a university ATO, the minimum age is usually 17 years with the admission requirements.
What is required is to be at least 18 years old when obtaining the Commercial Pilot License and to be able to fly.
Requirements to be an airplane pilot
Depending on whether it is a university ATO or not, the access requirements will vary. But when examining yourself to obtain the Commercial Pilot License, you must:
- Be of age.
- Have a level of aeronautical English called ICAO. At least level 4.
- And be eligible for the Class 1 Medical Certificate.
And concerning university ATOs, as in the case of CESDA, the access routes are the same as in any other university degree:
- University Access Test (PAU).
- Higher Level Training Cycle (CFGS).
- University degree.
- The Access Test for people over 25 years old.
If you agree with the PAU at CESDA, we recommend that you choose the technological or scientific modality on time, as it will give you a very good basis to begin pilot training. El Doctor Toni Vallès, professor of mathematics and physics CESDA, you explained in the following video which mode is best baccalaureate study to become a commercial pilot.
How much does it cost to be an airplane pilot?
Regarding the cost of studies, there is a price range in Spain between 60,000 and 120,000 euros.
In itself, it is a high cost, but students who study commercial pilots perceive this economic effort as an investment, especially since the vast majority end up working as pilots and the pilot salaries are quite good.
Is it safe to train today as a commercial pilot?
At this point, you may also wonder if the current situation is the safest to train as a commercial pilot and decide to choose another less desired path.
At CESDA, we know that the profession of an airplane pilot is highly vocational and that when a young person feels the call to be an airplane pilot, that desire persists for a lifetime.
In another video on our blog, we explain that to work as a pilot, and you need three requirements :
- Be a good candidate with the capacity for learning, responsibility, resilience, etc …
- To train in a good pilot school.
- That there is demand for pilots by companies, especially airlines.
Currently, in 2021 airlines are not hiring pilots, but many studies indicate that the demand for pilots will return strongly from 2023.
And about quality training, CESDA is one of the most prestigious schools in Spain and offers higher quality, among other reasons, because it trains its students through a university degree.
So what will the commercial pilot college degree bring me?
As we just told you, there are university and non-university ATOs. In both, the necessary License to fly is obtained, but following quite different processes.
A non-university course usually lasts about two years, and you can only get a Commercial Pilot License. While the university training is a 4-year degree with which you get the Commercial Pilot License and a university degree.
With the pilot degree and piloting airplanes, you will be able to occupy many other functions within an airline company, such as in the training team, in security, in charge of the base, etc …
And these options are not only important in situations like this one, but in the unfortunate case of losing the Pilot’s License due to a health problem. For example, having a University Degree would always allow you to carry out other tasks about aviation and continue training with postgraduate or master’s degrees.
In general, if you want to achieve the highest quality in training, many airline pilots agree that university training better prepares you for future careers. It allows you to enter work life with greater personal and professional maturity.
Having a university degree is a decisive factor every day because the ATOs that offer it usually have agreements with airlines and help professional insertion once the course is finished.