Becoming an airline pilot: the modular route
The EASA Private Pilots Licence (PPL): the first steps
The first step to becoming a professional pilot is to gain a Private Pilot’s licence (PPL). You will learn the basic concepts of how to operate an aircraft, navigate through the skies and communicate with air traffic control. These are skills which you will use throughout your career. There are two PPL courses available but for a career in aviation the only choice is the EASA PPL. The course consists of a minimum of 45 hours and also includes 9 theoretical exams. There are no major pre-entry requirements although you will need a class 2 medical before you fly on your own.
Once you have gained your PPL it’s time to put your skills to use. This is where you can expand on what you have learnt and build your flying ability and confidence.
You will need 150 hours flying time before you start your commercial flight training (100 hours as pilot in command).It’s a good idea to use this time to try and improve on the skills that you have learnt during your PPL. There are numerous courses that can be added to your PPL to expand your knowledge such as the night rating or Restricted Instrument Rating (IR(R)). You should also try to move out of your comfort zone, such as flying to airports you have never flown to before. It’s a good idea to try to fly with some fellow pilots. This is a good way to meet people with a common interest plus you will find that you both learn a lot from watching and helping each other in the cockpit. Hopefully it will be more fun as well!
The night rating is a short, 5 hour course covering the challenges faced when flying at night. You can complete your night rating either during or after your PPL. Whilst the night rating is available throughout the year, it is practically much easier to complete between the months of October and March.
Instrument Rating (Restricted)
The IR(R) course will give you the confidence to fly when the weather is perhaps less than ideal. It is also a perfect course to complete during your commercial hour building to prepare you for your instrument rating and refine your general handling and flying accuracy. The course is 15 hours of flight time which must include at least 10 hours flying with sole reference to the instruments. In addition there is a short multiple choice exam. The course culminates in a flight test with an examiner to test the skills you have learnt.
Commercial Theoretical Examinations (ATPL)
Whilst you are building your hours and experience up you should be studying for your ATPL theoretical examinations. There are 14 examinations which need to all be passed before you start your commercial flight training. Studying for these exams takes between 12 and 24 months to complete by distance learning or 7 months on a residential course.
Class One Medical
You will need a Class One medical before you are issued with your commercial Pilot Licence. The examination has to be conducted at a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approved facility and it is a good idea to get this examination completed as soon as possible.
Commercial Flight Training
Your commercial flight training comprises a number of different courses. Each course is designed to focus on improving a specific aspect of your flying.
EASA Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL)
The Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) is the first course on the road to becoming a professional pilot. The primary aim of the course is ensure that you can fly an aircraft to professional and commercial standards. You will also be flying a faster aircraft with more complex systems. The course is primarily undertaken in visual conditions.
Multi Engine Rating (MEP)
The multi engine rating is a short course that teaches you how to operate an aircraft with more than one engine. These aircraft are larger and faster so therefore more difficult to fly. A large focus of the course is engine failure scenarios.
Instrument Rating (IR)
The largest aspect of your commercial flight training is the Instrument Rating. You will learn how to operate an aircraft almost exclusively by reference to the instruments. It’s the longest and probably the most challenging course. A good proportion of the course can be conducted in a simulator.
**Currently Westair doesn’t offer the MEP or IR courses however we can recommend trading partners who will provide this training.**