How To Become A Pilot

So... you want to be an airline pilot?

There's a few things to consider first.

Class One Medical

In the world of commercial aviation a pilots medical is equally as important as his licence. Without a valid medical a pilot is unable to apply for, or carry out the privilages of any licence.

Given the cost of flight training these days, it is an incredibly strong recommendation of mine that you consider obtaining your Class One medical before you commence on any training which counts towards the end goal of a commercial pilots licence.

Note - A commercial / airline pilot medical is known as a Class One which is a term used widely throughout most of Europe / Asia. In some nations other classes of medical are available for PPL holders etc, but it is only the Class One which permits commercial flight.

I have written a blog post on the topic of medicals.
Why not give it a read?

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Integrated or Modular

When it comes to flight training there are two different approaches to obtaining your licence. These are referred to as Integrated or Modular.

Integrated courses are known to cost considerably more but are full-time in nature and generally take you from zero experience to commercial pilot within 18 months. In comparison, the Modular approach can be completed at your own pace and depending on the school can cost considerably less. Being more flexible by design you're able to pick and choose your preferred training provider for each module of training too, i.e. ATPL Theory, CPL training, IR training, Multi-crew Training.

Ultimately the final choice is down to both personal preference and individual circumstances.


If the different methods to obtaining your licence weren't confusing enough as it is, there's also two different licence types on offer - the ATPL or the MPL.

The former stands for the Airline Transport Pilots' Licence. As a newly qualified pilot this will be "frozen" meaning you're not yet eligible for command. It's component parts are the Commercial Pilots Licence (CPL), Multi-Engine Piston Rating (MEP), Instrument Rating (IR) and the ATPL theory subjects. It unfreezes on reaching 1500 flying hours.

The latter stands for Multicrew Pilots Licence and is much more geared towards airline operations. It's a newer form of licence compared with the ATPL and a lot more of your time will be spent in the simulators. A conditional job offer is required from an airline through schemes such as easyJet's "Generated easyJet" before you can join an MPL course.

For a more in-depth comparison, click the 'learn more' button to read my ATPL and MPL comparison blog post.

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This is without a shadow of a doubt the largest obstalce for individuals wishing to enter the world of commercial aviation. Prices really do vary from school to school, from course to course etc so its worth doing some shopping around before settling on your chosen training provider. The cost of training is also part of the reason people choose Modular as you're able to pick and choose schools that fit your budget. Just because a school is the most expensive, doesn't necessarily mean it's the best - remember that.

There was a time where finance simply wasn't available for me but over a period of 4 years the market changed considerably and one bank - BBVA - offered pilot training mortgages. They sadly left the market in late 2017 but before long another provider - Optimum Credit - began offering a similar product.

Ultimately, the single biggest source of finance for the majority of trainees - at least from the Integrated perspective - comes from the remortgaging of a property. The guys and girls that choose the modular approach often train alongside existing employment and fund it that way. My best advice here is to speak with a financial advisor on how to raise the funds required. I'm not able to answer any questions on your own financial circumstances I'm afraid.

Do bear in mind that you're going to need money for living expenses too. On average I spent about £300-500 a month on food, drink, transport, bills and a social life. This also factors in the New Zealand exchange rate at the time.