How to become a commercial pilot for an airline?
Today becoming a pilot has become much easier than 10 years before.
A question asked by many:
Becoming a pilot for an airline is a question that I believe only pilots can answer best.
Although not an airline pilot, being a commercial pilot for an air charter, I have to say this:
With hundreds of flight schools worldwide and airliners expanding their fleet like never before, becoming a commercial pilot for an airline is all about determination and perseverance.
In this post, I have written A-Z on becoming a commercial pilot today and making a living flying high in the sky.
Let’s first begin with the essential requirements for acquiring your commercial pilot license.
Commercial pilot license eligibility.
How old are you right now? To obtain your commercial pilot license, you must be at least 18 years old.
Unless you are 18 years old, the Civil Aviation Authority will not issue a commercial pilot license for you.
Supposedly you are 17 years old now and willing to become a commercial pilot; all you can do is start flying and build hours.
By the time you are 18 years old and have adequate hours, you can apply for your commercial pilot license.
So wait until you are 18 years old.
Now that you have the age out of the question, let’s talk about the health requirements.
You have to be medically fit to become a commercial pilot. If you are medically unfit, Civil Aviation will not issue a medical certificate for you.
Without a medical certificate, you cannot become a commercial pilot.
The country-specific Civil Aviation Authority will give you a list of medical check-ups. After you get all the diagnoses, you can go back to the doctor in the Civil Aviation Authority.
The doctor will check all the results and decide whether you are medically fit to become a pilot.
To become a commercial pilot, you must have a Class 1 medical certificate.
A few of the crucial thing to consider for becoming a commercial pilot is:
- Having a 20/20 vision;
- Not color blind;
- Having no trace of drugs abuse in the blood;
- Not overweight.
The above mentioned are just a few of them, and the most important ones are that you can decide whether you are fit to become a commercial pilot.
Another thing I want to say is that most people have this confusion: if they had eye surgery or wore glasses, they cannot become a pilot.
Well, that is the wrong idea. You may have got that idea from someone who is not a pilot.
If you are interested in becoming a pilot and have a vision of 20/20 after surgery, using spectacles, or using a lens, you can apply to become a commercial pilot.
Many pilots fly airplanes on major airlines and wear eyeglasses.
I have seen many people interested in becoming commercial pilots for an airline think they need a bachelor’s degree.
Well, that is somewhat true, but not entirely.
To enroll in a flight school, you must have a high school degree, not a college one.
By high school, I mean 12th grade or A’ Level.
However, you can start flying in a flight school after you complete your 10th-grade studies.
Why is that?
One doesn’t need a high school certificate to get their private pilot license.
Getting your private pilot license falls in the process of acquiring a commercial pilot license, which I will explain more about later.
As I have said earlier, requiring a bachelor’s degree to become a commercial pilot for an airline is not wholly accurate.
That is because only some airlines require their pilots to have a bachelor’s degree.
Most airlines want pilots with hundreds of hours logged which comes only from flying the airplane.
The airlines want pilots with experience in actual flights and not only in books and theories.
Indeed, a bachelor’s degree will be extra credit for you when you go for the interview.
But even before they ask you questions during your interview, they will check how many hours have logged in your pilot’s logbook as a pilot.
How many hours do you have as a pilot in command and the second in command?
Do you have plenty of money to invest in becoming a commercial pilot?
Becoming a commercial pilot, getting all the licenses, and flying extra hours to prepare for the airline will cost you money.
The total money you will spend on flight training is one of the most significant investments you will ever make.
And do not think much. Don’t wait anymore if you decide to become a pilot and have sufficient funds. Do not wait, do not hesitate.
Because the sooner you decide and start your flight training, the sooner you will see a return on your investments.
From what I have experienced, you may need at least 100,000 US Dollars to get your commercial pilot license and work your way up to the airliner cockpit.
It is not only the money, but you also have to be patient and put more into studying.
Because the more committed you are to becoming a commercial pilot and being in an airliner cockpit, the sooner you can accomplish it.
If you get distracted or slow down in completing your course, trust me, what will happen is you will spend more money.
Now that you have already decided to enroll in flight school remember one last thing:
There are hundreds of flight schools out there. Choose a flight school that offers you the lowest price.
If only the pilot training course cost is cheaper does not mean you will save money.
Often, the school will give you an invoice that includes only the aircraft rental price and the flight instructor fee.
There can be so many possible hidden costs. Such as:
- Books and Supplies;
- Exam fees;
- Airport takeoff and landing fee, etc.
The best thing to do is send mail to as many schools as possible and compare everything.
Ask them directly whether there are any hidden costs or not.
Similarly, there is one other thing to consider. Where are you willing to go for your commercial pilot training?
Are you planning to study locally, or you decide to travel abroad?
If you intend to travel abroad, you have to consider the cost of accommodation and other living expenses.
Nevertheless, if a flight school abroad promises a cheaper pilot training course cost and the living expenses are reasonable, you can enroll in that flight school.
While traveling abroad for flight training, I also presume how long you may have to stay there for flight training.
Because if you have to stay there longer, you will have to spend more on your living expenses abroad.
I always say one thing:
To become a commercial pilot, always choose the fastest route. The faster you complete your training, the better it will be.
The longer you take, the more you will end up spending.
Now that you have already figured out that you are eligible to become a commercial pilot and hope to be in an airline cockpit, it is time to understand how flight training works and how you gain hours.
What type of training and qualifications do you need?
You now know you are eligible to become a commercial pilot.
It is time to pursue a career in becoming an airline pilot.
First, find a flight school or ask a pilot to suggest a good flight training institute.
Read back to step 3 again before choosing a flight school.
After deciding which flight school is best for you to enroll in flight training, talk to the institute’s administration and prepare for your ground classes.
Your initial ground classes will be for a private pilot license. A private pilot license requires only 40 hours.
However, most students need around 50 hours of total flight time to Take exams in the Civil Aviation Authority.
The initial stage for obtaining a commercial pilot license is the private pilot license.
Many newbies confuse themselves with private pilot licenses and commercial pilot licenses.
In reality, you must go through the process of a private pilot license to get your commercial pilot license.
And the hours you fly and log for your private pilot license will be added and counted with the total hours to apply for your commercial pilot license.
The process of acquiring a private pilot license is simple. You take the ground classes and then start flying.
After you convince your flight instructor that you are good to go for your solo flight, the instructor will release you as the pilot in command.
You will have to fly the required hours by the civil aviation regulations, of which some will be dual, and some have to be PIC.
Usually, students achieve the required hours of dual instructions and pilot-in-command flying time within 50 hours.
Now the school will submit your documents to the Civil Aviation Authority for approval of your exams.
After passing all your civil aviation authority exams, you have to go for a check ride with a check pilot.
A check pilot is an examiner who will test your flight skills on board.
You must prove to yourself that you are good enough to get your private pilot license.
Finally, you have satisfied the check pilot, and then the check pilot will pass his remarks to the Civil Aviation Authority, and in no time, you will have your Private Pilot license.
Congratulations, you have your private pilot license now. However, do not celebrate yet.
It is time for an hour of building now. According to country-specific air laws and regulations, the hour requirement for a commercial pilot license varies from 150 to 250 hours.
Most Asian countries issue a commercial pilot license if they complete 150 flying hours from a certified flight training school.
If the pilot student is not flying in a certified flight training institute, rather than building hours by renting an airplane from a flying club, they may need at least 200 hours for the application.
Assuming you are building hours in a flight training school.
While building hours, you can continue with your commercial pilot ground schooling simultaneously.
The fastest way to do this is by going on early morning flights, and after you land, you take your ground classes.
In commercial pilot ground school, you will be taught all the subjects in more detail.
You will learn more complex maneuvers and a lot more about safe flight operations.
Flight safety is important because you are now preparing to fly with passengers, not just yourself.
You cannot risk the lives of your passengers as well as yours.
After you complete the ground schooling and have built adequate hours, your school will process your documents with the civil aviation authority.
Now, it’s time for the commercial pilot license knowledge test.
The exam will be much harder than the one you took for a private pilot license.
Nevertheless, do not worry if you have studied well. Passing the exams will not be of any concern.
You have passed the commercial pilot exams, and it is time again for your commercial pilot licensing check ride.
You will have a check pilot on board to decide whether you are skilled enough to acquire your commercial pilot license.
Satisfy the check pilot with flight performance, and in no time, you will have your commercial pilot license issued.
In airlines, you will fly in bad weather and during the nighttime.
So to fly at night and into the clouds with no visual reference, you will have to train for flying in IFR conditions.
I guess you have not thought about it.
YES, how will you reach your destination while flying during nighttime and without any visual reference?
That is why you need to get an instrument rating.
Instrument Rating will teach you to fly the airplane simply relying on the instruments available inside.
All the aircraft have at least six basic instruments that can guide you to your destination without any visual reference.
To get your instrument rating, you must do different ground classes again.
I forget to mention earlier, but you can get your instrument rating after obtaining your private pilot license.
Commonly students get their instrument rating after they get their commercial pilot license.
However, getting your night flying license after the private pilot course is not bad.
So what to do to get your instrument rating?
Usually, when you enroll in a complete package with any flight school, they include the instrument rating in your package.
So to get your instrument rating, you must take ground classes for instrument flying.
The ground course for instrument rating will be short but very complex.
That is when pilots start to think flying a commercial jet is not an easy job. It comes with responsibility.
After IFR ground classes, you will practice IFR flying in your school’s flight simulator. But trust me, once you fly in the simulator, you will realize that instrument flying is thrilling and fun.
Some students claim that instrument flying is more fun than visual flying.
Once you get used to the instrument flying in the simulation, you will have to go for actual flying.
Flying on an airplane in the darkness of the night is a fantastic feeling. A feeling you may have never felt before.
Once you have practiced enough and fulfilled the required flying hours, you must take an exam from the Civil aviation authority.
The same goes again. After you pass your written exam, a check pilot will check your fundamental flying skills.
Now instrument flying is not a joke. The check pilot will test your skills, and you have to give your best.
If the check pilot thinks your performance is unsatisfactory, he will not pass you for the check ride.
So give your best to pass the check ride in one go. You can rate your commercial pilot license instrument once you pass all the exams and the check ride.
What is next?
The career step.
You have a commercial pilot license with an instrument rating—time to apply for the airlines and get hired.
Well, it is not as easy as it may sound. Most online forums talk in a way that getting hired by the airlines is easy.
Yes, it will be easy if you are lucky.
What if you are not as fortunate as some Asians?
Countries like Indonesia and the Philippines hire their nationals for the airlines with only 200 hours of flight time.
However, this is not the case in the United States. Airlines in the United States require their pilots to have at least 1500 hours before hiring them.
Before joining the airline, European airlines frequently hire pilots with hundreds of hours in a specific aircraft type.
So if that is the case for you, don’t lose hope. Keep applying for airlines online and wait for what is their reply.
There is nothing wrong with trying. I mean, if you try and fail, you lose nothing.
There are several ways to build hours. How to build hours as a pilot?
No matter how you build hours, you will have to spend more money now.
You can choose three ways:
- Become a flight instructor;
- Pay for flight hour building program;
- Get a type rating of bigger jets.
As I mentioned initially, do you remember that you will need at least 100,000 USD to complete flight training and get a job in an airline?
Let me clarify why I told you 100,000 USD for flight training.
You must not need more than 50,000 USD to acquire your private and instrument-rated commercial pilot license.
50,000 USD is the standard price for the entire commercial pilot training program worldwide.
It will vary depending on the country you go to for flight training and the aircraft you use.
So if you can complete commercial pilot training with only 50,000 USD to 60,000 USD, you will have another spare 40,000 USD to spend.
But spend that 40,000 USD very wisely. There are many scammers in the aviation world.
If you are not smart enough, you may get scammed.
So what to do with that extra 40,000 USD from your commercial pilot training?
Get your certified flight instructor license.
Once certified as a flight instructor, you can apply for flight training to work as a flight instructor.
The best option is to commence from the school where you performed your commercial pilot course.
As a flight instructor, you will get paid to fly with your students and log flying hours as a dual.
You will be building hours, and you will be getting paid too.
After you have summed up around 1500 hours, you can apply for airlines.
With 1500 hours logged as a flight instructor, the airlines will not think twice before hiring you as their first officer.
The other option is to pay for flight time-building programs.
Many hour-building packages are offered worldwide, mainly in the Caribbean countries and the Asia Pacific region.
I can say only about the Asia Pacific region.
Here, you pay some charter companies and sign a contract with them.
In the contract, it clearly states that you will get the supposed 500 hours of flight time.
The charter companies need pilots in this region because the airlines hire low-timer pilots here.
So the charter companies require pilots, and they have this kind of program available for low-hour pilots to build hours.
Contact Us here to learn more about low-hour pilot jobs in air charter companies.
The last option is paying for the type rating.
I usually do not suggest people do the type rating for bigger jets.
Because it costs money, and if the airlines refuse to hire you within six months, renewing the license will cost more.
Instead, what you can do is contact the airlines through email. Ask them if they will hire you if you pay for your type rating.
If they confirm YES and are willing to sign a contract, only then do the type rating.
What the airline will do is they will suggest a training institute where most of their pilots have trained.
So you have a valid commercial pilot license and instrument rating. Now it is time to do the type rating for jets.
Once you pass and fulfill the requirements of acquiring your type rating, the airline will hire you.
The airline may initially hire you as their first or second officer. Either way, you have an airline job now.
This process of an airline is known as line training, or some airlines may call it a cadet pilot program.
But I believe 100,000 USD is adequate for becoming a commercial pilot for an airline.
- Choose a flight school that gives you the least expensive commercial course cost;
- Do your best to finish the commercial pilot course quicker;
- Get your instrument rating faster;
- Do not waste time being confused about how to build hours;
- Figure out the best way to make hours quickly.
If you take all the steps faster and spend your money wisely, you will be in an airliner cockpit very soon.
The way I have written this article may sound complicated, but it is not.
I have written all the details in this article to help someone interested in becoming a commercial pilot.
If you have more questions, drop a comment below or Contact Us for further inquiries.
Flying is fun, and becoming a commercial pilot for an airline is a journey that every pilot has to take.