How to become a commercial pilot for an airline?

how to become a commercial pilot for an airline

Today becoming a pilot has become a lot easier than compared to before 10 years.

A question asked by many:

How to become a pilot for an airline? This is a question which 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 around the world 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 how to become a commercial pilot today and make a living flying high in the sky.

Let’s begin with the basic requirements first for acquiring your commercial pilot license.

Commercial pilot license eligibility.

Step 1

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.

Step 2

You have to be medically fit to become a commercial pilot. If you are medically unfit the Civil Aviation will not issue a medical certificate for you.

Without a medical certificate, you cannot become a commercial pilot.

The civil aviation will give you a list of medical check-ups. After you are done with all the diagnosis you can get back to the doctor in the Civil Aviation Authority.

The doctor will check all the results and finally decide whether you are medically fit to become a pilot or not.

To become a commercial pilot you will have to have a Class 1 medical certificate.

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 that you can decide whether you are fit to become a commercial pilot or not.

Another thing I want to say here is that most people have this confusion that if they had eye surgery or wears glasses cannot become a pilot.

Well, that is the wrong idea. You may have got that idea from someone who is not a pilot.

Actually, if you are interested to become a pilot and you have a vision of 20/20 after surgery, using spectacles or using a lens, you can apply to become a commercial pilot.

There are many pilots who fly the airplane in major airlines and wear eyeglasses.

Step 3

I have seen many people interested to become a commercial pilot for an airline think they need to have a bachelor’s degree.

Well, that is somewhat true but not completely.

To enroll in a flight school you have to have a high school degree and not a college degree.

By high school, I mean 12th grade or A’ Level.

However, you can actually start flying in a flight school after you complete your 10th-grade studies.

Why is that?

Because you do not need a high school certificate to get your private pilot license.

Getting your private pilot license is just in the process of acquiring your commercial pilot license which I will explain more later.

Now as I have said earlier that requiring a bachelor’s degree for becoming a commercial pilot for an airline is not completely true.

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 real flights and not only in books and theories.

It is true, a bachelor 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?

Step 4

Do you have plenty of money to invest in becoming a commercial pilot?

Becoming a commercial pilot and getting all the licenses and fly extra hours to prepare yourself for the airline will cost you money.

This may be one of the biggest investments you will ever do.

And do not think much. If you are committed to become a pilot and have the money just go for it.

Do not wait, do not hesitate.

Because the sooner you decide and the sooner you start your flight training the sooner you will see a return on your investments.

From what I have experienced, you may at least need 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 about becoming a commercial pilot and be in an airliner cockpit the sooner you can accomplish.

If you get distracted or slow down in completing your course, trust me what will happen is you will end up spending 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 cheapest price.

If only the pilot training course cost is cheaper does not mean you will save money.

Often times the school will give you an invoice which includes only the price of aircraft rental and the flight instructor fee.

There can be so many possible hidden costs. Such as:

The best thing to do is to send mail to as many schools as you want and compare everything.

Ask them directly whether are there 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 it is your decision to travel abroad?

IF you intend to travel abroad you have to consider the cost of accommodation and other living expenses there.

Nevertheless, if a flight school abroad promises you a cheaper pilot training course cost and the living expenses for you there is 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 then you will have to spend more for 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 have hopes of being in an airline cockpit, it is time to understand how flight training works and how do you gain hours.

What type of training and qualifications do you need?

At the moment you know you are eligible for becoming a commercial pilot.

It is time to pursue a career in becoming an airline pilot.

First, find a flight school or ask someone who is a pilot to suggest a good flight training institute.

Read back step 3 again before choosing a flight school.

After you decide a flight school is best for you to enroll in flight training, talk to the institute’s administration and prepare for your ground classes.

Step 1

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.

Nothing to worry about though because the private pilot license is the initial stage for obtaining a commercial pilot license.

Many newbies confuse themselves with private pilot license and commercial pilot license.

In real you have to go through the process of private pilot license in order 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 for the application of 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 flight 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 as 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 in the Civil Aviation Authority for approval of your exams.

After you pass all your exams in the civil aviation authority 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.

Meaning you have to prove yourself that you are good to get your private pilot license.

Finally, you have satisfied the check pilot and then chek pilot will pass his remarks to the Civil Aviation Authority and in no time you will have your Private Pilot license.

Step 2

Congratulations you have your private pilot license now. However, do no celebrate yet.

It is time for an hour of building now. You will need between 150 to 250 hours of flight time depending on the country you are flying at.

Most Asian countries issue a commercial pilot license for the pilots if he or she completes 150 flying hours from a certified flight training school.

If the pilot student is not flying in a certified flight training institute rather he chose to build hours by renting an airplane from a flying club than he/she may need at least 200 hours for the application.

Assuming you are building hours in a flight training school.

While you are building hours, you can continue with your commercial pilot ground schooling at the same time.

This is the fastest way to do. You go for 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 about more complex maneuvers. As well as you will be taught a lot more about flight safety.

FLight safety is important because now you are preparing yourself to fly with passengers and 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 in the civil aviation authority.

This time you have to take and pass all the exams for a commercial pilot license.

The exam will be a lot 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 with you who will decide whether you are skilled enough to acquire your commercial pilot license.

Satisfy the check pilot with flight performance and in no time you have your commercial pilot license issued.

Step 3

In airlines, you will fly into bad weather and during night time.

So in order to fly at night time 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, while flying during night time and without any visual reference how are you going to reach your destination?

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 6 basic instruments that can guide you to your destination without any visual reference.

To get your instrument rating you have to do different ground classes again.

I forget to mention earlier but you are eligible to get your instrument rating after you have obtained 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 a bad idea at all.

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, all you have to do is take ground classes for instrument flying.

The ground course for instrument rating will be short but very complex.

You will be taught about so many things you may have not thought of.

That is where pilots start to think flying a commercial jet is not an easy job. It comes with responsibility.

After your ground classes, you will be trained for instrument flight in your school’s simulation. But trust me once you actually fly in the simulation you will realize that instrument flying is not boring at all.

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 an airplane in the darkness of the night is an amazing feeling. A feeling you may have never felt before.

Once you have practiced enough and fulfill the required flying hours, you have to take an exam in the Civil aviation authority.

The same goes again. After you pass your written exam a check pilot will check your real flying skills.

Now instrument flying is not a joke. The chek pilot will really test your skills and you have to give your best.

If the check pilot thinks your performance is not satisfactory he will simply not pass you for the check-ride.

So give your best to pass the check ride at one go. Once you pass all the exams and the check ride you can have your commercial pilot license which is instrument rated.

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 they 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?

Because of 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.

Airlines in Europe oftentimes prefer to hire pilots with hundreds of hours in a specific type of aircraft prior to joining the airline.

So if that is the case for you don’t lose hope. Keep applying for airlines online and just wait what is there reply.

There is nothing wrong with trying. I mean if you try and fail, you lose nothing.

For those who have already decided to build more hours so that they can get hired by the airlines. There are several ways to build hours.

How to build hours as a pilot?

No matter how you choose to build hours you will have to spend some more money now.

You can choose three ways:

Do you remember as I have mentioned in the beginning that you will need at least 100,000 USD to complete flight training and get a job in airlines?

Well, let me clarify why I told 100,000 USD for flight training.

Actually, for acquiring your private pilot license and instrument-rated commercial pilot license you must not need more than 50,000 USD.

This is the normal price for the whole commercial pilot training program around the world.

It will slightly vary depending on the country you go for flight training and the aircraft you use for flight training.

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 you are certified as a flight instructor you can apply for flight training schools 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 can log the flying hours as 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.

There are many hour building packages offered around the world.

Mostly in the Carribean countries and in the Asia Pacific region.

I can say only about the Asia Pacific regions.

What happens here is you pay to some charter companies and sign a contract with them.


In the contract, it is clearly stated that you will get suppose 500 hours of flight time.

The charter companies are really in need of pilots in this region because the airlines hire low timer pilots here.

So the small charter companies require pilots and they have this kind of program available for low hour pilots to build hours.

Contact Us here if you want to know 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 to do the type rating for bigger jets.

Because it costs money and if the airlines refuse to hire you within the 6 months, renewing the license will cost more money.

Instead what you can do is contact the airlines through email. Ask them are they willing to hire you if you pay for your type rating.

If they confirm YES and they 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 hire you as their first officer or their second officer initially. 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 to become a commercial pilot for an airline 100,000 USD is enough if you spend it wisely.

  • 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;
  • Choose one of the three options I mentioned and go for the hour building.

If you take all the steps faster and spend your money wisely you will be able to be in an airliner cockpit very soon.

The way I have written this article it may sound complicated but it is not.

I have written all the details in this article to help someone who is interested to become a commercial pilot.

If you have any more questions just drop a comment below or for further inquiries Contact Us here.

Flying is fun and becoming a commercial pilot for an airline is a journey that every pilot has to take.

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