A lot of people have dreams of becoming a pilot. However, they brush it off because they assume it is going to be too expensive and too difficult to get involved in. While there is no denying that pilot training is highly competitive and costly, there is also an increase in the demand for pilots. This means you could travel the world while enjoying a career that is full of responsibility. You certainly should not dismiss this dream before exploring it further. So, with that being said, read on to discover everything you need to know…
If you make it as an airline pilot, you will fly passengers on short or long-haul flights for commercial, business, and leisure purposes. In most cases, an aircraft will demand two pilots for operations. One will be the pilot who is in command, i.e. the pilot. The other is going to be the supporting first officer. To prevent fatigue, pilots will take it in turns to operate the plane. One will complete paperwork and speak to air traffic control while the other operates the controls. For long-haul flights, there may be more pilots on board for the necessary breaks.
What qualifications do you need to become a pilot?
If you are going to start training as a pilot, you will need at last two A-levels and five GCSEs. You also need to have a good knowledge of physics and maths, so it is certainly advantageous if your qualifications showcase this. You do not need to have a postgraduate qualification or degree. However, this can most certainly help you to stand out from the crowd. ACS rounds up the best aviation courses from universities across the UK so this is a great starting point. No matter what route you do go down, if you are to become a commercial/airline pilot, you are going to need to acquire an Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL). There are two clear routes to go down to acquire this, i.e. either through modular training or an integrated course.
The next thing you need to understand when determining whether or not this is the right career for you is the responsibilities you are going to have. As a pilot, you will need to make sure you do all of the following:
- Update and the aircraft logbook and write a report once the flight is over to note any issues with the aircraft or incidents during the flight.
- React appropriately and quickly to any emergencies and environmental changes.
- Use the public address system to communicate with passengers.
- Make regular checks on air traffic, weather conditions, the aircraft’s position, and the aircraft’s technical performance.
- Use controls and instruments and understand and interpret the data from them.
- Make sure that noise regulations are adhered to when landing and taking off.
- Communicate with air traffic control.
- Carry out checks before the flight on the operating and navigation systems.
- Brief the cabin crew before your flight and stay in contact with them throughout.
- Ensure that all of the safety systems are in working order.
- Make sure that fuel levels balance economy and safety.
- Supervise when the aircraft is being fuelled and loaded.
- Create a flight plan.
- Receive information on the aircraft, passengers, weather, and route.
As you will have already gathered, there is no such thing as a 9-to-5 job if you are a pilot. The route you are taking and the company you work for will dictate the length of your working day, meaning it can be anything from around three hours to 12 hours.
Some of the things you should expect when working as a pilot
Hopefully, you are starting to build a bit of a picture regarding what you should expect when you are working as a pilot. However, there are a few other things that this role demands. So, let’s take a look…
- You are going to need to be dedicated and prepared for a lot of work. Every six months, you will be expected to pass certain tests. You will also need to pass a medical on a yearly basis.
- You are going to spend the majority of your time sitting in the cockpit. While they are designed with comfort in mind, you could find yourself suffering tiredness, especially when flying through different time zones.
- More and more women are entering this profession, although it is still dominated by men at the moment.
- Per year, a pilot is not allowed to fly for more than 900 hours.
- You can have a little bit more of a stable work-life balance if you work for a short-haul airline. Generally, you will get your shifts a month or two in advance. However, do prepared to be on call as well.
- Because of the above point, you should live near to the airport where you are based because you will be expected to get there on relatively short notice at times.
How much can you earn?
Let’s get to the good stuff… how much can you earn as a pilot? Starting salaries are between £24,000 and £29,000 for newly qualified first officers. Once you get more experience, you can expect between £36,000 and £48,000 for a first officer role. This increases to £57,000 – £78,000 for captaining a medium-sized aircraft. If you are an employee of one of the main operators, this can increase to anything between £97,000 to £140,000, and more!
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of what it takes to become a pilot in today’s day and age, as well as what your job will entail. While there is no denying that this is a difficult career path to go down, it is certainly worth it. You will enjoy one of the most fulfilling careers, and it is financially rewarding too!