We have included this section to help and explain the opportunities available to those students who continue to work towards the professional Pilot License level, and there after how to get about with their “way forward” plans. I’ve also thought it prudent to include some of the many pitfalls or setbacks that await the financially unwary in what is otherwise a very honorable profession.
Before you embark, it is most important that you get an assessment from your country’s Civil Aviation Authority regarding recognition of the license you are hoping to obtain at AAA.
Hence, it is most advisable that you discuss this with your aviation authority, prior to selecting and embarking on a training course.
You may also wish to inquire about your nation’s carriers’ recruitment programs. Some airlines may require specific licenses, or existing licenses may be acceptable or convertible by your CAA. Check for other qualification requirements in addition to the pilot licenses.
Choosing a FTO (Flight Training Organisation)
Congratulations! You have chosen to join that very fortunate minority of us and become a pilot. If you have decided upon a career in aviation, it is now that you will require the most guidance, in study regimes, techniques and requirements, through to potential career opportunities in the future. It is fair to say that many FTOs may not have this somewhat personal feature high on their priority list. In the same way that you would be selective about choosing a university, the same applies to choosing an FTO. Does it offer everything you need? Does it tick all your boxes?
Realise your dream!
Some FTOs require you to pay huge deposits, including non-refundable fees, including immigration approval fees and many others.
Some require a major part of the total course fees up front, with the balance of payment paid shortly thereafter. This is very onerous and may be the difference between your ambition becoming reality or ending merely as a dream.
Can you rely on us to be there for you?
Poor management has killed many businesses, including flying schools, which, by nature, have high overheads..
Due mainly to the global crisis suffered since 2008, many FTOs worldwide disappeared due to bankruptcy. As a consequence, many students were left in limbo with no school, no accommodation, no training and significantly, no funds, as the FTOs were unlikely to refund training costs that were paid up-front.
Do we get what we pay for?
Yes, absolutely. Stories abound whereby a paying customer does not receive quite what he expected.
A sting in the tail?
With some FTOs, the small print may hide an unwelcome penalty, adding significant costs should you (or your cadets) take longer than expected to complete the course. The internet and aviation magazines still contain companies promising a time frame to complete a course, but then charging penalties if extra time is needed to do so – even in unforeseen circumstances!
If a student is having difficulties, for whatever reason, we will work closely with them and their sponsors so no unpleasant surprises emerge. Moreover, poor health can strike at any time, grounding a student. And there is just no excuse for a student to have over 100 hours of dual instruction, without flying solo! This did happen (in the USA) with the costs passed on to the client. The FTO concerned should have identified the problem way, way earlier, saving their client substantial funds by admitting that the unfortunate individual was simply not cut out for flying.
AAA promise our clients absolute integrity
Ab initio cadet programs
Many airlines – particularly flag carriers – have their own ab initio training programs, normally open to nationals of that country. These programs are sponsored by their respective airlines and those eligible will embark on flying training from ab-initio to a professional pilot license, with a ‘frozen’ ATPL license at the end of the course. Some programs continue with “Line Orientated Flight Training (LOFT) utilising a corporate jet. This may be a Citation or Lear, flying company routes prior to F/O training. This LOFT provides a newly qualified pilot with essential familiarisation of things such as company routes and SOPs.
Traditionally, airlines worldwide harvested the majority of their flight crews from their respective air forces, taking advantage of a goodly supply of exceptionally well trained, highly experienced personnel, still with significant years of service to offer.
However, since the end of the Cold War, and the peace dividend that followed (not that you would notice!) this supply line has all but dried up. Present day air forces, though subjected to huge cuts, are tending towards signing their pilots to lengthy training bonds, safeguarding their massive initial investments.
Consequently, most airlines now rely heavily on recruiting civilian-trained aircrew to fill their vacancies. The retirement age for international airlines is between 60 and 65 – much the same as other professions. In order to address the impending pilot shortage, some airlines may increase the experience levels of the more junior pilots before the seniors retire.
It is worth doing some research to see if you are eligible to join an ab initio program with your country’s national airlines. This will save you (and your parents!) a lot of money. Not all airlines have a training bond for this program but, undoubtedly, those that do not will have to reconsider that policy shortly.
Bear in mind that all cadet schemes have their own selection criteria, with academic and medical requirements, including a good command of English.
Outside the Airline
Not all pilots choose an airline career. There are many other specialties that may be just as rewarding. These include crop spraying or geophysical survey flying. However, these are single crew operations and, should you later decide on an airline career, you should be aware that airlines prefer hiring pilots with multi-crew, multi-engine experience.
Nevertheless – these can be well paid but obviously seasonal. Some crop sprayers alternate their work between northern and southern hemispheres to work all year long.
This allows you the freedom to operate a variety of different aircraft to a multitude of destinations the clients require. It’s extremely enjoyable and challenging as the routes and requirements are never the same. The demands make it more of a young man’s job and hence, a stepping-stone towards an airline career.
involves operating a company jet at their behest. Depending on the company it could involve international routes and often involves dealing with VIPs and the company’s directors on a personal level. Many large companies internationally have their own flight department. The only drawback is if the company shares take a dip, when it’s usually the jet that’s sold off first, leaving you without a job. But still, it’s good work if you can get it.
is extremely challenging as the company you fly for will place you wherever the need arises. This could involve anything from delivering food aid to an impoverished African country, to ferrying UN personnel in the Middle East.
A specialty of note. This could involve anything from flying off the oil rigs in the North Sea to fire fighting and rescue work. This is predominantly the domain of the ex-military pilot as although you can qualify privately, the extreme costs involved in rotary wing training ensure that ex-military helicopter pilots are more likely to get priority. Unfortunately it is generally not as well paid as fixed wing employment as in this area, supply does indeed exceed demand.
For those predisposed to training, flight instruction is the most rewarding of all the disciplines, and the most challenging!
Flight instructors will always be in demand, whether at ab initio level in flight schools or at an advanced level in the airlines. Basic flight instruction in the flying schools is very demanding, as your students are at the bottom of the learning curve and require much more attention and help from you. This could be where bad habits are learned!
A good instructor will ensure that his (or her) students attain the highest standards possible in airmanship, theoretical knowledge and personal well-being.
What comes out is a product of what went in. The standard of students is directly related to your input. Without instructors, there are no pilots!
Airlines have their own type rating instructors (TROs) and their job involves converting experienced crew onto a specific type of aircraft. Extensive use of simulators is required for this task. The new pilots are transitioned by training captains and pilot instructors in the simulator and then paired off with a training captain for tutoring en-route for a number of sectors, as per the company policy for the respective aircraft, culminating with the final sim-check, before qualification as a First Officer (F/O).
At this level, each aircraft type is a specialty, and the process takes upwards of three months to complete. The training department in an airline is usually a separate career path from the ‘line pilots’ – the staff all being active airline pilots selected into these training positions by the department. To be eligible for selection, the candidate may be required to hold a valid instructors rating, though some companies select from the line pilots, reaching instructor status in phases ie. Route training instructors, simulator instructors and base training instructors. Few training captains are qualified in all three segments, hence the reason we encourage prospective student pilots (who have the aptitude), to study for their instructor rating, as this could benefit your career prospects within any company.
Possession of an instructor rating benefits you in several ways, not least the building of flying hours without the normally associated costs! This also ensures you maintain your license currency at all times, which is usually an expensive exercise if you fly purely recreationally!
Another huge advantage is that you will be forever reinforcing your theoretical aviation knowledge. An Instructor endorsement in your license will always be attractive to potential employers.
What it takes
Contrary to popular belief, not everyone has the ability to become a professional (or recreational) pilot. In fact, it can be argued that some people shouldn’t fly at all, not because they cannot fly well, but because they lack the maturity. Cocky, over-confident, egocentric pilots are not desirable and tend to be short lived – literally. The saying “there are old pilots and bold pilots – but no old bold pilots” is true. With the responsibilities and consequences involved, you naturally need to be supremely confident in your capacity to do the job – but not to the point where ego exceeds ability. You need to know your own limitations, particularly during your early days of flying. Mental attitude is everything. Throughout your career, confidence must be tempered with humility. One never stops learning, and you must learn from your own and others’ mistakes. You won’t live long enough to make them all yourself!
Having said that, a lack of confidence is just as dangerous as overconfidence – so a balanced approach is essential.
It is therefore not surprising that most companies require a stringent psychometric evaluation before they’ll consider employing you.
Medically, many impediments that were an immediate disqualification years ago are now acceptable, as long as they can be corrected. Eyesight problems, except colour blindness, are generally no longer a barrier to pilot training.
Air forces still have more stringent medical standards for their recruits but that’s because their financial investment and risk is greater.
Should you lose your medical while employed as a professional pilot, for reasons of poor health, most companies have a Loss of Licence insurance to cover, with is payable until you can resume flying, or even a lump sum pay-out if you’re permanently unable to fly. Several insurance companies are happy to insure individuals under a similar policy and it’s obviously advisable to have this cover if you’re self-employed.
Academically, it obviously helps to have Maths and Physics to O/Level or higher but additional studies may also bridge the knowledge gap in these areas. Remember; you will be competing against other candidates for the top job, and the more attractive your qualifications and experience, the better. Airline selections are conducted on a point system and you will score points for experience and qualifications. Many Western airlines will only accept candidates with a university degree.
Having an ATP, instructors rating, multi crew, multi-engine or turbine endorsement, all count for big points. Another factor is the age/experience ratio. Obviously the older you are, the more experience the airline expects you to have.
Obviously, this is a difficult subject to generalise on as salaries vary extensively around the world.
In the USA salaries are generally moderate in the lower echelons, increasing substantially only when you become a senior captain in a major airline. In most major airlines this could take 18 years!
We hope this chapter goes some way in helping you make a decision about your future. Obviously, not all the aspects can be covered in such a short section, so if there is anything further that we can help you with, please feel free to contact us via the contact addresses on this website .
We wish you the best of luck and hope to see you soon!
Director / CEO & Head of Pilot Trg;
Aviation Consultant / CAA Flight Examiner
Mobile 1: +960 759 9149 (Maldives)
Mobile 2: +94 777 342 173 (Sri Lanka)