Becoming an airline pilot is a rigorous and multi-step process that requires dedication, training, and experience. Choose a flight school that offers an accelerated path. Here are the steps to become an airline pilot:
Obtain a high school diploma or equivalent, such as a GED. Some airlines may require a bachelor’s degree, but it’s not always mandatory.
Obtaining funding for your flight training can be a stressful and daunting task. Choose a flight school that has partnerships with lenders that will help get you funded to make your training less stressful. OC Flight Lessons offers financing thru stratus financial. The company was founded by Instructors that had a passion for helping students achieve their dreams. They understand that each students case is unique, therefore they offer many different finance options to best suite the students needs.
Decide whether you want to pursue a civilian or military path to become a pilot. Both paths have their advantages and requirements.
Civilian Path: Most airline pilots start as civilian pilots. This path involves obtaining your private pilot, instrument rating, and commercial licenses through flight training schools and programs.
Military Path: Some pilots gain experience and training through years of military service. The selection process is extremely competitive. After being selected, you may be assigned as a helicopter pilot which would require you to do more training after leaving the military so that you qualify to be an airline pilot. After serving, they may transition to civilian airlines with their military flying experience. In this article, I will mainly discuss the civilian path.
Obtain a Private Pilot License (PPL):
Enroll in a flight school or aviation program to obtain a Private Pilot License (PPL). This is the first step in your flight training and allows you to fly as a pilot-in-command for non-commercial purposes. If enrolled in an accelerated program, you can obtain your private pilots certificate in as little as 2-3 months. You will need a minimum of 40 hours to qualify to take the test(checkride). The national average is 75 hours.
Obtain an Instrument Rating (IR):
After obtaining your PPL, you’ll need to earn an Instrument Rating, which allows you to fly in a wider range of weather conditions using only instruments. This requires a private pilot certificate, 40 hours of instrument training, and 50 hours of cross country flight time while acting as pilot in command. It is important to note that schools that have Redbird flight simulators are permitted to conduct half the training in the simulator which can expedite training and save money on costs.
Obtain a Commercial Pilot License (CPL):
Once you’ve gained 250 flight hours and met the necessary requirements such as passing the required knowledge test, you can take your Commercial Pilot License (CPL) checkride. This allows you to get paid for flying. After obtaining your commercial license, you’ll have about 250 hours. However, to become an airline pilot, you’ll need to accumulate 1,500 hours in the United States. You can build these hours by working as a flight instructor, banner tow pilot, or in other entry-level positions. It is highly recommended to work as a flight instructor, as this position will earn you the most hours in the fastest way possible. Flight instructors at busy schools typically accrue 70-90 flight hours per month, enabling them to accumulate the 1500 hours in just over 1 year. Other positions such as banner towing or aerial photography typically fly half that amount.
Obtain a Multi-Engine Rating:
To qualify for airline jobs, you’ll need to earn a Multi-Engine Rating, because airlines operate passenger jets which have 2 engines. A multi engine rating allows you to operate aircraft with multiple engines such a Piper Seminole. The FAA requires you to attain additional training to fly jets, in which case a type rating would also be required which is specific to that aircraft. Since a piper seminole is not a jet, you would be able to fly it with only a multi engine rating.
Build Experience as a flight instructor:
Continue building flight hours and experience by working as a flight instructor, cargo pilot, or in other relevant roles. You need to obtain 1,500 hours to qualify for a job as a first officer at a regional airline.
Obtain an Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL):
The Airline Transport Pilot License is the highest level of pilot certification and is required to serve as the captain (first officer) of an airline. You’ll need to meet the minimum flight hour requirements and pass a rigorous written and practical exam. Most airlines will provide this training for you upon being hired.
Apply to Airlines:
Start applying for pilot positions at regional airlines or smaller carriers to gain experience in commercial aviation. OC Flight Lessons partners with SkyWest Airlines to create a pathway to the flight deck.
Gain Experience at Regional Airlines:
Most airline pilots start their careers at regional airlines, where they can gain experience flying smaller aircraft and working their way up to larger jets. Pilots are spending as little as 6 months at the regionals before being hired at airlines such as United.
Work Your Way to Major Airlines:
After gaining several years of experience at regional airlines, you can apply for positions at major airlines, where you’ll have the opportunity to fly larger aircraft on longer routes.
Continual Training and Certification:
Airlines require pilots to undergo recurrent training and checkrides to maintain their skills and certifications.
Network and Stay Informed:
Building a strong network within the aviation industry can help you discover job opportunities and stay informed about industry trends and openings.
Meet Health and Fitness Requirements:
Maintain good physical and mental health, as you’ll be required to pass regular medical examinations.
Becoming an airline pilot is a long and challenging journey that requires commitment and dedication. It’s important to research the specific requirements and regulations in your country, as they may vary.
Omar Amin is a former airline captain and Airline Transport Rated Pilot with type ratings in the B737, CRJ, EMB-120, EMB-500. His passion is helping students achieve their dreams in aviation. OC Flight Lessons is a part 61 flight school located at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, CA. They offer flight training for private pilots thru an accelerated 7 month airline pilot program. www.ocflightlessons.com