The path to becoming an airline pilot is well traveled and clearly defined. If you’re like most, you’ll find that each step is almost as much fun as the destination if done properly.
Step One – Find a flight school that fits your wants and needs. Don’t underestimate the importance of this step. The school you select to train with will set the stage for not only your aircraft handling skill sets for the rest of your career, but also, and as importantly, help develop your aeronautical knowledge, risk mitigation skills and overall perspective on the aviation field. You’ll want to look for a clear and defined syllabus, adept and personable instructors, and absolutely look for modern equipment with great maintenance. Your career will be spent in modern equipment and it’s a fact that your transition to flying modern jets in a couple short years will be much, much easier if you have been flying modern equipment with digital avionics from the start.
While you’re looking around, you’ll need to see if you want Part 61 or Part 141 training. Some schools offer both. Part what you ask? Part 61 training requires a minimum of 250 hours to get to a Commercial License, while Part 141 gets you to the same goal in a minimum of 190 hours. Here’s the catch, the Part 61 has requires a good bit of unstructured time building flying, while there is essentially no unstructured time building in the Part 141 training. The result (particularly during the process of training for the Commercial License) is a far greater period of one on one work with your instructor. As you’d expect, this training is more aligned with airline style training and does a wonderful job building professional grade pilots. It also costs more, so in the end there is little if any difference in the cost of training in Part 61 vs 141 programs. Take Flight Aviation is currently a Part 61 School.
One last note on the selection process: if your goal is to be an airline pilot at a Legacy Carrier (those who fly the Boeing and Airbus equipment), you’ll need a college degree. Many aspiring pilots who don’t have a degree choose to train to fly while also attending a local college or taking online college courses. Attending a large aviation university doesn’t necessarily get you to your goal state any more effectively, but certainly is an option.
Step Two – Take an Introductory Lesson at one or two of the schools you think you might want to attend and see if the realities of flying an aircraft yourself really align with your expectations. Most people love being at the controls – but it isn’t for everyone. There is no better way to see if it’s for you than trying it out for yourself! You’ll also get to see if the school is a good fit for you.
Step Three – Hit the books and get started on the Private Pilot License. The path to an airline job requires a series of licenses, all of which must be obtained in a certain order. First you work towards your Private Pilot’s License. This license requires a minimum of 40 flight hours. Don’t worry about completing the license in exactly 40 hours; the national average is over 70 hours and you can’t earn your Commercial License in a Part 61 in under 250 hours total (Take Flight’s Average Private Pilot training is completed in under 50 hours). Be sure to complete all the reading assignments. Many pilots feel that flying is 20% in the hands and 80% in the head.
Take Flight’s Private Pilot programs require you to read, watch online videos, answer online quiz questions and fill out a study guide long hand. That study guide is the basis for the oral exams that are part of the stage checks you will take before each major event. (Solo, Cross County Solo and Final Practical exam). Each stage check is comprised of a ground oral exam and a flight test.
Step Four – The Instrument Rating. Professional pilots fly in all kinds of weather, and that requires an Instrument Rating. The Instrument Rating allows you to fly in the clouds with no reference to the horizon. Most pilots view this as the most challenging and important rating to earn since essentially all of their airline or corporate career will be spent flying in the Instrument environment. Take Flight’s programs follow a path similar to their Private in so far as study materials and stage checks are concerned.
Step Five – Earn your Commercial License. This is the license that technically allows you to offer your skills to an air carrier. The training consists of a return to visual flying with a focus on precision aircraft control.
Step Six – Earn your Certified Flight Instructor’s License. There are not many jobs available for low time Commercial Pilots, and if the airlines are your goal, you will need 1500 hours of total flight time along with a number of other experiential requirements to earn the Airline Transport License required to land that first airline job. The best way to meet those requirements while polishing your flying skills to perfection is by working as a Flight Instructor. In fact, Take Flight Aviation often hires the Flight Instructors that it graduates. While you’re working, it’s always smart to earn the Instrument Instructor’s rating and the Multi Engine Instructor’s rating to round out your experience. Not only do these ratings make you more appealing to the airlines, but they also provide you with the skills YOU need to perform well in initial airline training. Think about it this way: At the airlines, you will be flying a multi engine aircraft with digital avionics in an instrument environment all day, every day. You’ll also be working in a highly structured and professional environment. Wouldn’t you prefer to arrive prepared?
Step Seven – Fill out those job applications. The regional airlines hire Flight Instructors as soon as they meet the ATP (Airline Transport Pilot’s License) requirements. By now you will no doubt have met a large number of pilots and isolated which airline have the bases, route structure and equipment you that want to fly. It’s at this point in your career where you will start applying for those jobs.
Step Eight – After a few years flying regional jets you’ll be ready for the heavy iron, and with the state of the current pilot supply; they’ll be more casually interested in talking to you!
The faster you get there, the quicker that all important seniority number is assigned to you. Airlines are seniority based organizations, so the higher up the seniority list you are, the more control over your schedule you have and the better your pay.