Saturday, October 30, 2010

How to become a Pilot

There are basically 3 main ways to become a pilot. You can go via the self sponsor route, airline sponsor cadet or government sponsor via the military, air ambulance, police wings and etc etc. You can start your flying lessons at 17 all the way till as old as you want if you just want to fly for leisure. But I am pretty sure most of you would love to become a pilot as a life long career rather than for leisure. To do that, you need to enroll yourself in a flying school that provides you up till a commercial pilot license. 

Once you start your training, you have to apply for a student pilot license. Depending on which country you take up your flying, you will fly up till generally 50 hours in a single engine to obtain your Private pilot license (PPL). With a PPL, you can only fly small planes and can fetch people up the sky but you can’t charge them any money. Basically with a PPL, the intention is to fly for leisure. To fly and earn a living, after your PPL, you will continue to take up a Commercial Pilot License ( CPL ). In Asia, to get into the airlines, you will need to have a CPL with 165 hours in a single engine, 35 hours in a multi engine aircraft with a total of 200 hours. In addition you need to have an instrument rating and complete all ground exams to obtain a Frozen Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL ). I know all these jargon sounds alien to you, but I will explain more in detail in my future post as I just want to keep it simple for now on how to become a Pilot.

Self Sponsor Route – If you chose this route, you will have to pay your own flight training ( which cost a bomb ) with no guarantee of job after you graduate. Among the 3, this route is deem to be very risky. However, if you think about it, if you study for a diploma/degree, since when the university or any employer guarantee you a job. There is no age limit if you want to do the self sponsor way.

Airline Sponsor Route – This is the best route as you do not need to pay a single cent and you are guaranteed a job with that particular airline after you graduate.  To cover back the huge cost invested in you by the airline, you are normally bonded between 7 to 15 years. According to Cathay pacific, their total cost for their cadet pilot is a cool HKD 1 million. Not a small sum of money. Majority of airlines have a age limit of between 26-30.For example, Malaysian Airlines has a age limit of 26 while Air Asia at 28.

Government/Military – For those of you who like to fly fast and feel the adrenaline rush such as flying fighter jets with speeds faster than the speed of sound , you will have to apply with the air force which is normally being paid by the government. Though it is a common belief that those who are extremely good will be selected to fly fighter jets , some will be selected to fly transport aircraft or helicopter. As for non military, you may serve the air ambulance, police air wing unit, search and rescue and etc etc. Most air force pilots do not stay with the government for life as majority will join commercial airlines after their contract is up. In Singapore, the Singapore Air force (SAF ) retirement age is 45 and most will join Singapore Airlines after that.

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