You may have dreamt of becoming a pilot since you were a kid, or you may now be considering a career change toward aviation. In any case, what set of skills, traits and requirements do you need in order to pursue a career as a commercial pilot?
First, there are a number of essential requirements, without which you will not be able to start your training:
Is there an age limit in order to become a pilot?
You need to be at least 18 years old when applying for the issuance of a CPL licence. Provided you fulfil the rest of the requirements below, you could start your training when you’re still 17.
Keep in mind, however, that both the pilot training and the job itself are very demanding. You need a high level of commitment, maturity and some level of technical knowledge in order to succeed. It is possible to have all this at a very early age, but it is more challenging.
As a general rule, 20 to 35 years old is a good range of ages to start your training. Don’t be immediately discouraged though if you are older, there are many success stories from pilots starting past their 40s. Make an assessment of your personal situation and capabilities and go ahead if you are confident.
What English level do you need?
You need to have an English level equivalent to ICAO 4. At Quality Fly, 100% of the training is performed in English, and the official theoretical EASA ATPL examinations must be done in English as well. Prior to finishing your course, you need to get an ICAO 4 certificate that’s mandatory for the issuance of your licence.
On another note, we strongly advise you not to settle for a basic level 4. With it, it will be difficult to understand the nuances of some exam questions, you may feel uncomfortable when speaking on the radio, you’ll have a hard time expressing everything you want during an interview, and some airlines may straight out require a level 5, or even 6.
Quality Fly provides you with a way of quickly assessing your approximate English level by completing this questionnaire.
Is a university degree required?
Secondary/High school must be completed. It is also advisable to have a higher degree, such as a Bachelor’s Degree. Airlines will value that very positively and, despite not being a requirement for the issuance of a licence, employers may set it as their own requirement.
Regardless of the qualifications, having a technical background is also a good idea, since much of the knowledge you will need to acquire is related to maths and physics.
Like for the English level, Quality Fly offers a free self-assessment questionnaire to help you determine how close you are to having the required skills.
There are questions with different difficulty levels. You don’t need to get 100%, but a mark below about 70% means that you should probably focus on improving this area before starting the course.
Prior to starting flying, and during the rest of your career as a pilot, you will need to have a valid medical certificate and renew it periodically. A commercial pilot requires a Class 1 Medical Certificate that has to be renewed every year.
Having medical conditions may or may not prevent you from getting a Class 1 Medical. Since it is a very broad and complex topic, if you have any doubts about a particular illness or problem you suffer, it is advisable to ask an Aeronautical Medical Examiner (AME) before enrolling in an ATPL course.
What is the cost of becoming a pilot?
Becoming a pilot is unfortunately expensive. The complexity of the machines we fly, the infrastructure needed, the level of regulation and training required makes it inherently costly.
Most aspiring pilots get their funding in one of two ways: either they get support from their family, or they work and save for some time until they can afford the training on their own.
A handful of countries, such as France or Sweden, offer scholarships or Government-funded training for their citizens. Besides, under good market conditions, some airlines offer cadet programs, either partially or fully financed, for suitable pilot aspirants. However, competition is fierce and only a few lucky and skilled people are able to get them.
In summary, as a general rule, you need one of the first two options: personal savings or family support, and there is little or no way around it.
Personality traits and skills
It goes without saying that no two pilots are the same. However, there are a number of character traits every good pilot should have. Many of them are good for life in general, but they become especially important for this job.
From the moment you start training to become a pilot, you need to see yourself as a future captain. Your actions today will influence how good you are in the future and later on, it may be too late to correct.
First, you need to be resilient and level-headed. You will face challenges constantly throughout your career, starting from your first exams as a student pilot, the constant one-to-one feedback you will get during every flight, briefing and debriefing, to your first type rating, your first flights in an airline or even your first flights as a captain. The key to success is to work hard, accept constructive criticism and strive to be better every day. When things in the cockpit don’t go as expected, it’s crucial to stay calm and make a rational assessment of the situation.
You will need great communication and leadership skills, as well as an easy-going personality. You don’t need to be excellent before you start your training, but it’s something you need to start working on from the very beginning. Pilots spend their whole careers in a small, closed space, mere centimetres away from each other, interacting between them for hours every day. You need to be the person other people would like to work with. Great captains show confidence, but they also listen to the other crewmembers, inspire them and make them feel part of a team. You need to be knowledgeable but humble, acknowledge mistakes and give constructive feedback.
Finally, you must have good decision-making and multitasking skills. You will notice early on in your training that flying is a multidisciplinary task. You need good handling, communication, situational awareness, mental calculations and more. There is a well-known rule called “Aviate-Navigate-Communicate”, which tells you the priorities you must absolutely follow at all times. Nevertheless, a proficient pilot needs to do all these three things, and more, at the same time during a normal situation.
The bottom line
In summary, there are several key elements you should have if you are thinking of becoming a pilot. Some of them can be acquired over time, while others need to be present before starting your training.
This career is a life dream for many, but it also requires great commitment and an important investment. Before jumping in blindly, make an honest assessment of your situation, skills, attitude and capabilities.
It is also a good idea to go on a discovery flight to feel what it is like to be in the air.
If you believe you are a good candidate and are ready to start your training, come to us for a personal interview and our team at Quality Fly will gladly help you.