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Becoming a qualified commercial pilot.

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Phill @ Elite Workwear UK01/09/2012 19:55:02
201 forum posts
31 photos
I know there are many current and retired full size pilots reading these pages so I was wondering if anyone had any guidance on becoming a full size commercial pilot? Thanks in advance. P
Mark Powell 201/09/2012 20:12:54
430 forum posts

You usually have to go, young, to an airline. (I assume you mean an Air Transport licence, not ferrying Jockeys around in a light twin). They like to do their own instruction, or though the large commercial schools under contract, with 'fresh' people.

You CAN get an ATPL yoursef. Cost at least £100,000. But your chances of getting an airline job with it are low. Keeping it 'current' with no such job is difficult.

Pete B - Moderator01/09/2012 20:15:12
7651 forum posts
734 photos

Apart from anything forum members here can offer, it may be worth having a look at Pprune, Phill.

If that doesn't put you off, nothing will...........wink 2


avtur01/09/2012 20:33:58
883 forum posts
20 photos

I'm not a pilot but work in the aviation industry, I speak with commercial pilots frequently as part of my job (I'm in the fuelling business). I am also a frustrated full size pilot … never quite got there ...

You will need funding on the scale of a lottery win, you'll need patience and determination by the bucket full, it'll take a long time to find a job, the norm these days is that you'll often pay for your own line type training (by means of loans provided by airlines - that tie you into working for them), not a million miles away from the situation with student loans.

I would recommend you spend some time studying a website "" it is one of the most popular aviation forums in the world. There are thousands of commercial pilots who frequent the forum and can provide all the advice you could need ... and more.

Spend some time searching existing threads on the forum, most of your questions have probably already been asked. Once you have a 'feel' for the matter you may feel you have some questions that have not already been asked.

Pilots from the UK, USA and Australia seem to be particularly active. You will be gobsmacked by some of the detailed technical questions and discussions on there.

What I can tell you from my own recent enquiries is that a basic PPL for something like a Cessna 150, Piper Cherokee will cost you between £9-10,000's. And thats for just 45 hours flying, never mind the hundreds of hours you need for a commercial licence.

One message that comes out loud and clear time after time is DO NOT pay large sums of money upfront in order to benefit from so called 'discounted' rates. Flying schools of all shapes and sizes have a high mortality rate in the present climate, lodging large amounts of your 'hard earned' with them should be avoided, you'll see many threads on 'PPrune' where students have lost out big time.

There are new people making into the industry all the time, it can be done, you just have to be very street wise and totally committed to it.

Good luck ...

Radge01/09/2012 20:40:33
322 forum posts
48 photos

It's hours, currency and expence thats the problem. If you are young enough and have a twin rating with night and IFR you could approach an airline as an advanced pupil, but normally it's university then approach an airline for selection. Good luck anyway Phil.

Mark Agate01/09/2012 21:12:35
146 forum posts
38 photos

I had a go 20 years ago. The first thing I'd say is don't go for one of these all-in packages which take you from beginner to CPL or ATPL all in one. It may not be for you. Much better to do a PPL, then maybe an instrument rating, then decide if you want to progress it further.
I'd loved model flying for about 14 years when I went to Florida (for it is much cheaper to fly full-size there), and while I enjoyed my PPL and instrument rating, it all started to get a bit tedious by the time I was doing the CPL and instructor ratings, plus I got a bit cynical about how much everything was geared towards just getting your money.
I thought everyone would be sitting around in the pilots' lounge discussing reynolds numbers, angles of attack etc. Instead, it was all talk about which airlines are actually hiring at the moment, how many hours you have to have to get a job, what price you can buy blocks of Cessna time for hours-building and that sort of thing. I also got fed up with air traffic control bitching at me about what heading and altitude I have to fly - I now love the freedom to fly my models pretty much wherever I like, and see it all from the ground.
I was lucky in that I spent 12 months doing it all, with my UK savings getting me 16% interest tax free (as a non-resident), so the whole thing only cost me about £10K. These days, £100K would probably be required, as the other Mark has said.
If £100K is not out of the question for you, and if you have the right stuff (which I probably didn't), I'd say: find some godforsaken airfield in the wilds of Florida and do a cheap PPL. If you're still inspired, do the instrument rating too. Don't go to a busy airport like Daytona Beach (where I did it), as you'll spend too many of your precious hours negotiating with ATC to get in and out of the airport inbetween the big jets. Be prepared to do loads of unpaid work as an instructor while you build your hours, and bear in mind that a "commercial" licence in the USA basically lets you deliver mail, and that's about it. Even air taxi jobs require that you take some further exams (FAR135).
I came back chasing a sponsorship from Air UK. Got through their writtens, but they then decided they'd got too many pilots anyway. The flying school doing the tests offered me the chance to convert my US licences to a UK CPLA for another £10K, but I declined. Since then I've done 0.5 hours powered flight in UK airspace, plus a week's gliding, and haven't missed it a bit.
Apologies for sounding a discouraging note. There's loads of career pilots out there, so it can't be impossible, and you may have the right stuff to join them. But it's not like flying models. I've no regrets because I've got it out of my system, and where I used to sit at a desk looking out of the window at passing planes and thinking "I wish that was me", I now look at them and think "I know what you're going through".
C Norton01/09/2012 21:54:49
170 forum posts

"I also got fed up with air traffic control bitching at me about what heading and altitude I have to fly"

Mark, as an Air Traffic Controller I find that statement absolutely astonishing! We don't "bitch" and we don't do it for fun you know, we do it to stop aeroplanes bumping into each other and killing people.

Alan Cantwell01/09/2012 22:14:37
3039 forum posts

John Rickets of the LMA has a son, who flies models, (like the comet, seen that?) he is an airbus pilot, he says its not the glamour life you think, and it costs a fortune to get your ticket--and a lot to keep it, his wages are sometimes very low, and abroad, before he moved with his family, he was having to live with 3 other pilots, to spread the costs, do a lot of reading first

Biggles' Elder Brother - Moderator01/09/2012 22:20:54
15748 forum posts
1460 photos

While I love planes I've never been tempted in the slightest to consider an airline pilot's job. There are two who fly in our club and from what they say its not dissimilar to being a bus driver - only the hours are longer!


Mark Powell 202/09/2012 06:37:14
430 forum posts

C Norton,

I'm not the 'Mark' you replied to.

I couldn't agree more. It's not you lot, you are terrific. I'm around Southampton all the time. Plus Middle Wallop and Boscombe Down. The military ATC is astoundingly good. It's the CAA and all the rest continually extending the restrictions. Just look at the Southern chart of (say) 1975 with todays chart. Nuts. And then all this 'Olymipic' garbage. Even Weymouth, and toy planes.

And all so poor people who can't afford their own planes, and are stuck with the airborne 'buses', can go on cheap holidayswink

As I said it's not you, its the CAA, Cronies Against Aviation (who are desperately trying to retain 'power' as the new EU authority looms. Like Customs tried to do, and failed).

I wouldn't want an ATPL ever. Just bus drivers. Boring. Driving a bus is harder, they have to pay attention ALL the time.

Mark (CPL, not ATPL. The CPL was just a sideline to my real job too, just fly for fun now. And the 'CAA bureaucrats' hate us doing it.)

Edited By Mark Powell 2 on 02/09/2012 06:40:00

Edited By Mark Powell 2 on 02/09/2012 06:48:11

Turbycat02/09/2012 07:08:28
594 forum posts
55 photos

I tried this years ago. I'd got my PPL through the RAF flying scholarship scheme back in the 80's. After trying, and failing, to become a fast jet jockey I kept my ppl current and started to build hours in a Druine Turbulent. I approached various airlines at the time but wasn't even considered as I didn't have a degree and I'd already started flying on my own. A small air charter/flying school operation offered me a chance train for my CPL and become an instructor for them for an agreed term. Unfortunately the operation went in to recievership and was eventually wound up. I'd spent the better part of 2 years working for them (unpaid) and had nothing at the end of but some extra ratings for my PPL. Decided that as I didn't have access to major funds to knock it on the head. I spent a few more years happily flying my Turbulent around but lack of funds saw me putting it in storage and giving up flying about 15 years ago. I sold it a couple of years ago and bought a folding camper!! I haven't missed flying at all and much prefere to get a model out and chuck that around the sky.

Like the others say you'll need a lot of money, a gut full of determination, and a lot of money.


Piers Bowlan02/09/2012 07:20:30
2141 forum posts
53 photos

Phill, I started out in engineering over 30 years ago but quickly trained and gained a UK PPL before getting a CPL then ATPL via the 'instructor route'. Its a long hard road and even then it cost me about £10K. Today you need to be trained at an approved school and you won't get much change out of £100K.

My first job was flying Shorts 330s based in Aberdeen initially. It was very badly paid, involved flying long hours through the night and often in atrocious weather. I did that for a couple of years until the company folded. I Joined BCal in 1985 and flew BAC 1-11s for three years before that company was taken over and I flew Boeing 757 and 767s on short haul routes and charter for about eight years. It was hard work and anti-social too as you are often away from home and usually at the weekend, especially if you are junior in the company. OK for a single guy but a different ball game when you are married with a young family.

Airline flying can be tedious at times but what job isn't, especially when you are very tired (which you often are) but I would never call it boring. It is a very rewarding career and it can be fun too. It is also one of the few careers where your job is on the line every six months when you are checked in the simulator;- stressful!

If you are a young guy Phill, have three good A levels or a degree then you may be able to get sponsored by an Airline to do the training. You will need to convince them that you are totally committed and focused to becoming an Airline Pilot and want to work for them. If you have a PPL or have done a few hours flying or a gliding course this may help to convince them but it is not essential. The competition is stiff but someone has got to do it so it might as well be you! If it was easy it probably wouldn't be worth doing.

I have been flying B744s for many years now. I still think it is a great job and if I had my life over I would follow the same career path.

I hope this helps.

Mark Powell 202/09/2012 07:49:08
430 forum posts

Turbycat/Piers/Original poster

I did the same as the others, but was never interested in an ATPL. Still do a bit of light aircraft instruction, and also on the terrific C42 microlight. Ferry jockeys around in a light twin (that's what all those planes you see on a racecourse do) and sometimes a cameraman for the local TV company for airborne shots. Parachutists. Great. Much more iinteresting than an airliner. Varied. And you get home at five every night. Flown a Lear often a long time ago, acting as a target for the RAF. Have 'unofficially' flown a 747 a couple of times.. Won't say how. My 'real' job has always been computers.

Go for a CPL. Need not be expensive from a PPL Having got that, then think about an ATPL. Or try helis. Lots of jobs there.

Love the Turbulent. I envy you. Never flown one. I have an old Aeromodeller Annual with an article on building one, by Marcel Druine himself. But we were only apprentices and couldn't afford it.

Stay away from the 'Florida' courses. They don't get the weather and our varied environment.

Edited By Mark Powell 2 on 02/09/2012 07:51:28

Alan Cantwell02/09/2012 07:59:53
3039 forum posts

Mark, you have just gone up a notch with me, what a great, helpfull postthumbs up

the amount of full size jockys that have apperaed on here has astounded me, is there A1 jet in yer veigns?

wassa B744? just googled it, and got pictures of a B747.thats called a B744, whats the differance then?

Turbycat02/09/2012 08:01:45
594 forum posts
55 photos

Sadly not mine any more sad. She was a beautiful plane to fly. Must have had a few hundred hours on her and Auster J1's.

My Druine D31a Turbulent

Druine D31a Turbulent

Think I'll have to build a scale model now. Anyone got some 1/3rd scale plans?


Alan Cantwell02/09/2012 08:10:16
3039 forum posts

mate of mine got a set off slec last year, this was for their kit version, at 1/3rd, might be worth a ring? or advertise for a kit on the BMFA, they pop up now and again, it looks like a big model anyway, v nice, i know where there is a model that needs a strip and overhaul, if thats any use, but i am oop nerthwest

Mark Powell 202/09/2012 08:16:39
430 forum posts


Thanks. No. Whisky, Hopback Brewery 'Summer Lightning', and Merlot.

Don't know what a 744 is. Perhaps the cargo one with less windows and a big door?

Turbycat02/09/2012 08:23:43
594 forum posts
55 photos

Thanks Alan. Think I'll give SLEC a ring tomorrow. Need a winter project. Shame I'm in the South east other wise a referb project would be an idea. I Was up in the Lake District for my hols 2 weeks ago! Might have look at Belair kits too. I think Precedent used to do a kit, sure I've seen these come up occasionally.


Alan Cantwell02/09/2012 08:51:24
3039 forum posts

slec used to do balsacraft, i am sure they must still have the plans, if you ever get down here, let me know, and i will try, if he still has it, a coming together for you both

Mark Agate02/09/2012 10:06:43
146 forum posts
38 photos

C Norton - poor choice of word on my part, apologies. Keep up the good work! It's a slightly different world stateside though, and the flying school seemed to try to instill it in us that the FAA were out to bust us all the time, and ATC were their agents. It sometimes felt like our first responsibility should be to obey the regs, rather than ensure safety of the plane. From what I've experienced, UK aviation is a much more civilised affair.

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