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Aerospace Becoming a Pilot - what do you need?

  1. Mar 1, 2005 #1
    Hello everyone, I have a question for you all. I am just wondering what you need to become a pilot in the big industry (flying Bowing 747's for a large scale airline). Some people tell me all you need is hours and experience on smaller scale planes and then work your way up. While other people tell me that these days you need and engineering degree first in order to fly the big ones. Can somebody clear up this question for me.


  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 1, 2005 #2


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    An engineering degree will certainly make leaning to fly a little easier, but it is by no means required. You do not, in fact, need any kind of formal degree at all.

    To become a pilot, all you need to do is pass the appropriate FAA written exams and checkrides. You also need to have a specific number of hours of training before you are eligible to attempt the tests. How you achieve this training is totally irrelevant.

    Many people simply begin by going to a local Mom & Pop flight school to obtain their private pilot's license. You don't need any fancy planes to attain this license. All you need is about $8,000 and a good 6-9 months (40 hours minimum, 60 hours typical).

    Next, you'll need to get your IFR (instrument) rating, which is another $8,000 and another 6-9 months.

    Next, after you build some hours flying your friends around, you'll begin working towards your commerical certification. As a commercial pilot, you'll be working for a company like FedEx, mostly flying loosely scheduled cargo aircraft. By many standards, this is the most unhappy part of the pilot's lifecycle: long stretches away from home, odd hours, etc. At this level, very few can personally fund the cost of aircraft rental, so most pilots are working for an aviation company and receiving training as part of their job.

    After you've gotten 6,000 hours total flight time, you'll be eligible to obtain your air transport pilot (ATP) cert, which will take you considerably more time. Airlines will help subsidize the cost of this, the most expensive training.

    Some colleges and universities offer an aviation program, which provides the basic university general education, some aeronautical engineering, and lots of flight instruction. I believe you come out of most of these schools with your IFR certification, and you're ready to be snapped up by a shipping company.

    - Warren
  4. Mar 1, 2005 #3


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    Chroot pretty much hit it on the head. A degree is a device you can use to set you apart from the crowd, but I haven't heard anyone mandate it. To reiterate, to fly the big guys, you need hours and hours and hours....Anything that involves transporting passengers (short of the military) and thus involves huge liability, will require a ton of experience.
  5. Mar 1, 2005 #4
    Just a clarification, I believe the commercial certification is an extra 25 000$ and 200 hrs, in addition to Private and IFR training chroot mentionned. Only after these three courses can you get a job and gain hours on bigger crafts.

    Some people chose to become instructors for small crafts, which is another way to gain $ and hours, but costs an extra 20 hrs and 5000-10000$ or so. It can keep you home a while and reduce debts during the long term path to the big leagues.

    A Univ. degree is good to set apart 2 candidates with equal number of flight hours.
  6. Mar 1, 2005 #5
    Thanks guyes, that cleares it up for me.


  7. Mar 6, 2005 #6
    Another way that a decent percent of pilots get the required hours in is by joining up with the military. Most people are able to get the required stick time and training in two tours (eight years), or in the National guard with two tours (twelve years).
  8. Mar 14, 2005 #7
    The airlines probably won't look at you unless you were military.

    Also, they prefer to hire transport pilots, not fighter pilots. Transport pilots are better and straight and level flight, they don't have a choice.
  9. Aug 2, 2009 #8
    Thanks a lot Chroot, I've been asking the same question everywhere, and your answer cleared it up perfectly.

    Oh and by the way Nenad, I believe you need around 4000 hours logged to have enough experience.
  10. Aug 15, 2009 #9
    There are little differences, but you need to look at FAA in the USA or JAA in most other parts of the world.

    There is a CPL (Commercial Pilots Licence) and ATPL (Airline Transport Pilots Licence).

    To get the CPL, which is what you get before ATPL you need.

    - PPL (45hrs + 6 exams + C2 Medical)
    - 200 hours + (100 must be PIC "Pilot in command")
    - IR (10HRS +)
    - 14 JAA/FAA ground exams
    - C1 Medical if you have the C2
    - 300NM flight with 2+ full landings
    - 5hrs night
    - 30hrs x-country

    (£30-60k depending on if you do modular "part time, stages" or integrated "full time, 0-cpl")

    Then you can take you CPL skills test. At this point some have already done MEP Multi Engine and MCC.

    At this point you have a CPL, that means you can fly for pay, but not fly command in a transport aircraft.

    CPL pilot can land on their feet and get an airline to give them a type rating, and then they can fly as a 2nd officer untill they get 1200 hours. Untill this they have a frozen ATPL. Once they get 1200 hours+ depending on where the hours are spent, they get a full ATPL, and thus a 1st officer.

    If you dont land on your feet, CPL's usually use there frozen ATPL to be a flight instructor, which you need to do an FI course, some will self sponsor a type rating at a cost of around £20-30k and then you can hunt for a 2nd officer job. You too could use your cpl for many other things, dropping parachuters, arial photography, etc.

    I have the best part of 10 pilot friends, and know many, many more via the internet, and most dont have degrees, most are in mid 30's, most have saved up since early 20's to fund this as you are looking at 60k minimum when you factor in a years lost work where you will need to still feed family, etc and fees, tests, hours, certs, retakes, equipement, etc.
  11. Aug 15, 2009 #10


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    One thing that nobody has mentioned...
    I got grounded on a medical issue in '76, so I don't know how things are now. At that time, though, you also had to obtain a 'turbine rating' in order to fly jets rather than any type of prop-driven aeroplane. I can't recall whether or not you also needed that to fly a turbo-prop (prop-jet) craft, but I don't think so.
    At that time, a lot of aspiring PIC's began their careers as flight engineers. Those are the folks who monitor on-board systems, fuel management, etc. while learning from the pilot and co-pilot. It seems that a lot of aircraft being used these days don't even have an engineering station; damned computers do all of those functions.
  12. Aug 16, 2009 #11
    Well with regards to above...

    These days on the CPL route you will do Multi Engine Rating, JOC (Jet Orientation) and MCC (Multi Crew). The MCC comes in a few types, but most do the Turbo Prop one.

    To fly most jet types you need a type rating, ie, 737-NG, or B757/767 etc, these are courses with hours in the sim and hours on type and include ground exams so you know the systems.

    check http://typeratings.org/ [Broken]

    For ex mil jets usually before they let you join a group, they will give you training on how to fly them from within the group as usually there is a selection of QFI and SFI's...

    Only turbine course thats general now, that i know if, is the helicoptor turbine conversion.

    Your post highlights Medical too...

    Dont spend a penny, or even dream of been a pilot till you have a Medical. Class one medical that is, You might be as fit as can be, but even the most fit people can have something small that will stop them getting one, even down to a blood count problem.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
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