How do I become an airline pilot?
We’ve got a comprehensive understanding of all the prerequisites for becoming a commercial airline pilot. Use the navigation to navigate to specific sections you want to know first. Use this navigation to help you understand the required airlines’ pilot requirements in this guide.
So You Want to be an Airline First Officer
When you are in that long process of getting your pilot’s license, it’s fun to think about the different jobs in the airline industry that this license might make possible for you. Obviously, the top echelon of being a full-fledged pilot is to pilot one of those jumbo international jets. But there is a path between where you are and that job and first officer is a fine goal to start out with.
Of course, one way to quickly become the head of the team on a commercial airline is to go to work for an airline where you will be piloting a smaller craft or to work for a charter airline so you are the only one flying the plane on each outing. That’s not a bad option and it’s a respectable job using your pilot’s license. But sometimes nothing will take the place of climbing the latter in a larger airline so you can enjoy the big rewards of someday being the chief pilot on a large craft going to some exotic route.
If you get to the position of the first officer on a large aircraft, that is no small position. It is an “apprentice” position and you are in the position of being an assistant to the captain while you learn the ropes of operating a large and complex craft. But if you are a young pilot and you want to get a good flight log of real-life cockpit experience, paying your dues as a first officer is an outstanding time in your career and one you will benefit from tremendously. It won’t play as well as when you make full pilot but look on it as your “internship” and be glad that by holding down that spot, you are on your way.
Much of the excitement of piloting a major aircraft for one of the big airlines come to you even as the first officer. And that major airline flight time on your resume is nothing short of priceless as you move forward in your career in the industry. Along with learning the nuances of the aircraft itself and how to respond to different in-flight situations from a technical point of view, the time you have working as a peer with an experienced airline captain and crew can help you sort out the culture of the airline of the industry so you can not only navigate the aircraft but your career in the industry as well.
By serving some good months or years in the first officer position, you are putting yourself directly under the scrutiny of the people who make the decisions about hiring for airline captain jobs and other senior positions in the airline industry. Airline captain is not a position that you can just walk off the street and do. And by doing some good time as a first officer and getting noticed for your good work in that position, you will be in great shape when the time comes for you to apply for the top job.
So include a stint as the first officer in your career path as you start your ascent through the positions of authority in your airline career. And when you make this first-level goal and have a first officer position, don’t be too hasty to rush through it. This is an outstanding time to build relationships and to demonstrate competency not only to the people who might promote you to captain but to the airline staff and your fellow crew members who may one day say “Yes Captain” to you when you sit down to command a big aircraft en route to London, Paris or Rome.
How to become an airline Pilot - Step by step, APC
How long does it take to become an airline captain?
I want to become an airline captain, and I’m trying to estimate how long it will take me. How long will it take? I don’t know. The process is not transparent. I can ask people who are already airline captains how long it took them, but they all started at different times in different places with different backgrounds. Some may have gotten jobs by networking or knowing the right person. I don’t know what their jobs were like before they got them or how long they worked at them before they became captains; there might be a learning curve that took years. And even if they did all start at the same time, what worked for them might not work for me.
There’s no authoritative answer, and no way to get one. The only way to find out how long it takes is to start trying; there’s no other way to get inside the system and learn its rhythms and rules, which you need to do if you want any chance of succeeding.
The answer is, it depends. It depends on whether you want to be a captain or a first officer, and it depends on which airline you want to work for and what kind of airplane you want to fly. And it depends on how long you can remain employed as an airline pilot.
The training time for an airline first officer is remarkably short — as little as two months, maybe less. For a captain, the training program can be as long as five years. Some pilots prefer to work as first officers and then “grow” into the job of captain; this saves time and money but puts more pressure on the pilot to remain employed by the same airline until his seniority permits him to become a captain.
What it is like to be an airline pilot
Being an airline pilot is to be in a continuous state of becoming not dead. Airplanes are designed by engineers, who are optimists. They are always trying to outwit Murphy’s Law, which says that if anything can go wrong, it will — at the worst possible moment. Designing planes for normal human beings, engineers err on the side of safety. But pilots must make hundreds of tiny decisions every hour to keep their planes aloft and within legal speed limits and maneuvering tolerances, which are much tighter than you might think.
So they have to learn to live with uncertainty. They have to learn what it means when the weather radar goes down or the traffic alert system fails or their instruments say they’re about to stall — and act anyway. They have to learn what it feels like when everything is going fine but they know that something could go wrong at any second — and act anyway.
And if something does go wrong, they have to learn how to deal with that too — which is not so simple when your life depends on it.
Being an airline pilot is one of the hardest jobs in existence. I know this because I’m one. Being an airline pilot is one of the best jobs in existence. I know this because I’ve done it for twenty-six years. The first statement is undeniably true. The second statement may strike you as inconsistent, but it isn’t. It’s just that doing a good job at anything is rarely simple and usually involves some kind of balancing act between conflicting goals, which means that it can be hard to describe what you do without sounding like either a lunatic or a liar.
Is a college degree required to become an airline pilot?
Is a college degree required to become an airline pilot? I don’t know. I’ve never flown on an airplane. A few years ago, before my then-wife and I broke up, we went to Florida for a vacation. We rented a car and were driving around looking at things, and we drove past the airport and she said “Oh look! A plane!” I looked up at it. It was flying really close to us. It made me nervous; it seemed too close. “Don’t worry,” she said,
“it’s just taking off.”
A few minutes later we were driving past another airport and she said “Look! Another plane!” I looked up at it; it was flying really close to us again. Actually, we were driving into it; it had probably already landed and was taxiing to its next takeoff spot.
“Don’t worry,” she said again, “this is normal.”
I’m not sure if that meant flying that close to people is normal or if driving by airports is normal. Maybe both; maybe there is no difference between those two kinds of closeness. But what struck me was that here we were in this metal box, driving around with our heads sticking out through holes in the top like dogs do
In the United States, a commercial pilot must hold at least a commercial pilot certificate. To obtain one, you must have at least 250 hours of flight time as a pilot, and at least 50 hours of flight time as a pilot in command. But what if you have a college degree? That is one of the requirements for an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate, which is required to become a captain on an airliner. Does that mean that a person with a college degree can’t become an airline pilot without first obtaining a college degree? No. Many airlines will hire pilots who have earned only a high school diploma or even no diploma at all, provided they have the necessary flight experience. In other words, there are two ways to meet the educational requirement: through education or through work experience.
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