How to become a pilot

Interested in becoming a pilot? In this article you'll discover the benefits, qualifications, and different routes you can take to pursue a career as a pilot.

Training to become a professional pilot is a big financial investment and it can cost between £70,000 to £130,000. However, the future earning potential makes it a worthwhile pursuit. Specialist loans and scholarships and bursaries may be available to help support you, but they may not cover the full cost of your training. Scholarships and bursaries have individual criteria and may be competitive to obtain. 

Key facts 

  • To fly as a commercial pilot, you’ll need a initially frozen Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) and a Class 1 medical certificate.
  • The minimum age you can start training is 18. You can unfreeze your ATPL once you turn 21.
  • If you have no previous flying experience, it can take at least 16 –18 months to qualify.
  • It is a big investment. Training costs vary, and on average range between £70,000 and £130,000.
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My scholarship journey has been extremely hard work, but it was genuinely the best time of my life.
David Hart Selfie on one of my navigation exercises
David Hart
Future pilot
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Why become a pilot?

How to become a pilot in the UK 

Pilot training schools, or flying schools, typically provide 3 types of professional flight training:

  • Integrated - fast but intense
  • Modular - slower but flexible
  • Multi-crew (MPL) - a minority of airlines offer this kind of training path

Integrated and modular training lead to the same frozen ATPL. The third route results in a Multi Pilot Licence tied to the specific Aircraft type of the airline.

A frozen ATPL refers to the qualifications of a pilot who has passed all 14 ATPL ground exams and flight tests but has not yet gained the necessary flying experience to unfreeze the ATPL. Generally, once a pilot has accumulated 1500 CAA acknowledged flying hours, the CAA as the regulator will consider issuing a full ATPL.

An integrated pilot training course is perfect if you have no previous flying experience. The course is intense, but you’ll gain your frozen ATPL in approximately 18 months. Integrated courses combine theoretical study with practical flying experience.

There are four main elements to integrated pilot training

  • Airline preparation course
  • Jet orientation course (JOC)
  • Flight training
  • Multi-crew corporation course (MCC)

What qualifications do I need to become a pilot?

  • You’ll need a minimum of 5 good GCSE passes in maths, English and science. A Grade 4 at GCSE is considered a standard pass and grade 5 is considered a strong pass.
  • Studying a language may also benefit you in a career as a pilot as it will help you communicate with people at work once you qualify.
  • A-levels are usually required but it depends on the training route you take. You need 80 UCAS points to study L3Harris' Pilot Programme.
  • At the time of writing, 80 UCAS points are required to be accepted onto our BSc Aviation degree course. For pilot training only, GCSEs are enough.

Where can I train to become a pilot in the UK?

If you want to train at a flying school, The CAA can help you find a flight school to train at.

L3Harris Airline Academy operate a Pilot Program across the UK with academies in Bournemouth, Cranfield and London. You’ll get taught by airline standard instructors and trainers. You’ll also be trained on a modern training aircraft and utilise fully approved flight simulators and training aids.

When you’re selecting your flight school, take into consideration:

  • The course on offer
  • Aircraft used
  • Location of the school
  • Whether training can be completed in the UK
  • Cost required

Frequently asked questions about becoming a pilot

To summarise, becoming a pilot can be an exciting career path. Whilst it is a big investment, the potential salary, travel opportunities and flexibility make it worthwhile. 

Where next?

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