Guide to Becoming a Pilot (References to USA as well as Australia)


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Becoming a pilot is not an easy task. In basic terms a pilot is someone licensed to fly an aircraft. However, it is not as simple as it sounds. There are many caveats to this statement as there are various types of aircrafts that need to be flown in different conditions.
This complexity gives rise to various levels of pilot licenses; the most basic one being the Private Pilot License leading up to a commercial pilot silence.
To become apilot you can traverse two paths: you can either take the civilian route or the military route. The military route entails that you firstly fulfill your required time as an air force and then you must meet the health, physical ability and educational requirements of the airline to be able to fly.
Below are the major milestones one has to achieve to become a civilian commercial pilot.
Civil Aviation Safety Authority: The official site of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) of Australia
Federal Aviation Administration: The official site of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of USA
Australian Federation of Air Pilots: The official site of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP), a union of Pilots in Australia
International Federation of Airline Pilots Association: the official site of the International Federation of Airline Pilots Association (IFALPA) that represents pilot associations around the world.
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association: The official site of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA)


Although not mandatory, most airlines require pilots to have a college degree. It is not necessary that the degree is in an aviation-related discipline but it is preferable.
There are several colleges that offer degree programs in aviation which include flight training and preparation for pilot certifications. These degree programs aim at providing the student with a degree, a commercial pilot license (including all prerequisite licenses) and multi-engine and instrument ratings certifications/licenses.
However, if one does not want to enroll in a degree program leading to a commercial pilot license the other route is to join a flight school and make your way up from there. The license that you will get via this route will be no different from the license that one gets from a college.
Be it from a college or a flying school the first license that you will have to vie for is the PPL or Private Pilot License.
Airline Academy of Australia: this is the official site of the Airline Academy of Australia, which provides various flight training solutions.
Basair Aviation College: the official site of Basair Aviation College, which is situated in Sydney Australia and provides airline pilot training.
Airline Cadets Australia: Airline Cadets Australia is one of the premier Professional Pilot Training Schools in Australia.
Pilot Course by TAFE South Australia: Details of the aircraft pilot course offered by Training and Further Education South Australia

How do I get a Private Pilot License?

There are a few steps to obtaining a PPL. The process also differs from country to country based on their Civil Aviation Rules. However, generally speaking, to obtain a PPL one has to:

  • Meet age requirements. This varies between 16-18; depending on the country’s aviation rules.
  • Log a certain number of hours of flying (usually 40); including hours designated to different flight maneuvers as detailed in the aviation rules.
  • Following the completion of flying hours you will need to take a written exam that covers:
    • Flying rules
    • Navigation
    • Flight planning
    • Air law
    • Meteorology
    • Principles of flight, etc.

It should be understood however that a PPL holder cannot fly an aircraft or take on passengers/cargo in return for compensation. Also a PPL holder is not allowed to fly at night unless he or she has logged in a few more hours of flying time and obtained a night qualification.
Once you have your Private Flying License you can be called a pilot in the most basic sense. However, there is much more to becoming a Commercial pilot.
Getting your Private Pilot License: A concise article by CASA on how to get a Private Pilot License in Australia
How to become a pilot: An article by the Federal Aviation Administration on the steps required to become a pilot
Steps to Obtaining your PPL: An article detailing certain pilot certifications and the route to obtaining a PPL in America.
Quick Facts about Pilots: A concise fact sheet about pilots by the bureau of labor statistics of America

The Next Step: Getting a License to Fly Commercially

The first thing to be done in pursuit of a commercial license is to get a medical examination done. This will ensure that you satisfy medical standards set for commercial piloting. If you fail this test you cannot be issued a Commercial Pilots license.
As for the PPL, the process to obtain a commercial pilot license is also specific to each country. However, generally every process has the following steps:
Getting an Instrument Rating certification
An instrument rating certification trains you to fly by using instruments only. This certification is either a prerequisite or can be completed along with the process of getting a commercial pilot license.
Getting a Commercial Pilot License (CPL)
Similar to the process of obtraining the PPL, to obtain a CPL one also has to log in a certain number of flying hours that include hours allocated for specific flying situations. The number of hours required are generally between 150-200 and include a specific number of hours for pilot in command, cross country and instrument flight.
Following this you will need to pass a CPL test. Passing this test will entitle you to fly commercially, i.e. get remuneration for your services.
However, in most countries this certification is not enough to fly as a pilot on a multi-crew aircraft (those that are generally used by airlines today) and only permits you the ability to pilot light aircrafts, single pilot aircraft or be appointed as a co-pilot in multi-crew aircraft.

The Air Transport Pilot License
To pilot a multi-crew aircraft you will require an ATPL or Air Transport Pilot License. This is mainly a theory exam that tests your knowledge of:

  • Advanced aerodynamics
  • Air law
  • Advanced navigation
  • Human factors
  • Performance and loading
  • Flight planning
  • Meteorology, etc.

Further Pre-requisites to Obtaining your ATPL

  • A minimum numbers of flight hours, generally 1500, with specific number of hours spent as pilot in command, cross country, night flying and instrument-based flying.
  • You will require a Multi-Engine Instrument Rating certification.
  • Some jurisdictions require completion of a multi-crew cooperation course.

Australian Women Pilots Association: The official site of the AWPA, a union of women pilots in Australia
CESSNA Pilots Association Australia (CPAA): The CPAA works towards enhancing the pleasure of flying and operating Cessna aircrafts.
Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA): the official site of AIPA, a trade union founded to represent pilots and engineers of Qantas airlines and its related companies.

Important Qualities & Skills that a Pilot should Master

Communication skills: Pilots need to convey instructions clearly and accurately and are required to carefully listen and comprehend instructions as well.
Attention to detail: Pilots need to monitor various systems and situations. Thus being meticulous and paying attention to detail is very necessary.
Problem solving skills: A pilot needs to be able to identify and zone in on complex problems and provide ample solutions.
Decision making:a quick reaction and decision making time is an asset for a pilot as flying hazards materialize very quickly.
Teamwork: A pilot works not only with the onboard crew but with air traffic controllers, flight dispatchers, etc. Being able to coordinate with such a huge and diverse team can be a challenge.

Pilot Jobs in Australia: A list of jobs for pilots advertised by the Australian Federation of Air Pilots
Qantas: Official site of Qantas, Australia's largest domestic and international airline
Jet Fighter: Become a jet fighter pilot for a day in Australia
Air Line Pilot Association, International (ALPA): The official site of ALPA, the largest airline pilot union in the world
British Air Line Pilots Association (BALPA): The official site of BALPA, a union for British pilots.
United States Pilots Association: The official site of the USPA, an organization of general aviation pilots



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